She’s still a country girl at heart
Like a particular platinum tough-as-her-boots Nashville star who has been cussin’ and swillin’ her way to country music notoriety as of late, B.C. artist Lisa Nicole runs her own show, her way.
Growing up in the rough and tumble Kootenays, the Castlegar native is just as comfortable singing and playing her guitar in an intimate, acoustic show, as she will when she stops by Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo Sunday, as she is belting out a rockin’ tune in some country and western bar up in the Cariboo.
She books all her own gigs, does all the promotion and marketing, writes her own songs, and can pull up her own bootstraps, thank you very much.
“I’ve always known what I wanted to do was music,” said Lisa Nicole (born Lisa Nicole Kienas) on the phone from Quesnel, a stop on her current western Canada tour that heads up to Dawson Creek then into Alberta before returning south back through B.C.
This tour is one of many Lisa Nicole and her longtime touring partner, guitarist Jason Thomas, have done around the province. Last fall, the duo headed across the country, playing 25 shows and more than 20 radio stations, starting with a showcase at the Canadian Country Music Awards in Edmonton.
“I love the adventure of going to new cities, finding my way, and finding new gyms, wherever we go,” said the artist who likes to keep fit. “I have an extra day here in Quesnel so I’ve been walking around and promoting the show here to everyone I meet.”
Lisa Nicole’s love of the western frontier is also evident in her latest video, for the title track off her 2013 EP, It Got Ugly. In it, she plays a sassy saloon girl and an outlaw in a shoot out with a bunch of cowboys and can also be seen riding a galloping horse.
“We shot it in Langley. It has horses and guns and has a real western theme,” said Lisa Nicole. “I grew up with a mostly redneck family. I’ve been hunting since I was four and love horseback riding... If I wasn’t a singer, I’d love to be in a rodeo. I know I’m not good enough as I’ve had no time to practise. It’s a whole other career.”
Lisa Nicole’s entry into the music business was not your A-typical turn.
At the age of nine, she made her musical debut at a neighborhood pub for her friends and family, and started playing bars when she was only 15.
“I met Jason around then and we started playing bars three times a week. I had to be escorted on and off the stage,” she said, adding, “Jason and I balance each other really well and I think that’s why our friendship and working relationship has lasted all these years.”
The adventure didn’t stop when Lisa Nicole graduated from high school. When she was 17, she visited the Central American country of Honduras through her town’s Rotary Club, which also sponsored her trip to Bolivia in South America two years later.
“I had to fundraise money to go on each trip so we could carry in suitcases full of medical supplies and clothes. We stayed in orphanages and planted herb gardens,” she said. “I wish we could do it again. I loved it. It was a whole different culture. We saw people living in cardboard houses.”
After returning, she attended the two-year music program at Nelson’s Selkirk College, then moved to Vancouver to pursue her career.
However, Vancouver is a long way from Nashville when it comes to making it as a country artist.
“As an independent artist, it’s pretty tough to crack into the big radio stations. It’s a Catch 22 business. Major radio station don’t add you if you’re not on a major label. In the long run, it comes down to the song.”
With the success of It Got Ugly, which was recorded in Nashville and won Best Album and Roots Country Folk Album of the Year at the Kootenay Music Awards, Lisa Nicole hopes industry types will start paying more attention.
“I love Nashville and I’m hoping to go back soon. We are scoping who to record with next,” she said. “I’ve been working my butt off managing myself. I’m at the point where I’m looking for people to team up with for the next project and record. I hope the hard work pays off.”
Lisa Nicole, with Jason Thomas, performs at Gallery Vertigo, #1-3001 31st St. (upstairs), Sunday at 6 p.m. Opening is fellow country artist Cynthia Leigh-Ann. Admission is $10 (suggested donation.)