In the days of email, text and phone interviews it is nice to sit face to face with the artists of today and just talk. A few nights ago, I got to do just that. I met up with Niles Rooker and Jeff Meloen, two of the three that make up the band Niles Rooker Trio. I saw them play a few weeks ago at The Basement East and they blew my mind, you might remember my review. So, as soon as I could get my sh.. stuff together, I emailed and asked for an interview. We met up at The Well, a coffeehouse next to Lipscomb that is wonderfully delicious yet quiet and comfortable. Go ahead, check them out on Yelp!, even the pretentious coffee guzzlers love it. Both Niles and Jeff were so nice and they seemed genuinely glad to be there, giving me all the details on their upcoming single, shows and a few back stories on how they came to be. Some which had me laughing pretty hard, like getting yelled at by the landlord and threatened to get kicked out for being so loud. They were some pretty cool guys, we got sidetracked a few times talking about shows we wanted to see this summer and some pretty amazing shows we have seen this year already here in Nashville. You can tell they love what they do and they are very passionate about the music they make.Niles Rooker Trio formed in August of 2014, wanting to capture sounds of the 50s and 60s. Members are Niles Rooker (Vocals/Guitar), Jeff Meloen (Drums), and Ryan Lemp (Bass/Keys). Getting together at first just to make loud noise and play some blues while also making life hard on their surrounding neighbors. In September of 2015, the trio released their debut EP titled Beach Talk. Beach Talk is five tracks recorded at Dark Horse Studios here in Franklin, mixed by Chris Mara at Welcome To 1979, and mastered by Alex McCollough at Yes Master.
Meeting at orientation for school, they were both transfer students and got placed in the same group. From there they started playing as a duo and really connected. “We found bassist, Ryan Lemp, who also attends college here, and kept it as a trio, and that is how it has been and hopefully how it will stay.” Outside of music, Niles just got a new puppy and Jeff teaches and they are both pretty busy with school.
Jeff Meloen, who plays the drums is from Clarksville, which is not far from Nashville and Niles has come to us all the way from Colorado. He came here for the music but he and Jeff also attend school here in Nashville, which was just a convenient way of getting here. The excuse to be here. Most of Niles family is close in Memphis, and his grandparents have attended a show, his grandfather has remarked to Jeff that they are “killer on stage.” Niles says they are really supportive of his music.
Hearing the blues for the first time, Niles can remember hearing the Stones. He moved on from them, following the line of their influences and who else was playing that kind of music. The blues led him to the early R&B stuff, like Otis Redding and James Carr. Covering a James Carr on their EP, “Pourin’ Water on a Drownin’ Man”, I was quick to ask what made them pick that particular song to cover. “The lyrics were my favorite, we changed the music entirely but used the James Carr lyrics because they are my favorite. He is so under the radar and just buried by Otis Redding and he is one of the best.”
When asked about their all-time favorite album, Jeff answered immediately. “Continuum” by John Mayer. Niles had to think about that one, which you know I could totally relate. Finally settling on The Black Crowes album Amorica. “I listen to that album start to finish, constantly. Chris Robinson is one of my favorite vocalist.” Currently listening to rock and alternative stuff. He likes the Alabama Shakes, they both saw them when they were here. Niles favorite place to watch and play is Cannery Ballroom. Most recently getting to see The Eagles of Death Metal play there.
They both knew from fairly young ages that they wanted to be involved in music in some form or another. Jeff says it always comes back to doing music for him. He’s been playing drums since he was 11, but he’s going to learn the guitar this summer and composition so he can get more into the writing process. Niles took guitar lessons around that same age and immediately stopped when he figured out the basics and started writing songs at age twelve. “I have this weird funk, and write a quarter of a song and the next day I will write more bits and pieces. Writing about a full song each week at least. I hate like 90% of what I write. I keep them in notebooks and stuff and I just got to get that bad stuff out and then not show anyone. [laughing] I actually had music from when I was really young on this MySpace account, that I deleted before I moved to Nashville. Baby voice and everything, did not want anyone to hear that. Which immediately got a big “awww” from me.Talking about their process of writing and making the songs, Niles says the music comes first. “There’s the music, then the idea for what I’m going to write. Bits and pieces of true events, kind of like movies. It’s like based on true events, decorated with song writing.” Jeff says that Niles will send them a voice memo of an acoustic demo, and they will listen to it and then try it out at the rehearsal. It usually works out to be pretty good. “Kind of the Taylor Swift method.” [Laughing]
When I asked them to walk me through the title track “Beach Talk”, Meloen started laughing and said, “Oh here we go..” Niles says it’s just a little touchy, “But basically just messing around with someone I should not have been messing with and that is basically all I am going to say.” [politely laughing]
They said there are definite plans on making a full album. Right now they are working on their next single, “I Won’t Sleep”, getting into the studio March 2nd at Haptown Studios. Hopefully releasing that late spring. “It’s about reflecting on your past and understanding how sometimes your life veers off of the rails. And each time it happens, you just regain traction and connect back up.” Since I couldn’t get much out of him with “Beach Talk”, he walked me though one of their new singles they are currently working on, “Chicago”. “So “Chicago” is actually based on Nashville, but I did not want to write a song titled “Tennessee” or “Nashville”. So I said you know what I am going to name it “Chicago”. Basically what it’s about is my process of getting here, there was a lot of hatred and pain back home. I just wanted to get together with musicians. There is a serious lack of musicians back in Colorado. The song sounds like it is about a girl, but it’s not. It’s about getting here and playing and finding Jeff and getting to do what I want to do and reaching my goals. And then I inserted Chicago.”[laughing]
What is next for Niles Rooker Trio? Right now it’s recording this new single, “I Won’t Sleep”. A few shows here in Nashville. They are playing the Exit/In in May. Hopefully touring and some shows outside of Nashville this summer. They are playing tomorrow night The End, going onstage at 10:00. Their EP, Beach Talk is currently available everywhere under Niles Rooker, but everything from here on out will be under Niles Rooker Trio. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and check out their music on iTunes…
Photo Cred: Feature Image- Kyle Somers
Other photos: Fletcher Moore, Zach Schneider, and yours truly…