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Nicole Atkins

By Gary Wien


Things are moving a bit quickly for Nicole Atkins these days and they're about to move even quicker. It's not often you find a photograph of yourself in the pages of Rolling Stone within a feature on the Top 10 Artists To Watch in 2006. And when that happens, the phone starts ringing... a lot.

Of course, things were moving well for Nicole before the Rolling Stone piece as well. After a series of showcases in New York City, the Neptune native signed a deal with Columbia Records - one of the most prestigious labels around. She has just joined up with a label that carries such legendary artists as Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, and (another Jersey artist from just up the road) Bruce Springsteen.

The label plans to release her EP, "The Party's Over" sometime in late summer and will release her first full-length around the beginning of 2007. For Nicole, the party is truly just getting started.

"Yeah, the party started!" said Nicole Atkins. "Either that or you can look at it like the party's over in ways like I can't fuck around with my friends as much as I want anymore because I have to work."

Columbia was the last of the record labels to see her in a showcase and they weren't expecting much, but it turned out to be the label with the greatest interest. Ironically, one of the label's who earlier had shown a lot of interest in Nicole wound up getting interested in her boyfriend's band, What About Frank?

"It was weird with Island (Records)," recalled Atkins. "I think Island was after me and then I brought one of the people to see Paul's band (What About Frank?) and then they kind of stopped talking to me and started to talk to Paul! But I didn't get too upset at it because I was still talking to so many different people. There were a lot of good dinners!"

Nicole said she had finished her round of showcases just before What About Frank? began their run. This allowed her to offer some tips to those guys from one who had just gone through the same experience. Rather than feeling any competition between the two acts, Nicole says it was just a very exciting time with both acts supportive of each other. In fact, What About Frank? will be heading into the studio as Nicole's backing band for a cover of Shirley Ellis' song, "The Nitty Gritty" - a fun track that might eventually show up as a B-side or an internet download.

"I really don't feel too much competition with anybody because I don't think anybody does what we do," she added.

What they do is make very atmospheric music; dreamy, Pet-Sounds like songs that stand out among today's music. As a former art student, Nicole compares her songwriting to the painting process. "Most of my songs are written in my head with the melody and drums and bass and guitar lines all coming into my head at the same time, so it's almost like painting a picture. You can't paint a good picture with just one color, you need all of them."

Along with painting, her songs seem to reflect her love of movies - especially movies by artful and creative directors like David Lynch and Tim Burton. "They kind of create their own little universes with their movies," explains Atkins. "You can see a freeze frame of one movie and know that it's theirs. With the demos ("The Party's Over"), we tried to create this little atmospheric world instead of just a collection of songs."

Her songs on "The Party's Over" certainly reflect the idea of layering. In fact, she says she worried for a while that she wouldn't be able to find a band that could recreate those songs live. But after a while, she found the right people.
The music won't remind you much of the Jersey Shore sound that people generally think of, but many of her lyrics revolve around growing up here. In fact, one of her most popular songs was written about her hometown.

Looking through comments on Nicole's myspace website, I was surprised to see just how well the song "Neptune City" has resonated with people around the country. I knew people around here loved the song, but I was curious as to whether or not someone from outside New Jersey would feel about it.

But somehow the song captures the place perfectly and people everywhere love it. The song sort of lures people to understand and believe in the town the same way Bruce Springsteen brings you to Asbury Park in his song "(4th of July, Asbury Park) Sandy". Maybe someday Nicole Atkins will be associated with Neptune in the same way Springsteen is linked to Asbury, but for now she's thought of as a Jersey girl and a Brooklynite. A combination that helped lead to the record deal.

There's a dirty little secret that New York doesn't like New Jersey artists. It's a lot easier for a New York band to break into the NJ club scene that vice versus and the entertainment magazines will generally look down on you if you're from over the river. This happened to Nicole at first. Years ago when she first moved to Brooklyn some people wrote her off as just another singer-songwriter from New Jersey. But once she had lived there a few years and built some New York "cred", the same magazines began raving about her!

"Yeah, you've gotta move to Brooklyn," laughs Atkins. "It's funny, some of the other songwriters in the Asbury scene like Jessie Poland and Brian Amsterdam have asked for advice and I'd say, ,Aeoas soon as you graduate high school, move to Brooklyn and then come back'."

She also believes that artists need to feel comfortable with themselves and their music while on stage. When Nicole first started playing live, she remembers trying to convey a certain image. She wore cowboy hats and tried to be cool, but after a while she realized that she wasn't really being herself. Once she made that realization, things started happening.

"It's funny but the more you let loose on stage and the more you be yourself the more you get the crowd with you," said Atkins. "And it's fun."

There was a recent show where Nicole tripped on stage and felt herself going down, but instead of stopping she just let it happened and worked with it. She turned a clumsy moment into an act James Brown would have been proud of. Eventually she convinced the entire crowd to sit on the floor while she played "Neptune City".

"Everybody just sat on the floor and held their girlfriend or boyfriend and then afterwards we all picked each other up and went to the bar and got a beer. It was really fucking cool!"

Someday she's gonna own that town. She's going to own it the same way Bruce owns Asbury Park. Maybe that's why Columbia wanted her...



For more by this author, click here






NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show Comes To SOPAC
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- The Rolling Stones, the greatest Blues band of all time, couldn’t make it to SOPAC on their 2018 tour. Instead, the acclaimed tribute band Classic Stones Live! makes an appearance on the SOPAC stage December 15 at 8:00pm for those who like to hear their Rolling Stones hits live.
Tony Trischka Presents "Of a Winter's Night" at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Of a Winter’s Night is Tony Trischka's acoustic celebration of the holiday season. Based on his CD release of the same name, this concert features Trischka’s considerable melodic inventiveness on a wide variety of seasonal tunes. He turns his inventiveness loose on bluegrass and Americana music for the holidays. This one of a kind concert will take place at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm.
Idle Wave To Hold Record Release Party At Asbury Park Brewery
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Pop-punks Idle Wave will celebrate the release of their self-titled EP on Saturday, December 1st at Asbury Park Brewery.  The record release show also includes performances by Skyeline, Roderick, and Pollyanna.


"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!










Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


MUSIC

New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm







DANCE

PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


FILM

Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

View all events
























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