To describe Danielle Schnebelen as expectant would be an understatement.
In March, she will release her first solo album. In June, her second child is due. The anticipation is palpable.
“I’m really, really excited about the future,” she says. But first she’ll close a formative chapter in her life.
Wednesday night will be the final Kansas City performance by Trampled Under Foot, the blues band she started 12 years ago with brothers Kris and Nick. (Its final performance will be Friday in Wichita.)
They are calling it quits while still on top. At the Blues Music Awards in Memphis, Tenn., in May, the band’s album “Badlands” was named best contemporary blues album. Other nominees included Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite, Buddy Guy and Cyril Neville. At the same awards show, Danielle was named best instrumentalist/bass.
Those are just two of several awards TUF has accumulated over the years. In 2011 and 2012, it won band of the year at the Blues Blast Music Awards. In 2011, writers polled by the British magazine Blues Matter named TUF best newcomer. The band also placed in the top five for best band, best studio album and best vocalist.
But in the autumn of 2013, Kris told his siblings he was leaving the band.
“Touring is hard to begin with,” Danielle said, “let alone with siblings. The road took a huge toll on us, like it does most people. And he was basically done with it. It’s a very common tale. You grow tired of each other after 12 years doing upwards of 200 shows a year and 10,000-mile tours, working ourselves crazy.”
His decision wasn’t blind-siding, she said, but it wasn’t anticipated, and it inevitably meant the band was done, too.
“I kind of knew the band pretty much was going down, too,” she said. “It’s not Trampled Under Foot without Kris. Or Nick. That was a hard pill to swallow. But you know, I’ve had time to deal with it. I’ve had some perspective, and I feel guilty about feeling bad about it. We had an amazing 12 years together.”
The three launched the band in 2002, two years after Danielle started playing bass. She was 18. Back then, Nick was living in Philadelphia, so his brother and sister would drive out there for gigs in and around Philadelphia. Their first big break came in 2008, when they competed in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. They won, and their music lives changed profoundly. Suddenly, they were in demand.
“We really broke out after that,” she said. “When you win that, you get invited automatically to festivals all over the country. We went to Europe for the first time. We went everywhere. Then we started picking up gigs in clubs near those festivals. We’ve been touring heavily ever since.”
It required a lifestyle they’d aspired to but one they had to adjust to. Popularity requires as many obligations as it issues rewards.
“We’d already been around each other a lot, so that was not a huge deal,” Danielle said. “But living out of a suitcase so much, all the travel that goes with it and all the business. It’s exhausting. You learn as you go.
“In the beginning, you can’t afford a manager or an agent or a lawyer or the people who can tell you what’s good and what’s not. So you get ripped off. Handling all the legwork ages you.
“But when you get to the point where all you do is play all the time, it’s so rewarding.”
Amid all the travel and exhaustion, there were plenty of highlights. Two stand out.
“Going to Europe for the first time,” she said. “It’s such a completely different world than America. So much smaller and closer together. You cross from one country into another in a couple hours. And you feel and see each country’s history. It gives you a whole new perspective.
“Another would be playing the Blues Music Awards two years ago. The exposure we got to the melting pot of music and seeing people from all over the world and how they play and interpret the blues: It was a magical time.”
All three Schnebelens have post-TUF plans. Kris is performing with the Amanda Fish Band, which will release an album in 2015. Nick will release a solo album in the spring on which he plays the Dobro. And the Danielle Nicole Band will release its inaugural recording in late March.
“We recorded it in New Orleans with Anders Osborne,” she said. “It turned out really cool. Then we’ll do a couple solid months of touring. I’ll take off a couple of weeks before and after, as long as everything goes well with the pregnancy. We’ll get the obstetrics kit and do what we’ve always done: Tour the record.”
After Kris left the band, Jan Faircloth stepped in on drums, and the band added keyboardist Mike Sedovic. Kris will rejoin the band for the Knuckleheads gig, his first with TUF since January.
“He reached out a couple weeks ago and said, ‘What do you think about me doing the show?’” Danielle said. “I said, ‘It’s Kansas City. Of course you should do the show.’”
It will give the band one final opportunity to say thanks and farewell to the town that has shown unwavering support from the start.
“We couldn’t have done all we’ve done without Kansas City,” she said. “It has such a great scene. We’ve been to a lot of places that don’t have what we have, including the talent and the people who have the passion to keep it alive. Kansas City is really special.”
Trampled Under Foot will perform Wednesday night at Knuckleheads, 2715 Rochester. The show is sold out.