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Nick Kraus: Man About Town - Keeping It Real While Humming A Happy Tune!

Nick Kraus was born and raised in East Hampton. (Courtesy Photo)

Long-time promoter and partner at the Stephen Talkhouse, Nick Kraus is certainly a man about town; and not just the town of Amagansett, or East Hampton, Montauk and elsewhere on the East End, Kraus' commitment to his community and to worthy causes has taken him as far away as England and Israel.

Born and raised in East Hampton, and the son of an attorney and an artist, he began his career as the man to know for getting the idea and talent to the stage at a very young age. He has been the genesis of many successful charitable events, and has always managed to remember and showcase the prolific talent living and working on the East End.

Gary Clark Jr. at the Talkhouse (Photo: Rob Comes)

The former "Mr. Amagansett" (2012) (an annual contest for the benefit of the Donald T. Sharkey Community Memorial Fund which provides scholarships to local students and fire departments), Kraus has recently added new father to his substantial repertoire, welcoming the newest act he helped create, his daughter, Veronica, born in November 2015.

Kraus recently gave Hamptons.com some inside scoop:

Let's have a list of who you would consider to be the top 10 performers who have appeared at the Talkhouse during your tenure?

NK: Top ten. I suppose you could go with just the big names. An impressive list for a small room, but MY favorites in no special order off the top of my head, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some are Taj Mahal, Gary Clark Jr., Paul Simon, Glenn Tillbrook, Toots and the Maytals, Robert Randolph, Nancy Atlas, Dollarman, Winston Irie, Rick Danko and Bogmen. Of course other big names like Sting, Billy Joel, Jimmy Buffett and so many more have played our stage.

What would you consider to be the most difficult undertaking when trying to book artists to appear?

NK: The hardest part we have in booking is trying to guess so many months of what people are going to want to see. Will it work on a Wednesday as opposed to a Saturday? Can we make the financial numbers work?

Can you relay a few of the greatest successes and disasters that have occurred when dealing with performers?

NK: We have had great luck with performer experiences. We love the artists. We appreciate them playing a small room and they appreciate the intimacy of a small venue. They feed off the crowd. One of the biggest problems we face is when artists underestimate how long Long Island is and the traffic getting here during the summer! So once in a while a band can be a little late. One of the worst was when Gregory Isaacs played. He had a shaky reputation but showed up on time, and sounded great at sound check. He played three songs at the start of the show. Then he walked off stage and out the side door, jumped in a car and we never saw him again! That left us with a full house, including his own band, all wondering what the hell just happened! But most nights are great.

There's always a chance for a surprise guest performance at the Talkhouse. (Courtesy Photo)

Your loyalty to local artists is well appreciated, any new talent that is making a stir this season?

NK: We feel very fortunate to have the local talent in the area. Nancy Atlas for one has really been an anchor for us for some time now. Revel in Dimes with Washie Duke are playing monthly also. The younger generation coming through now like Lilly Anne Merat, Lions on the Moon, and Brandon "Taz" Niederauer on lead guitar is amazing, there is also Ben Langer and many more.

How is the summer line-up shaping up for the Talkhouse? Any "surprises"?

NK: As far as surprises go they are often a surprise to us also so stay tuned. Every summer something special happens!

What other venues have you worked with in the Hamptons?

NK: The Talkhouse is my main focus but I do some work with the folks at The Surf Lodge and have for many years now. It breaks things up nicely for me!

In particular, your involvement with Soldier Ride and the Wounded Warrior Project is commendable. What exactly is your role and how did it evolve?

"Welcome To Soldier Ride" follows the 4,000 miles cross-country cycle. (Courtesy Photo)

NK: Soldier Ride was an idea cooked up at the Talkhouse to do a cross country bicycle ride to raise funds and awareness for wounded warriors coming home - to change how America treated them. It was supposed to be a one-time thing in 2004. Now in 2016, I am actually in Atlanta with 52 new wounded warriors on a three-day bike trip. It's sad to me that the need is still there but I'm proud to be a part of putting these returning wounded warriors in the best place possible on their return back to civilian life.

We continue to do what we do, which is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors! We have thousands of warriors lined up to take part on rides going forward. In the last two months I have been part of rides in San Diego, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Jacksonville and Atlanta. It's been an amazing journey. Warriors thank me but really it has made me a much better person. To me, after 12 years of putting together bike rides and events there is no comparison, nor will there ever be, to being in harm's way overseas defending our freedom. I'm humbled and honored to be a founder of the Wounded Warrior Project.

What's next for Soldier Ride, and since you have traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe for the WWP, where are you off to next?

NK: Soldier Ride now has five teams and we do rides across the country. Seeing lives changed every time hasn't gotten old for me. Currently, we are working on Kansas City in May and then our big NYC/Babylon and Hamptons community rides in July. Soldier Ride will go to the UK again this fall and has been duplicated in many countries, including Israel, Germany, Georgia and Australia, as a great form of rehabilitation for wounded veterans. Pretty cool that this idea was born in East Hampton!

Nick and his daughter Veronica. (Courtesy Photo)

What's happening with Rock The Farm, Row New York and any other worthy endeavors you have undertaken?

NK: The property we used for Rock The Farm was bought by the town and can no longer be used as a concert venue. So starting last year we moved the concert to the square in Amagansett. Last year Nancy Atlas played and we were lucky enough to have Jimmy Buffett come join us to play a set. We had 50 wounded warriors and hundreds of supporters who were treated to a great night. We are working on doing something similar this summer on July 16th. You never know who will show up!

Row New York is a non-profit organization supporting inner city kids in NYC that my sister, Amanda Kraus, started over 10 years ago, and which continues to grow. They have expanded from their boathouse in Queens to the Harlem River and they are now in the process of establishing a boathouse in Brooklyn too. The work they do is amazing, and 99 percent of the kids in the program go to college. It's not competitive but I am regularly inspired to up my own game by seeing the standard my little sister sets!

Aside from those pursuits, I'm looking to bringing more attention to Project Most, which is an after-school program in East Hampton. I love what they do and their vision. They have already made a difference for so many kids, and I would love to see them find the success they deserve - and I know they will.

I think I finally have enough to keep me busy aside from a few one-off events. Over the years I've worked at so many places I can't even remember them all!

Finally, congratulations on your newest rocker, but how has being a new father affected those late nights?

NK: With the little one in my life now I have narrowed things down a bit. I return from even a week on the road and I see how much she has grown. The smile I get is a game changer no doubt. So we find the balance. I look forward to sharing my life with her and the dedication it brings me and purpose to let her have the life and experience I've had, but only better.

For more information on Stephen Talkhouse, visit stephentalkhouse.com; and for the Wounded Warrior Project and upcoming Soldier Rides go to www.woundedwarriorproject.org and www.facebook.com.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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