Nikki Lane performs country with an edge.
The last time Nikki Lane played a show in Madison she got chased by a tornado.
The Nashville-based singer-songwriter was driving to Milwaukee last June with opening act Hugh Bob & the Hustle. "All of a sudden everyone's phones were like beep, beep, beep," Lane recalls. "Hugh said, 'I think there's a tornado touching down. We really need to get off this highway.'"
The musicians stopped at a gas station, where the woman behind the counter nervously advised that they head home. "Yeah, we should be at home," Lane replied. "But we're in Madison, Wisconsin, running away from a tornado."
Lane's tour stops aren't always as eventful, but the past year has been a busy one for the Greenville, S.C., native. Since the 2014 release of her second album, All or Nothin', Lane has toured the country and played with musicians like Loretta Lynn.
Lane says opening for Lynn felt like a sign to keep going. "You work really hard for a long time just to get to those big steps," says Lane. "But I try not to take it too seriously. I know that Loretta Lynn has somebody open for her every time she plays."
Lane has a special connection with Wisconsin. Hugh Masterson's Appleton-then-Milwaukee-based band the Wildbirds stayed at her former home in California during a tour several years ago. The friendship grew in a musical direction when his new band Hugh Bob & the Hustle asked Lane to sing on a track, "My Truck Feels Like Driving," for their debut album.
The songwriter says she feels grateful when musicians ask her to sing on their albums or ask for her opinion. "Being at the [Grand Ole] Opry is awesome, but people are on every night," says Lane. "I've gotten a kick out of having somebody send their record to me first and ask for me to give it a listen. That's more flattering to me."
Masterson has now relocated to Nashville and lives upstairs from Lane. The two have become touring partners, and another neighbor, Jonny Fritz, will join them Feb. 15 at High Noon Saloon.
For All or Nothin', Lane set out to create an album that played like a well-worn mixtape, with country and other musical influences. Producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys assembled a team that helped her tell a story with her music. "He really digs into old records and knows exactly where to pull [inspiration] from," says Lane.
"I want it to be a full range of emotions that I experience on a day-to-basis," she says. "If I'm making things that are tongue-in-check but are real and get stuck in your head, then I'm doing my job."