Adrian Niles has been a regional sensation for years and is about to release his sixth album Roll & Move. Now that he’s opening for Traffic’s Dave Mason, his band will get a chance to raise the profile of its Memphis-style blues.
Somewhere in the Dave Matthews, Bob Dylan and John Mellancamp category, his artistry is honest, real and assured.
Niles writes like a true survivor. Having opened for the likes of Rock and Roll-inductee Dave Mason and Los Lonely Boys, Niles’ take on Americana is as real as you’d want it to be.
The Adrian Niles Band will open for Mason at the Pepsi-Cola Roadhouse in Burgettstown PA, on May 21.
Check out the Band’s performances
An everyman … most definitely. We caught up with him and the band in a rehearsal studio.
TheImproper: You’re a regional sensation in the so-called Upper Ohio Valley area. Why are the crowds so good there?
Niles: Sensation may be an overly descriptive word. I’ve just been doing honest work for quite a few years now writing, performing and making records. The people in that area are hard wage earners, they are a determined folk; when they like something they usually stick with it. We’ve been blessed by their loyalty.
IM:We can immediately hear the honesty coming through in your music and lyrics. That memory of you being 3 sitting on the floor banging pots and pans along with your Dad’s bluegrass band is just a sensational memory. Tell us more about that time.
Niles: I was very young and somehow those are the memories I recollect most vividly; Guitars, Banjos, Double Bass, Fiddles, Mandolins, coffee and cigarettes, not to mention the absolutely perfect harmonies of my dad, his brother and cousin. They played more than a few times a month in the kitchen until the time I was about ten years old. Years later, as a teenager, I was able to perform on stages with them, I played mandolin and guitar; something I’ll never forget.
IM:I must admit that listening to you immediately reminded me of Dave Matthews, Southside Johnny, and even Springsteen. I know when you heard Dylan in Memphis in 1996; it all made sense. What was that like, your first listen to Mr. Dylan?
Niles: I was actually around fifteen when I first heard “Bringin’ It All Back Home”; it was a definitive point for me, everything changed. Soon after, I quit the cover band I was in and began writing songs. When listening to Dylan or Waits or Springsteen you get a true feeling of where they come from, how they live; I can’t find that in a lot of other artists I’ve heard.
IM:What are your other influences?
Niles: My Dad has been my biggest influence; his music and his life. Woody Guthrie always reminded me of my dad, I can almost see them running the same dusty streets as young men. Who I listen to changes from day to day; from Jeff Buckley, Chris Whitley or Hank Sr. I love it all.
IM:Of all the records, the new one Roll & Move seems the most fully realized. Ghost Road (the previous album) a close second for sure. You feel that way too?
Niles: Yes, definitely. We took a little more time with Roll & Move; we actually settled into a room for a couple of months and went to work. I am quite pleased with the songs on Ghost Road though it was done on the run. We recorded drums in one place, bass in another and guitars in yet another; the production time was a bit hectic and quite rushed.
IM:Your PR-man told me that initially you were hand ling everything yourself, in more of a DIY-manner. Do you feel that right now is your time?
Niles: Yes. We’ve kept business in-house, for the most part, throughout the years; there are a lot of opportunities that will pass you by with this approach. Right now, the band is just happy to be playing music; we’ll have to wait and see what the next day brings. I stay confident in the fact that we keep the faith.
IM: How did you hook up with the Dave Mason shows? He’s a big favorite of ours, and to tell you the truth, it sounds like a natural pairing.
Niles: Joe Scalise, a great friend and seventh, non-musical, member of the band, made that happen for us. It was an honor to share the same bill with Dave Mason, he is a true gentlemen and consummate professional, I love watching him perform.
IM: We also love Los Lonely Boys; that must have been a fun date with them.
Niles: Yes! We really looked forward to warming up for LLB’s; they are fantastic musicians and very kind people. They know how to get a crowd fired-up.
IM: I loved in your bio where you talk about being popcorn broke in Memphis in 1996. Sometimes an artist of your caliber needs those movements to grow … right? Talk about that time a bit.
Niles: It feels pretty bad when you’re in the middle of it, but, I guess times like these do make a person stronger, maybe a little braver too. I went to Memphis for one thing–to play music. The best music was in Handy Park in the afternoon, former Stax Records musicians playing for tips. I would hang out and talk with the old homeless guys, they could remember what it was like before all the Beale Street renovation happened. They would ask me, “did you come here for Elvis?” I replied, ” No. I came for Albert King!” They liked hearing that.
IM: Tell us where the inspiration came for “Skylark” off the new album. It’s just takes your breath away.
Niles: Thank you, but the motivation for this song is less than romantic. It came from a heavy equipment truck passing opposite of me on the interstate; this truck, kicking up dust off the pavement of the road, caught my attention. Inspiration just happens that way sometimes.