Nils – Caught in the Groove

The cool, crafty title of Nils’ latest BAJA/TSR album says it all about his studio and onstage state of mind. A decade and a half after riding his #1 hit “Pacific Coast Highway” into contemporary jazz history as Billboard’s Song of the Decade 2001-2010, the relentlessly prolific composer, guitarist and producer remains joyfully Caught in the Groove, creating instantly infectious, sonically adventurous tracks for himself and numerous artists eager to vibe with the energy of his Midas touch.

As smooth jazz radio – where he’s scored over 15 Top 20 hits, including “Let’s Bounce,” “Georgy Porgy,” “Ready to Play,” “Catnap” and 2011 Song of the Year “Jumpstart” – gears up for the impact of Caught in the Groove’s funky, high octane lead single “Good Times Are Better,” Nils is enjoying ongoing success on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs chart as producer and co-writer of pianist Lisa Addeo’s “Listen to This,” the first new title to reach the pole position in 2020.

Another collaboration, “It’s A Party” with fellow guitarist Keith Andrew, is currently rising on the independent jazz charts. He recently played at L.A.’s famed Troubadour with Ayline Artin, an emerging indie rock singer he is producing, and has had his hand in successful releases in recent years by independent instrumental artists Reza Khan, Alvin Pope, Reggie Codrington, Catch the Groove, Brian Simpson, Nate Harasim, and Tony Saunders. Nils is also very active on social media, with over 7,000 followers on his Facebook artists page and some 2,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel; his clips for “Pacific Coast Highway” has more than half a million views to date. This spring and summer, he will be on the road performing assorted festival dates with Steve Oliver and Tim Bowman as part of the all-star collective Guitar G-Force.

The secrets of Nils’ unparalleled success? It starts with a keen ear for hooks, a colorful spirit of experimentation with sounds and grooves, and a trademark vibe rooted in his mastery of the Custom Valley Arts guitar, the trusty musical companion he bought shortly after moving to Los Angeles from his native Munich in the mid-80’s. Beyond that, it’s all about the incredible team of mostly L.A. based musicians he calls in each time to help him not only realize his musical vision, but take it over the top.

On Caught in the Groove, that begins with pianist Mitch Forman, who brings his traditional and fusion jazz sensibilities and explosive improvisations into a dynamic flow with Nils’ string energy on “Good Times Are Better.” Forman also brings some bluesy ivory magic to the lively, retro flavored and brass-fired title track and his cool, old school Rhodes energy to the soaring, snappy and atmosphere rich funk tune “Outa Sight,” which also features playful scatting and horn section energy of Nils’ neighbor and right-hand man Johnny Britt (who contributes key organ elements to the title track as well).

Other longtime Nils associates who make an indelible imprint on the 12- track collection include percussionist Oliver C. Brown and the multi-talented Clydene Jackson, whose dreamily soulful vocal textures are heard as what Nils calls “paintbrush” textures on the sparsely produced, sensually romantic “My Mornings With You” and joyfully strolling “I Like the Way You Do It”; she contributes a more prominent, gospel flavored wordless voice on the hypnotically grooving jazz/funk anthem she co-wrote, “Life is What You Make It.” Jackson also adds unique keyboard touches to “I Like The Way You Do It” (Rhodes) and “Life is What You Make It” (piano).

In addition to his rotating team of tight, always in the pocket bassists Darryl Williams and Reggie McBride, Nils brings in his German friend Carsten Schmelzer for the mid-tempo retro funk tune “All Roads Lead to You” and legendary Darryl Jones (longtime bassist for The Rolling Stones) to create the groove on one of the album’s more rockin’, stylistically “out there” jams, the perfectly titled “Stratmosphere.” Keeping the funk intensity moving, Nils’ coterie of drummers here includes Gorden Campbell, Tony Moore, Derrick Dmar Martin. Enjoying the opportunity to stretch his creative muscles, Nils teams with McBride, Britt, Brown and Jackson to create “Mind Games,” an instantly hypnotic, moody and mysterious track so beyond the guitarist’s regular style that the only way he can describe it is “twisted.” It’s a must hear.

“As the tracks for Caught in the Groove began taking shape, I went back and forth between my desire to make a producer’s record or a player’s album,” Nils says. “I started off making a producer’s record, using all the tools in my home studio to experiment with different, interesting textures. You can hear these on tracks like ‘Mind Games,’ where Clydene’s vocals literally fade into a synth pad, and ‘Mornings with You,” where I use hers and Johnny’s vocals on a moving pad with vocals, like a light paintbrush. Then there are the echoes on ‘Mind Games,” and the fact that the title track ‘Caught in the Groove’ started with a single bar I sampled on ‘Jingle Bells’ from my recent Christmas album (2018’s Christmas Everyday).

“The album started from that production point of view, with all these new sonic ideas, but as I put myself into each one, I developed more of a player’s point of view and really wanted everyone to get in some great moments showcasing their extraordinary artistry,” he adds. “I love the way Mitch and I traded licks and improvised, and such moments inspired me to get deeper into the guitar playing aspect of the sessions. It was really fun to jam over these tracks.”

When Nils first moved to Southern California, he studied composition, arrangement and film composition. While making inroads into the competitive field of film and television, he got his first job as a teacher at the legendary Valley Arts Music Store; no matter how busy he’s become over the years as the various facets of his career—sideman, film composer and now solo artist—have taken off, Nils still loves to give back by teaching young guitarists. In addition to creating instructional video, he has been a professional music teacher for 25 years.

While acquiring his current production skills as a studio engineer in the 90s, Nils started doing sessions as a rhythm guitarist for everyone from Rick Braun to The Temptations and George Benson. Following the extraordinary success of “Pacific Coast Highway,” he kept the momentum going with subsequent BAJA/TSR releases Ready To Play (2007) and Up Close And Personal (2009), which scored three popular airplay singles—all of which led to his nomination for “Best Guitarist” at the American Smooth Jazz Awards, in a category that included George Benson, Nick Colionne and the late Jeff Golub. Nils’ other releases on the label include What The Funk? (2010) and City Groove (2012). “Let’s Bounce,” the first single from City Groove, hit #2 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart and stayed on the list for an incredible 26 weeks; the follow-up single “Jump Start” was #1 for seven weeks and stayed on the chart for 33 weeks.

Reflecting Nils’ ongoing interaction with his fans, he kept a video diary while in the studio creating tracks for Caught in the Groove. He plans to post clips on Facebook to coincide with the album’s release. He is also looking forward to getting back on the road with his own show and as part of Guitar G-Force. “When I spend too long in the studio, I start itching to hit the road and perform for audiences and spend time with my fans,” he says. “Playing live helps me tap into a unique sense of creativity that in turn gives me fresh ideas when it comes time to get back in the studio. My goal is always to produce albums that showcase different sides of what I do. Although we live in an era where many are just releasing singles and EPs, I believe recording full length albums allows listeners to experience the whole depth of an artist.”

Caught In The Groove will be available in all stores April 17, 2020.

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