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Rockford group to headline Friday's festivities

Frontman's father is lead guitarist of Cheap Trick

Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts will headline a day full of local music at 9:30 p.m. Friday on the main stage along the Dixon riverfront during the Petunia Festival.
Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts will headline a day full of local music at 9:30 p.m. Friday on the main stage along the Dixon riverfront during the Petunia Festival.

DIXON – Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts will show Dixon what they’ve got at 9:30 p.m. Friday on the main stage along the Riverfront during the Petunia Festival.

It’s not that far of a trip for the band, which hails from Rockford.

But the band’s frontman, Nielsen, has a connection that stretches far beyond the reach of northern Illinois. His dad, Rick Nielsen, is the well-known lead guitarist and songwriter of the rock band Cheap Trick.

“He’s a big part of why I’m playing music,” Nielsen said.

“My love for music comes from seeing that firsthand.”

Asked whether his dad’s success prepared him the music industry, Nielsen wasn’t so sure.

“I’m still not prepared,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process of trying to make the right decisions, write the right songs. You can’t be lazy. You have to have a good work ethic.”

That work ethic has landed the band impressive gigs, including one with legendary artist Willie Nelson earlier this year.

Nielsen said taking big risks helped the band, which experiments with American and folk sounds, to get to where it is now.

“It’s deciding that you don’t want to do anything but make a living playing music every night,” he said.

Nielsen previously spent time as a bartender, and “even worked at the Gap.”

“There’s nothing wrong with those jobs. Some people make a good, honest living from jobs like that, and I respect that,” he said. “But, when you want to be a professional musician, you just have to stop doing all that and just go for it.”

Which brings the band here, spending the summer playing festivals similar to Petunia Festival and writing tunes for a new record.

“It’s a really important record to make,” Nielsen said. “We have a feeling like it has to be good, because it’s our third.”

The success of Nielsen’s “Presents the Rusted Hearts” in 2012 was a proud moment for him and the band.

“We sold way more copies than we expected,” Nielsen said. “It was a pretty awesome feeling, knowing now we get the opportunity to release another full-length.”

The band will tour down to Nashville and Memphis later this year and continue to see how crowds enjoy new music from the upcoming release, Nielsen said.

Through it all, it’s surprisingly easy to stay humble, he said.

“It’s hard to have a large ego when you can go down to a place like Mary’s Place in Rockford on any given night and see great local musicians,” Nielsen said.

It seems fitting that on Friday, Nielsen and his crew will headline a day full of local music, featuring Robbie LeBlanc and the Real Live Show, Tristan Bushman, Catfish Dogs, Burn N’ Bush, and Gina Venier and the Gentlemen.

So, what can festivalgoers expect from Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts?

“I have a terrible time describing our band,” Nielsen said. “But if you really like music, come see our band.”

Simple as that.

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