Texas blues/rock singer Nina Van Horn talks about Dan Aykroyd, Bette Midler, Odetta, her book, & blueswomen

"The heart keeps the failures, the soul inspires you and the brain tells you to sing it!"

Nina Van Horn: Hell of a Woman

Nina started as a dancer, even sung Opera and is performing on stage since she's 14th
She was born in France and partly raised in the USA
She chose to settle in Texas and after a quick time among country singers. Nina goes on tour across the USA where she became one with the landscapes and people she met. She appears in some Charity Concerts for the FARM AID, already concerned by Globalization….
The Tour brings her to New Orleans where she finds a new passion: BLUES…
Finally not so far from the Gypsy songs where she can also express pain, love and joy…Nina understands that very quickly… she dives into her memory and get loose with her voice like a Janis Joplin to whom she is often compared…
NINA sings more and more, BETTE MIDLER, CHUCK BERRY or ERIC BURDON among others ask her to play as a supporting act as they appreciate the true « Rock Energy » and her true feelings on stage.
Since then she is currently touring in the best Jazz and Blues Festival all around the world : Europe but also Canada, Africa and recently India from where she has brought a new cd/dvd live
Her last cd "Hell of a woman" is a tribute to the 1st Female Blues singers like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith up to Mildred Bailey and Billie Holiday.
Nina brings those women to life again, tells their story and sings in a very revisited way their most committed songs about alcohol, drugs, racism or lesbianism. She also wrote a book and tells the amazing lives of those women from the 20's - 40's. Nina also runs a radio show named: “NINA ON THE ROCKS” on W3Bluesradio

Interview by Michael Limnios

Nina, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & from whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?
I use to listen to Blues and rhythm and blues in the 60’s and 70’s because my man was truly a huge fan and this music was on from the moment we were waking up! At the time I did not know I was going to sing it but I was attracted to its realness, Odetta was the woman who brought me to it when I heard her singing protests songs for Rev Martin Luther King meetings…don’t know if I have learn their secrets but they all left something Inside me and they help me to sing the Blues today in a way or another

What is the “think” you miss most from Texas? Which memory from New Orleans make you smile?
Hashbrown and a cup of coffee watching the sun going up in the desert!
My friends Mikki, Cathy and their dogs on a plastic boat during Katrina! (Joking) it is not funny at all but when Mikki tells it is ! People of NOLA are the bravest that I know!

Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?
The heart keeps the failures, the soul inspires you and the brain tells you to sing it!

What do you learn about yourself from the blues music? How has the blues music changed your life?
That you can use what you’ve been through, the good and the bad to write and perform…
Blues is my therapy, it brings me more than country was and I can touch the heart of people because I am sincere with that music, there is no cheating, and it is a state of mind too!

How do you describe your philosophy about the music and life?
As I said, whatever you do, do it with passion and sincerity and the people will feel it! I try to be myself on stage and outside, when you are fully filled by your music, then you really exist …as strong as that

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
Baby I’m on stage since I was 14 so there’s a lot of goods and some bad … a High light was to represent France at the Festiblues in Montreal in front of 25 000 people, almost got the breath cut when I went on stage !
The worse was when I lost a musician on stage, electrocuted by the rain …

Are there any memories from Farm Aid with Neil Young and Willie Nelson, which you’d like to share with us?
I was just a chorist when I went there, it was a thrilling experience cause nobody knew if it was going to work … the stage nearly felt into the muddy banks of the river, had to be rebuilt but the spirit was so High ! It is always a great reward to play for free in such events and feel to be a part of something just

Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet? Of all the BLUES people you’ve meeting, who do you admire the most?
Mostly the first women of the Blues to discuss with them about their strength to struggle and survive …learn from them
I was told once by a festival owner « I’d like to have you but we already have a woman in the program… » !!!!
Bette Midler for outstanding skills on stage, Etta James for her struggles and Mighty Mo Rodgers for his lyrics
It is a very difficult question cause I love a lot of them

Do you have any amusing tales to tell of you meet with Dan Aykroyd?
I met 1st his Producer in Reno who was so thrilled by my tattoo of Dan and John (the Blues Brothers)
He said « Dan’s gonna see that, he’s gonna be crazy! » I told him I was singing in the Daytona Rally and he brought Dan who is also a Harley Davidson lover to see me
Dan was very proud to be on my arm and also the first to tell me I should sing more Blues than Country and this is were it all started (he lighted some Blues fire in me that day)
we met in a crowded bar with bikers after the show and I don’t remember very much the rest …. Jack Daniels was there too …

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES
Cause you can’t pretend when you sing the Blues, you have that state of mind or not and I think it is what the people feel when they listen to the Blues, its generosity and simplicity… When I see Young generation coming in my concerts or like in Poland, some youth getting crazy and dancing on some Blues, I know there is still some good times to come for the Blues… my only wish would be that medias give more attention to it, not only specialized medias …

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?
- be ready for great times and bad ones too! It is not a piece of cake to become a full time musician but when I get off the stage and got kiss by people I start to think : « where else do you get kiss when your work is done ? »
- let time brings you something to say and don’t forget who brought you here : the public !

From the musical point of view is there any difference and similarities between: bluesman & blues woman?
Venus and Mars! We come from a different planet no? Of course the feeling‘s gonna be different and also the lyrics most of the time…that’s what brought me to do that cd on the women of the Blues because they were really describing their society meanwhile most of the men were singing « my baby left me this morning », it is in the woman’s nature to be more watching the world we live in, maybe because we have to assure its future by carrying children …But I love men and couldn’t do without you guys!

You had pretty interesting project CD/book “Hell of a Woman”. Where did you get that idea?
I run a radio show named « Nina on the Rocks » on W3 Blues radio on the net  and I tell every month the lives of a woman of Blues or Jazz. Going through my researches, I discovered them as I never saw them before and thought it was impossible not to tribute to them… I also wrote a book on their amazing lives (in French for the moment) because I wanted the public to Watch them differently and see how brave they had been to write about homosexuality, drugs, prohibition, segregation or women rights at a time where being black and woman were 2 more difficulties… I am not sure I would have been that brave to do so …

What is your “secret” music DREAM? What turns you on? Happiness is……
to go on as long as I will be able to give … I’d love to build a show with a big horn section as I did once at Tanjazz Festival in Morocco, boy ! That sound in my ears is unforgettable! I wish myself to be helped a little more in the research of my concerts… I do almost everything by myself cause every times I work with some agent, they get less gigs than I do!!!
What turn me on? My next cd! It is on its way like a baby growing not in my flesh but in my mind …always an exciting experience to see how it’s gonna be once finished!

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
I have always been doing in show business with passion so I love my :
- Dancing period for its has brought me endurance with myself
- Opera singing period cause it has brought me the Fundamentals of singing although a lots of bourbon and smoke went over it !!!
- Country period cause it is also a simple music with simple words coming from the people and I respect that
- Blues period cause I traveled in 18 countries just last year and met fantastic women of this world and interesting public...definitely TOMORROW is the most interesting period of my life

What are you thinking when you guys are on stage, how would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?
I can’t wait to be on stage and don’t like to wait cause it is too good to meet the public, it sounds classical but it’s like a natural drug and I always finish my shows with strange looking eyes full of adrenaline !
Sometimes I think about my song when it is a new one but it is a mix of different feelings coming up at the same time :
- looking for some Friendly faces, try to put a smile on unfriendly faces, listening to the music, looking to my musicians and being in total harmony with them through the eyes, all this must increase when the show goes on, if it doesn’t or take more time, I try it harder until I get what I want : happy faces and total communion with them
It is always a challenge although now more and more people come because they know me, it is also different from a country to another and I’ve got to find the right key every times !

You have played with many musicians (Eric Burton, Chuck Berry, Bette Midler, Dan Aykroyd, Lucky Peterson), which are mentioned to be a legend. It must be hard, but would you try to give top 3, which gigs have been the biggest experiences for you? And why?
- the convention Center in LA with Bette M: my first biggest hall, you can’t forget that, don’t see the people but feel that huge Rumor when they clap
-  the IOWA Veterans home when I played for Vietnam Vet : so hard to feel those guys destructed by the war, I spoke with them after the show and it was so heartbreaking to see some guys of my age

Do you know why the sound of the Texas is connected to the blues rock?
Cause Texas mentality is tougher maybe and gets more connections with a more powerful music! 

Country Rock and Blues are connected from a long date …

What are the passions of a blues woman?
Good food, good friends, good man, good songs, my dog and my birds …

You have been traveling all around the world. What are your conclusions?
It is sh… everywhere I go ! People are struggling to live and something is wrong on this planet … I am lucky to be quite on the bright side but I can’t help watching those who aren’t and I think we should all say STOP soon !
In the meantime, I will go on and spread my LOVE and my music ! After all, nothing else matter …

Nina Van Horn - Official website

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