SoManyBands Flashback: Nicole Atkins - 03.08.2005

Someone had posted about Nicole on Livejournal. I checked out her music on myspace and was just blown away. Great talent here.

KD: When did you first realized you wanted to play music?

Nicole: I guess there were two different moments. The first being when I was in 8th grade. These boys in my class had a band and they practiced everyday after school. I was in the back seat of my parents car listening to Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker," on my walkman. I just imagined myself walking into their band practice and ripping the Heartbreaker guitar solo. Ha ha. Then the other moment was when I saw Madder Rose open up for the Sundays when I was in 9th grade. Mary Lorson's veins were popping out of her arm when she played guitar. I wanted that.

KD: What inspires you to write your music?

Nicole: Lots of stuff. I guess the inspiration comes in phases. At first I was writing about thoughts on suburban life, then after NYC I was inspired to write about the fall out of a lot of my friends after we began to experience the deaths of some of our friends. Now lots of things insire my songs. Boats, old people, ghosts, cars, men, ya know, stuff.

KD: You just finished the "Party's Over" LP, how did you feel when you realized the cd was ready to go?

Nicole: I felt really excited and a bit scared. David Muller (the producer) and I worked really hard all summer on "Party's Over." It was fun, suprising, a bit tense at times. Then after it was finished we were like, "Man, this sounds epic. Now how the fuck are we gonna pull this off live."

KD: How was recording the LP like? Any memorable moments to share?

Nicole: Well, the places we recorded the record were pretty interesting. We recorded a bit of it in David's closet sized bedroom on Avenue C. We did almost all the drum sounds in there, sitting on a bed, playing a floor tom and snare. Another funny moment was right after we finished recording Neptune City," at the Dietch Space in Brooklyn. We worked for about 15 hours that day. After it was finished we were on our way to a party full of rich folk and David looked at me and said, "Funny, after all that work and we still have nothing." In a way, that moment made me feel better than I had in years.

KD: Now you have a full band, how did you find everyone? Do you like performing with a full band or by yourself the most?

Nicole: Dan Chen (keys) found my songs on and sent me a message saying he wanted to be in my band. We had some mutual friends and when I met him and Dan Mintzer (drums) they already knew all the songs. I met Damien a day later. Casey also found us on a month after that. Not only is he a great guitarist but he gave me his childhood ALF doll on first rehearsal. That definitely scored him some points. I guess I got lucky. It's rare to meet people who are talented, creative and super cool to hang out with right off the bat, if ever. I definitely prefer playing with a band. I like writing with a band. It takes the songs so much further. Especially this band. Railroad to the moon type of band.

KD: Neptune City is one of my favorite songs of yours. How did you go about writing that song?

Nicole: I wrote the melody while I was making pasta with my sister Courtney and then I wrote the words on the train to the city to record the music. Two weeks after that I rewrote the words maybe four times. The songs was originally about the widow of a Puerto Rican knife fight victim.

KD: Which one of your songs has the most meaning to you and why?

Nicole: Probably, "Great Idea," This was the first song that David and I recorded almost a year before the rest of the songs on this record. This song was originally a romantic lament about the smoking ban on bars in NYC. When we were in the middle of recording this song, we learned that one of our good friends had just passed away. After that, the whole song took on a new meaning.

KD: What upcoming projects do you have going on?

Nicole: I'm getting ready to go down to North Carolina to open up for my friend, Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers. We're doing a two night stand at the Old Courthouse Theatre in Concord, NC. After that, I move to Brooklyn, iron out a few line-up things with the band (i.e, backup singers!!) and hopefully get on to recording some of the new songs the band and I have recently written.

KD: What would people be surprised to know about you?

Nicole: I usually wear glasses, I know how to play the guitar solos to more than one Slayer song (thanks paul) and no, i don't want to go to your house and see your record collection.

#the100dayproject Day 20: Nicole Atkins

This post is part of #the100dayproject that encourages creatives to do an action every day for 100 days. I've chosen to write an article or blog post every day. Previous posts for this project can be found here.

I needed an excuse to get off this Marfa island and I had the car and the means to do it. I did a quick 24 hour drive in December to see a dear friend kick off her tour in Austin. I've kept in touch with Nicole Atkins' music career for almost 15 years, always making the attempt to see her perform if she was in town and occasionally catching up on the record along the way. But this trip took that to a whole new level. Looking back, the drive was exhausting but I did it without an ounce of regret.

My introduction to Nicole happened in 2006. Someone posted a link to Nicole Atkins' MySpace page on Livejournal (the most 2006 thing I will ever write in 2018), and naturally I checked it out. I was immediately drawn to her song “Neptune City.”

The way Nicole croons with the gloomy melody and background harmonies sounds like it came straight from the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack with Winona Ryder dancing in fake snow. Being in my very early 20s and a college dropout living with my parents, my angsty depressed self loved it. Little did I know how much this song would come back into my life after that first listen.

At the time, I was interviewing basically any band I enjoyed and who would let me for my blog SoManyBands (which wasn't even considered a blog back then). I asked Nicole via email to interview her. She said yes and I sent her questions.

We met in person in 2007. It was SXSW and she was scheduled to play a day show organized by Gothamist, Austinist and GorillaVsBear. My then-boyfriend and I headed over to the Mohawk after I got off work and tried to get as close to the stage as we could. It was very crowded with an overcast sky which seemed fitting considering Nicole played a short set. Her band was stuck at the airport and she had to throw something together with another band, The Parlor Mob. She didn't perform “Neptune City,” but she did blow me away with her other songs and a cover of Lead Belly's “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.”

After the show, I left the venue to see if I could introduce myself and waited until she finished an on-camera interview to approach her. I only got out “I'm not sure if you'll remember me...” before she cut me off to say “You're Sarah” and hugged me.

Her second album “Mondo Amore” came out in 2011, which was incidentally a tough year for Nicole as much as it was for me. She left her label. She was going through a breakup from a longterm relationship, and her band quit.

I too was going through a breakup from a five-year relationship and had moved back with my parents so I could finish my journalism degree. It was my last semester as an editor at Austin Community College's newspaper before I transferred back to Texas State. While I was chosen for a Poytner College Fellowship that changed my life, I spent two miserable months working against my gut on a failed publication.

I was tired, overworked and depressed.

The first time I heard the songs from “Mondo Amore” was at a SXSW day show and it just spoke to me. The bluesy, moody, guitar-driven rock gave Nicole a channel to funnel all those emotions she was going through. It's aggressive but vulnerable. Exactly what I was feeling at that time. As cliché as it sounds, it is true. That album helped me get through a dark time in my life.

“Neptune City” reentered my life in 2012 when Nicole released a stripped down version of the song to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief. She originally wrote it as a homage to her hometown, which was then destroyed by the 2012 hurricane. I interviewed her about the song for KTSW Other Side Drive and it ended up winning second place in radio news from the Society of Professional Journalists. It was my last semester at Texas State University, meaning I was getting ready to graduate and figuring out where I was going next.

“Neptune City” took on a different meaning to me because I knew I could never go home again. As much as Austin will always be home to me, I knew it was not where I needed to be to pursue journalism. I had to leave.

So here I am five years later living in Marfa. When Nicole announced her first show for the tour was in Austin in support of her latest album “Goodnight Rhonda Lee,” I started talking to her and my friends about making the drive to be there. I want to say that I have no idea what compelled me to do it, but I do. It was her music. Nicole always seems to write the songs I need to hear during whatever is going on in my life and I appreciate that.


After some shuffling, I made the trip happen. I got a dogsitter, told my family I was coming so I'd have a place to crash, rearranged my work schedule and hopped in my car, arriving about an hour or so before the show. I caught up with friends and watched Nicole from the front row, singing along to every song like a little fan girl. When you drive seven hours to see someone perform, you might as well embrace it.

Plus, Nicole appreciated it.