Willie Nile is no stranger to the Opera House’s stage. The (quietly) versed musician has stepped foot in the historic theater a handful times over the past few years, and on November 7th he’s stated to make his return. Before Nile and his band set up shop in Valpo, I talked to the rock legend about his new album, his Benjamin Button-like career, and why he keeps coming back to see his “old friends” in Northwest Indiana.
To know Willie Nile is to know of an indie artist, an indie artist who is a rock trailblazer that deserves to be talked about within the likes of his more popular peers. To his fans and critics, Nile should be praised in the same light as vetted musicians for his abilities as a strong songwriter and his incredibly varied musical abilities, but he has yet to reach the ears of an average listener. It is appropriate to mention that Nile has shared the stage with heavyweights like Springsteen, Daltrey, Costello, and once toured with The Who - but he’s fine with existing as an artist without the overbearing spotlight.
“The industry has changed so much now, it’s so different from what it used to be. It’s more independent, there’s more room for people to spread around and make music. I’ve now found my own niche for myself. You don’t have to sit and wait for others, you can just do it. I’m just doing it.” Nile explained. “I’m not in it for the glory. Life is real, there’s always a place for a song with heart and meaning no matter where it comes from. It’s not all just showbiz - life isn’t showbiz.”
Nile, whose first two albums were released in the 1980's and his third came to fruition ten years later, and is now steadily releasing records every few years, has purposefully taken up a nontraditional career path. After his first few records Nile realized that the music industry wasn’t something he believed in, or wanted to be a part of, and he only released music again when it was on better terms.
“I’ve always said this: if something wasn’t special - a song, a performance, an album, whatever it is - I wouldn’t do it. Music is really uplifting to me, it really means everything. I’m not fakin’ it,” Nile stated. “I’m enjoying making music now more than ever. Even as I’ve gotten older the music is becoming better. It’s just the way things turned out.”
Now well into his 60s Nile’s career is flourishing and takes up a similar path to a younger artist - constant touring, incredible energy, and boundless creativity. After releasing If I Was a River - a piano based album in 2014 - Nile is now preparing for his next record in late February that he calls “the most rockin’ album yet”. The record is also entirely crowd-funded by a campaign on PledgeMusic.com, which has currently raised 208% of its goal, and allows him to take full control of the album’s production.
“We’ve got a new attitude on this record - it’s really funny, it’s really upbeat,” Nile stated. “The band and I have been playing together for so long now doing so many shows and because of that we’ve gotten so much tighter. For some reason, with the songwriting and the band together, it’s just a powerhouse. I still listen to it and think ‘Wow. I’m still learning after all of these years.’ I feel like I’m on a mountaintop listening to it.”
With a new album on the way and the passion for continuing playing shows, Nile is currently on a fall tour around the midwest and northeast. After a short stop in Illinois Nile and his band will make their return to the region. A welcomed returning visitor to the Imagine Music Concert Series, Nile noted that making his fourth appearance on Memorial Opera House’s historic stage is something that he’s looking forward to.
“There’s just a great history [at the Opera House]. Whenever I walk in I feel like I’m stepping through time. It’s got such great character, too. It’s a jewel - it’s such a treasure.” Nile explained. “It’s in the heartland of America. I’ve got some great friends there now - some dear people. It’s an honor to play there and I love it every time.”
Though many Valparaiso residents have seen Nile and his band perform before, their performance is something that everyone should have the ability to experience. Just by doing some minor research of what they have done in the past on stage it’s clear to see that their stage presence is a flurry of energy that captures the full attention of their audience. Nile, in his own words, put describes a Willie Nile show as something where “you walk out feeling elated”.
“Look, if someone comes to a show and it’s blown away - and I don’t mean just like it, if they aren’t blown away with their socks knocked off - I don’t want to put on that show. Touring becomes hard, it does, but when it becomes not inspiring to me is the day I stop. Or, you know, if I just drop.” Nile stated. “When they come to a show of ours expect upbeat, moving, meaningful, real rock’n’roll. Expect to have a great time and to be on your feet a bunch. Anyone who comes will have a real entertaining evening.”
Tickets are still available for Willie Nile’s November 7th concert at the Memorial Opera House. To find ticket information and more details on the show, please visit http://www.imaginemusicvalpo.com/.
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