Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Nellybombs is who Amy Winehouse would’ve been if she’d gone to rehab. She’s a spiritual upgrade with a haunting voice that uniquely echoes Aretha, Billie, and other soul angels, but this isn’t the story of a sad songbird warbling over her clipped wings. This is the story of a phoenix who dares to rise time and again.
Onelia Llano moved to the Hudson Valley from the Bronx at the age of 10, lending to her amalgamation of down-to-earth sweetness, spacey visions, and New York swagger. She’s something of an anomaly, a self-proclaimed misfit.
One of the things that sets Nelly apart from other local artists, aside from her amazing voice, is her stage presence. She’s got it and being around her in her element imbues audiences with a heavy dose of “get out of my way” attitude. But life hasn’t been without its challenges. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing Miss Bombs perform live, you’d have no idea that this sassed-up songstress struggles with anxiety. “It’s definitely hard being an artist and having a negative thought process and [it] has definitely held me back in a lot of ways. Fran and I have had a lot of obstacles throughout this journey together and the fact that we keep going makes me really proud. No matter what happens, we love making music and we are going to do it, even if no one is listening.”
Despite the daily hurdles, Nelly has chosen to strive for the positive. “Music is therapy for me. At times it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m trying to enjoy the ride.” If you follow her on social media, you’ll see her efforts to stay sunny. Vegan noms, hiking, running (and the occasional Dunkaroos to feed her inner child). When I asked her what impact she wanted her music to have, she answered, “Life is not easy. So if I can offer some relief and sense of connection, I feel good about what we are doing. I know for me, when I am going through a hard time, it is sometimes comforting to know someone is going through the same thing.”
She and Fran perform feel-good covers, from Motown to TLC, but have plenty of original music between them, too. Nelly writes about her firsthand experiences, especially the difficult ones that she’s not able to process otherwise. “Writing helps me work it all out.” And Fran has been a huge support and source of encouragement in the time they’ve been working together. “I really am super thankful to have Francisco in my life. He has helped me push through some really hard times... I am so glad I get to go through this journey with my best friend! I really don’t think I would be where I am today without him!”
Fran’s succinctly soulful licks are the musical core of their most recent album, “Dana Ave.” Released on June 28th, this collection of songs tells the story of the painful end of a toxic relationship. “I was depressed and anxious and had no self-confidence. I had trouble playing gigs and sometimes couldn’t even get out of bed. It was the first time I had really experienced heartbreak. I remember one day Fran telling me I need to write through the pain and that’s what I did. I wrote the songs in about two weeks. They helped me get through the breakup and learn to love myself again.”
If there’s anything we can take away from Nelly’s story (and there’s a lot), it’s this: if she can muster the courage to chase her dreams in the face of adversity, so can you. “I used to work full-time while going to school part-time and gig on the weekends. I never thought I would be able to do music full-time when I first started out. After about a year of hustling and playing any gig I could get, I was able to make the shift. I really wasn’t sure how to manage myself, but it happened pretty organically. The gigs kept coming and eventually, I was making enough to quit my job and just focus on music. It was, and still is, not as easy as it sounds … but it has taught me a lot! I am super thankful I have the opportunity to create every day and make a living doing what I love. There are ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Catch Nellybombs at these upcoming shows:
Sun., 9/6, at 5:00 PM
155 N. Ohioville Rd.
New Paltz, NY 12561
Thurs., 9/24, at 6:00 PM
Benefitting the Sparrow’s Nest Charity
103 Burroughs Dr.
West Park, NY 12491
by Joanne Louis-Paul