October 1, 1978 |
Neptune, New Jersey, United States
|Genres||Psychedelic rock, Alternative rock, folk rock|
|Instruments||Guitar (Hagstrom Viking, Fender Jazzmaster, Martin D15)|
|Labels||Razor & Tie Records, Columbia, Red Ink|
|Associated acts||Shilpa Ray, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Avett Brothers, Jim Sclavunos|
Atkins was born in Neptune, New Jersey. She grew up in Shark River Hills, a middle class enclave within Neptune overlooking the Shark River. Atkins has cited the river (technically a bay) as a major inspiration for her music, particularly the imagery of “the river in the rain” found in the title track on her album Neptune City. She started playing piano when she was aged nine and taught herself to play guitar at 13. She eschewed more popular acts of the day for musical groups her parents listened to, such as The Ronettes and Johnny Cash. She has cited The Sundays’ Harriet Wheeler as a major early influence.
North Carolina and New York
After high school, Atkins moved to Charlotte, North Carolina to study illustration at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She ingrained herself within the city’s independent music scene, discovering bands like Superchunk and Uncle Tupelo. She also started writing original songs and befriending other local musicians. Among other bands, she joined a supergroup in the city called Nitehawk that, at one point, had almost 30 members. Atkins spent her junior year abroad in Australia. After she returned, she joined the band Los Parasols, releasing an EP with them entitled The Summer of Love in 2002. That same year, Atkins moved to the neighborhood of Bensonhurst in Brooklyn, New York. She began performing at open mic night at the Sidewalk Café in Manhattan’s East Village. Influenced by the artists on Rainbow Quartz, the independent record label specializing in guitar heavy pop music and traditional songwriting for which she worked, she moved away from the louder rock music she’d played in North Carolina and toward the songcraft style of Wilco and Roy Orbison. She returned briefly to Charlotte, living in a wood shop and playing with several bands, most notably a group called Virginia Reel. At this time, she started writing what she termed “a mix of Americana, 60s, and indie rock.” She also recorded her EP Bleeding Diamonds.
She moved back to her parents’ house in New Jersey in 2004, working odd jobs and playing local gigs. During a regular Friday night stand at Kelly’s Tavern in nearby Neptune City, the audience kept requesting cover songs by local favorites Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi. In response, Atkins got drunk and played a tongue-in-cheek version of Bon Jovi’s “Livin' on a Prayer”. She was not asked back.
During this time, she commuted into New York by train to play gigs and maintain a connection to the city’s underground music scene. In mid-2004, Atkins and David Muller, who had played drums with Fischerspooner and The Fiery Furnaces, started working on a demo CD entitled Party’s Over. They recorded most of the album in Atkins’ parents’ house using a Casio keyboard, a ProTools rig, and a mini recorder. Drum parts were recorded at Muller’s apartment in Manhattan, with further tracks recorded at the Dietch Projects gallery in Brooklyn.
The Sea and Neptune City
In early 2005, keyboardist Dan Chen, whom Atkins knew from her days at The Sidewalk Café, approached Atkins about forming a new group. Chen told Atkins he knew of a drummer, Dan Mintzer, who might also be interested in playing with her. When the three sat down together for the first time, Chen and Mintzer already knew how to play the songs they’d heard on Atkins' MySpace page. Eventually David Hollinghurst, another friend from The Sidewalk Café, joined the band on guitar and Derek Layes was brought on as bassist. The band, now known as Nicole Atkins & The Sea, was given a residency at the small showcase bar, Piano's, and won the attention of music industry attorney Gillian Bar. Atkins' Party’s Over demo had stirred interest from heavy metal label Roadrunner Records, among others. She soon found herself in the midst of a bidding war between record labels and signed with Columbia Records in January 2006. In late 2006, Atkins and the Sea traveled to Sweden to record her debut album, Neptune City, at Varispeed Studios in Kalgerup and Gula Studion in Malmö with producer Tore Johansson. The album was originally scheduled for a July 2007 release, but at the behest of Columbia co-chairman Rick Rubin, it was pushed back until October 30, 2007 to accommodate re-mastering the album. It debuted at number 20 on Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart and reached number 6 on the Heatseekers Middle Atlantic Chart.
The Black Sea and Mondo Amore
In January 2010, Atkins and The Black Sea started recording new material at Brooklyn's Seaside Lounge studio with producer Phil Palazzolo, with whom Atkins had previously worked during sessions for A.C. Newman's second solo album, Get Guilty. Several other musicians joined Atkins in the studio to record the tracks for what would become her second album, Mondo Amore, including guitarist Irina Yalkowsky, drummer Mike Graham, and bassist Jeremy Kay. Graham, Oklan, Yalkowsky and Kay would form the core lineup of the The Black Sea with whom Atkins would tour in support of Mondo Amore. In June 2010, Atkins signed with New York-based independent label Razor & Tie. The label released Mondo Amore on February 8, 2011.
In the winter of 2012, Nicole returned to Malmö Sweden to record with Tore Johansson on her latest record, Slow Phaser which was released February 4, 2014 to rave reviews and a peak position of 143 on the Billboard 200. The album's first single, "Girl You Look Amazing" was premiered by Paste (magazine)  and the video for the album's second single, "Who Killed the Moonlight?", was premiered by NPR's First Watch.
In 2008, Atkins was cast as the voice of the mother in director Geoff Marslett’s animated sci-fi comedy film, “Mars. On September 9 of that year, she released a four track EP of cover songs called Nicole Atkins Digs Other People's Songs, which included the tracks: "The Crystal Ship" (The Doors), "Dream a Little Dream of Me" (The Mamas & the Papas), "Under the Milky Way" (The Church) and "Inside of Love" (Nada Surf). In 2009, Atkins' backing vocals were featured prominently on AC Newman's second solo album, Get Guilty.
- 2006: Bleeding Diamonds, EP (Columbia)
- 2007: Austin City Limits Music Festival 2007: Nicole Atkins & The Sea, EP (Sony BMG Music Entertainment)
- 2008: Nicole Atkins Digs Other People's Songs, EP (Columbia)
- 2011: ...Till Dawn, EP (Razor & Tie)
- 2014: A Nightmare Before Summer, EP
with Los Parasols
- 2002: The Summer of Love (EP)
- 2008: The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs Epic
(Atkins contributed a cover of Billy Hayes' and Jay Johnson's Blue Christmas)
- 2009: Scott Walker – 30 Century Man
(Atkins contributed a cover of Scott Walker's The Seventh Seal)
Awards and nominations
- Asbury Music Awards Winner: Top Female Vocalist
- Asbury Music Awards Winner: Best Solo Act
- Asbury Music Awards Winner: Song of the Year – "Neptune City"
- ASCAP Foundation winner: Sammy Cahn Award – "Neptune City"
- "Nicole Atkins at IACmusic.com, presented by Independent Artists Company | Unsigned | Band Site". Iacmusic.com. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
- "Nicole Atkins". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
- "NICOLE ATKINS PERFORMS IN THE CURRENT STUDIOS". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
- "Nicole Atkins & the Sea Perform 'War Torn,' Chat 'Neptune City'", SPIN.com, January 22, 2008 Accessed January 29, 2008 "But the neighborhood I live in is called Shark River -- it's part of Neptune -- I live right across the street from the river, and there's a bird sanctuary."
- "American FactFinder". Factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
- "Nicole Atkins Journey Through Neptune City Vol. 1". YouTube. 2007-11-05. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
- "Press Play, Record interview", February 7, 2007 Accessed January 18, 2008
- "Gothamist interview", March 13, 2007. Accessed January 18, 2008 "I'll never forget the first time I…played my first gig. It was in the cafeteria of St. Rose High School in Belmar, NJ. We...did "The End" from the doors for our encore. I was so out of it I screamed...right in the vice principal's face and the place went wild. I had weekend detentions for way too long after that one."
- "Nicole Atkins on Virb". Accessed January 18, 2008 Atkins studied illustration while at UNC Charlotte, and still has her own mural business, with that artistic sensibility transferred to her songs.
- "Interview With Nicole Atkins", BROAD Magazine. Accessed January 21, 2008
- Schneider, Laura. "Nicole Atkins: Catch Her If You Can", Upstage Magazine, Accessed January 21, 2008
- [dead link]
- "Nicole Atkins: The MusicSnobbery.com Interview", MusicSnobbery.com September 29, 2005, Accessed January 21, 2008
- [dead link]
- "Journey through Neptune City, Part 2" 1:50 "So we were recording my EP there and just during that time I was singing backup vocals on pretty much every record you made there."
- "Born In New Jersey and (Now) Proud of It", The New York Times, July 29, 2007. Accessed January 18, 2008
- Donnelly, Tim. “Shore Of Herself”, Asbury Park Press, December 10, 2006. “She couch surfed with friends in the city and rode the North Jersey Coast Line back and forth to make her dream happen.”
- Dollar, Steve. "The Jersey Girl Takes On The World", The New York Sun June 5, 2007 Accessed on January 21, 2008
- [dead link]
- "Nicole Atkins". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
- "NICOLE ATKINS: Homeward Bound", "CMJ", Accessed January 18, 2008
- "Atkins & The Sea release CD", "Asbury Park Press", November 11, 2007. Accessed January 18, 2008
- "Top Heatseekers (Middle Atlantic)", from Billboard December 1, 2007 Accessed January 18, 2008
- Brown, Janice "In-Session: Phil Palazzolo With Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea" January 27, 2010. Accessed May 1, 2010.
- "Label press release." June 21, 2010. Accessed May 2, 2011.
- "MARS". Swervepictures.com. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
- "Mars". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
- "AC Newman". AC Newman. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
- "2010 Judges". Independent Music Awards. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
- "Nicole Atkins at the "Songwriters by the Sea: Special Edition" show at Light of Day 10, McLoone's Supper Club, Asbury Park, New Jersey". Youtube.com. 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2014-02-03.
- Nicole Atkins – official website
- Nicole Atkins & the Sea on Myspace
- Nicole Atkins on YouTube
- Nicole Atkins on Twitter