Nicole Atkins – Q&A

While at home in Nashville in lockdown like the rest of us, Nicole Atkins talked with QRO. ...
Nicole Atkins : Q&A

Nicole Atkins : Q&A

While at home in Nashville in lockdown like the rest of us, Nicole Atkins talked with QRO.  In the long conversation, Atkins discussed her “Alone We’re All Together” livestreams (Saturdays at 7:00 PM EST), her upcoming new record Italian Ice, working in Muscle Shoals, recruiting guests, itching to tour, always writing, family, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, VHS, New Jersey Transit, Better Off Dead, and much, much more…



QRO: How are you holding up with everything that is going on?

Nicole Atkins: All things considered, I’m doing well.  I’m keeping myself busy, and distracted, and just working on stuff.  Working on art work, doing a show every Saturday, to have something to entertain people with.

When I first, ‘Should I do a show from home?’, all the technology was breaking.  Me & my husband [Ryan McHugh] were yelling at each other – it was awful.

But then, when I saw my whole family in the comments, and I realized that they knew how to work YouTube…  Seeing “Connie Atkins comments” or “Arthur Atkins: This is the hot steaming deal!”  I was like, ‘Oh my god – they’re all here!’  It made my night.  It gives me something to look forward to every weekend.

When the guests are on, I check the comments.

My aunt Angela just learned how to use it.  My mom – she’s so sweet, but she’s so overboard, all the time.  She’s like, “I gotta tell her how to use it,” and I was like, “No – don’t…”  And she goes, “She loves you!”  “I know, I love her too.”  Every comment – I was like, “Angela, you gotta chill, please…”

My dad, when Oliver Wood played, from The Wood Brothers, he was playing this Little Willie John song, my dad’s like, “This is the grease right here.  This is the smokestack.”  And I was like, “Shut up, dad – What are you talking about?…” [laughs] He’s using all these hip blues lingo, and I thought it was really funny.

Nicole Atkins’ first “Alone We’re All Together” (April 11th):

QRO: What’s it like in Nashville right now?

NA: Beautiful.  It’s a beautiful day.  So that really helps.

When it’s a nice day out, that definitely helps you maintain a, ‘Okay, now sit on my porch…’

I know how serious this is.  I’ve lost some friends.  I’ve lost my grandfather during this.  The only thing that I can do is do everything I can to keep my spirits up.  Working on things, talking to friends…  Concentrating on making art, and not thinking about the future.  And just knowing: we all gotta ride this out, you know?

People that are complaining, I know, it’s hard to completely change your life, and it’s scary.

Remember the scene in Goodfellas, when they all went to jail, but they could cook?  I remember that scene, ‘cause I was so young, ‘Man, jail looks awesome!’  It’s just like that, but you’re not in jail.  It’s all fine.

You’ve gotta look for the positives in everything, you know.  Because if you don’t, you can ride out the worst-case scenario, and not have a good time.  You’ve gotta choice.

QRO: Have you checked in on things in [hometown] Neptune City?

NA: [My parents] are still home, and I worry, because they’re so old school.  They’re all like, ‘Oh, yeah, your aunt’s coming over, your cousin’s coming over.’  I’m like, ‘No…  Tell them to stay home…’

It’s gardening season, so they get really into planting their flowers and stuff.  So hopefully they’ll just stay home.


Nicole Atkins’ “Alone We’re All Together” (May 16th, 7:00 PM EST):

QRO: Where did making the “Alone We’re All Together” livestreams come from?

NA: When we were here, it was like, all of our shows were cancelled.

So, it kind of came from a, ‘I need to do something, so I don’t think about all of my touring getting cancelled.’

I also wanted to do something because, the guys in my band, they don’t write songs.  I mean, my guitar player does, but he doesn’t have a fan base.  I wanted to do something where I could make a little extra money, that I could give them.

They were really excited to have all this work.  And I love them.  I just want them to be cool.

It took a while to work out the technical sides, and the first couple shows were like, ‘Oh God, this is horrible!’  But we worked it out.  Now it’s become something I look forward to.

QRO: How do you go about recruiting your guest stars?

NA: I just think of who I would like to have on, and call them & I ask them.  If they say no, I don’t take it personally, but most of the time, they don’t.

I know how serious this is. I’ve lost some friends. I’ve lost my grandfather during this. The only thing that I can do is do everything I can to keep my spirits up.

QRO: Are they all people you already knew?

NA: Some of them I know, and some of them, I know peripherally.

Like, next week, there’s the guy Shamir, in Philly.  He came to one of my shows, and posted a video on Instagram, and I was like, ‘Holy crap, you’re cool!  How are you here?’  And he’s like, ‘I grew up listening to your music.’

I’ve just been reaching out to people.  Some of them I’m really close with, and others are people I just want to get to know.

That’s kinda how I’ve approached co-writing, too.  If I wanna get to know somebody better, I’ll just ask them to write a song.  Because you get to know people on a different level, when you’re not just like, ‘Hey, let’s get together and awkwardly eat food in front of each other…’  I don’t wanna eat food in front of strangers… [laughs]

Nicole Atkins’ “Alone We’re All Together” (May 9th):

QRO: Did you already have a home studio, or did you set one up for this?

NA: No, we rigged it.

My attic, we mostly just use that for when bands or friends come into town.  Never really go up there.

I just bought a bunch of fun party decorations off of Amazon & eBay, and just stapled them to the wall.

My husband, luckily, is a front of house sound engineer.  Hence the fighting – because I would have been like, ‘Yeah, just rip it, let’s do it…’  And he’s like, ‘No…’ [laughs]

It’s hard for a lot of bands, having to be ‘mini-TV’ – everybody’s like Wayne’s World right now…

QRO: Why did you make it you + guest stars & recorded bits, rather than just a ‘straight livestream’?

NA: ‘Cause I was just thinking, unless you’re at a show, feeling that physical energy, I kind of get distracted.  I’m also really ADD, so I just wanted to make it kinda what would keep me interested.

I like so many different types of music, so I wanted to have people that are well-known, and then a friend that’s really talented that no one ever gets to hear.  I try to have one person every week that nobody really knows about.  I love turning people on to stuff – that’s my favorite thing.

And then, the short film thing, I just saw my friend Sammy sent me some videos, and I was like, ‘These are so cool!’

So, I was thinking almost a mix of Jools Holland with no budget, Wayne’s World, and Pee-wee’s Playhouse. [laughs]

And then, when I just sing to just the instrumental tracks to my records, there’s just some songs that the arrangements are so important, and they’re not solo guitar songs.  So, I figure, it’s TV…

I love being a frontperson.  I think there’s definitely a time & a place for full shows, but for something that I can keep my mind wrapped into, it’s nice to just keep it moving.

Nicole Atkins’ “Alone We’re All Together” (May 2nd):


QRO: Are you itching for Italian Ice to finally come out?

NA: Yes!  Yeah, I’ve been sitting on it for a long time, and it’s a really album.  Every song has a story, and a point, and they all go together really well.

QRO: A lot of artists have had to push back their release dates due to corona – Ice is still coming out relatively early, before the big fall rush…

NA: A lot of people, and it’s logical, but then I thought, ‘Well, everybody’s doing that…’

And people are home right now.  They’re listening to things deeper, ‘cause they have time to.  If this was an album that just has a couple singles on it, that would make sense to push it back, but it’s a real album to sit at home with.  So, I wanted to people to have something, while they’re locked down.

And also, I made it because – before all this, even, on the news was just one horrible thing after another, and I just wanted to make a record that was going to make me feel better, you know?

I think the things that make me feel better aren’t super unique or personal, but the Jersey Shore boardwalk makes me feel better.  Summer time vacation, boardwalk, carnival rides…  I want it to evoke a feeling of that, to take people away.

QRO: And you want to have it out during the summer, with a name like Italian Ice

NA: It’s a summer record.  Definitely gives the ‘warm & fuzzies.’  And I think people need as much warm & fuzzy as they can get right now.

QRO: How was making Italian Ice?

NA: It was the funnest experience I’ve ever had making a record.

When we decided to make it, I was on my porch, with Binky Griptite, from the Dap-Kings, writing together for his solo record.  We went out and met Roxanne Oldham, Spooner’s daughter, ‘cause she was in town.  I was like, ‘What do you have going on?’  She’s like, ‘It’s my dad’s birthday.  He turns 75, and we’re having a big concert at the Shoals Theater.’  And I was like, ‘Wow – we wanna go to that.’  And she was like, ‘You wanna sing at it?’

So, I sang at it.  With him, and Dan Penn, Blind Boys of Alabama, William Bell, Charlie Hodges, from Al Green’s band.  It was just so fun.  And they all felt just so comfortable & cool.  We became friends.

They were talking to the guys at my label – because they’re in Muscle Shoals, Single Lock.  They were like, ‘We should make a record with her.  She’s fun.’

So, I thought, in order to make a record with these guys, I wanted to, since I was co-producing, I wanted to bring in people that I’ve worked with for the last ten years of my life, in different ways.  So, Jim [Sclavunos] & [David] Moose [Sherman] of Bad Seeds – Jim & Moose & I have been writing together, forever.

All the guys had never been to the Shoals.  And I was writing with Britt [Daniel of Spoon], and he’s like, ‘You’re doing it down there with them?  I wanna go…’  And so, I was like, ‘Come on!’

Binky came, and McKenzie [Smith] from Midlake played drums.  We always wanted to make a record together, so it just all happened.  And none of them ever met before.

I couldn’t sleep for days before, ‘cause I was like, ‘What did I do?!?  What if this doesn’t work, and everybody’s from such different backgrounds…’

But everything that is special about the way each of these guys play, in my head, it all works together.  And then, it did.

We did everything live.  From four o’clock to eleven o’clock, every day, for five days, we just cut everything live.  In between, David & Spooner would tell us these amazing stories, about Janis Joplin, and Mavis Staples, and Paul Simon.  It was just so cool.  It was just such an experience.

QRO: Was it intimidating, recording at the historic Muscle Shoals Sound Studio?

NA: You know what, it didn’t feel intimidating, but it felt wonderous.

It was like, ‘Wow, we’re here.  We’re here where they made the Traffic records.’  Traffic, when I heard their records, I was like, ‘I wanna make records.’  Because that John Barleycorn [Must Die] record, it’s just got so much life in it.  To this day, when I put it on, and I haven’t heard it in a while, I’m just like, ‘Wooh, yeah!’

I feel like anything that is something that I’m a fan of, if I get to do it, it doesn’t feel intimidating.  It just feels like, ‘Fuck yeah!’ [laughs]

Cooking is intimidating to me… [laughs]


Nicole Atkins playing “Hotel Plaster” at Bowery Ballroom in New York, NY on February 9th, 2011:

QRO: Are you also itching to tour?

NA: Absolutely!  Playing live shows is the reason I started doing music to begin with.

I consider myself an entertainer, first.  I just love the element of getting on stage and not knowing what’s going to happen.

Even being in a band that’s mid-level, and we don’t have a crew, and everything’s not really planned, and I change the set list every night, checking out the crowd, and seeing, ‘Okay, what can we do to them tonight?’  It keeps it so [snaps] fresh to me.

Even that show we do in our attic, the live element of it, and everything’s like, ‘Okay, we gotta get this guest in – and we’re back!’  It just fills up that need for putting yourself in the present moment.

I miss hecklers, I miss certain jokes that we do in the middle of songs, bossing the crowd around and seeing what I can get them to do.  I’m like, ‘Get on the floor!  Get on the floor!  Everybody!  You too, Trevor – get on the floor!’ [laughs] It’s fun.

For now, the thing I can think about for that, is when we do get back, it’s like now I have time at home to really craft the perfect show that I wanna put on.  Because before, we were like, ‘Okay, we know the songs.  Now let’s go do them.’  Then it’s like, ‘Okay, we’re not going.’  I’m like, ‘Okay – we can just work on getting better.’

QRO: Does “Alone We’re All Together” at least scratch some of that itch?

NA: Totally.

‘Cause I remember, when I do read the comments, I’m like, ‘Okay, that little eye of the lens – those are people.  It’s not a camera.’

My neighbor does the camera stuff, and my husband does the sound.  So, I’ll be making terrible jokes, and just seeing them like [makes ‘ugh’ face].  I’m able to imagine myself into it.

And it’s actually made me learn, maybe this is something I wanna do, moving forward.  Interview people, too.

I saw this one artist that I love, who I’m Facebook friends with, Gary Panter.  He did all the artwork & set design for Pee-wee’s Playhouse.  He was like, ‘I just finished my last class,’ and I commented, because I’m a visual artist too, ‘I’d love to take a class from you.’  And he was like, ‘You don’t need a class.’  ‘Well, I’d just love to talk to you about art.’  And then he messaged me, and he was like, ‘Are you serious?  I’d love to talk to you any time.’  So, I’m like, ‘Cool…’

The thing that I love the most, and that was a thing I noticed a lot in the making of Italian Ice: all the people that were there, I wrote songs with ‘cause I wanted to learn from ‘em.  I wanted to, one, learn about their life, but also learn about how they approach music.  Now I’m getting to talk to musicians & artists, and just seeing what compels you to do this.  I just love learning about things from people.

If I wanna get to know somebody better, I’ll just ask them to write a song.

QRO: Have you been writing/making music during all of this?

NA: We just finished this kid’s song; it’s crazy!

My manager was like, ‘Okay, can you write an original kid’s song for Amazon?’  And I was like, ‘Sure!’  And then I was like, ‘Wait – what’s kid’s music like these days?’  And I went on Spotify, and was like, ‘Oh, this is terrible!’  It’s like, “I am a mommy shark…” – This is so stupid!

I’ve been Zooming with my three best friends from high school.  It’s nice – ‘cause we’re still close friends, but we never get to see each other, because they have multiple kids.  One works for the governor in New Jersey, the other works in social work, and the other is a biologist – her & her husband is on the virus laboratory for the flu since ’99.

So, I called them when I saw it happening in Seattle, ‘cause my touring was coming up, and I was like, ‘Is this gonna affect me?  Because we start over there.’  And they’re like, ‘Nicole, everything’s gonna be cancelled for the next year.’  And they told me that they were trying to tell the White House since January.  And I was like, ‘But why didn’t they do anything?’  And they’re like, ‘Why do you think?  The economy…’

I knew it!  I called my dad – they were in Florida – I was like, ‘Dad, you guys gotta get home!’  And he’s like, ‘Don’t make this political!  I don’t need to hear this shit!’

And now, lo & behold, I’m like, ‘Remember Kristen & Scotty that you just love, that were my best friends growing up?  I think you should listen to them, because they’re scientists, over what you see on the news…’

When I’m Zooming with them, I was like, ‘Okay, what do your kids care about?’  And it was funny: most of the things that they care about, are things that I care about.  Pizza, and tacos, and that slime that you play with.  I totally love that shit.

And so, I made this song that kinda sounded like J.J. Fad.  J.J. Fad had that song, “Supersonic”.  It’s kind of a “Breakdance Song”, because their kids love breakdancing, too.  It’s breakdancing, meets Deee-Lite, meets Pee-Wee Herman.  There’s some [Pee-Wee Herman “ahh” impression] parts in it.  It’s really fun.

It’s about pizza Fridays.

QRO: Pizza Fridays – nice!

It’s a summer record. Definitely gives the ‘warm & fuzzies.’ And I think people need as much warm & fuzzy as they can get right now.

You said that was for Amazon.  Are you also writing your own music?

NA: I’m always writing my own stuff.

Before Goodnight, Rhonda Lee (QRO review), I spent every record that I made – when I made my first record, it was ‘cause I wrote all the time.

It came from when I graduated college, I played a show at this venue called The Saint in Asbury Park.  It’s a great venue, and they’re totally in trouble right now.  Like everybody is, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, no!…’

Because when I graduated college, I was always in other people’s bands, in college.  I sang with other people’, and I played rhythm guitar, but I never wrote.  I went to Scott at The Saint, and I was like, ‘Hey, can I play a gig here?  ‘Cause I just love playing, in front of people.’  And he was like, ‘Well, we only do original music.  Do you write your own songs?’  And I lied to him.  I was like, ‘Oh, yeah…’

And so, I wrote eight songs in two weeks.  And I was like, ‘Oh, wait, I can do this!’  So, I just kept writing.

And then, when my first record came out, I didn’t write.  I just toured, ‘cause I wasn’t used to any of it.  And then I did that for the next one, and the next one.  Every time, it was like, ‘Okay, we need another record.’  I was like, ‘Oh god, who am I, how do I do this?!?’

So, I was like, ‘I’m just gonna keep writing, throughout the whole time I tour.’  Because I don’t want to have to work on those muscles again, and have that like, ‘Am I still a writer?’ moment, you know?

So, it’s like, if you don’t keep working on it, it goes away, and it takes a while to get back.

It would be nice to have a group of songs for an EP, when we’re allowed outside.

I consider myself an entertainer, first. I just love the element of getting on stage and not knowing what’s going to happen.

QRO: Are you tilting more towards happy or sad songs?

NA: I like to go the pendulum between the two.

I like to do dramatically, drastically fifties melodrama, sad songs, and really happy songs, that still have a bit of a cool strut to them, that are about horrible things, but you can dance to it.

I think that song “Captain”, on the record, is the first ‘nice love song’ I’ve ever written.  Because I’m like, ‘How do you do this?’  And somebody’s like, ‘Think of Stevie Wonder.  He can write a love song, and it’s beautiful, and it’s not corny.’

I tried that for years, but it’s happening naturally now, ‘cause I feel that way.  I’m not wondering what’s wrong with my feelings on longer relationships.  I’m just like, ‘Oh, this is nice…’ [laughs]

And it’s not nice in a ‘me, me, me’ way.  It’s nice in a, ‘What can I do for you?’ way.  ‘How can I help you?’


Nicole Atkins’ video for “Captain”:

QRO: Speaking of “Captain”, how was making the video for it?

NA: It was so fast!  We did it in like an hour.

We went to the mall.  I bought a bunch of clothes – that I returned.  Hopefully no shop people are gonna watch this…

I got my make-up done at Sephora.  I was like, ‘I’m gonna buy these.  Can you do my make-up?’  And they were like, ‘Sure.’

Went into the studio, and they just put the wind on me.  The song was on fast-forward, and I just lip-synched it.  It was so fast-forwarded that I was just like, ‘Use all of the emotions in your face to do this.’

I did it, and I was like, ‘Wow, this looks boring.’  And I realized you gotta ‘drama it up,’ for effect.

I feel like any video I make is always gonna have a comedic edge.  Because that’s what I’m good at.  I like to do that.  I can’t really get super serious looking, or be like sexy or whatever, because it just feels like, ‘Ugh.’  Faking the funk.  But if it has to be kind of funny & cheeky, then totally.

QRO: How do you get that ‘VHS quality’ video effect?

NA: Josh Shoemaker, that did the video, he found this guy that makes these ‘analog mixing boards.’  It’s a mixing board – it glitches everything in an early way.

We did it, and cut it together, and then he just melted everything by hand.

It was cool.  I wanna get one.  I don’t even know to do that shit, but I wanna learn.

The thing that I love the most, and that was a thing I noticed a lot in the making of Italian Ice: all the people that were there, I wrote songs with ‘cause I wanted to learn from ‘em.

QRO: I can remember the VHS…

NA: The video store was my favorite!  Their horror section was amazing!  I became obsessed with horror movies.

The guy that worked there was this gay guy who was super into theater, that my brother went to high school with.  And I loved theater.  And I would just go there, and hang out.  He’d be kind of mean to me, but he loved me.

Every talent show we had, I’d go in there, and he’d do all the choreography in the video store, for my act.  He’d be like, ‘Okay, this year, you’re gonna do Xanadu.’  And so, he’d be like, ‘Figure Eight!  Box Step!’  And then somebody would walk in, and we’d stop.

I have this scar on my hand, from doing this dance move, from getting stuck on one of the racks.  And I was like, ‘Aah!!!’  But it’s always there, and I’m like, ‘Yeah…’

I miss the video store.

QRO: They were kind of like record stores…

NA: Record shops, totally!

I loved horror movies.  I like being scared.

That’s what I was even saying, even about live shows: when shit goes wrong, that’s my favorite.  ‘Cause it gives you an opportunity to make something out of nothing.

Me & Adam [Weiner, of Low Cut Connie] were doing a show at The Saint.  It was just me & him playing solo.  He always brings his piano with him.  Which, god bless him; I guess that’s how he keeps in shape.  ‘Cause I’m like, ‘Man, I love being just a singer.  Don’t gotta carry shit…’

We were setting up, and a lightning bolt hit the transformer in Asbury Park, so the power went out.  There was a line around the block, but there was no power.  We’re like, ‘I don’t know what we’re gonna do…’

And so, he pulls his piano out on the sidewalk.  We bring a bunch of candles out, and everybody’s out on the street, gathered around.  We just sang songs, with the piano, and the candle light.

And then, when the lights went back on, everybody’s like, ‘Yeah!’  We were like, ‘All right!  Give us a few minutes, and we’ll put on a show!’

Those pictures, those are the pictures I keep, you know?

‘Okay, what do your kids care about?’ And it was funny: most of the things that they care about, are things that I care about. Pizza, and tacos, and that slime that you play with. I totally love that shit.

QRO: Have you checked the messages on the number listed on-screen in the “Captain” video?

NA: So, the messages, I still haven’t gotten through them all.  There are like fifty I have to go through.

I didn’t check them for a while, and then I checked them, and I was like, ‘Holy shit!’  It’s like confessional.  People break really deep on there.

So, I got through twenty of them, and I was like, ‘Okay, I gotta take a break.’  It’s a lot to take on.

Lot of people talk about my music getting them through their dad dying, and then they sang my song at their dad’s wake.  Or they were quitting drinking, and it’s what they listen to every time they want to drink, so they can get through it.  And I’m like, ‘Wow…’

And other ones are just really funny.

One is kinda weird.  “So, the captain in my life?  I don’t know.  I’m single.  I don’t really have one.  I’m sure you’re taken, right?…”

There’s always stuff like that.  And it’s usually somebody my dad’s age.  I’m just like, ‘Dude, why?…’

QRO: Maybe he’s reminded of when he was younger.  Especially as the video looks like it was from the eighties…

NA: Yeah.  I think too, the idea of celebrity, back in that day, was so different.

Nowadays, with the internet, everybody in entertainment are just like normal people, but probably can’t sell insurance?  They have a weird thing that they can do and make money from, you know?

But people think, like, ‘Linda Ronstadt – I have her poster on my wall!  But now I can say what I want to her…’

When you get comments like, ‘I’m really glad I can see your figure again…’  It’s like, ‘Eww!  Okay, now I’m gonna wear my burka, every day…’ [laughs]

I like to do dramatically, drastically fifties melodrama, sad songs, and really happy songs, that still have a bit of a cool strut to them, that are about horrible things, but you can dance to it.

I gotta get through more of those messages.  It’s just like, I remember seeing my therapist once, in New York, when I used to live there.  She’s the most bubbly, sweet woman in the world – I love her!  But I saw her walking down the street, alone.  She didn’t see me, but her face was like [anguished face], so sad, and traumatized.  Just thinking about all the problems she must hear all day, and taking that on.

I was talking to a friend about being a lead singer.  When you’re performing live, you’re singing about a lot of things that were dramatic and hard to get through, and you wrote a song so you could get through it, or at least make something beautiful out of it.  But singing it every night, it does stack up…

When people are like, ‘Oh, singers are crazy!’  Singers have to emotionally go through it every single night of their life.

I never thought about that, though, until they brought that up.  I was like, ‘Shit – that’s what’s wrong with me…’ [laughs]

Nicole Atkins’ video for “Domino”:

QRO: And how was making the video for “Domino”?

NA: That was actually really hard, ‘cause it was freezing.

It was freezing, and the video, we were trying to base it off of Saturday Night Fever.  Shoestring budget, just my friend Taylor [McFadden] and Josh.  We had a day to do it.  It was sunny, thankfully, but it was freezing.

And so, I was just trying to pretend like I’m super-cool, just grooving through my town, and I’m freezing!

But the funny part was when we got on the train.  I was like, ‘Let’s just go.  I got our train tickets.  Let’s go.’  And we got on, and there’s barely any people, and I’m like, ‘Alright,’ I’m dancing through the train.

Then one of the conductors walked in, and I’m like, ‘Is this okay?  I’m sorry…’

Luckily, my cousin works for New Jersey Transit.  And I’m like, ‘Do you know Sorenson?’  And they’re like, ‘Yeah.’  ‘That’s my cousin!’  And they’re like, ‘Well, I mean, it’s fine anyway…’

And then, another train, all these people were watching.  I’m like, ‘I’m sorry – I have to go for this.’  At first, I was like, ‘Oh no, is this weird?  Do they think I’m weird?’  I’m like, ‘You can’t think about them right now.  You just have to go for it.  Because we need this shot…’

And then, they’re like, ‘Station stop: Bradley Beach. [fart noise]’  They kept making fart noises at every train stop.  It was just so funny.

That’s one of the things we did with the kid’s song.  At the end of the night, ‘cause we were like, ‘Oh, we gotta get this done.’  And then I was like, ‘Can you just tape an overdub of me, doing fart percussion through the whole song, to send to mixer, just to make him laugh?’

And I did it, and it was on beat, [fart noise].  I just hear Ryan in the other room, and then I just started dying laughing.

Low-brow humor is the best.

Nicole Atkins’ video for “Brokedown Luck”:

QRO: The video for “Domino” was in seventies style, Saturday Night Fever, “Captain” eighties, with VHS – next up, maybe a nineties-style video, like something you’d see on 120 Minutes?…

NA: Oh man, I kind of feel like that’s kinda what the attic shows are.

The next video we’re doing, it won’t be out for a while, but it’s a video for “Forever”.

Late eighties – remember Better Off Dead, John Cusack?  Remember when he’s cooking the hamburger, at his shitty fry crook job, and it turns into a Claymation David Lee Roth hamburger, singing, “Everybody wants some!”

I have these puppet makers, animator & Claymation artist that are friends in Philly, that did my last video for “Brokedown Luck”, with all the puppets.  ‘Yeah, we have nothing to do…’

They’re making a full animated Claymation puppet set, and I’m green-screening my parts from here, and sending it to them.  The one line in the song, “He smells like forever,” but we’re flipping it around and making it about breakfast.

So, I wake up in ‘The Land of Breakfast.’  I’m walking hand-in-hand with Mr. Waffle, and swing him around, and I hold him up, and I go into kiss him & then I bite his head off, and he looks at me smiling, ‘cause that’s why he exists.  He just exists for me to enjoy him for breakfast.


I feel like any video I make is always gonna have a comedic edge. Because that’s what I’m good at.


QRO: You’re doing your own livestream – have you been watching other people’s?

NA: Who’s have I seen?  Not really.

I watch Kevin Morby & Katie Crutchfield’s Instagram on Thursdays.  I watch Lola Kirke’s Variety Hour on Instagram.

What else?  Jarvis Cocker, he DJs a dance party.  He’s always breaking shit, and not knowing how to do it, but then when he gets it, he’s like, ‘Yeah!’  I love that.  I love mistakes.

I’ve been listening to him read [Richard] Brautigan, In Watermelon Sugar.  He reads from him every Sunday night.

I’ve been listening to Jehnny Beth read some from her book, from Savages.

I watched some of the Nick Cave Bad Seeds TV stuff.

That’s the cool thing about right now.  There’a a lot out there, and there’s a lot of artists providing content that’s not just, “What’s up, everybody!?!”

QRO: “Like & subscribe…”

NA: Yeah, they’re actually like, ‘Here’s me making stuff.’

I think that’s the big difference between social media influencers.  They’re like, “Hi guys, it’s Britney!”  Then like artists, where it’s like, ‘Okay, I think I hit this button.  And I’m gonna play piano.’  And you’re like, ‘Oh, cool.  I’d like to hear you play piano.’

But mostly, I’ve just been packing up boxes of my record to ship out.  And it’s a lot of work.  There’s like 500 boxes in my house.  And we’re just like, ‘Wait – does this person get this too?’  There’s so many things that go in it.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s good work.  Especially now…

Nicole Atkins’ “Alone We’re All Together” (April 25th), with Hamilton Leithauser & more:

QRO: Hamilton Leithauser did a livestream for Pitchfork that seemed to have his whole extended family…

NA: So, he was a guest on my show.  And he was like, ‘Sorry I haven’t gotten you the video yet.  I’m single-parenting today.’  And his daughters are like my favorite ‘friend’s kids,’ they’re just so cool, and so smart.

When we would be were rehearsing for his [Café] Carlyle shows, they were just there, singing along.  And I was just like, ‘Dude – put them in the video!’  And he’s like, ‘That’s not a bad idea.’  And now he’s been doing it all the time with them.

On again, the positive side of all this – us, as musicians, we never get to see our families.  We miss every wedding, miss every event.  I’ve never been to a friend or family’s wedding that I wanted to go to, other than maybe, I could count ‘em on my hand.  You miss everything.  And now, it’s like, you get this time with your family, if you have them.

Or if you’re alone, you get time with your thoughts, and being able to figure out what you want to make or do.  Your passion project now has time.

QRO: And also, now, anyone you talk to, you have something in common that you’re going through.  Literally, I’m on a call with tech support, and it could be someone halfway around the world, but we’re still all going through…

NA: I know.

So, the woman who does finance in my management office, I’ve never met her, but I mail my commission checks for my manager to her.

I love stationary & cards, drawing cards, so I started putting them in cars for her.  I was like, ‘Yo Ellen, I hope you’re thriving!’  It’s a picture of a sloth, and it says, “Hang In There!”

I didn’t think about it, and then I get a postcard in the mail, this Bob Marley postcard.  She’s like, ‘Your cards you’ve been sending me are a bright spot in all of this.’  So now we’re pen-pals.  It’s cool.

That’s the cool thing about right now. There’a a lot out there, and there’s a lot of artists providing content that’s not just, “What’s up, everybody!?!”

QRO: During this time, have you picked up and/or accelerated any bad habits?

NA: Smoking way too much.  Way too much.

And staying up way too late.  Time doesn’t exist anymore.  I’m like, ‘What day is it?’

QRO: Literally, one of the things that keeps me knowing what time it is, is the livestreams I see.  Like, ‘Oh, it’s Saturday at seven…’

NA: I always know when Adam comes over at four o’clock on Saturdays.  ‘Oh shit!  I gotta get in shower, aah!’  ‘Nicole, you’re on in two!’  And I’m like, ‘Hey everybody…’

Always up to the last minute.

I was cleaning my closet, and I found all these great DVDs that I bought while I was on tour.

Like a bootleg Lee Hazlewood, live in Copenhagen, doing Requiem for an Almost Lady, which is my favorite Lee Hazlewood album.  Never watched it.

I’ve been looking for projectors that people are selling secondhand, and I was gonna project it in my backyard, and watch it, videotape it, and then put it on my Patreon.

I’ve been putting one or two things on there every week.  Like, we play Bingo, which is really funny…

But I figure with all these videos I have, it’s not like I’m selling them, so I could share them.  I got this great wrestling DVD about the Ultimate Warrior that I want to put on there…

Nicole Atkins playing “Love Surreal” at Bowery Ballroom on January 25th, 2008: