If you’re a fan of supporting local creators for a good cause, boy have we got a locals to know for you! Today we’re sharing our conversation with Nikki Barron, the communications and outreach manager for Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare (SMASH). It’s a local org that provides access to free and low-cost medical, dental, and mental health services to low- and limited-income working musicians. All that plus they offer support for navigating the complicated and frustrating healthcare system that comes with the process.
Let’s find out more about Nikki’s work and adoration of the Seattle music scene, shall we?
Who are you? What do you do? (work/volunteer)
I am the Communications & Outreach Manager at Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare (SMASH).
Wax poetic for a minute and tell us: what brings you most alive about this city?
I moved to Seattle sight unseen 11 years ago because so many of my favorite bands were from here. Seattle is mostly known for its grunge scene in the 90s that produced bands like Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Pearl Jam but our city’s music history goes back way further than that.
From the 1920s through the 40s Seattle had a booming jazz scene in the Central District — at its height, there were said to be 34 speakeasies and clubs along Jackson St. alone. Artists like Quincy Jones, Patti Bown, and Ray Charles launched their careers here. We also had an amazing folk scene with artists like Woodie Guthrie calling Seattle home and even coining the term hootenanny.
Other notable artists are of course Jimi Hendrix, The Fleetwoods, The Wailers, The Sonics, The Fastbacks, Queensryche, Heart, Bikini Kill, Death Cab for Cutie, Dave Matthews Band, Kenny G AND Kenny Loggins plus so many more. Seattle’s a music town through and through.
How does Seattle help you do what you do/influence your work?
At SMASH we help musicians stay healthy by providing access to free and low-cost healthcare. Seattle musicians take care of us, so SMASH works to take care of musicians. Seattle has been a wonderful place to launch a nonprofit like us and we’ve had a great response throughout the region. Shout out to our providers Dr. Chris at Lyons Creek Dental, Clear Hearing and Audiology, Speech and Deaf Center (HSDC) for Hearing protection, Sight and Sound Vision, and Reachlink for mental health treatment for our members.
What’s your favorite Seattle memory?
I don’t know how to choose just one! I have a really fond memory of seeing Lizzo at Capitol Hill Block Party as well as seeing one of my favorite bands, X, at The Crocodile a few years ago. I also loved working with my friend Shaina Shepherd on a bunch of events and live streams to help out local musicians during the pandemic.
If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The fried chicken sandwich from Judes Old Town off of Rainier Ave S. The jalapeno slaw is addicting! All the food and cocktails are amazing, plus the owners are super great.
Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Seattle day.
My favorite place in Seattle is Jupiter Bar because I love pinball and they have some of my favorite games; and the owner Joey Nix is a huge supporter of the arts. Inside Jupiter there’s amazing murals and Situ Tacos (owned and operated by Wild Powwers drummer Lupe Flores).
Since I’m already talking about Belltown, I’d suggest walking to The Crocodile which now has 2 music venues, a cocktail bar, and a comedy club. I used to work there and the work they put in to keep The Crocodile alive and moving to the new location was a major labor of love.
I’m also super obsessed with Seward Park. The park itself is 300 acres and it’s all amazing but my favorite thing to do is walk my dog Dolly in the old-growth forest. You can easily forget you’re in a city when you’re hiking around amongst trees that are hundreds of years old.
What’s your favorite local social media account (Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or etc.) to follow and why?
I’d have to say The South Seattle Emerald. They cover all things Seattle south end in a really empathetic and beautiful way. A few others I love are The Needling and Vanishing Seattle.
If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?
Find a live show! There are so many amazing music venues in our city. Every venue has a little something different to offer but you can easily find live music any night of the week.
What’s an unpopular opinion you have about the city?
That the Seattle freeze is a myth. I’ve found people here are very friendly! I’d actually describe it as a “Seattle no” which is they say yes to a future hang out but somehow it never actually happens. They’ll chat you up all day but making future plans is like pulling teeth!
What are you looking forward to this year?
We have a really ambitious goal to triple the amount of musicians we have in our programs so I look forward to hitting that goal. If you’re a musician, sign up to be a member us, it’s free!
I am also looking forward to our big event on November 20th at The Moore Theater. We haven’t announced this year’s theme but it’s always been such an amazing event featuring all Seattle musicians. Past performers have included Dave Matthews, Duff McKagan, Shaina Shepherd, Stone Gossard, Beverly Crusher, The Smokey Brights, Naked Giants, Eric Houwk of Portugal the Man, Tomo Nakayama, and a ton more! You don’t want to miss this year’s show.
Know of a person or organization that we ought to feature? Send us an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Evergrey, Locals to Know,” and you could see their name in an upcoming newsletter!