“I arrived at the hotel (Utica) approximately 5:30. I checked in and received my bracelets and passes and went up to my room to drop my things off. I sat in a chair which faced the windows and had an amazing view of Utica, the sun was going down and I just said to myself ‘This is what its all about.’ I then got back on the elevator with my guitar and gear and made my way to the stage to set up. I was performing at 6pm and it was just non-stop from there!”
Randy Niles is a returning member of the Utica Music and Arts Festival group who found us in the Fest’s second year. He hoped, those years ago, that it would provide some networking and exposure. And he came and played hard for us; last year, all 3 days-some days as many as 3 shows per day! He is a part of our recent history and when I call him a part of the family, I mean it!
A self described calm presence musically, Randy told me, “[M]y approach is basically just staying authentic, honest, and flexible for the people that I engage with on and off the stage.” Nice, huh? I am here to tell you that these still waters do run deep! The pleasant noise they make while they swirl and groove around isn’t bad either! His ‘guy with a guitar’ persona does not translate into the usual singer/songwriter compartment. Randy’s playing is mostly laid back, very jazzy, and soulful, and reminiscent of old things in the best way. But, there is a funk inside Mr. Niles that swings through at precisely the right moment and just is. No matter what he is doing with that instrument, it sings and his voice along side it, rich with color and texture. He shows range and his personality comes through in what he does.
How has the plan to take the area by storm worked? For starters, as a result of the UMAF relationship and presence in the area, Randy returned for our Mardi Gras Utica event this past March to share his peace and talent with the Uptown Theater. I was glad to see him back and so were many people who attended who recognized him from September. Randy also told me that he’s made some valuable relationships “…tossing ideas around with other musicians as well as staying in touch with fans. I’ve had a few fest artists who have provided me with names/lists of venues that they felt I would work best in their hometown areas, as well as many other resources. So I’d have to say that the networking has been extremely useful and open in Utica. Everyone is completely amazing from the artists, to the staff, to the venues that open their doors to artists such as myself! After the festival, I followed up with a short tour of the Upstate region through the Hudson Valley and played places where people had heard about me through friends who caught me at shows in Utica for the fest. That to me was a complete surprise, as well an amazing indication that the festival truly was and has been an important vehicle in establishing myself as a must see artist.” I realize it sounds like I wrote this myself and put his name on it.
Randy takes the city in when he’s here. Some of his high points include the instrument filled pawn shops, The Tramontane Cafe, The Nail Creek Pub, and even the Wal-Mart had something unusual for him! “I did find a Super Walmart where I bought some really cool NSS high-tops for like 15 bucks which I wore for every show, and continue to wear when I am up in Utica for the fest. <laughs>They are like my lucky charms!”
Post festival plans for Randy include setting up some shows in the region through the Hudson Valley as well as the exciting possibility to head over to the UK in late Fall/early Winter for a short stint. Look for a new album in 2012.
He’s gonna need those high tops! See if you can spot them, and Randy Niles, during the Festival and show some love!