Nikki Lane: Mindin' the Store

Music Features Nikki Lane
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Hometown: Greenville, S.C.
Album: Walk of Shame
For Fans Of: Jenny Lewis, Neko Case, Tift Merritt

Nikki Lane was a born entrepreneur. As a child growing up in South Carolina, she would go door to door in her apartment complex offering to take out her neighbors’ garbage for a dollar. It was big business: She estimates $50 or more on a good week. Soon she hired two neighborhood boys, and they spent the profits on Cokes and candy.

That business-minded spirit has served her well over the years. Lane (born Nicole Lane Frady) started a company designing shoes, then moved to Nashville and opened a successful clothing boutique that specializes in rustic cowboy boots. It won’t be long, however, before she’s known as a purveyor of fine vintage country songs, full of hooks and heartbreak. Her upcoming album, Walk of Shame, out in September, is a confident collection of old-school tunes that suggest the dignified twang of Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, filtered through the modern sensibility of Jenny Lewis and Neko Case.

Lane’s musical talents are as natural as her business acumen. She possesses a textured voice that alternates gracefully between sassy and sour, haunted and happy, vulnerable and fearless. On songs like “Hard Livin’” and “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” she displays personality and poise—two qualities that can’t be bought or sold.

Walk of Shame straddles country and indie without really bowing to the conventions of either; instead, it reflects her passion for many different sounds and styles. Her education began when she moved to Los Angeles, where friends introduced her to Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Neil Young, Brinsley Schwarz, and many other acts that continue to inspire her. Country music, however, came naturally. “I just happen to be from the South, and I just happen to have a southern accent,” she says. “I like tons of different music, but country is what happened when I picked up an acoustic guitar.”

As she moved from Los Angeles to New York to Nashville, music remained a hobby for Lane. She recorded some of her songs, but didn’t even think of selling the album. “I’d mention to someone that I’d made a record, and I’d just email it to them,” Lane says. “I never made a dollar off of it.” A friend convinced her to meet with the head of IAMSOUND in Los Angeles, which lead to her first record deal. “I thought I was going to have to go to 10 meetings before I found a record deal, so I wasn’t in any hurry,” she says, “but they were so positive about it that I realized it was just a different kind of selling.”

Following a five-song EP centered on the eloquent kiss-off single “Gone, Gone, Gone”—about leaving that small South Carolina town—Walk of Shame may make music Lane’s primary business. “I’m excited to see what actually happens,” she says. “You plant the seed then you stand back and see if the thing is going to grow or not.” But if her venture into the music business doesn’t work out, Lane will continue making music, if only for herself. And she has a great fallback: “I know what I’m going to go back to. I’m going to back to blue jeans and boots.”