Nick Cassarino Lifts Lid Off Suwannee Rising’s The Nth Power Ball: Interview
Feature Photo Credit: Rex Thomson of Rex-A-Vision
The celebration that’s about to go down in just a few days for Suwannee Rising’s third incarnation beneath the moss-draped oaks at The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park promises a kaleidoscopic sonic journey into the nucleus of soul, both metaphysical and musical. Set to take place in Live Oak, Florida, April 7-9, the festival brings together a diverse group of soulful players from funk, R&B, Americana, blues, psychedelic rock, electronic dance, and, of course, soul. St. Paul & The Broken Bones, legendary Meters bassist George Porter Jr. and Dumpstaphunk Performing the Music of The Meters, Galactic, Durand Jones & The Indications, and Neal Francis will be among the stellar artists putting the heart and soul at Rising.
Perhaps no band drinks deeper from the well of soul than The Nth Power, a multifaceted trio and frequent SOSMP performers whose unforgettable shows and collaborations draw a straight line from music to a higher power. Standouts include the band’s legendary 2017 tribute to Earth Wind & Fire at One Eyed Jacks in New Orleans featuring Ian Neville (Dumpstaphunk), Adam Smirnoff (Lettuce), Oteil Burbridge (The Allman Brothers/Dead & Company), the late Kofi Burbridge (Tedeschi Trucks Band), Jennifer Hartswick, Natalie Cressman and James Casey of the Trey Anastasio Band, Skerik (Garage a Trois), and Farnell Newton (Othership Connection); and a moving tribute to Bob Marley at 2017’s Suwannee Hulaween with members of Tampa faves Phantom Vanity plus vocalist Viveca Hawkins, Rob Marscher (Matisyahu/Addison Groove Project/Star Kitchen), Raja Kassis (Weedie Braimah & The Hands of Time/Antibalas), and South Carolina rapper Jay Mell. There was also Paul Levine‘s A Feast of Funk and Soul Food in 2016 with the Nth Power headlining night one and Earth Wind and Power night two.
Video courtesy of Rex-A-Vision.
With this kind of track record for blowing minds and winning hearts, it’s only fitting that The Nth Power should close out Suwannee Rising with The Nth Power Ball, a collaborative performance that’s guaranteed to produce wizardry of the highest order. Made up of preternatural drummer Nikki Glaspie, sublime vocalist and guitarist Nick Cassarino, and pre-eminent bassist Nate Edgar, The Nth Power will be joined by a noteworthy and diverse cadre of artists including trumpeter and divine vocalist Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band), saxophonist James Casey (Trey Anastasio Band/Lettuce/Soulive), keyboardist Pete Levin (Greg Allman Band/Blind Boys of Alabama), trombonist Scotty Flynn (Pretty Lights/Odesza), and country singer and guitarist Greg Erwin.
This alliance will be rounded out by SOSMP regulars and Florida natives and siblings Melody and Vaylor Trucks, who are the progeny of legendary Allman Brothers Band drummer the late Butch Trucks. Hailing from Jacksonville, vocalist and percussionist Melody Trucks previously fronted her own renowned Americana group Melody Trucks Band and has also worked with Bobby Lee Rodgers in A MighTy BLuR. Vaylor Trucks is the guitarist and multi-instrumentalist for The Yeti Trio. They have been performing as Brother and Sister and were Suwannee Rising producer Paul Levine’s pick to add local flavor to The Nth Power Ball in addition to their own set on Saturday.
There are plenty of reasons not to miss The Nth Power Ball, which will take place this Saturday night (actually, early Sunday morning) at 1 a.m. In a recent interview with Dalia Jakubauskas of MusicFestNews.com, The Nth Power’s Nick Cassarino expounds on some of them plus the formation of this remarkable collaboration and hints at some surprises in store. Read the exchange below.
MFN: I’m excited that you’re coming back to The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, a place that’s pure magic. It’s hard to explain this to people who haven’t been there, but Suwannee is a a mystical place. I don’t know if it’s nature, playing under the live oaks, or just the distinctive sense of place, but there’s this energy there that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. Are you excited to come back?
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I think that this is the place that we’ve played the most as a band. We love it. We believe in energy. You know, longitude and latitude, like power points around the world, and that’s definitely one of them.
MFN: What are some of the other places you consider power points?
Nick: New Orleans, New York, and all the major cities that I’ve been to. But in terms of a specific place right there, (Suwannee) there’s an energy there. There’s a history there. There’s something.
MFN: How did you all put together this particular collaboration for Suwannee? There’s an art to this. Do you and your bandmates have a secret sauce for putting together a successful collaboration?
Nick: We at The Nth Power do a series of tribute shows. We’ve done Nirvana, Steely Dan, Marvin Gaye, Earth Wind and Fire, and Bob Marley. For all those, we’ve taken a very hands-on approach to handpicking the people we think would energetically match the mission of the music plus would work the best and complement each other.
You know, it’s like making a big pot of sauce or something. And yet, for this, this is one of the first ones we’ve ever had outside curators involved – our good friend Paul Levine, who has been a supporter of The Nth Power from the beginning. We love Paul. He talked to us about this. He had some ideas personnel-wise which we took and we ran with.
Nikki, our drummer, is doing this Allman Brothers band called Trouble No More now. And so, she had input from that angle as well.
MFN: As far as choosing these particular players, this is a super diverse bunch. Jennifer (Hartswick) needs no introduction. She’s everywhere and a goddess. The other players on this roster have musical resumes that cover practically everything. There’s Greg Irwin, who’s a country artist. And the there’s Pete Levin, who’s worked with Public Enemy, Korn, Train and more.
Nick: Ah, Yeah! He’s the boss. He’s fuckin’ great. We played with him years ago at some Nth Power gig. I don’t remember what we were doing. I just remember rehearsing with him for days at this Brooklyn Studio. I can’t even remember what the gig was. But he’s an amazing organ player. I just saw him at The Beacon Theatre with Trouble No More, and it was excellent, and we reconnected. He’s psyched, and we’re psyched.
MFN: You’ve also got Scotty Flynn, who’s been with Pretty Lights and Odesza. And then you’ve got Melody and Vaylor Trucks who are amazing and have that Florida connection. Did Paul (Levine) suggest them?
Nick: Yes. That was a Paul’s contribution. They’re monster musicians. Never played with them. Never met ’em. This is the first time we’ve ever done a gig like this where we don’t know everybody in the band really well. But I know they’re monster musicians, and we’re really looking forward to the time with them.
MFN: So, how do you prepare this crew for this particular collab? How much back and forth do you do beforehand? How much preparation is involved, and what does that look like?
Nick: We pick the songs. Make a playlist and send them the songs. Everybody is going to do their homework because they’re professionals. And then we’re going to show up and rehearse all day. And then the gig is at, I think, 1 a.m. If we can’t get it together by 1 a.m. then we don’t deserve to go (chuckles).
MFN: Can you give us a little hint about what fans can expect in this particular set?
Nick: Definitely. Fans will be able to expect something they’ve never heard from The Nth Power before. We’re going to be pulling more from rock and roll and more stuff like that and blues. Pulling more from those kind of energies and from the great American songbook. They can expect a high energy, loud show.
So, there you have it. Grab an espresso. Eat your Wheaties, and prepare to rage at The Nth Power Ball. Tickets are still available for Suwannee Rising and can be purchased via the festival’s official website or at the venue during the event.
In case you can’t make it to Suwannee Rising, be sure to catch The Nth Power’s “Reach Out Tour 2022“ coming to a town near you. The tour is in support of Reverence, a deeply spiritual and moving full-length studio LP released last September featuring contributions by Maceo Parker, Ivan Neville, Nick Daniels, Ceryl Pepsii Riley, and the late Kofi Burbridge. Four years in the making, the 11-track album is the first release from The Nth Power since 2015’s Abundance. Reverence is available across most streaming platforms and can also be purchased on vinyl or CD via the band’s official website.
For more information about Suwannee Rising and The Nth Power click on the links below.