Before Nakia was a Top 8 Semifinalist on CeeLo’s team during the first season of ‘The Voice’ on NBC, he was fronting Nakia and the Blues Grifters. In fact, it was his full-throated, soulful performance on a YouTube video of the band that led to The Voice producer Mark Burnett recruiting him for the hit TV show in 2011.
Nakia moved from Chicago to Austin in 2002. 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, got booked to perform at the 2008 Austin City Limits Festival, and wound up singing with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings. Alejandro Escovedo heard him at a Rolling Stones tribute, which led to him singing backing vocals on Escovedo’s Street Songs of Love album, and to a second recommendation — this time by producer Tony Visconti — for Nakia to front his own Blues band. So he formed the Blues Grifters with guitarist and producer Mac McNabb (Patty Griffin, Michael Fracasso), bass player Chris Johnson (Roky Erickson, McLemore Avenue), and drummer Kevin Lance (Carolyn Wonderland, Gnappy). The band took a four year hiatus while Nakia focused on a solo career, but reformed when Nakia was asked to appear on the upcoming ALL ATX album, “Low Down Violet Crown: Austin Rocks the Blues.”
“They asked us to cut “Whipping Post,”” said Nakia, “but we told them we needed to grind that tune up and smoke it first.” The result is a complete reimagining of The Allman Brothers classic. Transforming it from an 11/8 prog-rocking dirge into gritty funky blues in 4/4 that culminates into a double time frenzy featuring new Blues Grifters members Jan Flemming (Ulrich Ellison, The Gritones) on Hammond B3 and piano, and saxophonist, Vinnie Limon (Rotel & The Hot Tomatoes, Tortilla Factory).
The band performed a seven week residency at Antone’s in 2016 where they were joined by many special guests including Gary Clark Jr. They are planning to release a full-length album and series of singles on vinyl in 2018.