"My band played my high school coffee house and the PA got shutoff when our other singer went for the whole “Mother I want to fuck you” bit during 'The End'" We chat to Nicole Atkins
Following great reviews for her 2017 album, Goodnight Rhona Lee, globetrotting singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins has released the first new music from her follow-up album, due sometime undefined. Ahead of her UK tour we had the chance to ask Nicole a few questions about her new music and what it's like to tour.
Hey Nicole, what have you been up to today?
Hi! Just cut some backup vocal stacks for the new Hamilton Leithauser record with Michael Brennan over at Substation in Rosyth, Scotland. Now we are packing up the van to head to our first gig of the tour in Glasgow. Stoked!
Tell us a little about you, what’s your first memory of playing music?
Earliest memory was singing along to The Who’s 'Tommy' when it was on HBO and I was three. First memory playing a gig was when I was 15. My band, Stale Melba, played my high school coffee house and the PA got shutoff when our other singer went for the whole “Mother I want to fuck you” bit during our cover of 'The End' from the Doors.
I see you’ve put together an Apple Music playlist, what artists do you listen to for fun?
Mostly Django Django, lots of Krautrock like Faust, Neu, and King Crimson, Desmond Decker, Super Furries, Otis Redding. Things that bring my energy up.
You’ve had a couple of duets out recently, what can you tell us about your new music?
My new album is a tribute to where I grew up on the Jersey Shore boardwalk. Being raised by the beach in a Sicilian family we listen to a lot of southern soul, doo-wop, Orbison, Frankie Valli, and late 70s punk coming down from NYC. All that music mixed together on the shore. I’ve always been drawing from those influences to make my sound. We recorded the new songs at Muscle Shoals Sound in Muscle Shoals Alabama. That’s where my label, Single Lock is based. The band I put together are all people I’ve written with and recorded various projects with over the years. Members of the Swampers, Bad Seeds, Dap Kings, Midlake and Spoon. It’s a weird group but that’s my perfect wheelhouse. The time spent was quite magical.
How come you chose November Rain? You didn’t fancy ‘Patience’? (Both are great songs)
I just had a dream one night that I was singing November Rain as a duet in an old classic country style and I woke up and remembered it and it sounded really cool. It also gave me a good excuse to hit up Mark Lanegan to sing with me. His voice is a dream.
‘A Man Like Me’ is a bit of a change from Goodnight Rhonda Lee, did you set out to do something different, or did it just happen? (BTW, I love it)
Jim Slavunos and I started writing together back in 2012. We write together really fast and had so many songs that didn’t necessarily fit on my solo records so we decided to start a duet band together with these. It’s very natural and fun to make this kind of music with him. There’s no parameters on the sound yet it falls into a distinct sense of place. It’s black and red and midnight blue. We sing for each other. To back each other up. It’s nice having a partner. We started recording this project back in 2014 up until right now so it’s really nice to let people in on it.
You’re nearly two years on from Goodnight Rhonda Lee, how do you view it now that some time has elapsed?
It’s a classic.
What have you been up to in those two years? Touring mainly?
Touring non-stop for the last two and a half years. Writing and recording my new record, writing with other people for various projects. Doing some production work for a couple of artists. I also draw and paint and I’ve been really enjoying that. Ruining most of the surfaces in my home and van.
What one song of yours do you really want people to hear, and why?
'A Night of Serious Drinking' or 'A Little Crazy' because I’m proud of them. I feel like I could hear Sinatra or Orbison singing them. They make me feel better and I think they make other people feel better as well. At least that’s what they tell me.
Who inspires you the most?
Mavis Staples, David Lee Roth, George Martin and Michel Gondry.
You’re heading to (or are in) the UK to play some shows, what are you most looking forward to?
Playing these shows with my friends. Davey Horne, my guitarist, is one of my favourite songwriters and people ever. Also our opening act, Caleb Elliot is from Muscle Shoals and is incredible. Our drummer Mikey and bass player Tom are from London. Just this mix of wonderful musicians and pals all jiving. Seeing the world and talking to strangers is the best thing in the whole world.
How do you find UK audiences compared to US and the rest of Europe? Any difference?
They definitely have a deeper musical reference for over here and fancier shoes. I dig em.
What’s the toughest thing about being on the road?
Being away from my family. My neck and shoulders are kinda fucked forever but it’s par for the course in this van.
And the best?
Adventures. Inside jokes. Singin' harmonies.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
I don’t really wanna get into it but all I’ll say is, it’s very real. From having creepy dudes comment on your body, clothes, sexuality, right in your face or online, to being counted out musically because of a boys club. It’s something I’ve grown a very thick skin for. However nowadays I’m unwilling to be fucked around or tolerate sleazy or lazy fuckery. I have lots of incredible musical men and women in my life. I only fuck with wizards.
If you could recommend one artist to hear this week, who would it be?
Sasami or Caleb Elliot.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
I don’t know. If you think of another, feel free to page me.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Almond milk and two sugars.
Thanks so much Nicole, really hope you enjoy your time in the UK.
Thank you kindly! ⚡️🖤⚡️
For tickets to her tour dates, or to find out anything else about Nicole, visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, or check out her Instagram.
You can catch Nicole across the UK on the following dates:
Fri 5th - Chester - St Mary's Creative Space
Sun 7th - Newcastle - The Cluny 2
Tues 9th - Norwich - Arts Centre
Weds 10th - Portsmouth - Wedgewood Rooms
Tues 30th - London - The Lexington