Spotlight of the Week: Carmen Nickerson

Carmen Nickerson is a singer-songwriter and performer based in and around the Milwaukee area. She leads her own band and also collaborates with Willy Porter; the latter she released an album with under the project name Porter Nickerson back in 2016. Originally from Iowa, Nickerson has been involved with Wisconsin music since the 90’s.

ME: So, to start, tell me how you got involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures.

CARMEN: I did hear about it through a friend, Richard Beauchamp, who’s a photographer. He brought it up one time that he met this woman Allison, and she’s got this really cool concept where she has concerts in unique places, and I just loved that idea. Then I was doing a house concert at Steve Smith’s place, and Allison was there. We started chatting and then I realized that she was the woman doing Wisconsin Music Ventures. We connected and I was really excited to work with her.

ME: It is cool; it takes you to places that you wouldn’t expect to go to a show for.

CARMEN: I know, I love that! Aesthetics are so important, I think.

ME: So, you had an “Up North” show this past weekend. How’d it go?

CARMEN: It was really fun…that one wasn’t as well-attended. The promoter’s so sweet; she was apologetic but it was okay. She thought it was because it’s a weird time of year where the fall colors aren’t quite full yet; a lot of people that come to their shows are from out of town. She also thought that the Delta variant might have had an effect on attendance as well, but it was still really fun. It was at a little theater in Three Lakes, which is near Eagle River. They converted a quonset hut into a multipurpose performing arts center…they actually show movies there, they have lectures, they have concerts…and the town is about a thousand people but it’s in a really tourist area.

ME: Yeah, that’s way up there, isn’t it?

CARMEN: Four hours north. It’s on the Chain O’ Lakes.

ME: I really want to make it up there sometime.

CARMEN: It’s beautiful. The leaves were just starting to change.

ME: I went canoeing at Pike Lake with a friend yesterday and that was beautiful too.

ME: So we’re talking about the leaves changing, and that’s a good Segway into my next question. What’s your favorite Wisconsin state park?

CARMEN: Good question…hmm. There’s so many and I love them all, but I’d have to say Lapham Peak.

ME: Yeah, that’s just outside of Waukesha.

CARMEN: You have so much there; you can go cross-country skiing and the Ice Age Trail is right there, plus there’s so many kinds of landscapes. It’s close too which is nice. If I had a horse I could go horseback riding there; if you know anybody who has a horse, I grew up riding horses, so I’d be happy to exercise their horse.

ME: I’ll send out some feelers (laughs).

ME: Do you prefer apple cider hot or cold?

CARMEN: Depends on the time of year. Hot cider’s great when it’s cold out, but in the summer when you’re super thirsty, cold cider is great. I actually made apple cider last year; I have a friend who owns an apple orchard and she let me use her big machine. It was really fun.

ME: Awesome! I’d have to go with cold cider. I like hot cider but generally I’m not crazy about hot drinks. The only thing I really like drinking hot is coffee.

ME: My last question for you is, what are you working on now?

CARMEN: I am working on an album which is taking a lot longer to finish, partly because the engineer is really busy, plus I bought a house this summer. I’ve recorded six songs so far that just need some finishing touches done, and I have to redo some vocals. I’m getting Stas in to add some stuff too; he’s amazing. The musicians I’ve got on this album are so great; we’ve been recording it at The Exchange with Kevin Arndt.

ME: Very nice. Have you still been working with Willy Porter?

CARMEN: Yeah! Over the summer we actually did five or six band shows, which was really fun. He initially was going to do them as solo or trio gigs but then he decided that after COVID, he just wanted to come out and have the whole band play. That was lots of fun; we played some festivals and some fun private parties. He’s actually back out on the road for the first time again.

ME: Right on. Do you have any more shows coming up?

CARMEN: Yeah, I’m getting back into some more. This Friday I’m at the Packing House with my trio; we play a wide variety of jazz and pop standards with some originals. There’s private parties coming up too. I’m also doing a show with Stas on December 4th in Sheboygan.

Visit Carmen Nickerson’s website here.

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