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Buffalo Nichols and Ayana Contreras Discuss The State Of Blues At Lolla ‘22

Written by on August 8, 2022

Buffalo Nichols brings the brutal honesty of the blues to Lollapalooza, and contemplates the genre’s ownership with Ayana Contreras.

Buffalo Nichols is a guitarist and songwriter hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who is reshaping blues for the 21st Century. The artist’s 2021’s eponymous debut album Buffalo Nichols, examined modern racial and class issues under a blues lens — like the exploration of unease and paranoia in modern life on “Living In Hell” and a blunt reflection on police brutality toward the BIPOC community on “Another Man.”

Nichols brought his dusky vocals and heartfelt blues lyricism to Lollapalooza’s BMI Stage for the first time this year on Sunday, July 31. Vocalo content director and host of Reclaimed Soul Ayana Contreras sat down with Nichols to talk about the blues’ past and present — as well as its future, with artists like Nichols at the helm.

The two spoke about the often forgotten role blues played in the rise of rock superstars like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Despite being one of America’s most important contributions to music, blues and the genres which sprang from it are not given the recognition they deserve. 

“It’s our contribution to the world,” Nichols explained in his conversation with Contreras. “But, for some reason… it’s not seen as this cultural export and an important thing that every other country’s folk music has.”

Contreras also took a second to talk about a February 17 Rolling Stone article in which Nichols was recently featured. In it, Nichols discusses the lack of Black blues musicians and white ownership of the genre in its present. He urges for more Black representation within the genre (particularly among young people) and for a greater Black presence in the management of popular blues record labels and festivals. 

“There’s a lot of talk about the blues being abandoned or something like this,” he reflected on negative responses to the article. “But that doesn’t mean that you can take it just because it’s not being used in the way you think it should be.”

Nichols is still working on finding like minded individuals within his community and bringing them together, as well as making new music. The artist had no specifics to share about a second album, saying only he is always creating and it’s getting to be time for a new release.

Listen to his full conversation with Ayana Contreras now on YouTube or Spotify.

Listen to Buffalo Nichols on Spotify below and follow him on Instagram.

Interview and audio production by Ayana Contreras

Written by George Chiligiris

Photography by Makenzie Creden

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