In 1900, Teddy Roosevelt wrote a letter to Henry L. Sprague with a few words of advice that have been echoed by many throughout the years: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far." If anyone embodies that proverb, it’s Nikki Glaspie, a powerhouse of a drummer who’s worked with Aaron Neville, Dumpstaphunk, and was part of Beyoncé’s all female band during her 2007 tour. She’s soft-spoken and her voice has a tender quality that belies how hard she grooves on stage.
This weekend, Glaspie brings her latest project, The Nth Power, a collection of like-minded and experienced musicians who accidentally met on stage one night a couple years ago, to the 2016 Coconut Grove Arts Festival. The band will perform on Saturday as part of a New Times curated musical showcase.
We spoke with Glaspie the night before Mardi Gras. She and The Nth Power have just finished sound check for a show at Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans. It seems the like the sort of event and venue this jazzy, upbeat group was constructed for. The band just released its debut LP, Abundance, this past November and we talked to Glaspie about the origins of The Nth Power and the simple, but potent advice occupying her voicemail.
New Times: What’s the significance behind your band name, The Nth Power?
Nikki Glaspie: When we started the band, all the band members, our names started with the letter 'N.' Nikki, Nate (Edgar), Nigel (Hall), and Nick (Cassarino), and that’s how we came up with the name, The Nth. And Power is just power. We added Weedie (Braimah) later on and it wasn’t until my sister said, Weedie is the “w” in Power and then it all kind of clicked.
Speaking of power, there’s a lot of funk and R&B in your music, much like Prince and The New Power Generation. What else flavors your music?
Me, personally, I’m a huge funkhead. I was heavily influenced by James Brown and Bootsy Collins and the Gap Band, people like that. Nate is kind of a reggae dude. Nick is like a folk, gospel master. Weedie, he knows world music. Our keyboard player now, Courtney, he’s like a church boy all day. He’s well-versed in gospel music. We kind of have a mixture of influences in there.
What’s your preferential songwriting method? A jam session or sitting down and planning stuff out?
Sometimes songs come from an improvisation, sometimes they come from an idea we have and then we bring to the group. Sometimes, Nick, the principal songwriter, he brings a tune to the band and we start molding it. There’s many different ways that we write and go through the writing process.
You played with a couple of cool bands, Beyoncé and Dumpstaphunk for example. Do you still keep in touch?
Oh yeah, totally. I saw Dumpstaphunk last night. They were playing down at the The Howlin’ Wolf and I went and sat in with them. We played “Fame” in honor of David Bowie because he passed a couple weeks ago. So we played that song for him and couple other Dumpstaphunk. But yeah, those guys are family.
With all the great festivals, shows, and venues you’ve performed at, what do you think makes a successful night and what’s some of your favorite memories?
One of my favorite shows was probably our second set at Bear Creek. I think that was 2014. Honestly, it was just the feeling of the set. It felt like we were doing something; we were touching people with music, you know? It’s one of the most important things for us and why we play music. That to me is a successful outing, if someone is affected by the music in a positive way.
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We missed one another earlier and I got to hear your voicemail which implores anybody calling to go do something for someone else today. Why that message and how do you fulfill your own demand?
I put that message there because throughout our daily lives, we just tend to think about ourselves. It only takes one thing, one second out of your day to give somebody a smile. Just say hi or speak to them because you never know what people are going through. And you always hear about this guy lost or this guy went postal and I feel like that's just because one more thing got piled on — like people with road rage. I used to have really bad road rage. I would never get out of my car and physically do something to someone, but I’d get pretty angry or upset. But that’s not really important. What’s important is getting from point A to point B safely. Sometimes people take things too seriously, when it’s not that serious. People get shot over stupid stuff like that, you know?
The 53rd Annual Coconut Grove Arts Festival. Saturday to Monday, February 13 to 15. Peacock Park, 2820 McFarlane Rd., Coconut Grove. Tickets cost $15 for adults or $5 for Coconut Grove residents. Admission is free for ages 12 and under, as well as Metrorail Golden Passport and Patriot Passport holders. Visit cgaf.com.
Saturday, February 13
The London Souls - 5 p.m.
The Nth Power - 3:30 p.m.
Juke - 2:30 p.m.
The Deaf Poets - 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 14
Larkin Poe - 5 p.m.
Carly Jo Jackson - 4 p.m.
SunGhosts - 3 p.m.
Bora - 2 p.m.
Monday, February 15
Locos por Juana - 5 p.m.
Raquel Sofia - 4 p.m.
Mr. Pauer (Live Set) - 3 p.m.
The Oski Foundation - 2 p.m.