Outsider A-Side: Nikki Lane Opens Up About Her Self-Reflective New Album ‘Denim & Diamonds’

by Clayton Edwards

Listening to Nikki Lane’s music is like walking into a vintage shop. Everything seems fresh but familiar while offering a window into a bygone era. Her sound combines traditional country music with classic rock and more attitude than you can shake a stick at. Since introducing the world to that sound in 2011 with her debut album Walk of Shame, Lane has been making a name for herself in the Americana and modern Outlaw Country worlds. Her follow-up albums All or Nothin’ (2014) and Highway Queen (2017) expanded on her signature sound and further carved out her place in the music world.

This Friday, September 23, Nikki Lane will release her fourth studio album. Denim & Diamonds sees the South Carolina native leaning heavily into the vintage rock that once only colored her classic country sound. As a result, this album is a little heavier than her previous work. However, it is no less of a representation of who she is as an artist.

Ahead of the release of Denim & Diamonds, Nikki Lane sat down with Outsider to talk about the new album, her evolved sound, and more.

Nikki Lane on the Heavier Sound of Denim & Diamonds

Nikki Lane: I think I’ve been craving that kind of direction for a long time. I listen to arguably more rock & roll-inspired music than I do country. I have my country favorites and people come along, but there’s an entire half of country music – the pop-country genre – that I just don’t even listen to. So, I’ve always kind of leaned into the rock vibe. I never wanted to be boxed into anything. In the Americana and Outlaw world, I’m very happy to be there and comfortable being there. But, I’ve always wanted to explore doing whatever I want.

Working with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age

Nikki Lane: I wanted to find a producer to work with that excited me. I felt like I was at a low point in being creative and I knew what I wanted to make. So, I needed someone to pull me out of that like a muse or someone I would respect.

With our first call, I knew that we had bonded with the approach to the creative process. Also, the songs I showed him, he thought he could do something cool with. He also seemed really focused on helping me figure out what I wanted to sound like. In turn, I got a record that I think sounds the most like me so far.

Realizations and Decisions

Nikki Lane: I think one of the things I was identifying [during the pandemic] was that I didn’t know if I wanted to play music anymore or how often I wanted to play music anymore. I was just tired of the repetitiveness. I wanted it to feel thrilling. Shows are great. I go do shows and talk to fans and I remember why I do my job. But, you just get tired.

I think that in this record as I was complaining about my hometown and the things that seemed like a thorn in my side growing up, I had to stop and reflect. It was like, “Wait a minute.” Everything I like about what I do came from that, too. I think as I started to make peace with things that seemed like flaws before. The things that were rubbing me the wrong way suddenly became part of a necessary narrative. I think I just needed to come to terms with that stuff. Ultimately, the reason songwriting is a part of my life in the first place is because it’s how I cope with things that happen.

 In some ways, I feel really proud about this record. Because I feel like I’ve accepted a lot about me just by finishing this body of work.

Nikki Lane Picks Favorites  

Nikki Lane: It’s hard for me to have favorites. My first and foremost favorite is “First High” because I made a rock single. I listened to it over and over on repeat and I love that song. The reason that those ten songs made it to the record is because they all rose to the top. They’re all important in different ways.

“Good Enough,” I think, now, is my sweetest song. A little longer in the tooth than “Send the Sun” but easily the sweetest and most gentle sentiment I’ve ever offered up. So, I love it for that. I wrote the song in kind of what I pictured to be vows and I wrote it with my grandparents in mind.

“Good Enough”

Also, I love “Live/Love”. It’s so short and simple but it tells a long, dark story for myself and what I yearn for – just a simple life where I can live and love. So, I think that those are little hidden gems. I’m just really in love with this record and could give you a reason why all of them are my favorite.

Quality Over Quantity

Nikki Lane: Most of the time, I don’t even write a song in my phone until I would consider it a bit of an earworm. So, I’m not writing very far in excess of what I have in mind.

I have friends that say “Oh yeah, we took 100 in and landed with 10.” There are people that are way more prolific than me. I’m not in any way insinuating that one way is better or worse than the other. But, If I had 100 good songs, I’d be super famous by now.

I never have that many extra songs. Right now, I’ve got a whole country record I want to go make. I’ve got about six songs and I need about six more. And, I know I’ve got about ten or twelve that are hiding. But, I won’t go write twenty. I’ll write about six then go do it.