American roots artists Dwight Ritcher and Nicole Nelson have toured the eastern United States as a power trio called Dwight + Nicole since 2017. They have been steadily cultivating a devoted following and gaining plenty of industry respect along the way; they’ve been nominated for nine Boston Music Awards, eight Daysie Awards, and ten New England Music Awards, winning “Band of the Year,” “Vocalist of the Year,” “Best Blues/R&B Band,” “Female Vocalist of the Year,” “Blues Act of the Year,” and “Video of the Year.” They have opened up for their idols, including Mavis Staples, who said, “Dwight + Nicole are powerful! They’re one of my favorite new bands.” Melissa Etheridge also chimed in, saying, “Dwight + Nicole are absolutely the real deal; they are outstanding singers and songwriters, and I am proud that they are here. They are carrying the torch.”
Nelson and Ritcher met in Boston, MA when they were just out of school, both cutting their teeth on the local club circuit. They each fronted popular bands in the area and discovered a shared obsession of soul and blues greats like the Staples Singers, Albert King, Lighting Hopkins, Jimmy Witherspoon, Roberta Flack, and Etta James. They began singing together often and developed a close friendship that grew romantic over time. Eventually, they formed Dwight + Nicole, which was, in the early days, a duo: Dwight on electric guitar, Nelson on tambourine, stomping their feet and singing in harmony. They began to tour regionally, writing together and developing a sound. After a move to Burlington, VT, they met powerhouse drummer Ezra Oklan (Nicole Atkins, Elle King), and the group quickly formed a trio with Nelson picking up the bass.
Their 2018 EP, Electric Lights, was recorded live to analog tape with multi-Grammy-nominated producer Joel Hamilton (Aaron Neville, Tom Waits, The Meters, The Black Keys) at Studio G in Brooklyn, NY. Hamilton undoubtedly captured their sound and live energy while also bringing out their experimental side. The EP introduced the band to a new wave of fans and opportunities, including their first major label distribution deal through Orchard/Sony Music. The year wrapped up with another Independent Music Award nomination, and the Electric Lights EP landing on several “Best of the Year” lists.
Dwight + Nicole is set to release its new EP, Further, on October 22, 2021. Five songs deep, the EP showcases the strengths inherent in the American roots/vintage R&B music made by band members Dwight Ritcher, Nicole Nelson, and Ezra Oklan. Produced by multi-Grammy-nominated producer Joel Hamilton (Aaron Neville, The Meters, The Black Keys) and recorded at Studio G in Brooklyn, NY in the fall of 2019, the new EP was set to be released in April of 2020, but the worldwide shutdown and cancelled tours hit pause on the release of the new music.
Says Ritcher of Further, “The EP came about with time off the road. Believe it or not, we don’t listen to a lot of music when we’re on tour, so we listened more and more at home. What changed over the next few months, and fueled the EP, was that we began to hear the threads that connected five of them. It was almost like they decided to share a sonic landscape apart from the other songs. It’s important for us to tell a story whether we choose to release a full-length record, EP, or even a 78, and with Further, we felt a sense of relief because it was almost like the songs chose themselves.”
While Covid shut everything down in 2020, the members of Dwight + Nicole took the time off the road to become more active in their local community, hosting fundraisers, streaming concerts, and Nelson began offering online sound healing sessions. Unable to wait any longer to share new music with their fans, they released the first single from the EP, “The Next Go-Round,” in the summer of 2020 to set the table for the forthcoming release. The Boston Herald called them “a retro soul band, contemporary blues act, roots rock duo and R&B dynamo all at once,” and said that “The Next Go-Round” “resembles a gospel tune written a century ago and would also fit nicely on Brittany Howard’s 2019 experimental pop album.” A cinematic video for the track, directed and produced by Jim Dandee, was released in late September 2021 and premiered at Americana Highways.
Says Nelson of “The Next Go-Round,” “When I wrote this song, I was suffering from a broken heart. I had to let go of a person whom I love deeply, but I don’t think that real love actually ever dies. From that perspective, I found some solace. There is a feeling – or a knowing – that our connection is bigger than this lifetime. What if we can just try it all again in some other incarnation? Maybe we can, and maybe the next time we’ll get it right.”
As 2021 brought waves of the music industry re-opening, Dwight + Nicole celebrated by releasing the second single from the EP, “Time,” on June 18, 2021. A retro-soul, R&B banger for the new age, the song premiered at Glide Magazine, who praised the Ritcher-penned track, writing, “Beginning with the simple and soulful vocals of Nicole Nelson, the song leans into a slinky groove that carries notes of R&B and hip-hop with a smoothness that feels like cruising through the city on a summer night. The band layers on funky elements on guitar and organ, culminating in a mix of vocal harmonies and rich instrumentals that leave you feeling enchanted.” Says Ritcher of the song, “I started writing this song after a conversation Nicole and I had about our perception of the passing of time. I wanted the listener to feel that sense of mystery and unlimited possibility. Time is measuring our echoes in the corners of the universe, and Nicole’s voice on this track is one of those ethereal echoes.”
A third single from the EP, the title track, “Further,” releases today (October 8, 2021). It premiered earlier this week at American Songwriter who wrote, “They’re retro, they’re groovy… the single and its soulful, lo-fi sound are indicative of Dwight + Nicole’s particular brand of thoughtful song-smithing. [There’s a] sense of immediacy… there’s something about Ritcher and Nicole Nelson’s vocal performances that makes it feel so raw, so urgent.”
As touring and live shows return, the stages have gotten bigger and the band has grown to feature horns, keys, and backing vocalists. Fans interested in seeing Dwight + Nicole live should follow them on socials (@dwightandnicole) for tour dates. Relix Magazine has applauded their live show, writing, “Take R&B, soul, blues, mix in razor-sharp rock guitar… heat to boiling, and watch your face melt. That’s Dwight + Nicole.”
“Dwight + Nicole are powerful! They’re my favorite new band.” – Mavis Staples
“Dwight + Nicole are absolutely the real deal; they are outstanding singers and songwriters. They are carrying the torch.” – Melissa Etheridge