Beyonce launches Nikki Glaspie to The Nth Power

dmenconi@newsobserver.comDecember 5, 2013 

  • Details

    Who: The Nth Power with Laura Reed

    When: 9 p.m. Saturday

    Where: Pour House, 224 S. Blount St., Raleigh

    Cost: $10 advance, $12 door

    Info: 919-821-1120 or pourhousemusichall.com

Drummer Nikki Glaspie was down to her last $50 when destiny came calling. Or rather, Destiny’s Child’s Beyonce Knowles.

Glaspie, a 2001 graduate of Southeast Raleigh High school, had put in a few years at Berklee College of Music before deciding that working as a musician didn’t require a degree (“At auditions, people were never asking for paperwork or where I’d gone to school,” she notes). She spent a few years playing in bands around Boston and New York, which had gone OK, but she was still broke.

That’s when Glaspie heard about auditions for Beyonce’s touring band. Reluctantly, she gave up a paying gig to do the audition – which started with a grand total of two minutes of playing followed by days of waiting for word as to whether or not she’d made the first cut.

“I figured I hadn’t gotten it or I would’ve heard back sooner,” Glaspie says. “But they had me come back on a Saturday, and they had me in there for 10 hours. They narrowed it down again and I had to come back the next day – for eight more hours. At the end of it, 10 of us were in the room and they said, ‘You guys are the band.’ That was Father’s Day and I called my dad: ‘Guess what? I got the gig.’ ‘No, you didn’t.’ ‘Yes, I did.’ ‘No, you didn’t!’ ‘Yes, I did!’ And then he screamed like a little girl.”

Glaspie would spend five years as the drummer in Beyonce’s Sugar Mamas touring band, playing all over the world and appearing on one album and two live DVDs. But when Beyonce wanted another two-year commitment, Glaspie quit to do her own thing.

Her own thing turned out to be two things: a pair of funk bands from New Orleans. Glaspie plays in Dumpstaphunk with Ivan Neville (son of Aaron Neville, of “Tell It Like It Is” fame) and in a new supergroup called The Nth Power alongside players from Warren Haynes Band, John Brown’s Body, Lettuce, Toubab Krewe and other leading lights of the jam-band universe.

Nth Power plays Saturday at Raleigh’s Pour House.

“At the time I left Beyonce’s band, I’d done everything I could there,” Glaspie says. “So I could go around the world playing somebody else’s music again, or go this way. Dumpstaphunk’s been awesome because I’m a funketeer. Funk is my thing and it’s a mission of mine to have funk be recognized, be taken seriously as a genre. There’s no funk category when you register songs with BMI or ASCAP, and no funk category in the Grammys. That’s a slap in the face because so many other types of music came from funk. So my mission in life is to give funk its proper due.”

For now, at least, Nth Power is a secondary project for when Glaspie isn’t busy with Dumpstaphunk. The quintet has played barely a dozen shows over the past year, but Glaspie hopes to move it up her priority list.

Meantime, Glaspie remains grateful for the break she got from Beyonce. Playing in the Sugar Mamas was an experience she likens to musical boot camp.

“Playing with Beyonce was a huge opportunity,” Glaspie says. “She taught me a lot about work ethic because she’s such a perfectionist. She taught me how to really dig down, get gritty and work until something is right rather than just settling for what will get you by. That’s why she is who she is. It was hard work, and all I did was play drums. She was singing, dancing, creative-directing. She knew every light and cue, super-hands-on about everything. I learned from her that if you want things done right, you have to do it yourself most of the time. You can delegate certain things, but you’ve still got to make sure they’re done properly.”

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or newsobserver.com/onthebeat

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