Swinging Blues

On April 11, the Kansas City, Missouri-based blues band Trampled Under Foot will bring their signature style of swinging blues to the Crest Theatre at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square. TUF was formed more than a decade ago by siblings Danielle, Nick and Chris Schnebelen. Following a change in the lineup, the new TUF has embarked on a worldwide tour in promotion of their newest release Badlands. PBI.com recently spoke with singer and bassist Danielle about the history of the band and what fans can expect from their Delray Beach concert.

The original members of Trampled Under Foot: Danielle, Chris and Nick Schnebelen.

PBI.com: What about blues music first appealed to you?

Danielle: Our parents—the guitarist and I are brother and sister—grew up playing music in Kansas City and toured regionally. They did a lot of rock, and then eventually moved into blues. So, I’ve just been exposed to it since a very young age and just kind of fell in love with it as a youngster.

Who are your biggest musical inspirations?

My all-time favorite singer—other than my mom—would be Etta James. As far as bass goes, I really dig John Paul Jones and Willie Dixon. I love a lot of different music. The Beatles are my favorite band. I love Albert King, and Otis Redding, and Stevie Wonder I’ve really been into a lot lately.

When did you form Trampled Under foot?

Our first show together was December 30, 2002. The core band was myself and my two older brothers: Chris on drums and Nick on guitar. We toured like that since then. Chris left the band in late January, so we’ve expanded by adding a piano and organ player by the name of Mike “ShinetopSedovic, and now our drummer is Jan Faircloth. They’re both cats in Kansas City that we’ve known for years and they’re just great musicians.

What does the addition of the piano bring to the sound of the band?

It helps Nick out a lot. The drums are doing what they’re doing regardless of how many people are in the band, but when you only have one guitarist, he’s got to play rhythm and lead at all times. So, when you have an extra rhythm player there—especially a piano player—then he has his left hand helping kick some bass too. It opens up the other musicians to really be able to relax and flow into the music.

How would you describe Trampled Under Foot’s music to someone unfamiliar with the band?

I don’t like the stigma that rock and blues have. We’re definitely a blues-roots band, but I would say it’s more like hard blues, because we do a lot of harder, funky stuff. And being from Kansas City, it’s the town of swing so there’s naturally this really cool swinging vibe to it.

Do you do most of the songwriting for the band?

No, Nick and I split it. I write the songs I sing and he writes the songs he sings. Usually we come out with an album every 17 months or so and we like to be 100 percent original. We’ve always been 100 percent original on our studio work, except for this last album, Badlands, which we put “It’s a Man’s World” on. I was really split on doing it or not, because we’re such advocates for originals, but we just had to put it on.

What’s your songwriting philosophy?

My writing has really gotten a lot more groove based since I started playing bass, and that just has a lot to do with being directly involved with the groove itself as opposed to just singing over it. But being, also, a songwriter before a guitarist, sometimes these songs come to me vocally and then I put music to it. Or, I get a groove and I start writing lyrics to it. So, it just kind of depends on the inspiration.

What’s your general approach to covering a song?

It just depends on the tune, actually. Sometimes, we’ll cover some [Led] Zeppelin songs and we’ll do it pretty traditionally because those are pretty planned out tunes. But, if it’s just like a blues standard, we’ll change it up a little bit. Any time you have a band that has a sound, that sound is going to be there regardless of what the song is. So, no matter what we do, it always sounds like TUF. But, [if I choose a] slow one, it usually has a pretty personal meaning to me. If it’s a funkier song, it’s because I really love to get funky.

Is there anything about your newest album, Badlands, sound wise that differentiates it from what you’ve done in the past?

Oh yeah, it’s completely different from anything we’ve done. To date, it’s our strongest piece of work. On my songs, personally, my songwriting has matured a lot. I [have gotten] more into playing different styles of bass, not just in the blues but in different genres. And I [have gotten] into writing more and more; [my writing] has evolved and become more perspective based than story based.

What’s the touring experience like for you? Do you enjoy being on the road?

Yeah, I do. I miss my son when I’m gone, but touring is part of the business. I love being able to not only see the world, but to be able to play music and feed my family doing it. I’m very blessed because I get to meet a lot of really cool people, a lot of really cool musicians…In the blues industry, we’re more of a family than competition, and that’s not always the case in other genres.

Have you ever toured in Europe?

We’ve been going to Europe since 2008. When we won the Blues Challenge in 2008, we were invited to play the Notodden Festival in Norway. We’ve gone to Norway at least twice a year, and we go to Scandinavia, the Netherlands and eastern Europe.

What kind of response do you get from a European crowd?

Oh, they absolutely love blues. They love it just as much as the Americans do. It’s not more because they don’t have as much of it over there, so they’re pretty hungry for it. We’re kind of spoiled over here because we have a lot of it.

What can audience members expect from your upcoming performance in Delray Beach? What kind of stage vibe do you all give off?

It’s really like a high-energy, grooving blues. It’s a lot of fun. We’re very passionate about what we do and we have a great time doing it.


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