After 11 years and seven albums, Memphis’s Lucero is still at it, and after talking to Ben Nichols, Lucero’s lead vocalist and guitarist, I got the impression that this particular nearly-veteran Memphis band still has a lot of new things to offer new listeners and die-hard fans alike. I caught Ben for a quick chat (he even called me…how assertive!) on a Thursday afternoon just hours before Lucero would jam out in Columbia, Missouri, filling the local venue The Blue Note with their signature country infused blues-rock that has only been becoming sharper and more captivating over the years.
You can catch them at the Canopy Club tonight, September 17th as the last of 11 acts on the bill at 1 a.m. Tickets are only 13 bucks in advance, 15 at the door, and of course you’ll get in with your handy, dandy festival pass if you’re lucky enough to have one
Mere moments after speaking with Ben I was hooked by his gentle manners and punctuality; As busy as this guy is, preparing for his band’s fall tour and the releasing of their new album, he was super composed and very approachable. I immediately felt comfortable enough to ask him just about anything, and at times I felt like I was on the phone with an old friend more than I felt I was doing an interview. I spoke with Ben about his band, what’s going on in Tennessee and what brought him there.
Smile Politely: So I hear you have a new record coming out soon, is that right?
Ben Nichols: Yeah, it’s called 1372 Overton Park and it’s out October 4th on Universal.
SP: Are you guys going on tour for this?
BN: We are, from October through about Mid-December, heading East first then out West.
SP: That’s exciting. Where’d the album name come from?
BN: That’s the address of the place in Memphis us guys would get together to practice at.
SP: Cool. It seems you guys are branching out and sticking to your roots at the same time.
BN: Yeah (laughs).
SP: Up until this point Lucero’s records have been released on indie labels, many on your own label, Liberty & Lament. How would you describe the band’s shift to the majors?
BN: Honestly, it’s really not all that different. We’re still doing the same thing, just making music. They don’t want to give us any money (laughs)
SP: What brought you to Memphis? Is that where you and your band mates met?
BN: Yeah, we formed Lucero in Memphis. I met all of these guys down here. Its funny how I ended up here … I actually followed a girl down here. I was 20 and she was only 16, so we moved in with her mom and family.
SP: Wow. Are you guys still together?
BN: Oh, god no (laughs), but we were together for like three or four years. It was great while it lasted.
SP: So how’s being a musician in Memphis?
BN: Oh, it’s great. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on down here. I love living here.
SP: Any great up and coming bands I haven’t heard of?
BN: Oh yeah. This band Glossary. They’re actually from Murphysville [Tennessee] but they are awesome. They have this one song, “Blood on the Knobs”, you should check it out.
SP: I will.
BN: We’re actually going on our tour with a bunch of Memphis bands: Amy Lavere, Cedric Burnside … he’s related to R.L Burnside … and Jack Oblivion of the Oblivions. All these guys are from Memphis, not a lot of people have heard of some of them and I don’t know why, they are all really talented
SP: Thanks for the tip off. What have you been listening to recently?
BN: This band called Constantines.
SP: Oh yeah! Those guys are great, I saw them at Lollapalooza this year. They put on a great show.
SP: Alright, so if I’m in Memphis and I want to buy a record, where should I go?
BN: Garner Records. Or Shangri-La. Both are great, awesome collections with fair prices, workers who are super helpful and knowledgeable of good music.
SP: You guys are playing in Urbana at Pygmalion on the 17th. Are you excited?
BN: Yeah! We actually played in Champaign-Urbana about eight years ago, I cant remember where, but I remember having a good time, and we’re excited to return. We do love to play.
Lucero are Roy Berry (drums), John C. Stubblefield (bass), Brian Venable (guitar), Ben Nichols (guitar and vocals) and Rick Steff (piano, organ, accordion).