Interview with Nicole Atkins

nicole atkins
Nicole Atkins

Interview by Scott Preston

The shores of New Jersey are littered, quite literally, with small towns whose better days are far in the past. They’re towns that have been written about, and sung over; towns that have been mythologized and idealized; and they are the towns that 28-year-old musician Nicole Atkins –a native of Neptune City, located a stones throw from fabled Asbury Park–was born and raised in.

They can be places steeped in their own history, buried under the sense of their own pasts. Places of hey-days and what-once-was. And it’s that sense of something lost, and of what perhaps should have been, and what might be, that permeates Atkins’s debut, Neptune City.

“Neptune City is just this old place,” Nicole says. “There was this glory time, way back when, that I never experienced, but that you cannot escape if you live there. Everyone talks about. They almost yearn for it, but I never experienced it. So maybe this album is my attempt to build something new on top of all that.” (from

Cincy Groove: When did you first pick up the guitar?

Nicole Atkins: Around when I was 13. I found my uncle’s guitar in my parents attic. I didn’t really think about playing guitar before that. I still have it, its a Yamaha childrens learner guitar. The neck on the guitar was really, really wide, so it was hard to play.

Cincy Groove: What were the first songs you learned to play on the guitar?

Nicole Atkins: There were a couple. Harvest Moon from Neil Young, Uncle Johns Band from The Grateful Dead, and Where Did you Sleep Last Night. They are all about 3 chords.

Cincy Groove: How did you hook up with Columbia Records?

Nicole Atkins: I made a demo called “Parties Over”, and put a band together and played out for about a year and started to get pretty popular here in New York. A lot of industry people started coming out and they were one of them.

Cincy Groove: What was it like the first time you talked to Rick Rubin?

Nicole Atkins: Well, I was a little pissed off that my record’s release date was getting pushed back. I probably wasn’t the nicest the person in the world. It turns out he is a really nice guy and what he did with the record was the right thing to do. He was very comfortable to talk to.

Cincy Groove: Who do you consider some of your influences?

Nicole Atkins: The Van Loves, Queen, Neil Young, Roy Orbison, and even bands like Queens of The Stone Age.

Cincy Groove: What was it like to do that American Express commercial?

Nicole Atkins: It was kind of funny considering none of us have very good credit. It was cool because I’ll be able to tell my grandkids one day that I did a commercial. It also enabled me to pay my band for a whole year. There aren’t that many people buying records these days, so every little bit helps. It took about 3 17 hours days to shoot the commercial. After that experience it made me realize actors get every bit of the money they deserve.

Cincy Groove: Did you have fun when you were on the David Letterman show?

Nicole Atkins: That was probably one of the most fun days of my life. The day I was on the show was the same day the album was coming out. We got to do the song we wanted to do on the show, the label wasn’t telling us what to do. It was just a great experience.

Cincy Groove: Your latest record, Neptune City, why did you goto Sweden to record it?

Nicole Atkins: That’s where the producer, Tore Johansson, lives. He had a studio out there, so it was just logistics. I wouldn’t recommend going to Sweden in the winter (laughing). It got dark there at 2 pm everyday. It made New Jersey seem like the Bahamas.

Cincy Groove: What was the last job you had before music became full time?

Nicole Atkins: When I got signed, I was working the door at this club called The Delancy. Before that I was waitressing in just about every restaurant in the East Village. I also did faux painting and murals in peoples homes.

Cincy Groove: What was the name of the first band you were ever in?

Nicole Atkins: the bands name was Whiplash. We were kind of a metal band. We would cover a lot of Metallica and songs along those lines. We would play skate night at the roller rink. We would practice in my parents garage. I think we were in the 7th grade at the time.

Upcoming Nicole Atkins tour dates:
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06/12/2008 Manchester TN USA Bonnaroo Music Festival
06/17/2008 Long Island City NY USA Socrates Sculpture Park
06/18/2008 Troy NY USA Rockin’ on the River
06/28/2008 Borlange Sweden Peace and Love Festival
07/01/2008 Nimes France Arenes Nimes with James Blunt
07/04/2008 London United Kingdom Wireless Festival
07/05/2008 Roskilde Denmark Roskilde Festival
07/07/2008 Amsterdam Netherlands Melkweg
07/12/2008 Edison NJ USA Wiggins Park
07/15/2008 Valley Center CA USA Valley View Casino with Chris Isaak
07/16/2008 San Diego CA USA Humphreys Concerts By The Bay with Chris Isaak
07/18/2008 Saratoga CA USA Mountain Winery with Chris Isaak
07/19/2008 Saratoga CA USA Mountain Winery with Chris Isaak
07/20/2008 Saratoga CA USA Mountain Winery with Chris Isaak
07/22/2008 Portland OR USA Doug Fir Lounge
07/24/2008 Woodinville WA USA Chateau St. Michelle Winery with Chris Isaak
07/25/2008 Seattle-Tacoma WA USA The Triple Door
07/29/2008 Troutdale OR USA Edgefield Winery with Chris Isaak
07/31/2008 Santa Rosa CA USA Wells Fargo Center Of The Arts with Chris Isaak
08/03/2008 Chicago IL USA Lollapalooza
08/09/2008 Jersey City NJ USA Liberty State Park
08/15/2008 Atlantic City NJ USA House Of Blues
08/23/2008 San Francisco-CA USA Golden Gate Park
08/24/2008 San Francisco CA USA Golden Gate Park
09/26/2008 Austin TX USA Austin City Limits Music Festival- Zilker Park
09/27/2008 Austin TX USA Austin City Limits Music Festival- Zilker Park
09/28/2008 Austin TX USA Austin City Limits Music Festival- Zilker Park