Equal parts uptown sophistication and wrong-side-of-the-tracks attitude, Nikki Lane entered 2012 with a feisty album that reveals her eclectic style.
A fashion lover dedicated to finding vintage clothes and accessories during her travels, Lane’s creativity bounces between her High Class Hillbilly boutique in Nashville and her original music. A similar combination comes through on her new album, Walk of Shame, as the South Carolina native mixes the country soul of her childhood with a swinging rockabilly beat.
Calling out lying boyfriends as readily as her own misdeeds, Walk of Shame revels in its youthfulness. She sings of ignoring her conscience, struggling to escape the confines of her Southern home, and of course facing the morning-after in last night’s party outfit.
Lane, who moved to Nashville from New York City, called in to CMT.com to talk about how a broken heart led to her music career, the treasures you’ll find in her store and the embarrassing truth of her first walk of shame.
CMT: The first thing that struck me about your voice was that it reminds me of Wanda Jackson. Was she an influence?
Lane: I didn’t learn about her until about five years ago. I heard “Funnel of Love” at a party and started listening to her, and after moving to Nashville, I got to work on a photo shoot and dress her and pick out her shoes. I didn’t realize how old she was. In my mind, she still looked rather spritely. She was my grandmother’s age and fragile and darling, but still puts on a fierce show. I think she’s incredible. I’m working harder to get a little bit of that edge that she has.
I find it interesting that a heartbreak is actually what made up your mind about music.
It forced me into it. I wrote a little bit but didn’t take it seriously, and then I moved to New York City and got into a relationship. A year later, we broke up just as it was starting to get really cold, and a lot of our friends took sides just because they didn’t want to be in the middle. So I didn’t have a lot of people to hang out with — and it was freezing, and I hate the cold — so I was just sitting at my house pouting and had enough time to really get bored.
I was terrible at guitar, even up until recently, but I sat down and started learning Loretta Lynn and Waylon Jennings songs because there weren’t many chord changes in them. I started getting good at it, but then I messed up a Loretta Lynn song, “Family Tree,” and I realized that I had accidentally written a song by rearranging the chords. And from there, it was addictive. So then I wrote a whole record, like 20 songs, very quickly.
The thing I like about your story is that it has a happy ending. Can you explain that?
I came home to New York City with a record and trying to put a band together and ended up getting some of [ex-boyfriend] Joe’s band members involved and slowly started running into him again. I made the record in February, and by April, we were back together. We realized that the breakup and the space had been a good thing. We had both done our own things. It’s just so hard to be crammed in a small apartment with someone in New York, especially if you’re both trying to create. And we ended up getting married and moving to Nashville. Here we can spread our wings more.
Some people might not be familiar with the term “walk of shame,” so what does it mean?
Well, I’ve been telling people now to just go rent Bridesmaids. I am just furious that I didn’t release my record six months earlier because that is where my song belongs. (laughs)
The walk of shame is typically leaving someone’s house wearing something that you wore last night and it’s probably not suitable for 9:30 in the morning. So it could be anything. I think for the video, it will be Halloween costumes. But my experience was the first time I stayed the night at my husband’s place. It was the Fourth of July, which is always my opportunity to dress insane. It’s always red, white and blue. Always tiny platform heels. It’s hot. But I realized the next morning that I had to get on the train, and everybody’s back to real life by then. There’s really religious Hasidic men and like 25 kids holding hands on their way to preschool. My makeup is crazy and my hair is falling over. That’s the walk of shame. It’s that moment of embarrassment.
I really liked the video for “Gone, Gone, Gone,” maybe because it’s kind of out there and weird. How would you describe your style?
We have a vintage store [in Nashville] and we named it High Class Hillbilly, which was a joke, but then I realized how fitting it really is. I was raised very country, but then I lived in L.A. and New York for years, and I love high-end fashion. I feel like the two together is pretty much what I’m into. I like mixing really awesome expensive things with stuff I found on the ground.
Speaking of your store, what’s one thing I could find for my mom there?
It’s a collection of vintage stuff that we have gotten on tour from all across the country. So there’s everything from vintage hiking boots and rain boots from the ’50s that I got in Montana or a vintage flannel that we got from the Southwest — a bunch of old stuff that didn’t deserve to get thrown away. And we’ve been buying some vintage wrapping paper, so we can actually wrap it for your mom, too!