Editor’s note: Nick Schnebelen is an artist at large at the 2019 Big Blues Bender in Las Vegas.
For the Schnebelens, music is more than a family tradition.
“Just like birds fly, we play music — it’s just something we do,” said Nick Schnebelen.
Schnebelen, whose musical family tree stretches more than a century back to Eastern Europe, branched out on his own three years ago, ending the longtime run of Trampled Under Foot, which included his sister, Danielle Nicole, and brother, Kris.
Trampled Under Foot went out on top, winning Blues Music Awards in 2014 for Best Band, Best Album, and Best Bass Player. It won the 2008 International Blues Challenge, in which Nick Schnebelen also earned the Albert King award for the IBC’s best guitarist.
“We played together for so long, we were ready to start working on our own and spread our wings as solo artists,” said Schnebelen, who released a live album and has completed a studio album.
“I just love I love blues and I love blues-rooted music and different styles within the blues and the roots world,” he told Tahoe Onstage. “One of my main styles is an amalgamation of a lot of different decades. I like to represent a little bit of all of them. The old school, new school, even Delta. I bring a lot of different styles together.”
The unreleased studio album, “Crazy All By Myself,” is being shopped around to record labels. Tony Braunagel, who produced the last two Trampled Under Foot records, worked with Schnebelen on his solo studio debut. Guest artists include harmonica stars Dustin Arbuckle and Jason Ricci, and Isle of Man guitarist Davy Knowles.
“I’ve worked with Tony so much, we really write well together,” Schnebelen said. “He takes the time to make sure that all the songs are popping and really solid before we record them. He has great command and a sense of blues.”
As a solo artist, Nick Schnebelen does the singing. He split vocals with sister Danielle when they were with Trampled Under Foot.
Using the name Danielle Nicole, she released her debut album in 2015, and then she went on tour as the bassist for the North Mississippi Allstars. She reunited with Braunagel to make her second album, “Cry No More,” which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Blues chart. Her older brother Kris, a drummer, is now playing in the Danielle Nicole Band.
The Schnebelens are generations’ long staples of the Kansas City music scene.
Nick’s father, Bob, had a blues band, Little Eva, that the young siblings would join during rehearsal jams.
“My mom’s mother was a jazz singer in Kansas City with a swing band and she got to sing with Count Basie,” Schnebelen said. “My great-grandfather had a string band in the 1920s called the Silver String Sextet. We’ve had string players in our family for generations going back to violin players in Eastern Europe.”
Schnebelen has two young daughters, who, quite naturally, play piano and violin.
“It feels like to me music is just kind of moving through this bloodline,” Schnebelen said.
– Tim Parsons