story + photos / Ericka Clevenger
When Nikki Lane Plunket, the 60s inspired country singer hailing from South Carolina, was introduced to LA based indie label IAMSOUND, they joined forces creating a friendship that blurred the line between Indie and Country. Nikki wanting nothing more than to dodge the “Country Bullet”, felt the difference between herself and the rest of the label’s roster would be a multifaceted benefit to her creative control. Under IAMSOUND she could make the music she wanted and not have to worry about a label trying to push her to be “more country”. Their lenient regulations from the way she dresses to the way she markets herself has allowed her to dabble in other sounds and styles outside of the traditional or alternative country world. She was introduced to producers David Cobb (Shooter Jennings, The Secret Sisters) and Lewis Pesacov of Fool’s Gold, who ended up producing her record. They soon released a four-song EP, Gone, Gone, Gone, on July 19th, followed by the 11-track full length Walk of Shame on September 27th.
Her album bleeds pain and strength simultaneously falling in and out of her versions of heaven and hell. Ballads, and explosions about lost love, broken hearts, the open road, and misplaced lust’s, she navigates the album as both the saint and sailor. With echoed undertones and reverbed vocals stained with a southern twang Nikki proclaims profound notions of accepting sadness and moving on. Ranging from softly spoken cracked vocals, to high pitched confessional wails of devotion. A perfect mix of the heartbroken meets heartbreakers. She is the form of goofy southern belles who dance back and forth across the fine line which they are given. This is evident in her music where she channels the relationship between genres and allows her music to be freely expressed through her personal experiences, and not through a generated portal of a one dimensional mind.
I met up with Nikki, who is finishing up her first National tour with UK Indie Rockers Noah and the Whale, at the House of Blues in Anaheim. We met after the show at out designated spot, “under the giant crow painting”, then she took me backstage where we had a little photo shoot. Along side her musical talents, she is a business savvy fashionista with expertise in vintage clothing. While touring the country as a musician she is also busy collecting priceless vintage items for her business along the way. During the shoot she dug through mounds of clothing and accessories, excitedly showed me a new vintage white fur Chloe’ coat that she just picked up on this tour, pulled out a tube of red lipstick and shuffled into the hall. The end result, pictures that tell a thousand stories including Nikki hanging upside down from a ladder, showing her carefree silly side. She is young hearted with an old soul and a voice she cannot contain. This southern belle is well on her way to creating a long lasting music career with her dedication to honesty, and fight for personal freedom to move back and forth within the realms of all things artistic.
Whats the biggest challenge of bring on the road?
Trying to match the sound of my album to the live show on an extremely low budget, like being an opener band for someone as huge as Noah and the Whale while still having a low budget. We are literally only making a couple hundred bucks a night. Sometimes that barely covers gas. I made my album in Los Angeles with some of the best studio musicians, but they cant come on tour with me. When I made my album I only knew how to play guitar for the sake of songwriting. I couldn’t really sit down and play the whole song through. So when we were hired for a national tour, we had to figure out how to make it translate. I am so thankful for my best friend, and business partner Carey Kotsionis who runs the vintage show with me in Nashville. No matter what the deal is, she is always there to come on tour with me. So this tour it was just the two of us as a duo. and I would have to explain to everyone that we are actually a full band, to listen to our album. You have to be very careful not to translate that we are jus two girls singing sad singer songwriter stuff. We have hired musicians in different cities to play for us while we are in town, so thats been nice.
What would you like to see different when touring your next album?
For my next record I would love to have my choice of musicians who play. Everyone who played on my album are super amazing and talented studio musicians, but they don’t really go on tour. Id like to have everyone who plays on my record to at least be accessible if I did want to bring them with me. My goal is to learn how to make enough money so I can afford to bring the musicians that I want with me. I’ve considered even finding an existing band that would like to do a duo type thing. Such as Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Devendra Banhart and the guy from Vetiver. Even Bob Dylan and The Band. Even if I were to hand pick my ideal musicians, there is still no say on if we will vibe well or not.
Do you see your album being more or less country?
It’s hard to say really. I hate trying to define myself as one particular type of music. I love my fans, and they are extremely important but at the end of the day the album is for the artist. Music is about finding yourself as a musician. That’s the ultimate goal. It’s a fine line though. You have to be careful not to let them push you into one direction too far. Otherwise you are creating an expectation that you might curve away from. It’s unfortunate that people who aren’t artists can’t see that everyone is influenced by something else, and when you see changes in music it isn’t because we are trying to trick them. It it because we are expressing the changes in our soul. The product is altered because different things are happening to us emotionally. Im obsessed with Neil Young, but there is some strange 80’s stuff that I don’t like. Then I hear it’s because his son is autistic and was responding well to all the strange noises. Although I don’t like it, I understand it. I think it’s really cool that he could help his son and stay true to his creative process.
How has touring with Noah and the Whale been?
It’s been amazing! I have learned so much. They are big here, but they are massive in the UK, they come over here with a huge crew, and everything is on a big production level. They are really good guys, and are very professional. They don’t party, they are just pro’s. It’s refreshing to see a band where all 5 members truly get what it takes to be successful. It’s fun to be rock-and-roll, but this isn’t the 60’s. They aren’t throwing thousands of dollars at you to do heroin and have sex with people. In this day and age the bands that make it are the bands that operate like a business. Being a business woman my entire life I understand that life. Its great to have fun, but you need to know when to shut down and rest. Its cool too see a band that has figured it out so young. They are seasoned pro’s in their twenties. That’s pretty remarkable.
How is being on IAMSOUND
It’s been great. I joke with Niki Roberton, that it’s nice to have another tall hot Niki on my team. They have really opened me up to their world, and allowed me to what I want in mine. They introduced me to producers that I loved and worked with, and introduced me to Jared Eberheardt who directed “Gone, Gone, Gone”. Never would I have thought that my indie label would take the time to understand me as a musician so well, and send me people I actually wanted to work with. I can guarantee you that no other label would be pushing me to open up for bands like Noah and the Whale. If I would have went to Lost Highway, or New West I would have been stuck opening up for alternative country bands. They have allowed me to be free from being stuck in a musical box. Im very grateful for that.
I wish you all the luck in everything you do you are truly a talented lady with a lot to share with the world. xo Ericka