Whether you spend life on the road for pleasure or work, it's nice to have the comforts of home as you travel the highways and byways.
TRAILBLAZER checks in with folks who spend a fair amount of time on the road to see just what makes their home away from home.
This month, we chatted with....NU-BLU, a fast-rising Bluegrass act that hits the road with Lola, their 41-foot Diplomat.
When the road warrior bluegrass act Nu-Blu hits the road, they hop on Lola, their 2001 41-foot Diplomat. The name Lola is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Barry Manilow's, "Copacabana"-"Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl."
Travelling in their rolling showgirl, Nu-Blu's concerts albums have taken the bluegrass world by storm the past few years, with multiple showcase performances at CMA Fest, MerleFest, NAMM, and Folk Alliance. Their new album, All the Way, includes a duet tribute to George Jones with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Sam Moore ("Jesus and Jones") and "That's What Makes the Bluegrass Blue" with bluegrass superstar Rhonda Vincent.
Nu-Blu, based in Siler City in central North Carolina, is comprised of: Carolyn Routh, who handles bass and vocals; Levi Austin on vocals and banjo; Austin Koerner, who plays mandolin; and Carolyn's hubby, Daniel Routh-who is the band's Renaissance man as a guitarist, singer, manager, and tour coordinator, among many other roles.
The group brings its lively and entertaining version of Americana-bluegrass music to audiences across the nation year-round. Their sound acknowledges the traditional institutions that have shaped it, yet is innovative and daring enough to bring a fresh sparkle to contemporary acoustic music that lands them squarely in the forefront of bands blazing the trail in Americana entertainment.
Influences range from the sounds of original bluegrass pioneers like Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, and Lester Flatt to rock bands of the 1980s, and modern contemporary sounds like Alison Krauss and Union Station. Nu-Blu's full, welcoming sounds provide a home for listeners and encourage them to explore new sounds, create personal roots, and imagine music free from labels.
What's your favorite thing about travelling in Lola?
Carolyn: Sleeping in my own bed every night.
Daniel: Air conditioningâ€¦all the time.
Levi: Having the ability to stretch out and move around freely during long trips to and from shows.
Austin: A full-size fridge to store all my food.
What are a few favorite things onboard?
Carolyn: A roomy kitchen with a full size refrigerator/freezer, and a spacious shower.
Daniel: Being on the road for 250 days a year, it's really nice to have some of the entertainment options and comforts that Lola gives us. It really makes the days off on the road nice.
Levi: Bose surround sound system for band movie nights, George Foreman grill, and my instruments.
Austin: Bluetooth speakers to play music from my phone.
What are a few favorite destinations and why?
Carolyn: I love California because you can see the mountains while you're standing on the beach. I am also very fond of the Northwest because of its expansive and rugged beauty.
Daniel: I enjoy the Dakotas and Montana. The mountains in New Mexico are also amazing at sunset.
Levi: Daniel seems to book our tours to escape the extreme weather changes where we live in North Carolina. With that being said, my favorite places are wherever it is warm when it is winter back home and wherever it is cool when summer brings 90 degree days to North Carolina.
Austin: I like Nashville-there's always good music and something to do. I also enjoy when we get to perform near Bismarck, North Dakota, because I have friends and family there.
What are a few favorite venues and why?
Carolyn: We are blessed to have the opportunity to play at so many great venues across the United States and Canada that it's really hard to narrow it down. I'm going for the obvious. Every January, we start our year with a bluegrass cruise to the Bahamas. 'Nuf said.
Daniel: I really don't have a favorite venue, I enjoy meeting all the new folks at each new place we go.
Levi: The Outer Banks Bluegrass Island Festival on the coast of North Carolina is one of my favorite venues to date. There is always an all-star lineup and they hold the largest fireworks display choreographed to bluegrass music. We have played this festival each year it has been put on and have thoroughly enjoyed watching it grow.
Austin: I enjoy the Outer Banks tour that we do each summer. We get to perform at a lot of really cool venues on or near the beach and I can fish on the piers all night for a week!
What are some favorite meals onboard/on the road?
Carolyn: I like making cool wraps, with a side of veggie sticks and dip. I have a real sweet tooth, so I try to keep fresh fruit onboard to keep me out of the cookie bag. I also keep some quirky things on board for snacking, like pickled beets and pimento-stuffed Spanish olives.
Daniel: I'm a chip-a-holic. Once a bag is opened it's gone.
Levi: My current specialty [are] honey BBQ chicken melts. Its quick, simple, and not fast food.
Austin: Frozen pizzas.
If you couldn't be in Nu-Blu, what would you do?
Carolyn: Start another band and do it all again. I'm addicted to music and performing. I love my life!
Daniel: I would be in the business of music-performing is my dream. I'm just lucky enough to be able to do what I love each day.
Levi: I would be playing music elsewhere. It's what I've always wanted to do and I see myself pursuing it as a career for the rest of my life.
Austin: I would be a cook.