It's a cold winter day in February. I drive to work and I'm station surfing looking for something to spark up some heat into my bones. I stop on a station I'd not listened to before, but they're playing a song I haven't heard in a long time. Okay so I'm singing some warmth into my body, but I need more... And as I sit there, I'm suddenly taken over with this unexpected pounding coming from the speakers! The skies darken and her voice is bewitching, "Careful where you walk"... "Vultures circle in"... My heart is pounding to the beat of every instrument and I don't know who she is, but I'm going to sit here until I do!
It's a hot spring day in May 2011 and I'm sitting next to that voice that had me so bewitched. I now know who she is, Nicole Atkins, and I am visiting her at her home! She's playing her latest and second album, "Mondo Amore" and I sit here taken over by the admiration I have for this young woman and her talent. She's not just another voice. There's flesh and bones of course, but there's so much heart in her lyrics. A deep soulful sound, there's that darkness, but with a light at the end of the tunnel.
I feel life is all about connections, like a game of connect the dots, forming lines, curves, and circles, until you finally get the big picture. Throughout my life I've always tried to connect to others and find what common ground we share. I felt it for the first time as I heard her music, and as she speaks of herself it's nice to find we share that common ground.
Nicole Atkins was born on October 1, 1978, in Neptune, New Jersey. I guess that explains why she feels a connection to the ocean. I asked her at what age she knew she wanted to be an artist to which she replied, "Always, as early as I can remember. See there?" She was pointing to something on an armchair over by the corner. "That's my blanky, I used to wrap it around me, answer the door and say, 'Hello Mr. Mail Man!'"
She named great artists such as Judy Garland, Nina Simone, Mama Cass, Linda Ronstadt, Crystal Gayle, Joe Cocker, Robert Plant, Nick Cave and The Who as her musical influences. Also, another amazing woman whom she was fortunate to meet, Stevie Nicks. She said when she was about to be introduced to her, she was trying to play it cool, talk herself through it and when the moment came, "The first words that came out of my mouth were, I love you man, LOL."
She also spoke about being involved with a special cause post Hurricane Katrina called "Sweet Home New Orleans" which helped to raise money in order to rebuild homes for New Orlean's musicians. Although "Mondo Amore" is her second album, she's been performing for about 10 years and has around 20 tours under her belt with artists such as The Black Keys and Chris Isaac. Aside from her passion for music and her philanthropic interests, she strongly supports gay rights, gay marriages and feels we should have the same rights. She spoke about her immense appreciation for her gay/lesbian fans and remembers how the gay community in Asbury Park, New Jersey embraced her in the years she spent there. She has an amazing idea for a music mentoring program, that she would like to put together there. A program that would teach children not only about music but poetry as well. She proudly mentioned things her fans had sent her, like a set of maracas, and even stranger things such as a vulture's foot and a pen made out of a marijuana stem.
Nicole Atkins's album "Mondo Amore" was released in February, 2011, and from the first track, "Vultures", to the final track, "The Tower", it's pumped with not only "Amore", but passion, mesmerizing vocals and brilliant compositions!
She and her band begin touring at the end of this month. You can get the tour dates and more of Nicole on her website, http://www.nicoleatkins.com/.
I want to thank her so much for welcoming us into her home and taking time from her busy schedule to chat with QNY. If the world is not in love with this creatively talented woman yet, well, they will be... soon!
Pictures By Olga Torres