On season one of NBC’s ‘The Voice,’ Nakia quickly became a fan favorite using his big grizzly voice to transform pop songs. While producers focused on his relationship and his struggle to make ends meet as a blues singer, what they didn’t show you on TV was just how much Nakia accomplished on his own prior to show. Long before Nakia was a semifinalist on CeeLo Green’s team, he was a beloved member of the Austin music community, fronting bands, performing solo, and working with some music’s biggest names.
Nakia moved from Chicago to Austin in 2002 and began performing solo original material with his piano. After a brief stint in the Small Stars, a tongue-in-cheek lounge act fronted by Fastball’s Miles Zuniga, he formed Nakia & His Southern Cousins. This band shared stages with B.B. King and Willie Nelson, and performed at the Austin City Limits Music Festival where Nakia wound up dancing and singing with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. Jones took a liking Nakia. Offering him advice and encouragement and inviting him back to sing with her many times before her passing. Alt-country rocker Alejandro Escovedo heard him sing at a Rolling Stones tribute and invited him to join his band singing backing vocals alongside Bruce Springsteen and Ian Hunter on Escovedo’s Street Songs of Love. As the album cycle ended, producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie/Mott The Hoople) suggested Nakia to front his own blues band as a way to find the roots of the music he had been singing. Following his advice he formed Nakia and the Blues Grifters with guitarist and producer Mac McNabb, bass player Chris Johnson, and drummer Kevin Lance. Almost immediately the band was a hit in Austin, playing big shows to larger and larger crowds. In fact, it was Nakia’s full- throated, soulful performance at one of those shows, which had been uploaded to YouTube, that subsequently found it’s way to television producer Mark Burnett. Burnett insisted on recruiting him for a brand new show no one had heard of yet scheduled to begin filming in February of 2011. Reluctant but hopeful, Nakia put his band, and the album, on pause while he went out to Hollywood where each week he wowed the show’s four celebrity coaches and it’s weekly audience of 14 million worldwide viewers.
As the whirlwind of reality television started to wind down, Nakia placed his focus on writing songs for his 6 song EP, “Drown In The Crimson Tide” and the tour that followed. Three years later he got a call to appear on a blues compilation album. Nakia knew it was time to call up the Blues Grifters again. That band is set to release their debut album in the summer of 2018. Nakia has also begun performing solo piano shows again and has put together a new songwriter showcase called “Voices In The Round” featuring many of his fellow alumni from ‘The Voice.’
Nakia is an active member of the Austin music community. He is an outspoken advocate for organizations such as Black Fret, HAAM, and The SIMS Foundation. He has served as the Chair of the Austin Music Commission and as a member of the Board of Governors for the Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy. Nakia is a two-time Black Fret artist grant recipient. He lives in Austin, Texas with his husband Robert and their retired champion Bouvier des Flandres, Tyson.
Austin, TX, USA
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