Nakia & His Southern Cousins have announced their 10 year reunion and album release show on Thursday, June 29 at the historic Antone’s. The evening will be presented by Sun Radio, will be hosted by Mark Murray, and will include an opening performance by Jonathan Terrell and support by Suzanna Choffel. A very exciting aspect of the show is that Nakia & His Southern Cousins will be exclusively releasing a new record of previously unreleased outtakes with limited edition vinyl and CDs available. Doors will be at 8:30 p.m. and the show will begin at 9:00 p.m. Advance tickets will be $12 for general admission or $15 at the door. There will also be VIP seating available for $25. Please see nakia.me/tix-062917 for ticket information.
Since the band was formed in 2007, they have played numerous shows around Austin, including two long term residencies at Momo’s and Jovita’s, they released two projects, their EP Playing The Cards in 2007 and a full-length album Water To Wine in 2009, and have performed with a multitude of critically acclaimed musicians such as Sharon Jones, of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Willie Nelson and opened for BB King’s final Austin show. They were voted one of Austin’s Best New Bands at the Austin Chronicle Music Awards in 2008, performed at the re-opening of Austin Music Hall, and were featured in Austin Monthly’s “On The Cusp”.
Nakia & His Southern Cousins features Mac McNabb (Soulhat, Patty Griffin) on guitar, Johnny Vogelsang (Suzanna Choffel, Uptown Drive) on bass, Derek Morris (Bob Schneider, Alpha Rev) on keyboard, and The Fresh Up Girls – Karla Manzur (Alejandro Escovdeo, Nightblooms) and Jessie England (Snafu Kitties, Amanda Palmer) – on backing vocals. The first band lineup originally featured recently departed legendary drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith,” who appeared on many of the studio recordings as well. After “Frosty” left the band, Ed Jarusinky (Wrenfro, The Argyles) took the drummer seat.
Track Rambler writer Sawyer Click spoke with Nakia about what the reunion means for the band. See what the frontman had to say below.
TR: Can you re-introduce us to Nakia and his Southern Cousins?
Nakia: Sure, I am a singer and songwriter from Austin, Texas. In 2007 I released my first solo EP and in order to do that I put together a band to have an album release party, and those folks ended up becoming the Southern Cousins.
TR: So this is how it all came together? You put the pieces together and it ended up being the Southern Cousins?
Nakia: Yeah, I mean Frosty was the original drummer and I believe that we had a different bass player, but that shifted out quickly and then everybody kind of fell into place. We began a residency at a bar called MoMo’s, which was still relatively new in terms of Austin bars, and we played for just over a year every Thursday night at 10 o’clock. That’s really where we came into our own. We recorded a record and by the time it was done we were invited to play at the 2008 Austin City Limits music festival. Things were really picking up.
TR: You’ve been all over the entertainment industry. You’ve spent time with film, television, and obviously the music industry. You seem to have done it all and made quite a name for yourself while doing so. How does it feel to have reached this point and to be able to look back at everything you’ve done and see that you’ve become so prominent in the Austin music scene?
Nakia: I don’t really think of myself as being very prominent. I do feel very blessed. I would say that there is a lot of name recognition and that there is no shortage of people asking me to play. I feel like as an artist I’m really just now starting to come into my own. Each little spurt of growth that I’ve had in my career has been interrupted by one thing or the other, whether it was my father dying in 2009 around the same time that the band broke up, or going on television right as my new band was really starting to pick up speed. My desire to really get to know myself on an artistic level is what keeps me going.
TR: So a 10 year anniversary is special for any band, but the fact that this is a reunion makes it mean that much more. What does it mean to you on a personal level, and what does it mean for the band?
Nakia: For me, this band was so special and we made so many good memories together and had so much fun that even the idea of getting back together for a reunion show really makes me very happy…but to see it actually beginning is something else. Now that we have the rehearsal dates locked in and I have people messaging me telling me that they’re coming, it really makes me excited. It really makes it worthwhile to know that there are other people that are excited. It’s just now set in that it’s actually happening.
TR: What brought the band back together?
Nakia: Well, Jessie moved to Denmark in 2009, and without both of the original Fresh Up girls it felt kind of lame to keep doing it. So, everybody kind of went on to do other things. Jessie would come home every now and then, but never for that long. Last year I got this idea that I wanted to release some of our outtakes that never made it to an album and I started looking at the dates of the recordings, and I realized that some of the first shows that we played together were from 2007. That really gave me a lightbulb moment, like “Oh! 2007! It’s about to be 2017!” So, I wrote Jessie in 2016 and told her that the next time that she was going to be in the U.S. in 2017, to let me know so that I could piece together a reunion show. I didn’t think anything about it, but then in February Jessie messaged me and said “Okay, I’m going to be there from June 26 to whenever. Do you want to do some shows?” I said, “Oh yeah. Let me fucking put this together.” Sure enough, it happened, and here we are.
TR: Have you integrated your experiences from the Voice into Nakia & His Southern Cousins sounds/ethic. How has that experience affected you as a musician?
Nakia: I think that everything I do artistically contributes to the version of me that I am today. It’s like a painting that is never really finished. There are things you can learn and paint over and portray yourself differently. There’s experiences that you have that you want to include in the canvas. I think that’s true with me as I experience life as an artist, especially my time with the Southern Cousins, and my transition from that to the Blues Grifters, and then being on the Voice. By the time that I got on the Voice the thing that was really helpful for me was that my time being a band leader for the Southern Cousins allowed me to just walk into a room full of studio musicians and be able to lead them as a front man without having a whole lot of fear around what if that or this. I was able to walk in, do me, and tell them what I needed them to do. I wasn’t afraid to bring ideas to the table. That was a direct result from my time with the Southern Cousins.
TR: With so many members in the band, I imagine it must be hard trying to put things together and trying to find a sound. You guys happen to have a unique one. What was the process of coming back to the group with the original lineup and finding your sound again? Is the old chemistry there, or is there a new element to it all?
Nakia: When the Southern Cousins broke up the next band that I put together, I put together with the same guitar player, Mac, and we’re still in that band together. For a while, Derek played keys in my solo project, Nakia. Ed then came back and played drums for me for a while. We’ve always kind of been in and out of each other’s lives musically. Karla and I, immediately after we broke up the band, both went and sang in Alejandro Escovedo’s band and made a record with him. We’ve never really been that far apart. Jessie, because she moved to Denmark, is probably the exception because of the distance. I think that I really, truly, won’t be able to answer that question until I’m in the room with them on June 20. My guess is that the chemistry never really went away. The natural chemistry that you have with someone musically, if it’s authentic, never truly leaves.
TR: The Austin community is very much looking forward to having Nakia and His Southern Cousins reunited. What are you looking forward to the most about the night of the reunion show?
Nakia: It’s the songs that we perform. I put together the setlist to send to everybody and put the songs on a Dropbox and quickly I found myself really caught up in the songs again. A majority of these have not been performed at all since 2009. There’s maybe 2 or 3 of them that have been played on a regular basis and maybe another 2 or 3 that were maybe one-offs for whatever reason. Most of these songs have been lying dormant and not been getting performed, so that, to me, is the most exciting thing. Ultimately, we’re a band and we play songs, and we want people to enjoy the songs, and I think that we had a really special catalog of tunes that people really enjoy, and still, to this day, will come up and quote song lyrics or ask questions about that discography. It’s really getting back into that song catalog that we shared with so many people for so many years that I’m really looking forward to.
TR: Is there anything else that you would like to add about the show?
Nakia: We will have some limited-edition vinyl and posters on sale at the show. I know we’re going to have some hardcore fans that will be there, and we’re just making a handful of everything. I want it to be special, and I want everybody to be able to walk away with a piece of the evening. I also want it to be a limited amount of stuff so that people really feel like they’re getting something unique. I hope people will come out early and get all that they can. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the fans there again and watching their faces as we get into this music again.