When pressed for how one would classify the duet known as The Nouveaux Honkies, co-founder, Tim O’Donnell, called it, “mother lovin’, country folkin’, blues.” He and his partner in crime, Rebecca Dawkins met at a jam, recalls Tim. “Florida got slammed with four hurricanes in 2004. My business got leveled and I was hustling to pay bills. Rebecca had just moved to Florida and was looking to make some money. Everyone wanted to get her to come out and play for free. We met at a blues jam, and eventually booked some shows together. People dug it, so we kept doing it. They dug it more, and keep digging it, so we keep doing it,” he said.
Tim said that both he and Rebecca started out playing music like so many; in church. Both played in the school band, but Tim said that, “Rebecca was the true orchestra nerd. I started on drums and she had a half size violin, so God bless our parents.” Rebecca was a big They Might Be Giants, and Beatles fan. And she was also classically trained. Tim got in a van at age 18 and started touring. “My main influence on why I love to play is because its beats hot tar roofing in July,” Tim said. Rebecca’s big influence is, she loves to make people smile.
Tim does like a lot of different music though, and those influences shine through. “I just know when I like it,” he said. Artists like Jimmy Webb, Jimmy Reed, and Jimi Hendrix all give Tim, “this crazy feeling when I listen to them,” he said It’s a wonderful Americana gumbo of blues, country, roots, R&B, Texas swing, honky-tonk and old-fashioned songwriting.
The two originally lived in a rebuilt RV that they use to tour in as well. It was a “high tech, solar powered, self-sufficient chariot, equipped with its own espresso bar, mini studio, and more comforts than most studio apartments in NYC,” Tim had said. “We pretty much wrote two records in that thing and met some of the coolest people on the planet. We are gonna miss it, but it was time to move on. Now it’s in Knoxville and we have room for a piano.”
These days Tim says they are now “bi-statual” with a home in Knoxville, and one south Florida. “Our current traveling situation is a van we just converted. It’s small and fast, and we call it the bat van at night and Vanna White by day.”
The Nouveaux Honkies latest CD is titled, Loud In Here. Unlike the previous two CDs, Most of the songs for this record were arranged in the studio. “I just had a goal of a song a day,” Tim said. “Between me, Rebecca, and the band; we would just track till it started sounding right. Working in a studio with everything ready to record at a second’s notice is fun for me. If I hear a part someone just picks up something and plays it. If it sucks, we scrap it, but great stuff happens that way. It’s creative and fast and spontaneous.
We love the CD too. It sounds superb, the playing on it is great, the songs are all strong and the cover looks killer. It’s got love songs, hate songs, funny songs, sad songs, slow songs, and fast songs.” The album features special guests: Bill Kirchen, Ephraim Owens, Nate Rowe, Chris Gage, Lloyd Maines, Pat Manske, and Tim Buppert.
Tim says they are happy to be doing what they do full time. ”There are so many amazing people we meet and so many friendships and bonds we have made.” Their main downtime from the road now is in the winter when they are in Florida. “Ironically, we work typically six to seven nights a week when we are there. Winter time is in season there. All the snowbirds come down and they come see us because we were up in those spots in the summer. We played in Michigan for the first time last year and probably 70 percent of the crowd had seen us in Florida during the winter. It’s crazy. We are blessed to have a great group of fans that support us. Days off we just do normal stuff everyone does. Knoxville has a lot to offer but we haven’t been home much to really enjoy it yet.”
“If you ever want to get baptized in pure music,” said fan Daniel Poulos, about the duo, “spend an hour listening to Rebecca and Tim in an intimate venue …The love pours off the stage and crawls across the floor like the smoke from a dry ice machine. Tim sings every song like it was a story he wrote himself this morning and he can’t wait to make you feel the way he does about it. Every time I get a chance to hear them, I find myself smiling from the first note to the last; can’t wait …”
And the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel wrote this, “If Johnny Cash and Freddy King had a baby it would be the Nouveaux Honkies.”