The following is a proper celebrity interview where I drool a little on an up-and-coming music star and get maybe a little weird. Then we go shopping.
The following is a proper celebrity interview where I drool a little on an up-and-coming music star and get maybe a little weird. There are some people you just get all Almost Famous around, true fan style, for whatever reason, and it especially happens when you’re a girl and you find another girl who seems really rad. But come on, it was hard not to feel, like, connected to Nikki Lane because she answered half my questions before I’d even asked them. Plus, in the Tennessean my horoscope (Sagittarius) said: “Because your tastes are so varied, you are a fan of many different people. Your appreciation for great work will lead you to create great work yourself. Your connection with Libra will be especially significant.” Nikki is a Libra. I know this because of Facebook. Now welcome to my great work.
About a month ago I was reading the Nashville Scene's music blog, the Nashville Cream, and they had posted a video by a local singer, Nikki Lane, for a song called “Gone, Gone, Gone.” The video opens with Nikki riding a Motobecane bike along what appears to be a country road in some small Southern town without a helmet. Then the song kicks in and cuts to a shot of Nikki standing in the woods in a long, perfectly fitted black dress with the sides cut out above the hip, showing a little skin. This image immediately reminded me of Black Sabbath's first album cover and smoking weed my senior year while listening to “The Wizard” at Drew Silverthorne's house when his mother was asleep downstairs.
Nikki's music is country in the vein of Loretta Lynn or Merle Haggard with just a hint of garage rock. The video instantly became one of my favorites during the second verse of the song when Nikki is singing inside a log cabin in a vintage 60s dress with a bouffant, and suddenly instead of singing into a mic she is eating a slice of pizza. I felt like I got something. I wasn't sure what, maybe it was just the excitement of getting totally inspired by new music, or maybe I just instantly wanted to be her best friend. Either way I was legitimately what you’d call smitten.
I met with Nikki at Melrose Billards for an afternoon cocktail in Nashville. She chose this bar so that after the interview we could go thrifting at the Goodwill pay-by-the-pound thrift store that is right behind the bar. This is because Nikki Lane is not just a singer or a fashionista; she is also a professional thrifter. She literally travels around the country and hunts for vintage leather goods, clothes, and other accessories for her own vintage shop in Nashville called High Class Hillbilly. She even sells her finds out of her car at her shows when she is touring.
VICE: The first thing I noticed about you was your image and your style. Your look is something that goes hand in hand with your music.
Nikki Lane: It’s hard for me to choose between fashion and music, but I always joke that if I was stranded on a desert island and I had to pick one, I'd pick a guitar because dresses wouldn't do me much good. But those are truly my two favorite things. How you look shows who you are. People blow this idea off, but I think its true. That's why it is easy to distinguish social classes by how different they dress. I've even noticed this geographically. You can't find a decent pair of shoes at a second-hand store in Salt Lake City or Seattle. They are all really wide or just ugly. But if I'm in Phoenix or Florida where there are a lot more retirement communities then I find great shoes!
Do you strive to stand out?
It’s important as a performer to establish yourself and separate yourself from everybody else with how you sing, what you write about, what you wear and what you do. Sometimes when I'm talking with the label and I'm talking about what I'm going to wear in the video before the song has even been finished, they'll be like, “Wait a minute--you already know what you want to do for the video?” And I'm like, “Well, yeah, I wouldn't be writing the song if I didn't see it in my head.” It’s all part of the production. It’s the reason why you go to the Lady Gaga concert. It is part of being an entertainer.
I've read interviews with Lady Gaga where she talks about having the image or visual she wants to express for a song before it’s done too. Do you, like Gaga, keep your Nikki Lane persona 24-7 or are you more practical?
I am practical. I'm half tomboy, half fashionista. You're not going to convince me that I have to look cool to get on an airplane. I only wear high-waisted jeans, but if I’m flying I specifically put on low-waisted jeans for that. Practicality is only half the battle for me though. If you're telling me that it’s my turn on the stage that night and I know that if I wear six-inch heels and it makes me look like a crazy, psychedelic goddess, that is the direction I'm going to take it. I'm wearing that white dress from the cemetery picture for my record-release show.
(Photo by Caroll Kern)
I love that dress. And that picture is one the favorites I have seen of you. Did you find the dress while thrifting?
No. It's American Gold, which is a friend’s clothing line. She has a shop called Spanish Moss Vintage. I talk about her in almost every interview! She's definitely my style icon. I always name a few of my girlfriends as my style icons and people are like, “No one knows who they are,” and I'm like, Oh, yes they do!
So who are your style icons?
These are the people I'm gonna text when I'm in a store by myself and I can send them a picture and be like, Yes? No? Do I go there? And they're going to let me know.
Suzanne Ford Carifano (who owns Spanish Moss Vintage, American Gold)
Shae Acopian Detar
Leann Ford Schaeffer
I like how all my fashion icons/friends kept their name, but took on their man's name too, like me. I guess if you are gonna have one you might as well have his name! [Note: Nikki Lane is actually Nikki Lane Plunket. She married the ex-boyfriend who inspired her first record.]
Who has the best style in Nashville?
Peter Barbee and his brother BJ.
Badass. They are brothers, but they look nothing alike. Poni Silver from The Ettes is the coolest girl. And Jeff the Brotherhood. They are goofy, but good-looking people.
Let's be realistic. We have people like Lady Antebellum here. I would never knock on Taylor Swift. She actually looks cute most of the time, but the reality is a majority of the people here is the CMT [Country Music Television] crowd, and to me, to be a square who’s really, really religious and doesn't like gays, you probably shouldn't be wearing purple rhinestones on stage. It’s funny when I see some of these modern country guys and they seem pretty conservative, like they would vote against gay marriage, but their style is so metro-sexual.
Let's play “Would You Rather?”
Would you rather nude photos of you leaked on the internet or wear sweatpants in public for a week?
Nude photos, because they would probably get me further. [Laughs.]
Would you rather do Ashton Kutcher or Charlie Sheen?
People think my husband looks like Ashton Kutcher. He doesn't, really, but they have similar hair. So, yeah, Ashton, he's hotter, but I'm probably too young for him. Charlie would stress me out because he'd always be on cocaine. But I guess I'd like to hang with him when I wasn't boning Ashton!
Would you be BFFs with Paris Hilton or Gwenyth Paltrow?
Gwenyth. Paris smokes a lot of weed and wears the most horrible clothes in public. I met her a couple times when I lived in LA. Everyone was like, “You're gonna love her, she's so sweet and nice,” but she came into my store wearing a Swarovski sweatshirt with a smiley face on it and she drove a mint green Bentley convertible.
Would you rather do Mel Gibson or John Travolta?
Is Mel Gibson the one married to Goldie Hawn? Wait--he's the Jew hater. No, I'd rather go out with Travolta. I'd rather him be gay on the side than hate Jews. [Mel Gibson] was in that movie about finding national treasure, right?
No, that’s Nicolas Cage, I think.
Can I just take him?
What is the craziest thing you've ever done to a boy because he broke your heart or made you mad?
My way of getting even is not reacting. I think about all the crazy things like damaging their car or whatever, but I encourage my women friends to not do anything. Poker face is the best revenge. I just dye my hair, wear a shorter skirt, hang out and say things to him like, “You look skinny. Have you been eating? Is there something wrong? Well, gotta go!” That gets them worse than doing something crazy. Don't call the dude, pretend you are OK. Poker face is the only thing that wins. I told Joe, my husband, if he ever cheated on me I would break all his records and make a fishtail wallpaper out of them because that would really hurt him. But it would hurt me too because I would want his records!
After my mother divorced my dad, he was convinced that she had cheated on him with her new boyfriend so he took a dump truck load of debris from a job site he was working at and dumped it on the house of my mom's boyfriend while she was in there having lunch on her lunch break. He had my stepbrothers in the car with him and told them, “This is what you do to whores.” My mother hadn't even cheated on him. My dad was a wild motherfucker. He went to jail for a day or so. It was insanity. So I think that is why I've just always dated calm dudes.
So the opening song on your new record, Walk of Shame, called “Lies” isn't about you?
“Lies” has nothing to do with me. No one would do that to me because I would kill them. That song is based on what happened to one of my best friends. She dated this guy for seven years. It was a long-distance relationship because he was a radio DJ and couldn't leave the town he lived in. My friend and this guy would go on vacations together and talk every day. One day he went missing. My friend thought he was dead because she hadn't heard from him, but turns out he went missing 'cause he had got caught cheating, not on my friend but on his wife. Turns out he had been married with kids this whole time he was dating my friend. His wife just thought she was a one-night stand, and couldn't believe she had been with him for seven years. My friend went to her house and dumped every souvenir, every picture of her husband with her on these vacations, and all these letters he had written her on her front lawn and was like, “See, it was real! He's a liar!”
Wow! You ready to go shopping?
We drove around the corner to the pay-by-the-pound for some major digging. The inside of Nikki's car looked like mine, crammed full of stuff. She showed me her eight-page spread in the October issue of Bust magazine. When I asked how she started modeling, she said, “I've found that if you can convince someone you've done something or that you're good at it, they usually believe you and you wind up doing it just because you said you could. And people just start asking you to do more of it.”
I hadn't been to this Goodwill for a while and neither had Nikki, but once we were inside everyone who worked there came up to her and asked how she'd been. She told hem about her record release show (which is tonight), and how she'd been touring.
We dug through some bins for about 20 minutes. I found a DVD copy of Face-Off starring none other than our Would You Rather? stars John Travolta and Nic Cage.
Nikki found some sort of fancy designer hat, a stepstool, a teeny-tiny dress, and a guitar strap. She put everything back but the hat and the strap. The lady at the checkout line knew her. Her total came to 76 cents. “I think I can sell this hat for $40,” Nikki said. “It’s kind of ugly though.” She looked totally cute in it.
Nikki Lane performs tonight, September 30, at the Basement for the release of her new record, Walk of Shame
1604 8th Avenue South, Nashville