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One glorious day some years back, a teenage high school dropout Nikki Lane (nee Nicole Lane Frady) packed a trailer with her worldly possessions. With one hand firmly gripping a steering wheel and the other flipping the bird, she said so long to her home, Greenville, South Carolina, The South and any sort of life it had suggested she should live. Western bound, she was headed to Los Angeles for no other reason than just because.
Flash forward to today and we find Lane an empowered artist, having escaped any sweet and sour small town trappings for some serious see-my-name-in-lights grandeur and artistic fulfillment. Signed recently to the flourishing Los Angeles-based indie label, IAMSOUND Records, Lane's bold vocal chops and wildly infectious personality have been making a stir in circles spanning across country to rock to indie and back again. Working with producers David Cobb (Shooter Jennings, The Secret Sisters) and Lewis Pesacov of Fool's Gold, the first release of these efforts was the four-song EP, Gone, Gone, Gone, released July 19th and will be followed by the 11-track full length "Walk of Shame" out September 27th.
Throughout "Walk of Shame," Lane weaves in and out of ballads of heartache, one-night stands, leaving, lust and longing. She plays the rambler and sometimes drunkard with such an ardent aptitude she'd fit right in alongside classic country icons like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. On the title track she swears never again will she wake in a stranger's bed, "with a bass drum thumping in her head" as the music drives us out of that alien apartment and down the street into the break of dawn. In "Gone, Gone, Gone," while a blistering slide guitar cries on, she croons on the chorus her tale of leaving The South, promising, "And if I leave this town I'll be gone, gone, gone and I won't be back for far too long." Meanwhile, hitting a more delicate note, Lane shows off softer sentiments and solid song-writing skills on "Save You," crooning helplessly, "Well your bad habits they're all stacking up and it's plain to see you just can't get enough. And I'm trying to break through but I'm losing sight. Oh what can I do to make it all right? How can I save you from yourself?"
Sometimes the victim, sometimes the aggressor, always the Southern sweetheart, Lane rolls through song after song, belting out her earnest poetics with such warmth and tenderness to become entirely absorbed in this music is only natural. "They're all stories," she says. "That's the only way I know how to write. All my songs have a beginning middle and an end. I want to tell you what happened to this person and what the result was."
"You grow up in The South, you grow up in a small town, your expectations are a little bit limited," she continues. "People expect you to go to a four-year college, get married and follow that Southern way of life. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do but I knew it wasn't being offered to me."
And so we return to her story: Lane settled in L.A. and without clear direction she worked various day-to-day jobs and dabbled in fashion, getting shoes manufactured in China and painting them to sell under the Nikki Lane moniker. Five years passed and she started writing music but forsook that path after just two promising shows for a corporate job offer across the country in New York City.
"I'd always wanted to live in New York and somehow ended up talking my way into a really well paying job," she says. "That was an opportunity I couldn't say no to. And so I moved and for a year didn't even touch music. It was like something I'd just tried once. I'd written a couple songs and that was the end of it."
But like any good country singer, heartbreak brought her back to music when her boyfriend left her to record an album in Atlanta. "I was like, fuck that," she says, "Why does he get to make a record in Atlanta while I'm sitting in New York crying? So I just sat down with a guitar, I didn't have anything going on, I didn't have many friends in the city that weren't his friends, it's freezing in New York and I'd quit my job, so basically for three months I holed up in this apartment and I just wrote."
She started learning Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, John Prine and Merle Haggard tunes, the sort of classic country songs that have steeped her own writing now, trying her best to strum along and building her confidence along the way. "And all of a sudden it hit me and I started writing like crazy," she says, "I wrote a whole album in a month's time and just decided I was going to make a record in Nashville. It was like my revenge record."
Empowered, in February, 2009, Nikki went to Nashville, recorded an album she self-released titled No Room for Cowboys, and returned to New York a musician. That's essentially where IAMSOUND found her and signed her and set to build the material that would become "Walk of Shame." The album serves as a forceful farewell to The South, says Lane. "We sat down and wanted to write something about leaving a place and being like, you'll be fine, I'm not coming back."
And as if Lane's history wasn't enough evidence of her well-proven knack for leaving, on her arm rests a tattoo that reads, "Wanderlust calls again." "I feel like everyday I might be better off if I could get up and go," she says. "I've had a really hard time staying put because the different scenery is what's inspiring."
Lane now lives in Nashville where she also owns and operates a vintage boutique called High Class Hillbilly, selling pieces she has collected while touring the country.
Nikki Lane's "Walk of Shame" will be released on IAMSOUND September 27th, 2011. Read more on Last.fm
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