All images: Courtesy of Big Something
In just a few weeks, FREESKIER’s Music in the Mountains concert tour, presented by ZYN, is heading to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to host one of the official after parties for the raucous WinterWonderGrass festival. This Grass After Dark show is primed to bring down the house—not only will there be a live set from the rock-funk-reggage-inspired jam band Big Something, but the FREESKIER crew will be there dishing out gear giveaways, lift tickets and plenty more to stoke out the crowd.
FREESKIER presents Big Something
Feb. 26th @ The Steamboat Grand
We’re pretty hyped for the upcoming show and wanted to dive a little deeper with the band so we called up Big Something lead guitarist Nick MacDaniels, a lifelong skier, to find out how he finds his flow state on stage as well as on the mountain. Raised on the east coast, MacDaniels was first introduced to the love of sliding on snow at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania and has maintained that passion throughout his adult life. Nowadays, the 37-year-old, full-time musician calls North Carolina home—but the mountains out west are always singing his tune.
A mainstay on festival stages around the country, Big Something started as a few college friends plucking strings and writing riffs. Now, the group has metamorphosed into one of the most exciting jam bands to emerge from the Southeast. A healthy mix of rock, pop, funk and improvisation, Big Something has gained national notoriety over the last decade and invitations to play at some of the most sought-after festivals like Bonnaroo and Electric Forest—and now they’re taking the stage with FREESKIER to bring the jams to Steamboat.
On February 26, MacDaniels and the rest of his band will be in Steamboat Springs for winter’s rowdiest bluegrass festival, WinterWonderGrass. In anticipation of the band’s late-night set, we caught up with the lead guitarist to chat about music, skiing and everything in-between. Keep reading for the full interview and don’t miss your chance to see the band live at Grass After Dark. Grab your tickets now to ensure you can join us for the most rockin’ after party of the weekend, full of hot jams, free ski gear and good vibes all night long.
Big Something performing in Telluride, Colorado.
What came first, your love of music or skiing?
I feel like my love of music was probably always there and skiing was something that my parents got our family into at a young age. So I’d probably say music but I do love skiing, it’s definitely a close second. It’s another ‘happy place’ for me.
Would you say the two influence each other in any way?
I think there are parallels, for sure. Especially when you think about improvisational music. The way you navigate the slopes and terrain of the mountain and how you navigate the scales and musical notes I feel like can be similar in a way. I love listening to music when I’m skiing, too. There’s a magicalness to it, in a way.
What kind of music is blasting through your headphones when you ski?
It’s probably my Spotify playlist, which is full of different styles and artists. I’m always listening to different things and trying to find cool, new things. There’s a ton of stuff that I’m listening to, but I like up-tempo stuff when I’m skiing.
What is it about skiing that has kept you hooked all these years?
It’s been an evolving thing that I’ve learned to love. It’s very meditational in a way, it’s a really nice break from the insanity of everything I have going on around me. It really helps me clear my head. Jerry Garcia used to love snorkeling because it was his own little world away from the craziness and that’s how I feel when I get to go skiing. It’s a really nice way to get out into nature, put on music and go with the flow. It’s therapeutic in a way.
Lead guitarist and vocals of Big Something, Nick MacDaniels, hanging’ at Colorado’s Breckenridge Ski Resort.
You’ve been living on the East Coast for most of your life, has skiing ever made you want to move out west?
We travel so much that I still get to ski out west a lot. I love Telluride and Steamboat, and Copper Mountain is also one of my favorites on the Front Range. I’ve skied in Sandpoint, Idaho, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, so I’ve skied a lot of different places. It’s cool being able to do it while on a winter tour but I do really love living in North Carolina.
Your band is based in North Carolina but do you ever take your jam sessions to the mountain?
There are mountains here but once you go skiing out west it’s hard to come back and ski here [laughs]. It’s definitely fun when you can do it. We play all the different spots around here that we can, like Asheville, Boone and the West Virginia mountains are really cool, too.
You’ve played all over the country at festivals like Bonnaroo in Tennessee as well as your own, Big What, in North Carolina, but what is it about WinterWondergrass that sets it apart?
This will be our first time playing at WinterWondergrass and we’re really excited. I’ve heard a lot about it. I think it’s the playing at a ski resort on a mountain that makes it unique and cool and adds a special layer to it. We’re definitely excited for the late-night set. Late-night sets in general have been a really fun thing for us as a band throughout the years. We just try to make them unique and extra fun.
So it’s safe to assume you’ll be packing your skis when you come to Steamboat?
I’ll definitely be out there on the mountain making the most of it.
MacDaniels knows exactly how to get a crowd fired up.
Other than your Grass After Dark performance on February 26th, what are you most looking forward to at the festival?
There are going to be so many great bands there that I love, so I’m really excited to check out all of the music in Steamboat. It’s really cool that they’re welcoming us because we’re not necessarily in the Americana/Bluegrass world, so to speak. We’re more of a rock band but we do get a lot of influence from southern rock and those styles and we do have a deep love and appreciation for that type of music, so it’s just nice to be included and be welcomed. I think we’ll bring a cool vibe to the late-night atmosphere.
Where does your musical inspiration come from?
I’m 37, so I’m a 90s kid. I love 90s rock. But when I was even younger than that my parents listened to a lot of Beach Boys, Michael Jackson and MoTown. When I moved to North Carolina I started really getting into the Allman Brothers and other bluegrass and as I got older I started liking stuff like the Talking Heads and weird, quirky, unique stuff, too. It’s been an evolving thing, as it should be.
Where are you more likely to find your flow state; at the studio or on your skis?
They’re two different types of flow state, I think. I can easily get into both, in both scenarios. It’s hard to weigh one versus the other. Skiing is definitely more physical, it’s more of a mind and body type of thing, like a yoga flow state. The musical flow can be physical but it’s definitely a little more mental and a little more soulful. You’re using more emotion, I think, or trying to draw from an emotional place.
About Grass After Dark
Big Something presented by FREESKIER
DATE — February 26, 2022
LOCATION — The Steamboat Grand
To buy tickets—hit the link above, select “tickets” and scroll ’till you find the concert listing for “SATURDAY: Big Something presented by FREESKIER” — grab a couple and bring your friends!
Fusing elements of rock, pop, funk, and improvisation, Big Something takes listeners on a journey through a myriad of musical styles. This show is presented by FREESKIER magazine. FREESKIER is about more than just ski action. It’s about the people, places and experiences that bring the ski community to life. In 2022, FREESKIER is hitting the road to visit some of the best ski towns across the country and celebrate the local communities in each of them. Every stop of the Music in the Mountains Tour will be a chance to share stories of days on the hill and further grow the community while getting your legs into ski shape with a good old fashioned dance party. Don’t miss your opportunity to hang with the FREESKIER crew, get some exclusive FREESKIER swag and win tons of brand new ski gear.