Key to the Highway: Ben Nichols

Interviews Key to the Highway Series

photo by Melissa Clarke

Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Ben Nichols:

AH: How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

Ben Nichols: On the road my days usually start pretty late. Good ol’ water is the first thing I drink when I wake up. So no coffee for me. But I love an ice cold coke with lunch. Even if lunch is at 4pm.

AH: What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road?)

BN: We’ve been in a lot of motels and hotels. Before it was renovated we stayed at Atlanta’s Hotel Clermont with its infamous lounge (strip club) downstairs. Some other notable spots include the haunted Arlington in Hot Springs, Arkansas which hosted Al Capone and other gangsters of the time and the beautiful Alyeska ski lodge with its breathtaking scenery way up in Girdwood, Alaska. This job has some perks.

AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is? And why?

BN: If you’re driving a van across the country you want to make sure you can stay awake. But you also need something everybody can agree on. You can go one of two ways: keep it classy with something like The Band’s brown record that has a little bit of everything, rock and soul; or straight up AC/DC’s Highway to Hell.

AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

BN: Seems obvious, but you can’t travel anywhere without a toothbrush. Clean clothes? Eh. Showers? Not a big deal. Toothbrush? Must have.

AH: What is your relationship with food? How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

BN: One of my favorite parts of going on tour is getting to eat in restaurants all across the country. From Japantown in San Francisco to Enchiladas in Texas to places like The Pig & Pint in Jackson, Mississippi that has a great fried bologna sandwich with an egg on it… I usually know what I’m gonna eat before I get to town.

AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

BN: I would love to spend some more time in Japan. The band has only been there once and I was too young and drunk to really appreciate it. The food and the culture and the atmosphere and approach to life are completely different from the U.S. and I think I could spend quite a bit of time learning more about that view of the world.

AH: What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

BN: “Tell the girls they’re pretty while you can.” A great Memphis musician named Monsieur Jeffrey Evans bid us farewell once with that line, on our way to play a show. I’ve never been afraid to steal from the best so I immediately wrote that down and it became the song “Drink ‘Till We’re Gone”, which we play to this day.

Find all things Ben Nichols and Lucero, here:

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for: Bruce Cockburn Charlie Musselwhite Jim White Danny Barnes  Patterson Hood Jerry Joseph BJ Barham Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt  Sarah Shook & the Disarmers )

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