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A Dirty Dozen with NINA HAMMERLING from THE BAR CAR BAND – May 2022

According to a recent press release: “THE BAR CAR BAND’s sophomore EP, High on the Sunshine, drops today on CD and all streaming platforms. The group features singer-songwriters Nina Hammerling and Russell Smith in collaboration with guitarist Michael Mugrage (Orleans, Ronnie Spector), drummer Tommy Nagy (Lucky Peterson, The Garcia Project) and special guest bassist Scott Spray (Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter).” We get Nina to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

High on the Sunshine is our second EP. Each track has its own flavor, kind of like our musical tastes. “High on the Sunshine” is bright and swinging; “Away from You” is kind of dreamy and moody; “Friday” is a funkified, danceable jam; and “Burn on Through” is a bluesy torch song. There are jazzy chord-change surprises throughout. And a couple of sonic references to some of our favorite influences. Also some lyrical echoes to classic song tropes — but with a modern, feminist twist.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I don’t remember ever not singing. When I was a kid, I listened to nothing but the Beatles for a long time, till all those songs seeped into who I am. Then one day at a record store, I picked up Janis Joplin, Carole King and Joni Mitchell I was hooked for life. I joined my first rock band in high school. And when I worked at Rolling Stone magazine, I played in their house band. We performed a couple of holiday party gigs at The Roxy in New York. One year, Lenny Kravitz sat in with us on drums. The next year, Peter Wolf sang “Love Stinks.” I sang backgrounds for both. I had a couple of lead vox moments, too. Standing on that stage, with people dancing and feeling good… all my nerves disappeared. It was such a rush. I’m always chasing that feeling, of making people experience something real by making music for them.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

So many. For live experiences, nothing compared to the energy and improvisational brilliance of the Grateful Dead. Those shows were always loose and free. If I had to pick one album that had the most profound influence on me, I’d say Janis Joplin’s Pearl. Those raw, bluesy vocal and the sheer power of her delivery were profound. Every time I sing “Mercedes Benz” or “Me and Bobby McGee,” I feel like I’m channeling a little bit of Janis.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

It would be a dream to work with Mark Ronson. He’s just such a tremendous musician and has the most incredible song sense. His collaborations with artists like Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and Adele are some of the best recent music.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

I love going out and hearing my friends play! We’re lucky to live in a community that’s rich with live music — so many great bands to hear and get inspired by.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Our sound is fun, groovy, soulful indie rock. An industry vet calls our songs “a breezy update on Susan Tedeschi and Fairground Attraction with elements of Waxahatchee and even some Lucinda Williams thrown in for good measure.”

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Cooks = takeout (when we’re hanging, we’re too busy writing or practicing to cook); Drinks = as long as someone can pour a slug of whiskey (Basil Hayden dark rye for preference) and there are ice cubes around, it’s all good; and Acoustic guitars = it doesn’t take much to get us to do a singalong. Sometimes it’s a guitar, sometimes keys, sometimes it’s even drums that get us going. It can be any one of us.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

When I was in the Rolling Stone house band, one year Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon were in the audience at the Roxy. Yoko was dancing right in front of the stage while I was singing Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” which kind of blew my mind. After the show, backstage, I thanked her for bringing the positive energy to the show. “I wouldn’t have danced if I didn’t feel it,” Yoko replied.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The best part is making connections — among fellow musicians, and between the band and the audience. It’s a completely honest, universal form of communication. I thought about becoming a masseuse and a feng shui consultant… maybe in another life!

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Ask me about my dog! Mila is part lab, part boxer, part pit bull, and all heart. I love this quote: “I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.” And I’m not tired of answering questions; this is fun!

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I wish we had done more to get our first EP, Why Not?, out there when we recorded it back in 2017. It’s so great to hear positive feedback on High on the Sunshine this time around. People are writing reviews and picking up the tunes for playlists around the world, from Brazil to the U.K. and beyond — so cool to find new audiences far and wide!

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. Or Carole King’s Tapestry. Or Prince’s Purple Rain. Or Paul Simon’s Graceland. Or Joni Mitchell’s Blue. Or Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. I can’t pick! These are some of the best records ever made, and each of these artists is a genius in their own right. But I’ll tell you — watching The Beatles: Get Back felt almost like we did get to go back in time and be in the room while some of the most influential songs of the 20th century were being recorded. That series was a gift to the world. Seeing their process was absolutely amazing.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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