Simply Three—Don’t Miss the Simply Amazing String Trio at Judson’s Live!

The electrifying trio of Glen McDaniel, Nick Villalobos, and Zack Clark, together known as Simply Three, has been captivating audiences worldwide with high-octane performances since 2010. Acclaimed as “having what it takes” (Boston Philharmonic) and “highly imaginative and well played” (Maine Today), Simply Three continues to receive praise for their ability to impress listeners with a multitude of genres that span from artists and composers such as Adele, Gershwin, Coldplay, twenty one pilots, Ed Sheeran, and Michael Jackson. By reshaping convention through this style of genre hopping, the trio continues to seek the true essence of classical crossover with original works as well as innovative arrangements that showcase their technical virtuosity and heartfelt musicality.

Central Florida Lifestyle Magazine had the opportunity to chat with Nick Villalobos, founding member of the trio, where we discussed the importance of music education, Nick’s LDS mission to Orlando and what’s next for Simply Three.

Michele: Nick, I understand that you first met Zack when you were children. Please tell me about your background, how and when you met and how did you begin to perform together.

Nick: Zack and I met in 2001 at the Arizona All-State Orchestra Festival. We were both freshman in high school and we both felt very excited to have made it to the All-State Orchestra. When we met we found out that we had a lot in common. We each had a love for music, skateboarding, video games, the list went on and on. That was the first time we performed together, but we also were in the Phoenix Youth Symphony as well.

Michele: Could you ever have imagined back then you’d be professional musicians in a successful group?

Nick: We each knew at that time that we wanted to be involved in music for the rest of our lives. We didn’t really know what that meant or that we would be working together. But we each knew that we loved music and wanted to be a part of it for the long haul.

Michele: Then it was 2014 when Glen joined Simply Three. Tell me about that process and more about Glen’s background.

Nick: I met Glen while performing with a string orchestra in Las Vegas. We had a mutual friend that asked us to play in that orchestra and we hit it off pretty quickly. During that time Simply Three was going through a transition of violinists. I enjoyed performing with Glen, so I introduced him to Zack. We had a few gigs coming up and we invited Glen to perform those shows with us. We had a good time performing together and the rest is history. Glen has been with us ever since. Glen grew up in Dallas, Texas. He started playing violin at a very young age with support from his parents, especially his mother. He got a degree in violin performance from Rice University and a masters from University of Maryland. Before performing with Simply Three he was performing with artist and actor Janelle Monae.

Michele: I read in an interview where you started off by playing from a Beatles book, but it didn’t work out as well as you’d like. Then you applied your music theory and composition training, and things began to click. As a former musician with years of music theory under my belt, I love that. Tell me more.

Nick: To be honest, when we first started playing through that Beatles book we were just a duo, cello and bass. We quickly realized that we needed a third voice. It was going to make our lives, and the music, so much better. So the biggest decision from that time was to get a violinist. Once we knew the instrumentation we went to work figuring out how to make it work. Our theory training did help out a lot. Especially when arranging chords for the three instruments. Which instrument should be playing what notes of the chord and where to play them on their instruments. A lot of it was trial and error to be honest. Sometimes what you think will work doesn’t and vice versa. Always a good time.

Michele: I understand that two of you are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served your missions, one to Orlando and the other to Scotland. Who do you think had the better assignment? This is obviously a trick question, since this is Central Florida. Have you been back to Orlando since and did you enjoy that experience?

Nick: (laughs) I would agree that the best mission is the Florida Orlando Mission. But of course everyone who serves a mission says their mission is the best. I have been back to Orlando many times since I served there. Simply Three has performed there several times and I have also been back with family to visit old friends as well. I thoroughly enjoyed my mission experience. I think about it almost every day. There is always something that reminds me of my time on the mission or I think about something that I experienced or learned that I apply to what I am doing currently.

Michele: Other than playing at Dr. Phillips Center/Judson’s Live, what are you looking forward to doing first when you get to Orlando?

Nick: To me the best part of our job is seeing friends and family in the areas we visit. It’s about the people really. Seeing old friends is always great, but it’s also very exciting meeting new people. People that come to our shows, people we work with as a part of the concert we are doing, meeting longtime fans that we have never had the chance to meet. I love the people.

Michele: What musicians have influenced you the most? And what is your favorite genre?

Nick: The great classical players influenced me greatly when I was younger. Jascha Heifetz, Yo Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer to name a few. As I got older I really got into the Beatles, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, Muse. There really are so many great artists! I love all genres but if I had to pick one I would pick Rock.

Michele: How’s the tour going? Do you enjoy being on the road? What are some of the highlights of touring and some of the biggest challenges?

Nick: Being on the road has its ups and downs. I don’t really enjoy the travel process. Not sure anyone really does. Being in airports, going through security, dragging all the bags, packing, unpacking, being on a plane for hours. All of that is not great. But, as I mentioned earlier, meeting the people at our destination, the old friends and the new people we will meet is the best part of being on the road. There really are great people everywhere we go. And it’s even better when you get to return to a destination to see those people.

Michele: This is a fan question: I truly enjoy your videos. Your cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is at once precise, gorgeous and hilarious. I want to encourage our readers to check it out. That must have been a fun shoot. Are there any stories to share about this?

Nick: Oh man there are a lot of stories from that shoot. That was our longest shoot to date. So many moving parts. It’s a miracle that we made that happen. A memorable moment for me was standing on top of the car while playing. I’m a very confident person and I was sure I would be able to surf the car without any safety measures. I could not have been more wrong. We tried it at like 2 mph and it was crazy difficult. I couldn’t do it. So I wore a harness under my jeans, and we ran a strap from the harness to a hook that was on top of the car. It made it a lot easier to balance on the car.

Michele: I would be negligent if I didn’t ask if Nick is any relation to the great Brazilian composer and conductor Villa-Lobos?

Nick: Unfortunately no. But, I do love his music. I do get that question a lot though.

Michele: What’s next for Simply Three?

Nick: We will be going to Sitka, Alaska for some shows. A return trip for us so we are excited about that. Then we head to Orlando! We hope to be on the road more visiting as many cities as possible. We do love performing live. It’s what we live for. We are also working on more covers to release. But we are most excited for the original music we are working on. We love arranging covers but there is something special about original music. I think it comes more from the heart. You get to see into the feelings, personalities, and passion of our group more when it comes to our original music. We have more original music coming soon!

Simply Three at Judson’s Live

Date: Thursday–Saturday, May 23–25, 2024
Time: 7 p.m. & 9 p.m.
Tickets from: $32.50

Doors open for food & beverage service:
5:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. show
8:30 p.m. for the 9 p.m. show


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Written by T. Michele Walker

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