NIKKI LANE: WELL, DARLING, IT’S NOT 1972
What were your parents like? What did you do as a family growing up?
My parents got divorced real early on, so it kind of became a competition between them to be more interesting. My mom is a tomboy—she used to ride dirt bikes and motorcycles and then became a single mother, so I think her priorities overall became about taking care of us. She’s this daredevil and can do anything just as well as a man, and not because she’s a feminist but because she’s just good at everything. And I’m the same way. And my dad is an asphalt paver, so he was as tough as it gets. When I was a kid I played T-ball. I was a short stop, and a ball came and popped me in the stomach and almost knocked me out and I fell down and started crying, and my dad came running out to his crying daughter on the field and he picked me up and told me to stop crying and get my ass out there. So we were raised to be tough and to take care of your own problems, I guess. And that’s helped me now being out on the road and being in the position I’m in now and coming into contact with hardheaded people.
You were raised in South Carolina?
In Greenville, South Carolina, which isn’t even the truth—whenever someone says they’re from Greenville, South Carolina, we start talking about it and I tell them I’m actually from two different towns outside of Greenville, South Carolina, which everyone just lumps in and says Greenville. I was raised there until I was 18 and a half and then I got in my car and drove to California.
Did you know anyone here?
I knew a guy that lived in Seal Beach, and he was a roadie for a bunch of bands that I listened to. He told me and my best friend that he couldn’t figure out why we lived in South Carolina and that we belonged and would fit right in in L.A. And we took it pretty seriously. Neither of us had ever been there, and it’s not that it was even that crazy of an idea to move to L.A. He told us people would really dig us there, so we’re like, ‘Fuck yeah.’ The first thing I did was move to Redondo Beach. I had met this guy on the highway—we almost ran out of gas and he helped us and said, ‘If you guys ever want to check out the beach, come hang out!’ He was a roadie for bands, too—randomly. So we said OK—we were a couple of 18-year-old gals running out of gas in the middle of the Mojave Desert so it was pretty dramatic. When we went down there, he told us he had a room for rent for 500 dollars, and we were like OK—’Redondo Beach, L.A., same thing!’ I lived in Redondo beach for two years, and it was definitely not the same thing as L.A., but I was young enough that I was carting my ass up there every night to hang out with people. My first job was at Dimples Karaoke Bar in Burbank.
Were you playing music?
I liked music, and I was a big fan of going to shows and it interested me. I wanted to work in A&R—just party and sign bands—but it wasn’t easy to come out there and just start doing that as a job. I didn’t know anything about the record industry. I just wanted to be in and around it. Then my friends would record. I had country music friends and they would record in studios and want harmonies, and I knew that I could physically make the notes come out because I sang in choir. But I had no interest in having anyone watch me try and do something like that. So the first few times I did it I sang in the dark. Or with sunglasses on—very dramatic. I didn’t want anyone to watch me sing. But then right before I moved to New York, I was living in a house by myself and I had enough time to start recording. I had written about ten songs and recorded them on a little 4-track, and then I actually played my first show in L.A. as my going-away show since I was moving to New York. When I got to New York, I didn’t have a band or anyone to play with and was back to square one.
It takes a lot of guts to get on a stage and pour your heart out.
The first night I played I broke out in hives and couldn’t see—I guess I was technically passing out but still standing. It’s the only time fear has physically affected me. I was scared shitless. The second time I wasn’t scared shitless but I wasn’t good yet either. So over the next couple of years there were moments when my leg would be shaking, especially when I moved to Nashville. I would play alone in a room with 15 to 20 other people—an open mic night, I guess—a room full of my peers. And I wasn’t very good and had to play guitar alone and sing, and there would be nights where I would have to hold my leg against the stool with a lot of pressure cause it was shaking like a motherfucker! I couldn’t even make eye contact with my peers—I was so scared shitless. I wasn’t a natural at all. But if you do a thing a couple of times, it sure does show you that it’s probably not as scary as you built it up to be. The build-up is most of the problem, I think.
You’ve said you get a lot of inspiration from traveling—you have to keep rambling.
I think it’s subconscious because at this stage I haven’t hit any roadblocks with my writing. Sometimes you write some words down and put a melody to the idea, and sometimes you put words to a melody—it’s just been kind of natural for me. I can’t think when the song is going to come. The song I think will be the title track for the next record will be called ‘700,000 Rednecks.’ I was drunk as shit in New York, and I had just played a really successful showcase for a lot of people. The Rolling Stone writers were still sitting there on the couch, and we were trying to cut this Christmas song that I put out this past winter, and we were waiting on them to get the room right. Someone had asked me how many people are from Greenville, South Carolina, and I said 700,000—which by the way is off by 640,000 people!—but I was drunk and I just started running my mouth and said they’re all rednecks. I just started singing, ‘700,000 rednecks, that’s what it takes to get to the top / 700,000 rednecks, ain’t nothing gonna make me stop!’ I went out and the boys started playing along to it, and I wrote the song in eight minutes. I just made up some words and listened back and thought, ‘Yep, that’s true.’ The lyrics are about traveling around stinking cuz I can’t take a shower, working my ass off and getting pretty tired of it, but everyone says they want me to keep going and I will cuz I need 700,000 redneck fans—and the song is done! And the song—I think!—is awesome!
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