Since he formed NK Band in 2002, artist Nikhil Korula has been on Music Connection’s radar. He’s a great example of an artist who’s taken the reins of his own career and found ways to not only persevere but to succeed––one step at a time. Most recently, his DIY approach has landed his band a Day 2 slot on the upcoming Arroyo Seco Weekend festival––with headliners Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Mumford & Sons––happening at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA on June 24 and June 25.
Music Connection: Congrats, Nikhil, on being part of the lineup to such a prestigious and highly anticipated music fest. Tell us, how did this booking come to be? Did you target it and have your booker go all-out for it?
Nikhil Korula: Thanks for the kind words, Music Connection magazine! NK Band is super excited to be a part of the fantastic Arroyo Seco Music Festival lineup with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Mumford & Sons, the Meters, the Shins, Weezer, Fitz & the Tantrums and more and we cannot wait to share our music with so many new and old fans. One of the most exciting parts about this festival is that it is right next to my hometown of Arcadia, CA, so this show is particularly special for me. I've been wanting to do a show or festival with Goldenvoice for a number of years, but I guess great opportunities come to those who wait and put in the work and time of playing shows, building your fanbase slow and steady and also knocking on the right doors. Since I book all of our shows myself and have from the very start, I always do my best to create friendships with every festival promoter who we may possibly work with in the near or distant future. Goldenvoice is one of the best festival promoters out there so I am extremely honored to be a part of this lineup, especially because they are involved and behind this new and one of a kind festival. A major highlight is also being on the bill for the very first festival lineup of its kind in Pasadena, CA.
MC: Talk about your current band members. Who will we be seeing and hearing at Arroyo Seco Weekend?
NK: Over the years, I have been so proud of the musicians I share the stage with. On drums, we have Adam Gust, one of the most solid drummers and greatest pocket players around, who also happens to have been playing in NK Band for 12 years. On percussion, we have Chris Lovejoy, who is one of the best percussionists and musicians I know. I always make it a point to make it known to all of our fans at shows that before I started playing music, I became a fan of Chris' percussion playing when he was on the road with Charlie Hunter. Every time we play together, it is always super surreal to me that he is in my band. On lead guitar, we have Ray Bergstrom, who can dazzle you with the most shredding rock guitar licks or impress you with his knowledge of gypsy jazz, western African guitar lines and blues guitar. On bass, NK Band is honored to have Jesse Stern, who has toured with Sly Stone, George Clinton and Jordin Sparks for years and is also one of the most talented musicians I know. Not only is he one of the baddest pocket bassists I've ever played with, but his knowledge of world music, especially African soukous and reggae, will astound you. Last, but certainly not least, we have Mike Eyia on saxophone, who has been on the road with bands like Rebelution and Thievery Corporation. There is never a dull moment on stage when Mike is jamming with NK Band and I always love his approach of building solos and making moments count.
I seriously play with the most bad ass musicians and it is such an incredible honor to make music with them. There are some incredible special guests joining us on stage as well for this festival including the Regiment Horns (Sean Erick on Trumpet, Kevin Williams on Trombone and Leon Silva on Saxophone), who have been touring with Justin Timberlake/Ne-Yo and recording with Ziggy Marley/Coldplay as well as DJ Battleship, a super talented scratching musician who has brought in some extra fireworks at our Sundance shows and Jayson Johnson, a slide guitarist from Arizona, who also happens to be one of the best musicians and greatest music lovers I know. Yes, I am definitely challenged by all of my band members and feel humbled to perform with them.
“The best part is that we did it all without a manager, booking agent or record label.” –Nikhil Korula
MC: You've played big fests before. How do you approach a show like Arroyo Seco? Do you stick with what you know or do you go for something new and unexpected? Something special for the hometown fans?
NK: Because Music Connection magazine has been supporting the Nikhil Korula Band since our inception in 2002, I will give you the best inside information around. Our performance at the Arroyo Seco Music Festival is going to be like no other NK Band show to date. I wanted to make this festival appearance extra special by bringing in some heavy artillery with some of our special guests. There will be some fan favorites that we play, some new songs and without a doubt, some tricks up our sleeves that will leave fans, who have seen us for well over a decade as well as fans who have never seen us play before, engaged and entertained with our performance. I believe in raising the bar with every one of our performances and being asked to play this festival has definitely elevated the playing field for us so it's going to be beyond extraordinary in every way, shape and form. I hope you all buckle in and stay a while because this one is going to be one for the books!
MC: You and your NK Band have seen a steady rise in recognition over the years, since 2002. Were there moments when you faced doubt and thought maybe the music industry was just too tough a nut to crack? What sustained you?
NK: This is a fantastic question and I hope my answer will help shed some light for your readers, especially to all the artists and bands out there. Being in a band from Los Angeles, the competition is greater than just about any city in the country. I always made sure to surround myself with the greatest talent I could find in my band mates, but there were definitely moments where I doubted, not whether the band or our songs were good enough, but if the music industry would be willing to embrace our sound with where and how the popular music needle was always moving. NK Band definitely got seasoned the hard way, by touring independently, playing every show like it mattered, whether there were 10 people or 10,000+ in the audience and that was what helped catapult our music and performances into the biggest and best music festivals around the country.
I am beyond proud to say the Nikhil Korula Band has performed at esteemed festivals like Bonnaroo (2008 & 2009), Summerfest (2007-2017), Playboy Jazz Festival (2011) and now Arroyo Seco Music Festival (2017) along with opening for so many of our heroes like the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Jason Mraz, the Roots, Ray Lamontagne, Gary Clark Jr. and countless others, but the best part is that we did it all without a manager, booking agent or record label. We did it all on our own. I believe in my heart this band is here to stay and that is definitely what sustained me and the rest of the NK Band along this journey. No matter what this band faced, we always made the most of how we make music together and that is still, to this day, what keeps this band so vibrant. There are things that have recently happened, like getting the opportunity to win my first Grammy certificate for composing the opening track for Ziggy Marley's Grammy-Winning album with my songwriting team, the Element & Ziggy Marley, that I never dreamed would happen, but the best part about having a dream to be a musician is you can never stop the music. Just keep believing and things will all fall into place and doing the work always helps. As Steve Martin once said, "Be so good, they can't ignore you."
For more information, visit nkband.com.