Bangor-based musician earns a shot at stardom

Posted Nov. 05, 2009, at 6:06 p.m.

Every musician, whether they’ll admit it or not, dreams of the day they get their big break. The record company calls, the single jumps to No. 1, the rock star takes you under his wing. About 99.9 percent of the time, it never happens.

But for Bangor-based keyboard player and soul man Nigel Hall, that fateful day occurred about a year and a half ago, when he received a call from Eric Krasno, guitarist for the jazz-rock trio Soulive, a huge name in the jam band scene.

“I’d been venturing down to Boston, playing with cats like Sam Kininger, the sax player, and with Ryan Zoidis from Rustic Overtones,” said Hall, now 28 and a married father of two. “I guess Krasno heard about me from them, ’cause he called me up and basically asked if I wanted to come play with them. I didn’t believe it was him. I thought somebody was messing with me.”

By the summer of 2008, Hall was touring with Soulive and with Lettuce, Soulive’s more funk-oriented side project, and also guest performed with Ivan Neville, John Scofield and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Soulive’s latest album, “Up Here,” released last April, features a track with Hall on vocals. Last year, Hall met two of his idols: Herbie Hancock and jazz-fusion pioneer George Duke. It’s a far cry from Hall’s roots: a kid from Washington, D.C., attending Job Corps in Bangor.

“When I first went to play with them, they flew me down. I’m not kidding when I say that was the second time I’d been on a plane in my life. I was, like, star struck. I felt like a rock star,” said Hall. “It’s only been a year or two now, but I’m a little more used to it now. It’s still pretty wild, though. The music business is very interesting.”

Hall has been laying low for a few months, working at Main Street Music Studios with producer Andrew Clifford on his latest project: a new solo album. His first album, “The Face of Things To Come,” came out three years ago, and while the average listener would hear it and think it’s pretty good, for Hall, it’s a symbol of how far he has come.

“Oh man, I can barely listen to it now. I’m in a whole other universe now,” said Hall. “My new album is where I am at now. I feel like I’ve reached a whole other level in my playing.”

“The Other Side of Time,” the new album, will be released this January, as Hall is putting the finishing touches on some of the songs (and also waiting on a guest spot from rapper Talib Kweli). It’s an engaging, laid-back blend of soul and funk, with Hall’s sweet vocals and keyboard shining front and center. Make no mistake: Hall is one fierce keyboard player.

On his first album, Hall performed nearly all the instruments himself. On this album, he’s able to call upon his multitude of musician friends to flesh out the songs.

“I’m really lucky to be in a position where I can call people like Adam Deitch [from Lettuce] and have him play on my album,” said Hall. “And his brother Robin is teaching me about writing songs that have that pop attack, where it sounds really good and really catchy and can make some money, but it’s still got a point. It’s got a pop edge, with substance.”

While he’s spending time with his wife and kids in the Queen City, he also is busying himself by forming a jazz trio with local musicians, a project he’s hoping to premiere at an area club in the coming weeks. Before that, though, he has to celebrate his second wedding anniversary at the same place where he got married: at the Bear Creek Festival in Live Oak, Fla.

“We had a little bit of a celebrity wedding last year. We had Derek Trucks and the Neville Brothers at our wedding,” he said. “Now if that’s not light-years from where I was a couple years ago, I don’t know what is.”

For more information on Nigel Hall gigs and the new album, visit www.myspace.com/nigelhall.

eburnham@bangordailynews.net

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