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Local singer-songwriter Carmen Nickerson releases debut album after decades in the music industry

Audrey Nowakowski
Stock Adobe
Carmen Nickerson (right on mic) in the Lake Effect performance studio.

Carmen Nickerson is a singer-songwriter whose career has given her the tools to be somewhat of a musical chameleon. Originally from Iowa, Nickerson went out to Los Angeles to pursue music before coming to Milwaukee, where she’s been part of the music scene for decades.

Nickerson has a long list of collaborators and artists she’s worked with. But now, she's out with her new debut album Room to Grow.

"It's been a long, long time coming. But this album started, probably three years ago," explains Nickerson. "And I will be very honest, I think there was some insecurity, which I'm sure I'm not the only person who's had insecurities. But, that feeling of ,'Who am I to put an album out?' And just feeling worthy, feeling good enough. So, I think some emotional maturity happened where I felt like, 'Yeah, I'm good enough. I can do this. I’m worthy.'"

All the tools and musical styles from Nickerson's past jobs in the industry come together in Room to Grow — with eights track that span across genres from bluegrass to alternative to jazz.

"It turned out to be a journey, kind of an arc of life story," she notes. "I think that's sort of a common thread is it's telling a story, even though the genres are so different. That's what ties them together."

The new album is co-produced with local musician Willy Porter, who Nickerson has had a creative partnership with since 2009. Porter also co-wrote some of the tracks in Room to Grow, and Nickerson says her partnership with Porter helped to instill confidence in her abilities not just as a musician, but a songwriter.

"I've learned so much [from Willy]... I couldn't have done it without him honestly hearing everything in every track. Well, it wouldn't have been as good without him - let's just say that," says Nickerson.

Since the project's release, Nickerson has had an exciting few months. "I am really thrilled. I don't know how it could have all come together any better. We had a couple album release shows in November and they were both sold out and my family came from all over the country and they all got up and sang with me on the last song. So, it was such a beautiful, beautiful few nights with so much love and support," says Nickerson.

Carmen Nickerson's Room to Grow is out now. Vinyls and CD's can be purchased on her store and digital copies can be downloaded on bandcamp.

"Emily" performed by Carmen Nickerson and her band
"Room to Grow" performed by Carmen Nickerson and her band
"Ascension" performed by Carmen Nickerson and her band


Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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