Nikki’s Wives: Veering off the Pop Path
Story: Jennifer Rolf
Photos: Cory Weaver
Nashville-via-Canada rockers Nikki’s Wives may have emerged onto the scene through a pop music portal, but these days they’re breaking the mold and are anything but pop. All three members, Nikki Whitehead (vocals), Dylan Lauzon (guitars, vocals) and Nate Baylor (drums, vocals), began taking up instruments, performing on stage and honing their talents at a young age. Over the years their music has evolved into more of an indie-rock sound, which is evident on their new EP, Bloom.
Their talent landed them an early-career opening slot on a tour with CeeLo Green, which helped catapult them in front of a new breed of fans. And it’s easy to see why you’d want to stay a fan: Whitehead’s sultry vocals and fervent lyrics (check out their song “Breaking Up,” for one), plus the band’s fun vibe and evident chemistry. These elements came together flawlessly in New Orleans, as the three-piece drew in a crowd for their Saturday night set at the House of Blues tent at Voodoo Fest. We had the chance to chat with them before their show.
Nate Baylor, Nikki Whitehead & Dylan Lauzon
How important is it that you have people you can connect with, beyond just music? To have bandmates like that?
Nikki: Well you spend so much time together that you have to be friends with each other to make it. You spend so much time, and it’s so personal, you’re sitting there writing songs and baring your souls to each other that you kind of just become really good friends. We started off with Dylan kind of being my mentor, my guitar teacher almost, and then just over time we all just became very close.
You all started as very young musicians. As children did you just love music or were your parents influential?
Nate: Yeah, I started real young. My great uncle was a jazz drummer, so I’ve always just kind of been around music—especially that kind of music. I’ve been playing drums since I was very young.
Dylan: I have a lot of respect for parents who buy their kids drum kits; guitar is one thing, I can play with headphones, or whatever. I started super young too, just guitars and rock and roll in the house my entire life, no professional musicians or anything.
Is it important to have supportive family members?
Nikki: Totally. It’s not a very straight and narrow path being a musician, so having your family support you is just really nice. My dad was a musician when he was younger, and I’m the only kid—the youngest of five—that really took a liking to music.
Nate: None of us had parents that were like, “You have to go to med school.” They all were really behind us and supportive.
Have you encountered any challenges touring in the U.S. being from Canada?
Nikki: Getting a visa is a bit of a nightmare but now we have a four-year visa, which is awesome. We wanted to get a more long-term visa because it was a bit of a nightmare having to reapply. We’d have a show booked and wonder if our visas were going to come in.
Dylan: Our first show on the CeeLo tour, first show of the tour, we were sitting with our gear on a cruise ship in New York Harbor waiting for a call from our lawyer—with our gear ready to go—saying you can play or you can’t. I remember the stress standing there, like, “Are we going to be able to play this show?”
Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with either performance-wise or producer-wise who is on your bucket list?
Dylan: We saw grandson and Hobo Johnson [while at the Voodoo festival] and for stuff we’d love to do right now—those kinds of artists, because they really have something to say, and they’re really kind of pushing something.
Nate: Bucket list, I always will throw out Phil Collins for some reason.
Nikki: Lana del Ray, for me. I grew up loving her, and never stopped.
You’ve gotten to play with CeeLo and Victoria’s Secret parties. Has that helped push you in the direction you want to go, career-wise?
Nikki: For sure, all those opportunities were great exposure for us, and we got to meet so many people that have helped advance our career. Once we went on tour with CeeLo, we had the doors open for us to start talking to people for more tours and writing sessions.
Dylan: We started off in a really poppy direction and kind of moved away from that, but that community has always really embraced us, so it kind of helped us really to move down here to the U.S.—we just moved to Nashville. Those kind of gigs got us our visas and really helped as a stepping stone. We’re still growing to where we want to be but it was a great stepping stone.
What are your next steps after this tour?
Nikki: We’re on tour for our album [the EP Bloom, which was released on AntiFragile Records in November] right now. We’re going to a homecoming show in Toronto—last time we sold out the venue so we’re excited about that. Then going home for Christmas. Then getting back to Nashville and writing again.
Do you live close by [to one another]?
Nikki: We’re in the same house. We’ve got our studio in the basement.
Dylan: After this tour, we’re probably going to focus on getting another record done and just focus on releasing a lot of music. Especially with Nashville, we have so much access to really dope studios and really cool writers to collaborate with. We’re just going to buckle down and write for the next little bit.
Pre-show ritual. Do you do anything? I’m not messing with your mojo here, am I?
Nate: Yeah, we do. We have a little pre-show circle, and I’ll rant off some hype-up words kind of thing—something to get us focused and in the zone before we take the stage.
Nikki: And the only time we’ve never done it, that show went horribly—our gear stopped working.
Do you find it a struggle—people wanting to put you in a certain genre?
Dylan: That’s something we fight with, because we love a lot of music and write a lot and we can be all over the place, but that’s because we love music and don’t really subscribe too much to being really heavily categorized like that. We’ve played with corpse paint black metal bands. We’ve done the gamut in this band.