Smile Or Your Money Back:
Spreading Love Through Music with Nikki Glaspie of The Nth Power
Words by Corinne Casella
Photo by Michael Weintrob
In a scene dominated by men, powerful women drummers with chops like Nikki Glaspie, are a needed and refreshing change. Her range and versatility has opened doors for her across genres, touring with everyone from Beyoncé to the Neville Brothers and Dumpstaphunk. Today Glaspie mainly focuses on her band The Nth Power, which she formed with Nigel Hall, Nick Cassarino, bassist Nate Edgar, and Weedie Braimah. The quintet will take the stage Wednesday, March 16th at Brooklyn Bowl supported by the Jennifer Hartswick Band. At once humble and in command, Glaspie sat down with us for an intimate look at the woman behind the musician.
Tell me a little bit about your experience being a woman in a predominately male profession.
NG: Absolutely. Honestly, like I haven’t really gotten a lot of discrimination in my old age. When I was younger obviously people would look at me like “Oh, you’re a drummer? Yea, I’m a drummer. Yes I’m a girl and a drummer.” But a lot of the times it gave me fuel for the fire. It just made me play harder and want more just because people would always refer to me as a female drummer or my gender had something to do with the way that I play the drums.
Did it feel more difficult in the beginning or it was it something you just tried not to pay attention to?
NG: When I was in a band, I asked to play drums and they’re like, “No.” So I played the clarinet for a while. I always played at church. I started playing in church when I was like eight. I was like the full time drummer for my church and my mom played keys. I grew up playing in church and then eventually I started playing drums in band.
What attracted you to secular music after starting in the church?
NG: You know what, that’s a good question [chuckles]. No one’s ever asked me that. We’ll basically when I was 15, my dad played me secular music. He played me Van Halen, The Gap Band, The O’Jays, Rage Against the Machine, Eve 6, Hall and Oates, a lot of different stuff. He said that I’ve been in to the drums since I was two years old. The view is like, “I’m going to expose you to this and see what you do with it”. And of course, I fell in love. I was like, “what is this?”. My mind was blown. But then when I got to college, because I wasn’t really exposed to a lot of secular music, I delved deep into fusion, funk, and music like jazz. It was just amazing to me. Music just spoke to me.
Regardless of the kind of music, it just spoke to you.
NG: Absolutely. Just because something isn’t religious doesn’t mean it’s not good. [chuckles]
With your career being so diverse, what is it like working with someone like, say, Jennifer Hartswick, compared to Beyoncé? That seems, as an outsider, to be very different.
NG: Absolutely. Well for one, Beyoncé’s a world superstar. So [chuckles] that’s a lot different, but I have a musical conversations with Jennifer and it’s awesome, it’s great. She’s amazing, so it’s fun to play with her. But the Beyoncé thing is a well-oiled machine, not really too much room for improvisation. It’s like you’d have to pick your spots. I picked my spots where I was going to be free, but still had handcuffs on. You know what I mean?
You have a little more freedom of expression?
NG: Absolutely. I can play whatever I want to play. That’s exactly what I’m doing.
Awesome. What else excites you about your current project?
NG: It’s our mission. We want to spread love all over the place and we do that through music. We believe in the healing power of music and love. We believe in the power of love. That’s what we do. That’s what we’re doing and that’s what excites me.
How do you take that musical mission and apply it to your life, to stay grounded with such a busy schedule?
NG: I try and lead by example I guess, just live what I’m talking about as well stay grounded because I actually believe in it. So it’s who I am, it’s my fabric, it’s what I’m made of. That’s what keeps me grounded.
Living the life that’s awesome.
NG: You know what I mean, you only have one that we know of. It’s like, why waste time doing things that aren’t important or don’t mean anything? It’s like this – if you do something that means something to you, it probably means something to someone else. I think everybody would love to live a happy life but they don’t know that they can choose to do so.
Let’s talk about Wednesday’s show a little bit. What can fans expect?
NG: They can expect us to do what we enjoy to do. You can expect to see us happy and smiling and sharing our happiness with them. You’ll leave with a smile on your face, guaranteed or your money back.
Smile or your money back. It sounds like the best promotion I can think of.
NG: That’s it, tell me. I want somebody to come up to me and say, “that show was terrible, I want my money back”. I would reach in my pocket and give it to him.
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