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Sunshine, flowers, birds and Daniel Nickels

The sun is flashing bright as if nothing happened over the past two years.

Buds on the flowering cherry are at the bursting. These mornings, tweety birds beat me out of bed. I hear them. They’re at the bursting, too. Vultures are aloft crying, “Nevermore.” Oh, wait, that was December, and vultures remain mum.

Anyway, the big gut-busters are soaring strong. Spring has sprung and is spot-on its plan for a refresh. As Barney Fife would sing off-key, “Welcome sweet springtime, we greet thee with song.” Yeah, I’ve watched way yonder too many Andy Griffith reruns.

After all we’ve endured, I feel like I’m inching awake from a long nap with weird dreams. But this is not a recap of challenges. It’s a quiet (for now) relighting of the flame. Restrictions are falling, and it’s time for a new song parody, but you’ll have to wait.

Birds aren’t the only melodic voices I hear on the breeze. Musicians seem to be out in record numbers, and on that score we are mightily blessed. What better way to celebrate? Recently, I was out with friends at Rellik Winery enjoying J Brothers, when we were booted, er, excuse me, asked to leave because of a special event (to which we were not invited), so we missed the second set.

We were not finished recreating, so we hightailed it up the road to Hummingbird Estates. Alas, when we arrived, their songbird of the day, Daniel Nickels, had just finished and was stowing his gear. I introduced myself and said how sorry we were to miss his songs.

Then, Daniel did something out of the ordinary, which I generally love. He asked if he could play us a song. He retrieved his guitar, came to our table, sat with us and crooned not one, but two beautiful pieces of his own devising. It was perfect.

After he finished, I started asking questions and flipped on the recorder, so now please meet Ashland native Daniel Nickles (like the buffalo 5-cent pieces), singer, songwriter and ... nurse.

“I’ve been singing, songwriting, recording and performing since I was 16. My dad showed me a couple of chords on the guitar, and from there I just basically started. In elementary school, my mom taught me piano, so I had a couple of recitals, and it was a game-changer.”

In high school, Daniel sat listening to a friend’s band. “Somebody struck that (moody) A Minor chord, and it was all over from there.”

He began learning Tom Petty songs and considers Petty a major influence.

“I started getting intrigued by the songwriting process — just sitting around campfires.” Friends urged him to get serious. “The first 100 songs were the worst.” His mom treasures them, I bet.

Daniel is also a nurse at Medical Eye Center in Medford. He confided that his nursing job fuels his music passion. He attended nursing school on St. Kitts in the Caribbean. Yeah, I know. He formed a rock band there called Leeward Fate and toured around the islands. His classmates nominated him most likely to work as a nurse until he became a famous musician. He sometimes serenades patients.

In 2003 he trained with musician John Clark at Santa Barbara City College. Clark has trained some of the biggest names in music. Daniel needed an audition to be accepted, and the line of hopefuls stretched out the door. After being told the class was full, Daniel’s friend said, “You gotta hear this guy.” Clark listened and said he was in.

“It was really a grueling songwriting class. He would yell at people. He was really intense. From that class, that’s what gave me the roots.”

Daniel is launching a new album of original tunes this month. I found his other work on Spotify.

He left us with a song titled, “Get There Together,” his tribute concerning the Almeda fire. Look for him live and playing throughout the valley, and remember to support our local musicians. We need the creative call, and it’s alive and well in Southern Oregon.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.