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Kansas City Blues Artist Danielle Nicole Digs Deep, Takes Chances In New Recording

Lonny Quattlebaum
Danielle Nicole's latest CD is called 'Cry No More.'

Kansas City blues and soul singer Danielle Nicole has a new release, her second solo album, called "Cry No More." For this latest recording, Nicole said she trusted herself and took some chances. She wrote nine of the 14 tracks, including a song about her late father, "Bobby." 

Before she fronted her own band, Nicole sang and played bass in Trampled Under Foot, a blues trio with her brothers, Kris and Nick Schnebelen. 

Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix has been following Danielle Nicole’s career since she was a teenager. 

CHUCK HADDIX: I remember a little shy girl with a big voice on the stage at the Grand Emporium. Years ago, playing that regular matinee. And boy, you've come a long way, baby. Are you a little surprised at the success you've been able to achieve? 

DANIELLE NICOLE: You know, I've just been working very hard and just take everything that I can with the utmost gratitude. The sky's the limit, so there's always room to grow and push forward and you know, progress. 

HADDIX: I've been playing your records for years on the Fish Fry. And this one's a little different. "Cry No More" was produced by drummer Tony Braunagel. Tell us about how this one came about. 

NICOLE: Mainly it's different because these songs were basically a fresh slate, minus a couple of tunes.

On my previous release, "Wolf Den," there were a lot of songs I had written while Trampled Under Foot was still together, so it had that old-school vibe of the tough sound. And this album, I really reached out and just wanted to cover as much as I could — some of the genre bending was intentional, and some of it just kind of happened organically. So each song has a different story of how it came about.  

HADDIX: Tell the story of "Cry No More," the title track.  

NICOLE: It's basically just a tune about knowing what you're worth and not accepting what you know you don't need. And moving on, and deciding that enough is enough. In basically any situation, just taking control of your life.    

HADDIX: And there's a new addition, only, it's an old addition to the band, too. Brother Kris (Schnebelen) is back on drums.  

NICOLE: Yes, yes, he is. 

KRIS SCHNEBELEN: Yes, I'm back. Thanks for having me, Chuck. 

HADDIX: I know you guys are always asked when Trampled Under Foot's getting back to together. Well, two-thirds are back together now and on the road. 

SCHNEBELEN: It was great, I was very happy to get the call. She was making a change and she reached out. 

HADDIX: Before there was Trampled Under Foot and Danielle Nicole, there was Little Eva and the Works, your parents's (Lisa Swedlund and Robert Schnebelen) band. How much did they influence your music?

SCHNEBELEN: I think initially our first show was probably 50 percent of stuff that they did as a band growing up. 

HADDIX: Jayne McShann (Lewis) talked about being at Municipal Auditorium with her father, Jay (pianist and bandleader Jay McShann) and going backstage and talking to Duke Ellington. And to her,  those were the big stars. She considered McShann to be Dad. How did that come into play with you guys and your parents? 

NICOLE: Here in Kansas City and regionally, the Shnebelen name was very well-known. But he was still Dad to us. And I think after he had passed, and we started getting heavily into the music scene ourselves and cutting teeth as a band, we realized the impact that our father and mom had on the city musically.  

HADDIX: Well, it's a musical family here in Kansas City, that's for sure. And this is a song you wrote about your father, "Bobby."

NICOLE: It is, yeah. He passed away when I was a teenager and I didn't really get to know him very well. I knew that I needed to write about him. But how do you write about somebody you didn't really know? And so, I  figured I'd start at his beginning. So this is kind of how I see (him), from the stories that I heard about his childhood and how he grew up. It just started at the beginning. 

Find out more about Danielle Nicole on her website.  

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter at @lauraspencer.

In 1984, Chuck Haddix aka Chuck Haddock joined the staff of KCUR as a jazz producer. The next year, he began producing the Fish Fry. You can reach him at haddixc@umsystem.edu.
Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.