The San Francisco-based folk rock band takes its social circle on the road.
Nicki Bluhm is big on community.
Fresh from releasing her self-titled album with the Gramblers last month, Bluhm has surrounded herself with people, who she picks up along the way for extensive tours across the country. "It's crazy how many friends jump on tour and on board," Bluhm says. "As you do this more and more, you start to meet other musicians, and your musical family continues to grow." Their tour stops at Tipitina's Saturday, where Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers will open for the Revivalists.
That growth was rapid over the half-decade since Bluhm released her first album, Toby's Song. Before then, she was teaching and taking care of horses to get by. But being discovered by the closest member of her large family got Bluhm into to the writer's seat. It was her now-husband Tim Bluhm who heard Nicki singing at a party and propelled her to a music career. She credits Tim for much of the band's success at this point. "We have a lot of the same influences," Nicki explains. "[Tim] shaped our tastes from when we were teenagers. His encouragement led to writing songs. He had a vision. Now I have one, too, that I didn't at first."
For all the credit Bluhm likes to give to those around her, her presence is the definitive asset of the Gramblers. On the self-titled album, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers take a strong hold on traditional folk while blending in modern elements of country and Americana. Bluhm's voice has a classic sound to it, as it breezes through each track, driving along impeccably constructed folk pop like the wheels on the Gramblers' busy tour van.
A willingness to endlessly tour the country has been Bluhm's focus since her first days of songwriting. But her and the band's presence in every corner of the U.S. is also a product of a bigger community of music lovers — the Internet. The series of performances the group filmed in its tour van have become viral online, with a cover of Hall and Oates' "I Can't Go for That" racking up more than 2 million views.
"The van sessions are so popular because it just shows people having fun," Bluhm says. "After the van sessions, it was pretty undeniable. People started going to shows, we were getting on the radar internationally."
Bluhm's debt to those who built her up is apparent in her humble approach to songwriting and touring. "Really what we do is just make the music that makes us happy," she says. It's a simple mantra for a group whose music has the simple aim of having a good time. "It's really like a drug, that energy exchange when you play live. Every show gets more and more real."