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Q+A: Nico Vega’s Aja Volkman on Las Vegas, the new album and touring with baby on board

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Nico Vega.
Photo: Frank Ockenfels

It’s been a crazy few months for Nico Vega frontwoman Aja Volkman, who last played Las Vegas in February, opening for husband Dan Reynolds’ band (and Las Vegas locals) Imagine Dragons.

When not putting the finishing touches on Nico Vega’s highly anticipated upcoming sophomore record Lead to Light and preparing for their summer tour with Crash Kings, she’s been adjusting to life as a new mom with Reynolds and their 10-month-old daughter Arrow.

Ahead of Nico Vega’s return to Vegas tonight at Hard Rock Live on the Strip, we chatted with Volkman about the new record, her Vegas family and touring with a baby on board.

Hey, how’s it going?

It’s awesome. I’m in Downtown L.A. on a rooftop right now. We're rehearsing in my friend's loft space. It's really cool because it’s just kind of this artist’s space we get to use.

Aren’t you about 24 hours from hitting the road for your tour right now?

I think we actually are leaving tonight or early in the morning. No van this time; it’s a bus tour. The whole U.S. and part of Canada, I think. We have a baby on board. There’s just a bunch of us; it’s kind of a family affair.

Is this the first time the baby will be coming on tour with you?

No, we took her on all the tours we did with Imagine Dragons this year. She was actually on their bus with me, so that was probably pretty crazy for them. Then we did a bandwagon U.S. tour with them, and she was with us for that.

What was that experience like?

To be quite honest, it’s doable, but it’s not ideal. For me, I was at a point in my life where I wanted more than just my career. It’s been such a long road, and you make a lot of sacrifices to do it in your personal life. Your relationships are always really distant, you don’t see your family for a really long time, you’re always away when you’re a musician. I think a lot of people, when they get into the music world, they don’t really think about the fact that they’re not going to be around. If you’re really successful and things are happening, then you’re not going to be home, and that’s really hard. So having a baby for me was kind of a great thing because it was now I have my family with me all the time. I’m not with my husband as much as I want to be, at all. But I have Arrow with me, and it’s really amazing. But I would say that for people who are really career-driven and they just want to be really successful, it’s probably not the best move to have a kid in the middle of that journey. Babies aren’t built for that lifestyle.

Will Dan be with you on the upcoming tour to help take care of her?

No, no. He’s got a whole giant tour. Well, a bunch of touring stuff going on this whole time. So we really won’t see each other for the next month and a half. He might fly out for a couple dates if he can, but we’re both pretty much tied up. This is going to be the hardest stretch for us, I think.

The band is pretty well acquainted with Vegas at this point. What do you like to do when you’re in town now?

Weirdly, my family now is from there because Dan is from there, so I have a lot family and friends in Vegas. Vegas has a special place in my heart. Oddly, I never knew that I would feel that way about it. When you’re not from Vegas, you always just hear about the Strip. But when you come there and experience life outside of it, you realize it’s just a normal city with suburbs and high schools, aside from the fact that it’s extremely hot this time of the year. There’s a lot of great hiking and outdoor stuff to do in the wintertime, which I love. We won’t be doing any of that this time; it’s a really quick trip, so I won’t get to do anything fun besides perform.

Ahead of your new album, the band is offering some pretty cool pre-order VIP perks. It’s not like fans just get a deluxe version of the album; they can actually buy experiences to share with you guys like music lessons and hanging out on the bus. How did that come about?

We wanted to come up with fun stuff for fans, things that are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, things that you’ll never forget. Especially because our fans have been so patient over the last few years, waiting for this record, that I feel like we wanted to make it even more available. We didn’t know if people were even going to do it, but now it looks like we’re going to be meeting up with a lot of people in a lot of different cities, so it’s going to be really fun. I’m actually really excited for that part.

Is there any concern that the idea might end up different from the execution? That you’re biting off more than you can chew?

[Laughs] I would think that, but as long as everybody doesn’t buy everything, then we should be OK. If every single thing sold out in every city, then we’d be like, "Whoa, OK, guys, get ready." But so far it seems pretty doable.

If you were to flip the situation and could pick one artist to do some cool experiential stuff with, who and what would it be?

That’s a tough one. I would probably have to say, besides my husband, because I love collaborating with him and we do really well together, I’d have to say that I do love Jack White and I’ve always wanted to just make a song with him. I love his stuff. He writes sometimes in nursery rhyme form, and I do that a lot, so I would love to do that kind of a thing with him. Make some really sweet acoustic-sounding rock songs. That would be a total dream come true.

The band seems to have a knack for building momentum not with full-length albums but with lots of EPs. Your upcoming album even got pushed back because of the success of your last EP Fury Oh Fury. Why take that route?

Our fan base is still building, and even though we’ve been around for a long time, we’re still in the very beginning stages of having a large fan base. The people we have have been with us for years, and we have a super cult following, but we’re just starting to get more fans and be able to fill up a room. We’ve been able to fill rooms in specific cities in the past, but now it’s starting to happen nationwide, and that’s kind of what an EP is for, in my opinion. It’s like a billboard for the record, notifying people that it’s coming so it doesn’t just come and nobody knows about it. I feel like we have to keep doing that because until people really know about us on a larger scale, it would be hard to put out a record. We don’t necessarily really have the publicity that some bigger bands from more major labels have. We’ve got an indie label, and it’s harder to get that kind of stuff, so we have to really build up the press first and get people talking about it before we put out a record.

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Andrea Domanick is an award-winning reporter covering the behind the scenes stories of life in Las Vegas. Her work has ...

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