"I feel music is the one thing in this world that has the power to translate to anyone and everyone. It brings people together and it is healing. If I can make someone get lost, for even a moment, in the music that I have created, and they can forget about the craziness of every day life, then I feel like that is the most beautiful gift I can give. To get lost in the power of music. We all need more of that."
Nalani Rothrock: Soul to Soul
“The Rock House Sessions” (Release Day: FEB. 5, 2021) titled the EP of powerhouse country soul singer/songwriter Nalani Rothrock and her partner in life and music, guitarist/songwriter Josh Lamkin. Produced, recorded and mixed by Grammy-winning Kevin McKendree at his Rock House Studio in Franklin, TN. Recording with McKendree in March 2020, Rothrock and Lamkin originally intended to make a full album. The duo ultimately decided to release the three completed songs, preparing the way for the full album to come. Rothrock and Lamkin co-wrote the 3 songs on The Rock House Sessions. McKendree played keyboards, which also features Lamkin’s guitar and veteran Nashville session players Steve Mackey (bass) and Kenneth Blevins (drums). Although Rothrock is top-billed for The Rock House Sessions, she and Lamkin are very much in this music thing together. Florida natives Nalani Rothrock and Josh Lamkin both got an early start in music. At 8, Rothrock sang and danced with a professional children’s group. By age 12, she was performing with her father’s band. Lamkin’s father began teaching him to play guitar when he was 6. He performed at his family’s church from early childhood and was playing professional secular gigs by 15. (Nalani Rothrock / Photo by Joshua Lamkin)
Rothrock and Lamkin met nearly a decade ago when their respective bands shared a bill. She was performing with her father in the blues and funk band Next of Kin. He was leading his blues band Automatic Heat. About a week later, they saw each other again, this time in the audience for a band featuring a mutual friend. They were soon making music together. Rothrock and Lamkin performed for three years with the Tampa band Mama’s Batch. In 2017, the band released the EP, Till the Sunrise, and the duo issued an EP, Goodbye, credited to Nalani and Josh. Blues and country music are touchstones for the couple. Ray Charles, the soul and rhythm-and-blues star who ingeniously melded the two genres for his landmark 1962 album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, is a major influence. The duo's dedication to the craft of songwriting has bloomed since moving to Nashville 2 years ago.
How has the Soul, Blues and Country music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Nalani: Coming from a musical family, music has been a constant in my life as long as I can remember. Singing in my dad’s band, growing up around him and other musicians, I was introduced to such a wide variety of music from a young age. Real feelings. What to do with those feelings. Music has connected me with so much. It has brought me on some amazing journeys and carried me through some difficult times. Put it on the page. Turn it into something beautiful.
Josh: Without soul, blues and country music, my understanding of human emotion would not be as deep as it is. The right kind of story told the right kind of way can change a life forever.
How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?
Nalani: Organic soul. Like - from the soul, for the soul. I want to create music that makes people feel good. I want to stay true to myself and stay true to the raw sound I love so much. As long as I can put my heart into whatever I am making, I know that will lead me to my happy place and hopefully in turn, lead someone else to theirs. Music soothes my soul. So if I can return that feeling and put it back out into the world, I feel I am doing my part with my creativity.
Josh: The music that is most exciting to me is performed in real life by real musicians. It isn’t programmed or looped or sampled. So, when I am producing music for myself, I prefer to use classic instruments. As for the thing that drives my creativity, I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s both a calling and a curse. It’s the best and it’s the worst.
"I think music is a very powerful healing force. I want to create a sonic environment that you can get lost in and be glad about it. Maybe the bigger concept here is love. Music should be used to spread love. At least that’s the impact I hope my music leaves." (Photo: Nalani Rothrock & Josh Lamkin)
What would you say characterizes Nashville music scene in comparison to other local scenes and circuits?
Nalani: Nashville is definitely very different from any other music scene. The local songwriting scene is something special. The creative drive of the community here is strong. Everyone is all in. All the time. The power of music is real. And this is music city.
Josh: The art of songwriting is alive and thriving in Nashville. The most impressive thing about the town to me is the writing community. A true melting pot of genres.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
Nalani: My band and I played the after party of a Family Stone concert once. We were in the middle of a song and Jerry Martini (their saxophone player) comes up to the stage to ask if he can join us and play tambourine. Hell yes, Jerry, you can absolutely play with us. A highlight of jam moments, for sure.
Josh: The Fabulous Thunderbirds were a band that my dad turned me on to when I was about 10 or so. Years later I got a chance to open for them and share a few words with the band backstage. My parents were able to come to the show. It is a very dear memory.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
Nalani: Elements from music of the past are really what I look for in all music. It’s what makes me feel good. There is an honesty there. I want to hear real instruments, real voices. In the early days of recorded music, everything was new, and technology was limited, and the music being created, imperfections and all, was something very magical in my opinion. My hopes and fears for the future... I just hope that I can keep creating music and growing along the way. Take it all in, use it, and give it back.
Josh: I don’t know if I miss anything from music from the past. I don’t feel disconnected from it enough to really ever miss it. It is a part of the fabric of my being in a way. Music is something I carry with me forever. As far as my hopes for the future, I just hope I can keep making music in some way for as long as I exist.
"Organic soul. Like - from the soul, for the soul. I want to create music that makes people feel good. I want to stay true to myself and stay true to the raw sound I love so much. As long as I can put my heart into whatever I am making, I know that will lead me to my happy place and hopefully in turn, lead someone else to theirs. Music soothes my soul." (Photo: Nalani Rothrock & Josh Lamkin)
What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?
Nalani: I don’t really think about it that way. Music goes beyond that. It transcends to everyone, woman or not. We all have feelings. As an artist, I think no matter who you are, if you have the gift of music, use that gift to help spread love in the world. Let music feed your soul. Let it be your guide.
What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?
Nalani: I feel music is the one thing in this world that has the power to translate to anyone and everyone. It brings people together and it is healing. If I can make someone get lost, for even a moment, in the music that I have created, and they can forget about the craziness of every day life, then I feel like that is the most beautiful gift I can give. To get lost in the power of music. We all need more of that.
Josh: I think music is a very powerful healing force. I want to create a sonic environment that you can get lost in and be glad about it. Maybe the bigger concept here is love. Music should be used to spread love. At least that’s the impact I hope my music leaves.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
Nalani: That’s a hard one. I’ve been on a James Booker kick lately. It would be pretty neat to go back to the 70s in New Orleans and hang out with him. Just to be be in the same room as him playing piano... that would be some kind of day.
Josh: Time machine adventures are fun. I’d probably go back to about 1960, locate Ray Charles out on the road somewhere and ask him way too many questions.
(Nalani Rothrock / Photo by Joshua Lamkin)
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