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BLUES PLAYER

Competent with the ability to function at a high level. Abilities that lead to a successful performance.

Posted: February 14, 2023
Competency is the capability to apply or use the set of related knowledge, skills, and abilities required to successfully perform 'critical work functions' or tasks in a defined work setting.

The word competency isn’t difficult to define, when you are referring to what one person can accomplish in a specific setting. Usually the individual can identify what they need to accomplish and what functions are priority. Then work efficiently and effectively to perform successful actions. “Usually”.

However, add to it two people working towards the same goal. They work in the same industry, and count on each other to be fully competent at all times. Especially if they want to make a name for themselves in the music industry. Then, the knowledge, skills, and abilities become paramount. Each person becomes accountable and required to perform tasks that are critical too their success.

I know from first-hand knowledge that this can be incredibly difficult. Each person may want to be successful. However, each individual may have different degrees of competency. Some can be a lack of experience or training. This is something that can be improved upon. There are others, that just don’t get what it takes to be competent. Neither do, they care. You may be familiar with the phrase “each must pull their own weight”. This is where competency comes in to play. If you are lacking in skills, knowledge or ability, there are effective ways to address it. It usually involves, open communication, honestly, and action. Of course, education will be necessary as well.

It is fitting that we talk to our guest today regarding any hurdles they may have experienced as they grew up in the music industry together. Our guests are Dwight & Nicole. An extraordinary blues/R&B band. If you are unfamiliar with this group, let’s dive on into their history.

 

ABOUT D+N

American soul/blues band Dwight & Nicole has been touring the Eastern U.S. since 2017. They have been steadily on the rise ever since - nominated for nine Boston Music Awards, ten Daysie Awards, and ten New England Music Awards, winning “Band of the Year”, “Vocalist of the Year”, “Best Blues/R&B Band”, “Female Vocalist of the Year”, “Blues Act of the Year” and “Video of the Year”. They have opened up for their idols including Mavis Staples, who exclaimed “Dwight & Nicole are my favorite new band!” as well as Melissa Etheridge who said “Dwight & Nicole are absolutely the real deal... They are carrying the torch”

Nelson and Ritcher met in Boston, Massachusetts when they were just out of school, both cutting their teeth on the local club circuit. They each fronted popular bands in the area, and discovered a shared obsession of soul & blues greats like the Staples Singers, Albert King, Lighting Hopkins, Jimmy Witherspoon, Roberta Flack & Etta James. They began singing together often, and developed a close friendship that grew over time. Eventually, forming Dwight & Nicole, which was in the early days, a duo group; Dwight on electric guitar, and Nicole on tambourine stomping their feet and singing in harmony. They began to tour regionally- writing together and developing their sound. After a move to Burlington VT, they met powerhouse drummer Ezra Oklan (Nicole Atkins, Elle King) and the group quickly formed a trio with Nelson picking up the bass.

Their 2018 EP, Electric Lights, was recorded live to analog tape with multi-Grammy nominated producer Joel Hamilton (Aaron Neville, Tom Waitts, The Meters, The Black Keys) at Studio G in Brooklyn, NY. Hamilton undoubtedly captured their sound and live energy. He also brought out their experimental side on Electric Lights. The EP introduced the band to a new wave of fans as well as opportunities including their first major label distribution deal through Orchard / Sony Music. The year wrapped up with another Independent Music Award nomination, and the Electric Lights EP landing on several ‘Best of the Year’ lists.

They were back in the studio with Hamilton, writing and recording during the global shutdowns. The time off the road brought them to new territory as songwriters. Their second EP “Further” was released at the end of 2021. Here’s what American Songwriter Magazine had to say: “What’s so great about “Further” is its sense of immediacy… there’s something about Ritcher and Nicole Nelson’s vocal performances that makes it feel so raw, so urgent” The Burlington Free Press proclaimed it “One of the best EPs to ever come out of the Green Mountain State”.

In May of 2022, Dwight + Nicole finished recording their first full length album with Hamilton in Norway at Ocean Sounds studio. The first single off the new album, a retro-soul powerhouse called “Lift”, will be released digitally on July 29th

I am certain that the previous information from their bio doesn’t begin to cover their accomplishments, or trials as they made progress withing the music industry. Hopefully, we will be able to gain more insight into what their combined competencies that would enable them to experience success.

 

INTERVIEW WITH D&H AND GUITAR THRILLS MAGAZINE.

GT: I am very pleased to be able to speak to D&N about this topic today. There is a combination of individuals with various backgrounds and education. Regardless of your background we all have a different level or capacity of education or knowledge. It all depends on our interests and understanding. However, I want to find out more about your efforts in combining strengths to for a sensational band. Is there truth to the topic, each person on a team, or in a band needs to contribute their strengths or competency to experience longevity in their career?

N: First, I want to thank you for having us, and for starting with such an interesting question! For me, competency and consistency across the board are super important. Everyone pulls their own weight and contributes their own gifts. Ideally, they naturally come together and form a cohesive entity. I think that longevity in this business involves understanding how to give the best of yourself, and balancing that with knowing the patterns and pace that actually work for you. I have close friends who are brilliant artists who seemed to have “it all” but got burned out by running themselves into the ground while the going was good. If you want a long and beautiful career, a lot of it is about the path of the center. balancing, pacing, and knowing yourself and what you want to get out of it. Each person is responsible for learning that for themselves and communicating it. Equally important is listening to, and honoring one another.

D: Teamwork and trust are essential. That’s the foundation to let the creative muse roam where it wants to. Practice and commitment is so important to both your personal growth and growth as a band. It's a great feeling when the team works as "one".

 

GT: What do each of you feel that you contribute to the D&N band?

N: Interpersonally, I’m a very good bridge, Musically, I hit the lowest and the highest notes.

D: I write a lot of songs, I sing, I play the guitar... I support Nicole!

 

GT: Have you ever felt there was a time that one wasn’t giving or contributing enough to the success of the band? If so, how did you go about rectifying the matter?

N: Patience is key. These low times happen and are natural. We all go through things that can and should force us to unplug from working on our careers from time to time. Dwight and I both give each other space to step out of roles like that when we need to. For example, sometimes in life, you’re grieving, or going through a lot of change or healing ~ that’s not a great time to try to focus on building growth or success. There’s such alot of grace around having softness and flexibility regarding our “roles” in life.

 

GT: It is evident that you have overcome any challenges that you may have experienced. Even if they were indirectly from within the band. What sort of suggestions can you make to others that are experiencing difficulties from within their group or band?

N: Truly, we are still climbing over hurdles regularly! Life always seems to serve fresh new challenges every day. It used to be a lot harder in the beginning - we didn’t start out with all of the tools we needed to navigate things. Early on we had more conflicts, Our goals weren’t always in alignment. But it turns out that the challenges themselves were the very things that brought us closer together and actually fine tuned and clarified our vision. We’ve survived a lot as a band, and as a family. We’ve even thrived during difficult periods by focusing hard on what’s actually important. When times get tough - remember WHY you do what you do. Focus on that. If there’s love and respect there - you can grow together. The smaller grievances will naturally fade into the background.

 

GT: This question is directed to you all, about each other. What would you say is the other persons greatest attributes or competencies that they bring to D&N?

N: Dwight is like the architect. As a songwriter, he’s prolific. He’s writing all the time and he’s writing these beautiful solid structures that make sense and tell great stories. I’m more of the detail person - I add complexities, melodies, harmonies and nuances to the foundations he has already built from scratch.

D: We have always tried to pick up where the other left off... to cover the gaps. And keep good communication going. I'm glad to have a partner that can cover the areas I'm not so strong in. It’s amazing to get to play with such talented musicians - and to work with a great manager who we can trust.

 

GT: That is pretty awesome to hear. Undoubtedly you all will go on experiencing the benefits of your strengths.

 

GT: What is your greatest achievement that you have experienced thus far? Despite how someone else may quantify it.

D: The greatest achievement has been growing as humans and artists and working with so many great people.

N: I concur! That, plus getting to do shows with the ruler of my heart - Mavis Staples. When Mavis shines a light on you - you learn something about heaven.

 

GT: Is there personal goals, or goals for the group that you are wanting to achieve? If so, please explain.

D: I would like to recommit to the craft every day and continue the momentum! Something fun would be to see the band play on Saturday Night Live. It's always been my favorite show.

N: I want to do a world tour after this album comes out. I want to play on each of the continents and meet my family from all over the world. As a multiracial person with lineage on every continent, it would mean so much to me to get to connect those dots across the globe.

 

GT: Awesome. Now, each of you are talented at have a preference for instruments. Can you tell us what you play, and why you selected that brand? It is not much about the brand as it is the sound and performance that you receive. Do your instruments change, based upon where you perform? If so, how and what does it look like?

N: I play bass, violin, and tambourine. I dabble with piano and guitar. In D+N I play bass, and I have two that I usually bring out on the road. One is a 3/4 size Fender Mustang - it’s just 7 years old and is really rugged and lightweight. I put Lace Sensor pickups on it - they sound great. It’s perfect for touring. The other is a 1990’s semi-hollow body Hagstrom that sounds and feels SO good, but is a little more temperamental and delicate. I don’t always bring the Hagstrom on longer tours or for summer festivals. She’s like me - not that into the heat and high humidity.

D: Dwight: I play Gibson Flying V's. It was the first "real" guitar I got after a bunch of beaters. I always loved them. I always loved Albert King. There are a couple things that make V's so natural for me. I can't play with a pick. I've been playing with my thumb since the beginning. As my playing has grown, I've incorporated two more fingers into my approach. I have long nails on those fingers to "cut" like finger picks would. The beauty of the V is that there are no switches to get in the way. If I was playing a strat or a tele, or a litany of others, I'd have a five way tone switch and/or volume knobs in the way of my stroke. My rhythm playing is brutish and wild, so I immediately hit all of those knobs and switches when I play other kinds of guitars. Nothing is in the way on the Gibson V. Also, I wear them high up on my body, so it's never a problem to practice with the V shape. I've heard people complain about that too. I've used other guitars in a studio situation, but when I do, I have to tape all the switches in place so I don't hit them while I’m playing, for me it's always just been the V. I have one set up with flat wound 12's for my organ trio gigs. I have one with 10's on it that's prickly sounding and records amazingly well when paired with a fender princeton reverb. I have a couple I tour with that are set up with 11's that sound smooth and bright with some P91 pickups in them. I run them on stage through a Super. I own V's made from the 1970's-1990's. I look forward to one day combining all my favorite aspects of those years; scaled with elements from my own specific stable of V's, and blending them all together to make a truly unique V to offer players. I have an invention to add to this new creation as well....but I still need a patent so it will remain a secret until then!

 

GT: Is there a specific release that you would like to talk about?

D: Yes! We are releasing our first full length album with this band this summer. We recorded it with the incredible producer Joel Hamilton at Studio G in Brooklyn NY, and finished it together at Ocean Sounds Studio in Giske, Norway (where Nicole’s paternal great grandparents were born) It’s our most personal music to date.

 

GT: I have to mention you are one of the strongest bands that I have heard in a while. You bring so much authenticity to each song. I am very stoked that I had the opportunity to interview you. I know your fans will be happy to see you in our next issue of Guitar Thrills Magazine. Thanks again for your time today.

D+N: Thank you so much! It has been a pleasure!

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