One of the first things you discover about Nick Schnebelen is his commitment to his music. He does not tippy-toe or wade in; he plunges right into the deep end. Forceful and determined succinctly describe Nick’s approach to guitar-playing and singing.
That’s always been the basis for Nick’s music, no matter what kind of musical collaboration he’s been in.
“I like things that are very potent and simple,” he says. “They get straight to the point.”
Nick came to widespread attention as a member of Trampled Under Foot, the Kansas City family band that was founded in 2004 won the 2008 International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Nick was also singled out for the “Albert King Award” as the best guitarist in the competition.
Joined by younger brother Kris and sister Danielle, TUF enjoyed two highly successful albums produced by Tony Braunagel, “Wrong Side of the Blues” (2011) and “Badlands” (2013), which climbed to the top position on Billboard’s Top Blues Album charts. The band was nominated in 2012 as Band of the Year at the Blues Music Awards and won that honor in 2014.
Most people think that’s how Nick got started, but his musical roots run far deeper. His mother and father were professional musicians, his grandmother was a big band singer, his grandfather played guitar and his great grandfather was a member of a string band as far back as the 1920s.
“You see, music’s been in my blood for generations,” he says.
Although Nick has played music from a young age, he blossomed when he attended Kansas City’s Paseo Academy of Performing Arts high school, where he studied both classical and jazz forms. “There are different sets of rules for each and as I played in both the classical orchestra and the jazz band, I got a better understanding of how music works,” he says.
In 1997, Nick relocated to Philadelphia, where he formed the blues-based jam band K-Floor, and later toured with Buddahead, a British pop band. By 2000, Kris and Danielle joined him in Philadelphia to begin Trampled Under Foot.
The energy of Nick’s shows with his solo band was captured in the recording of “Live in Kansas City” in 2017.
All of that has led to his debut solo work “Crazy All By Myself,” 2019 -produced once again by Braunagel and featuring songs written with Gary Nicholson, Jeff Paris and Dave Duncan. The CD flexes with styles ranging from slow blues to soul to funk to rock, with even a dash of rockabilly.
The title cut, a blues co-written with Dave Duncan, cuts deeps lyrically and musically. Nick’s stinging guitar work is underpinned by Mike Finnigan’s flowing piano at its base while the lyrics paint a picture of a man meeting the realization that he doesn’t need a woman to lead him down the path of destruction, that’s he’s perfectly capable of doing it on his own.
“This CD has so many different styles on it,” Nick says, “but it still works. Most of the songs started in my brain and then were expanded lyrically, but they seem to pair up well here so the varied styles don’t seem out of place.
“My goal is to continue to write and create new styles for the blues,” Nick says. “I want to stand out as an original artist.”
Kris Schnebelen started playing drums in 1992. Growing up in a musical family, he knew exactly which instrument he wanted to play. His first drum set was a custom 5 piece set from Herb Naster at KC Drum Works. In the late 90’s Kris studied with Sam Johnson Jr., the jazz band drummer at JCCC. Playing pick up shows with his sister, Danielle Nicole, and jamming at the many local blues jams gave Kris the foundation he needed to start a professional career in music. Although Kris pursued visual arts mainly through the 1990’s he quickly fell in love with playing music live.
Kris Schnebelen started playing drums professionally with his family in the early 2000’s. In 2002 Kris joined forces with then already accomplished musicians and siblings Nick and Danielle Schnebelen to form Trampled Under Foot. Over the next few years TUF performed all over the united states while traveling and living in between Philadelphia and Kansas City.
In 2008 Trampled Under Foot represented Kansas City and won 1st place in the International Blues Challenge leading to a host of festivals over Europe and the United States. After touring almost nonstop for the next 6 years, in 2014, Trampled Under Foot won a Blues Music Award for best contemporary blues album.
In 2015 Kris joined the Albert Castiglia Band on the road for a year traveling all over the states and eventually to Europe.
In 2016 Kris joined the Sean Chambers Band. Kris recorded on Sean’s 6th record, Trouble and Whiskey, with the band at legendary Showplace Studios with Ben Elliot producing. Kris traveled all over the eastern seaboard and to Canada with Sean.
2017 Kris, along with TUF was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame.
Kris currently plays with Dust Devil Choir in Kansas City. Kris, with partner Gabriela Monjaras have a beautiful daughter, Bella Rose, and are expecting twin boys, Niko Kristopher and Luka Jacobi in late May, 2021.
"That girl gets down to the nitty gritty." ~ Koko Taylor
Danielle Nicole Schnebelen began music from the moment she was born. Musical influences from generations on both sides of her parent's families ensured that a love of playing music would continue to be passed among her and her siblings.
Nicole began singing publicly with her parent's bands as a youth and took ahold of her full time in her early 20s. "My Father really loved the Blues. He'd go to all the true Blues guys that were around in KC, specifically Little Hatch. He'd played for Abb Locke (saxophonist for Muddy Waters) and we'd get brought along sometimes. The pure, raw emotion relayed through the Blues was what really drew me to it. Its history is the foundation of American Music and is THE one that must be respected and not buried as myth or legend."
It wasn't until 2015, when TuF formally disbanded that she took with her, over a decade of touring experience and went to New Orleans and recorded "Wolf Den."
Nicole's "distinctive, inventive bass work"—which resulted in her not only becoming the first woman to ever be nominated in the category of Instrumentalist ~ Bass in The Blues Foundation's 2012 Blues Music Awards, but also the first woman to receive the honor—"is the product of years of intensive roadwork. Although she had no experience with the instrument when she became Trampled Under Foot's bassist, now Nicole can't imagine life without it."
Nicole's 2017 release of "Cry No More" ushered in not only a heavier sound and style differentiating Nicole's already broadening voice and writing, but also accrued a slew of accolades including a 2019 Grammy Nomination for Contemporary Blues Album; 2 Blues Music Awards, one for Contemporary Female Artist and her second Instrumentalist ~ Bass, and 3 Independent Blue Music Awards.
Nicole is currently nominated for the 4th time in the Blues Music Awards for the category of Bass Instrumentalist this year. "To be recognized for artistry on my instrument, for bass as a woman, is extremely humbling. I was shocked to find out I was the first woman ever nominated, but I'm glad that the steps are happening and it's process is becoming more inclusive."