The word “outlaw” gets thrown about quite a bit when journalists are talking about revered singer-songwriter Nikki Lane, but for me, she embodies the work of a modern-day renaissance woman.
Lane was born in Greenville, South Carolina where she dropped out of high school, found a job working in fashion, then packed her bags for Los Angeles. After a short stay in La La Land, the budding musician moved back across the country to New York where her then-boyfriend went to Alabama to record an album and never came back. The silver lining of that break up was Lane began writing songs, which would end up on her debut album ‘Walk of Shame’ (Iamsound Records).
“Oh no. This starts out so honest,” Nikki Lane says when asked about her whirlwind early days. “I have a nickname: Hurricane Lane. More than one person takes credit for the name because more than one person has come up with it. Doesn’t everyone jump from city to city or person to person until they figure out who they are? I definitely did. I needed to decide which places I enjoyed the most, what fit my lifestyle and goals the most. And it was all crammed into my early twenties. Now that I’m cruising through my thirties I can see the same struggle with some of my younger artist friends. It takes a bit of exploration for sure.”
Word soon spread of this Hurricane Lane on the scene with her whip-smart humor, spirited attitude, confessional songwriting, and a sound, which brought memories of Wanda Jackson, Loretta Lynn, and Rosie Flores. “People are kind to say that. I know I won’t have the opportunity to be as big as those artists, but I’m proud to try.” Three years after her debut album, Lane found herself on the doorstep of esteemed label New West Records, who released her follow up ‘All or Nothin’’ in 2014. The album was produced by Dan Auerbach (the Black Keys) and recorded for free at his Easy Eye Sound Studios. Now on the bigger label, Lane’s exposure grew behind extensive touring and critical praise for ‘All Or Nothin.’
“I finally began touring. I finally got some play on the radio. It changed everything, because I was gone from home almost two years straight. I had to learn to manage my home from the road, taking care of my dogs and trying desperately to keep plants alive, but we also started seeing people in the venues and that makes it rewarding.”
Firmly planted in Nashville (for now), where she owns and operates the popular clothing store High Class Hillbilly, Lane has recently released her third album, ‘Highway Queen’ again on New West Records. Co-produced by Lane and fellow singer-songwriter Jonathan Tyler and recorded in Denton, TX at Echo Lab Studio as well as Club Roar in Nashville with Collin Dupuis, the 10-track album is another heartfelt confessional for Lane. She sings of a failed marriage (“Forever Lasts Forever”), make no apologies to her hometown (“700,000 Rednecks”), and falling head over heels in love (“Companion”).
“The songs start out autobiographical because they typically come into my head as a direct reaction to something happening. After touring and hearing people’s stories about connecting to the songs, it became easier to remember to step away and include outside perspectives,” Lane said of her growth as a songwriter. “Forever Last Forever” for instance, wasn’t about the end of my marriage. I was far past that, but many friends were going through the same pain. I don’t know if much is off limits. Some of the more honest and vulnerable songs are more difficult to share with the band when we’re recording, but if they make it past that point, there’s no hiding it after that.”
Lane’s candor mixed with her poetic twists in her lyrics makes ‘Highway Queen’ accessible to the listener. Mixed with the retro country swagger, a little blues and rockabilly sounds from her backing band the Texas Gentlemen, Lane has constructed an album which looks to find the singer/songwriter breaking out even further to a bigger audience.
“Well, I hope to amass those 700,000 rednecks. You know, I want the fan base to keep growing. It’s what sustains the job, the crowd that supports the music. I hope as the Americana and Outlaw country genres continue to grow, I’ll be able to enjoy some of the opportunities that arise from those gates opening.”
If you don’t know this talented outlaw and renaissance woman all rolled up in one, you should because ‘Highway Queen’ looks to be on everyone’s radar this year. And if you are down in Nashville, maybe stop in High Class Hillbilly to pick up some clothes and say hello.
“I haven’t been into HCH regularly in the past year. I make sure it’s stocked, throw parties and go in while we’re in town, but the store exists because of Macy Smith, my store manager and right hand lady. We’ll be taking it out on the road this spring on tour, and it will be fun to tell the stories of where we found things like I used to be able to when I ran it myself.”
Nikki Lane On Tour:
March 2 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg*
March 3 – Boston, MA @ Sinclair*
March 4 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz*
March 5 – Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern*
March 7 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom*
March 8 – Louisville, KY @ Headliners*
March 9 – Bloomington, IN @ Bluebird*
March 10 – St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway*
March 11 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall*
March 13 – Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall Ballroom*
March 14 – Minneapolis, MN @ Turf Club*
March 17 – Bozeman, MT @ Filling Station*
March 18 – Boise, ID @ The Olympic*
March 20 – Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern*
March 21 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir*
March 23 – San Francisco, CA @ Socail Hall San Fransisco*
March 24 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey*
March 25 – Las Vegas, NV @ Beauty Bar*
March 26 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge*
March 27 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater*
April 6 – Savannah, GA @ Savannah Music Festival
April 29 – Indio, CA @ Stagecoach Festival
*Stagecoach Spotlight tour