Milwaukee Artist You Should Know: Nickel & Rose

An interview with Nickel & Rose

Nomadic duo Nickel & Rose (Carl Nichols and Johanna Rose) are based in Milwaukee, but they travel the world with their unique brand of folk-Americana, drawing from their roots in gospel and D.I.Y. punk to create a modern sound from traditional instrumentation with a punk attitude of modern cultural and political themes. Our partner 88Nine Radio Milwaukee reached the band via email from their tour in Spain.

What were your early influences?

Johanna: Growing up, my dad always had Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Merle Haggard, Ernest Tubb, Lead Belly, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and other country/folk/blues playing throughout the house.  At the same time, my uncles on my mother’s side were playing Summerfest and local clubs with their 80’s rock bands. In high school I started going to punk shows. Now I probably listen to more of what my dad was playing, but I like a lot of different music.

Carl: As long as I’ve been playing music, I have been exploring and enjoying just about every kind I could find. Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell made me want to write songs, and Jason Becker made me want to practice guitar.

Why are you making music?

 Johanna: I ask myself that every day, ha! In the end, it’s because it makes me happy and it’s a great way to combine creativity and activism.

Carl: At this point I feel that I’m trying to be a part of a greater movement to promote diversity in American roots music. I want to keep the culture alive in whatever way I can.

You lead a very nomadic life! Could you tell us about international touring and how you got started, along with a little about your experiences abroad compared to stateside?

Johanna: When we met, Carl was on his way to Turkey, but he changed his plans and we went to Berlin together instead. We ended up doing a three-month tour all over Europe and have been touring the States and Europe ever since. We had an idea that we would be well received in Europe and it turned out to be true. We’ve got a great bunch of musician friends around the world and now touring is as much about playing as it is about visiting them. While every country is different, we’ve happily discovered that there are great people all over the world willing to take a chance on us.

This story is from our partner 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.