Every now and then you hear a song by a relatively unknown music artist and wonder, “Why in the world isn’t that song a huge hit?”
That question comes to mind when you hear Nikki Lane’s tune “Highway Queen,” the title track from her 2017 album. Dig in and watch the video for the song that includes chicks on Harleys and Lane driving a jacked up monster truck over a line of parked 1970s sedans and … well, I’ll see you at the show tonight (Wednesday), when Lane takes the stage at the Sunset Concert Series in Sunset Plaza adjacent to the top of Lift 1 in Mountain Village.
Series producer Teddy Errico has featured country artists the last few years. Last year, he asked Brent Cobb for a recommendation.
“Without hesitation, Brent said, ‘You gotta book Nikki Lane,’” Errico recalled. “Whenever a past artist recommends another artist, you do it. Nikki is a real up-and-comer. Tonight’s going to be a special show.”
Lane is a straight-up country-singing, guitar-slinging badass who Marissa Moss from Rolling Stone referred to as “inspirations cased in a streetwise, modern shell that’s as unapologetic as Johnny Cash’s middle finger.”
Lane was born in Greenville, South Carolina. Her father laid asphalt during blistering South Carolina summers. Lane remembers days sitting on the asphalt roller watching her father work alongside a fellow worker named Rooster. “My father thought he was a country singer,” Lane said. “He partied hard at night, but by 6:30 a.m. he was out on the roads in 100-degree weather. That’s the Southern work ethic.”
Lane dropped out of high school and worked as a fashion designer for a time, before moving to Los Angeles and then on to New York City. A country singer she was dating left her, and that devastating experience inspired her to move to Nashville and begin writing country music songs.
“Due to my upbringing, creativity was an unthinkable luxury,” she’s said. “When people told me I should try to get a record deal for songs I was writing, I was like, ‘That’s cute. I’ve got to be at work at 10 a.m.’ Becoming a songwriter is one of the most selfish things I’ve ever done.”
In 2011, Lane released her debut album, “Walk of Shame,” which garnered the attention of the Black Keys Dan Auerbach, who produced Lane’s second record. The two met at a flea market. Auerbach invited Lane to record the record at Easy Eye Sound Studio for free. “All or Nothin’” features a duet between Lane and Auerbach called “Love’s on Fire.”
Lane followed with her 2017 album “Highway Queen,” which was recorded near Dallas at The Echo Lab with Lane’s boyfriend Jonathan Tyler, as well as the other members of her current touring band. The album combines powerful lyrics, twangy guitars and unbridled swagger.
Two music videos were released ahead of the album’s release; the aforementioned “Highway Queen” and “Jackpot,” in which Lane and Jonathan Tyler successfully romp through Las Vegas, ultimately resulting in a Vegas chapel wedding.
In another video for the song “Send The Sun,” Lane and the band play live on a vintage country television studio set as she also performs a two-person dance routine.
Unfortunate circumstances struck Lane’s band around the time of recording “Highway Queen,” when lead guitarist Alex Munos was sidelined by cancer and started receiving treatment in May 2016. He would later recover and return to the band around the time of the release of “Highway Queen.”
Sadly, in July 2017 former drummer Ben Eyestone passed away from colon cancer. He had played drums on Lane’s first two albums and had to leave the band due to his illness.
Lane is still touring the country supporting “Highway Queen” and converting fans one two-step at a time. “Am I excited to spend years of my life in a van, away from family and friends?” Lane said frankly. “No, but I’m excited to share my songs, so they’ll reach people and help them get through whatever they’re going through. To me, that’s worth it.”