Live On The Bridge

S4 E9 | FULL EPISODE

Nicki Bluhm

Having recently released her third solo album, Nicki Bluhm comes to the studio to talk with Jon Hart about life after divorce and how her songs have changed because of that. Bluhm also performs songs from that album, To Rise You Gotta Fall.

AIRED: March 23, 2019 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

♪ Last night, I stepped in the middle of bed ♪

♪ Moved only inches, but it was miles in my head ♪

♪ I hadn't been on your side in a very long time ♪

♪ And the wind in your heart hasn't blown you to mine ♪

♪ I am two shades of blue from a battlechain rose ♪

♪ I'm as blue as the sky

♪ The night before the storm wind blows ♪

♪ I'm as broken and bruised as a battlechain rose ♪

♪ Watch my petals hit the ground, scatter in the snow ♪

♪ Carry me to safety, battlechain rose ♪

♪ Three a.m., I dreamt in the middle of bed ♪

♪ The hemlock hanging in the garden where we wake ♪

♪ You smile through the sunlight, taking my hand ♪

♪ Then you shattered thy glass

♪ And blew away like grains of sand ♪

♪ And I am two shades of blue from a battlechain rose ♪

♪ I'm as blue as the sky

♪ The night before the storm wind blows ♪

♪ I'm as broken and bruised as a battlechain rose ♪

♪ Watch my petals hit the ground, scatter in the snow ♪

♪ Won't you carry me to safety, battlechain rose ♪

♪ Break of dawn, how I wept in the middle of bed ♪

♪ The sheets so cold, deception steeped the threads ♪

♪ Your words running like a freight train through my head ♪

♪ Looking for a way out of the only exit sign within ♪

♪ I am two shades of blue from a battlechain rose ♪

♪ I'm as blue as the sky

♪ The night before the storm wind blows ♪

♪ I'm as broken and bruised as a battlechain rose ♪

♪ Watch my petals hit the ground, scatter in the snow ♪

♪ Oh, watch my petals hit the ground, scatter in the snow ♪

♪ Oh won't you carry me to safety, battlechain rose ♪

♪ Ooh

♪ Ooh oh oh oh oh

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- I'm really excited today to welcome Nicki Bluhm.

Thanks for coming in.

- Thank you for having us, yeah.

- Congratulations on the new album, To Rise You Gotta Fall.

It feels like a really important record to you.

- Thanks, yeah.

It certainly is an encapsulation of the last few years

of my life, for better or worse.

But it feels good to kind of take that story

and put it into songs

and be able to play them live for people all over.

It's been real nice.

- You know, I love the beginning of your career, you know.

I read one interview where you basically said

that you started off playing to your goldfish.

- Yeah, that's true.

- (laughs) And you know, if he doesn't applaud,

there's really not any emotional damage

'cause he can't, right?

- Right.

I mean I guess she could have like, you know,

done something with her flippers or something.

- Yeah.

So eventually, you know,

you got talked into becoming a performer.

And I think that the thing that interests me the most

about that is just that choice to step away from the sort of

more ordinary life that you'd been building.

You were working with horses and teaching.

That had to be a leap of faith.

- It was.

I had a lot of encouragement, which was helpful.

And my family really supported me, and they still do.

So I think that's like a scary step for anybody to take

if you're an artist and you're wanting to kind of

get out of, you know, the safety of tradition

and then stepping into your art.

It's all encompassing,

and you have to have so much faith in yourself,

and you have to constantly kinda check your ego.

But it's really rewarding

because you get to live the life that you choose.

And so far, that's been a good choice for me,

yeah. - Yeah.

You know, I should probably apologize

talking about playing for your goldfish

because it kinda diminishes who you are,

but I think you always kind of knew

that it was what you wanted to do.

You used to multi-track yourself singing harmony

over yourself on a little cassette deck.

- I did.

You really did you research, yeah. (laughs)

I did.

That was kind of a really exciting thing,

when I figured out, you know, like the tape decks,

you could have two tapes in it and you could like

play your tape and then press record

and play at the same time and record over it.

That was, I spent hours doing that in my bathroom,

which is where my goldfish lived.

So that's kind of full circle, yeah.

- So you finally make the decision to go down this road.

You formed Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers.

And you know, the oddity of that was, you know,

the van video that you did--

- [Nicki] Yeah.

- Covering I Can't Go For That--

- [Nicki] Yeah.

- The Hall and Oates track.

I checked last night.

It's up to 3.6 million views.

- Which is like nothing these days.

Now a viral video is like 20 million.

That was back in the olden days.

- 3.6 is still pretty good, you know.

John Oates responded to that, didn't he?

- Yeah, he did.

Many people did.

It was interesting,

like the reaction that people got from that.

I think it was just a lot of nostalgia.

We ended up doing like 30 van sessions,

all songs from our childhood that just kind of like

struck a nostalgic cord in all of us,

and it seemed to do the same

across the board for a lot of people.

- You grew up in the Bay Area,

and you had a brother who's 10 years older.

So naturally, he was gonna introduce you

to the Grateful Dead.

- Yes, yeah.

- [Jon] And you've ended up

playing quite a bit with Phil Lesh.

- I have.

I've been really fortunate in that way.

He opened Terrapin Crossroads,

which is his restaurant and venue,

and he asked me to be a part of the opening week of that.

And that kind of started a long relationship

of playing together in a lot of different formats.

His most recent thing right now

is the Terrapin Family Band.

And they'll ask me to come and sing with them

every now and then, and it's always a real pleasure

to get to be a part of that.

- You've also worked with Amy Helm.

- Love her.

- Yeah.

You had a 10-piece all-female band.

- Yes, Skylark.

That was really an incredible thing,

so many talented women, Carolyn Wonderland, Shelley King,

Cindy Cashdollar, like the list goes on.

That was, we were all joking around one night on that tour.

We were, you know, traveling from show to show,

and we stopped at one of the gas stations.

And we were all like in the bathroom like,

"Do you have any ChapStick?

"Do you have any lipstick?"

Everybody was like,

"This is the sorority we always wanted to be in.

"Oh, my gosh."

It was really special.

It was really special to just be around that many women

and kind of be insulated in that way,

all performing together.

It was special.

- We'd love to have another song if we could.

- Sure.

We're gonna do another one off that record.

It's called You Can't Fool the Fool.

♪ I've been sick while I wait

♪ So I try to concentrate on the words ♪

♪ Hashes and the heart show the remnants ♪

♪ Of our word that burned

♪ I'm willing to let you leave just a mark ♪

♪ 'Cause a scar is forever and you ain't worth the hurt ♪

♪ You've been likely to lead me to thinking ♪

♪ But I find you remembered my word ♪

♪ You can't fool the fool any longer ♪

♪ These eyes have seen through your disguise ♪

♪ Everyday, my heart is getting stronger, stronger, stronger ♪

♪ And you can't fool the fool any longer ♪

♪ We wished for the same thing

♪ A home and two golden rings

♪ That was just the start of the end for you and me ♪

♪ Well, the rules haven't changed ♪

♪ You can't have it both ways, you see ♪

♪ So I'm leaving a game I never wanted to play ♪

♪ Honey, nothing's worth that fortune and fame ♪

♪ And you can't fool the fool any longer ♪

♪ Oh, these eyes have seen through your disguise ♪

♪ Oh and everyday

♪ My heart is getting stronger, stronger, stronger ♪

♪ And you can't fool the fool any longer ♪

♪ And you can't fool the fool any longer ♪

♪ Oh, these eyes have seen through your disguise ♪

♪ Oh, and everyday

♪ My heart is getting stronger, stronger, stronger ♪

♪ And you can't fool the fool any longer ♪

♪ No, you can't fool the fool any longer ♪

- That's pretty great.

Thanks for doing that.

Nicki Bluhm in our studios today.

So this was sort of like a,

you kind of wanted a totally fresh start this time around.

- [Nicki] Yeah.

- And you know, if you wanna just shorten this down,

it's sort of like get divorced,

move to Nashville, make the record, right?

- (chuckles) Yeah, get a new band.

- [Jon] Yeah. (laughs)

- Yeah, it was a lot of change,

a lot of transition in a very, very short amount of time,

which I think being human, willpower is so,

just humans are really incredible.

Like when I look back at all of that that I did,

and I really didn't think that hard about it.

It was just like I knew that I needed

to take these steps of, you know, moving

and making a record and touring and finding people

that I was inspired by to play with.

And it's interesting now, at the tail end of this year

and like tapering down, these are the last shows of the year

on this record, I like lift my head up and I'm like,

"Oh, I can see how far I've come."

You know, it's a really tough business to be in,

but it's also really rewarding

when you can kind of persevere and get through it

and do it with some dignity and grace.

- Yeah. (laughs)

Well, you know, it's,

I know it's gotta be hard to take all of that change

and have a lot of it be reflected in the songs.

For you, it had to be therapy,

but it also was like service to others.

- That's the idea, right?

I mean, I know that for me, music,

and I think for many people, music is just such a medicine.

There are so many songs written about heartache,

it's almost like a boring topic.

But at the same time, it's not because it's just,

it happens in every lifetime,

in every decade, in every person.

I think it's an important thing to talk about.

And as we evolve, maybe we can start to like

figure things out a little bit more, you know.

- (laughs) Yeah.

So the fresh start, you know, you're in Nashville and,

you know, there's musicians everywhere

and there are studios everywhere.

So you went to Memphis.

- Yeah.

- [Jon] I can't really figure

that one out (mumbles). - Yeah.

Well, I didn't know I was gonna move to Nashville

when I was in Memphis.

I went to Nashville on a couple of writing trips,

and I stayed at a friend's house

in this really amazing neighborhood in Nashville.

And it was spring, and everything was like in bloom,

and the weather was perfect.

And I was like going to write these songs in Nashville.

It's very incredibly common.

It's an industry, songwriting.

So you can set up appointments, and you go and you sit

in a room with somebody and you write.

And I had never experienced that before.

And the like type A, like the A side of my brain

was just like, "Oh, my gosh,

"I can like make an appointment and go sing and write."

And then like it's like a free therapy session.

So like I loved that about Nashville.

- So you had all these songs that were really important

to you, and you were going into a studio to play them

with musicians you've never worked with, never even met.

- [Nicki] Yeah.

- And you tracked it in five days?

- Yup, we did.

I stayed longer to do some overdubs, but everything is live.

I mean, all the vocal takes,

I sang live, which was interesting.

I wasn't expecting to do that.

But when you go into a room and you have these songs

that the musicians really have never heard,

and I was in the vocal booth, I was gonna sing scratch.

But then I realized like I needed to sing for real

to help them understand the arch,

the arc of the song and where I wanted it to get big

and where I wanted it to pull back.

And it ended up being this really cool thing.

I had a straight line of sight to the drummer,

and he really listens to the lyrics.

And so he'll, you know, playing off of each other

was just such a cool experience for me.

- I mean, this album has songs of, you know,

lost love and all the emotions that go with that,

and then it also has the healing.

So did you create a story arc

through the order that you put the songs in?

- You know, I kinda tried to.

The songs were really written over like a period

of two years, and it was the demise of my marriage.

And you know, I wanted it to flow sonically.

So you know, the first song on the record

is How Do I Love You, and that was one of the earlier ones

that I had written.

And that was like, I was very in the mindset of like

how do I make this marriage work,

and that felt like an appropriate song to put first.

But I wouldn't say that the sequence is, it wasn't delivered

exactly in the order in which the songs were written, no.

- You also had a co-writing session

where you were expressing concern about whether or not

you were giving up too much information.

- Oh, yeah.

- And Simon, who you were co-writing with

had words of wisdom.

- Yeah, he did, yeah.

That was an interesting thing.

Simon Gugala, he's a great person and songwriter,

and we really got on well.

But yeah, I was just driving over to his place.

And you know, you always wanna come to a writing session

with some nugget, whether it's like, you know,

musical or lyrical or whatever.

And I was just driving over there, and I had this line

in my head like why was I the last to know.

And I showed up, and I had just met him.

I think this was maybe the first,

maybe the second song we'd written together.

And I'm like, "I just wanna write a song

"called Why Was I The Last To Know."

And he's like, "Okay, well, tell me more about that."

And I was like, "Well, this might be TMI."

And he's like, "Honey, you're in Nashville now.

"There's no such thing as TMI."

And we ended up writing that song, which is about

a really painful topic of just like, you know, betrayal.

And I felt so much better when that song was completed.

It felt like I had made progress

like in my heart and mentally.

And that was one of those experiences in songwriting

where I just had so much overwhelming gratitude

for the healing power that writing has.

- Well, you know, I'm sure that the last two or three years

have been difficult at times, but thank you for sharing

and thanks for the gift of the album.

It's really great.

It's brilliant.

To Rise You Gotta Fall, Nicki Bluhm.

We'd love to have one more song if we could.

- Yeah, we're gonna do the title track.

And thank you for caring about the record.

I appreciate it.

♪ I've been sitting on a bush this morning ♪

♪ Just a-strumming and a-smoking green ♪

♪ Thinking about the highs and lows ♪

♪ Between now and when I was 18 ♪

♪ When you walk into the garden gate ♪

♪ You're bound to get bit by a snake ♪

♪ 'Cause you don't know love without a little heartache ♪

♪ How can you know good until you know better ♪

♪ Oh, if you're looking for love, get ready to get hurt ♪

♪ You can't win 'em all

♪ And to rise you gotta fall

♪ So I went down to Salinas

♪ To find work and to clear my head ♪

♪ Got a job as a hired hand

♪ When the harvest time came near ♪

♪ But the dirt, wind, dust and the crops dried out ♪

♪ If you don't get to market, then no pay out ♪

♪ 'Cause you don't praise the rain until you had a drought ♪

♪ Oh, how can you know good until you know better ♪

♪ Ooh, you're gonna find pain on your way to pleasure ♪

♪ Oh, it's the bumpy roads

♪ That lead you where you need to go ♪

♪ Oh, and bring you home, yeah

♪ So I went looking for some perspective ♪

♪ And I knocked on my mama's door ♪

♪ My heart was filled with sorrow ♪

♪ And I collapsed right there on the floor ♪

♪ She said girl, you best not cry any longer ♪

♪ Life is cruel and it just gets harder ♪

♪ But what doesn't kill you makes your story longer ♪

♪ Oh, she said how can you know good until you know better ♪

♪ Oh, if you're looking for love, get ready to get hurt ♪

♪ Oh, life's a hurricane where the magic's what we make ♪

♪ It ain't a rainbow without a little rain ♪

♪ Oh, how can you know good until you know better ♪

♪ Tell me

♪ If I knew what I know now, how do I write a letter ♪

♪ Saying you can't win 'em all

♪ And to rise you gotta fall

♪ Yeah, to rise you gotta fall

♪ To rise you gotta fall

♪ Ooh yeah

♪ Yeah, hmm

♪ To rise you gotta fall

♪ To raise you gotta fall

♪ To rise you gotta fall

♪ To rise you gotta fall

- Nicki Blum and her band in the Bridge studios today.

That was just great.

And to take extra time out of your day to come in here

and perform for us is such a gift,

and we appreciate it greatly.

- [Nicki] Thank you so much for having us.

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We would like to thank them for their support.

- Thank you.

- Thank you.

- Thank you very much.

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- Good, guys.

(crowd cheers)

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