An Interview with Italian Nicholas Righele, a frontman and harmonica player of undoubted artistic skills

“When you play the blues, you bring to the clubs a piece of the history of man; you have to believe in this.”

Nick Righele: When the “Tigerboy” plays the blues

Nick Blues Band was born from Nicola Righele's mind, frontman and harmonica player of undoubted artistic skills. The band was formed in stages, seeing the entry at different times of the various components, to reach the current training: Nicola "Tigerboy" Righele (harmonica and vocals), Paolo Righele (rhythm guitar and vocals), Aleksandar Filjak (lead guitar), Andrea Canedda (bass), Carlo Galiotto (drums), Silvana Ruaro (lead and background vocals), and Dennis Carli (Hammond organ and piano)

The Blues Band Nick proposes classic blues (Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, BB King, Eric Clapton ...), recreating the atmosphere of the Italian local Chicago 50s.

Nick Righele began to devote himself harmonica at the age of ten years. The passion for all these holes side by side in which to direct breath and energy led him to learn little by little the magical techniques of the blues. The meeting with the Puma Lambrate, Fabio Treves, was crucial: the devil's music fascinated him to the point of making a band trying desperately to play in blues, reaching to the foundation, in 2008, Nick's Blues Band.

Although young, he shared the stage and collaborated with a number of musicians. To name a few: Andy J. Forest, Marco Pandolfi, Stefano Zabeo, Paul Boss, Craig Franklin, and more.

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved in the blues, what does the BLUES mean to you?

The blues was the direct result of my wish to play the harp. I started playing country music when I was ten, after a fortuitous listening of a Blues Brothers album I had found in my house. From that moment on, I started looking for information about the blues, until I ran into a Fabio Treves album in a music shop in my hometown: after having literally consumed it, I had the chance to personally meet Fabio and, after a long talk, I decided that the blues would become the love of my life. To me, the blues is nothing more than life itself: in blues music we can find lots of topics which fit in our everyday life. You have no job? You have no money? Your girlfriend broke up with you? Sing a blues. On the other hand, we don't have to think of the blues only as something sad and resigned: there are lots of songs about love, seduction, hope, friendship...

In short, there's a blues for every occasion!

Who were your first idols, what have been some of your musical influences?

As I've already said, Fabio Treves has been my father in the musical field. Also the harp players Jerry Portnoy, Slim Harpo, Little Walter and Kim Wilson had a fundamental role in my musical growth.

Moreover, Muddy Waters, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley are -and will always be- my absolute idols: unique artists, the pillars of my musical formation.

How do you describe Nicola’s sound and progress, what characterize the music of Nick Blues Band?

We try to bring the Chicago blues of the '50s and '60s back to life, even though it is not a very well-known genre here in Italy. We follow the example of Muddy Waters, BB King, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Etta James and generally of the black music of those years. In our repertoire, we cover from the acoustic blues to the electric one, passing by the rock 'n' roll, too.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

The worst moment was during a contest. For a couple of months, we had to drive for many kilometers in order to go there and perform during the different phases of the completion, and we always placed first or second. We reached the finals after ranking at the first place during the semifinals and, by magic; we lost, in the general dismay. Pretty weird, right?

Luckily, I had a lot of good moments. I can't choose one in particular; because I think that it's always a good moment when someone from the audience comes to talk with us at the end of the gig to say that him or her enjoyed our performance. All of our work is completely repaid.

I'm also very glad when other bands ask me to play with them as a guest, when I give harp lessons or when someone asks me to do an interview like this one, because it means that all the work I'm doing for the blues and for the harp is not just for me, but it is also recognized and rewarded by other people.

It's always a pleasure to see that you're doing well!

How would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?

The audience is fundamental during our gigs. We are not the typical band which gets on stage to play and that's all, we want to connect with the public, we try to drag it in as much as we can.

I personally enjoy interacting with the people very much, between songs: playing the songs of our repertoire is important, but there's always the time to talk with the audience. Also thanks to the musicians who play with me (one crazier than the other), we always reach our aim. Blues music fits perfectly our personality and it's what we look for in music: we play to have fun and if the audience has fun with us, so much the better!

Why do you play the BLUES & what does HARP mean to you?

I play many different genres, working with other bands, but the blues makes me feel at home: it's the perfect music for me. I need to play the blues everyday, with any instrument I can find: at home I have my amplifier, my guitar and my bass always ready. Not to mention harps: they're small, I have them "hidden" everywhere, so that I can always find one. So, the harp is just an instrument to play the blues: I've tried many instruments, but for some reasons I don't even know, the harp is the closest to my personality. Moreover, playing the harp has become a sort of mission to me: the harp is considered as a toy by most of people, so I'm happy when I get people to know this instrument better, because the harp has its own dignity and a great history.

Do you know why the sound of harp is connected to the blues? What are the secrets of harmonica?

Being the blues a very personal and intimate kind of music, the harp happens to be the perfect instrument for this genre: you have to use many parts of your body (your hands, lips, mouth, throat, tongue, diaphragm, lungs) to play it and this feature leads the musician to a sort of morbid, pathological relationship with this instrument. Well, you have to kiss the harp to play it! With which other instrument can you have such a close contact?

What are some of the memorable gigs and jams you've had?

That's a difficult question... I perfectly remember all the gigs with the NBB and I'm never able to choose the one I liked the most. Everyone of them has been unique, in its own way. Thanks to the music, I had the chance to meet many amazing people; both between other musicians and the audience, and each one of them gave me something positive and useful. Between the jam sessions, anyway, I absolutely have to mention the one with Andy J. Forest: playing with musicians so important and talented is actually quite easy, there's no competition on whose better, you play and that's all. I think that the blues is exactly this: being simple and eager to communicate, with the awareness that there will always be someone better than you.

What do you think is the main characteristic of you personality that made you a bluesman?

I'm sorry I have to admit it, but I don't consider myself as a bluesman. Unfortunately (or luckily), today's life is too much "easy" to let you become that kind of person. I try to have a blues soul, but it's a long way to become a bluesman. I'm just a harp player who would feel lost without the blues.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the blues craft?

When you play the blues, you bring to the clubs a piece of the history of man; you have to believe in this.

No matter how many people will listen to you, the only important thing is to get the people to know this musical reality. There are many problems, probably more than a person could think of, but it's important to never give up! Moreover, it's really, really important being humble and willing to deal with other musicians: you should never be afraid to ask some advice and help to people who have more experience than you. Rivalries shouldn't exist in the blues, just the desire to cooperate.

How was your recording hours with your band, do you remember something funny?

Recording with my band has been a fantastic experience that we will surely repeat soon. For our album, we decided to keep the atmosphere of our gigs: everything's improvised. The consequence of this choice was that we wasted most of our time trying to choose which version of the song we wanted for the album.

Spending four days with the guys of the band has been like staying with family: we started recording in the early morning and we finished late at night, strengthening our friendship. Oddly, we managed to be serious for the whole recording period, because we hadn't much time and we wanted to make a quality product anyway. We had a lot of funny and relaxing moments, but we always tried to stay focused when we had to work.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is?

As I've already said, the blues is life. It was born from the slaves, working in the fields. It was created thanks to the union of people in trouble. Nowadays music is only a way to make money: most of the times, big record companies take good-looking people, give them simple songs which can be easily remembered by others and problem solved!

With the blues is different: it hasn't born to make record companies richer and richer, it doesn't matter how you look, the only important thing is that you have something to tell. The blues is art, neither fashion nor business.

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues music?

Fabio Treves and Stefano Zabeo have been fundamental to enlarge my blues culture. Thanks to their helpfulness and patience I was able to enter more and more deeply in this fascinating world.

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from Fabio Treves?

I have a lot of memories connected to Fabio, one better than the other. It's not easy to pick just one. I remember when I went to one of his gigs many years ago: I arrived during the sound check, he saw me and he immediately got off the stage to come and say hi to me, stopping the check for a couple of minutes. After the greetings, he came back to do his job but when he had finished, he joined me and we started talking on a bench for a couple of hours, until the beginning of his gig. During those two hours, I learnt many things. At that very moment, I felt that I had become a friend to my idol.

Are there any memories from Andy J. Forest, Marco Pandolfi, Paul Boss, and Craig Franklin, which you’d like to share with us?

They are all artists who gave me a lot and I learnt something from each one of them. I had the chance to play with great musicians, thanks to the jam sessions that some Italian clubs organize.

The great thing is that the more talented they are the more humble and nice they behave! I had the best experiences with Andy and Marco because they're both harp players I really admire; I've grown up with their albums, so finding myself playing with them was a very moving experience. To me, they were unreachable artists and the only thing I could do was listening to their albums, so you can imagine how meaningful was to be at the same level of them for a moment. I've always had a lot of fun with Paul Boss, he has a real blues soul and this comes out during his gigs. Finally, since you've named Craig Franklin, I take the opportunity to publicly thank him for having brought my harp to Texas: I've been recording with him for years, I still remember when he wrote to me for the first time and I'm really grateful to him for the opportunity he gave me.

When it all began for the blues in Italy, who is considered the "godfather" of the blues in Italy?

The blues was born in Italy in 1974, when Fabio Treves created the first Italian blues band. In the same period, also the great Guido Toffoletti began his career in the blues, along with the guitarist Stefano Zabeo, with whom I had the pleasure to share the stage a couple of times.

What mistake of Italian blues scene you want to correct? Do you believe it has the possibility someone to live only with the blues in Italy?

Let's start with the easy question: I know very few people who live only with the blues here in Italy. Unfortunately, it's not a very well-known and appreciated genre; its public is rather small and elitist. In Italy, being a musician is not even considered as a job, if you're not pushed and supported by great companies: I know a lot of people with a conservatoire degree who have to do two or three jobs in order to make ends meet.

Some progress to revalorize the role of the bluesman has been done, but there's still a lot of work to do in order to be able to live only with the blues.

The biggest mistake that I see in the Italian blues scene is that people who play pure blues tend to hide themselves: many bands play rock-blues and things like that, but the ones who would like to dedicate a whole repertoire to the Chicago or Mississippi style seem to feel ashamed to do such a performance, so they try to mediate the style making it more pop, in order to get the audience to like them more. In this way, the blues will never reach people's hearts, and musicians will only try to find an easy way to the success.

Nick Blues Band - Official website

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