Young Nikki Lang rolled into New York a few weeks back on a wave of big-time activity.
The 19-year-old L.A.-based singer-songwriter had just finished a tour of the U.K. (she opened for Hüsker Dü’s Grant Hart) directly following her “true rock star experience” at South By Southwest in Austin, when the power went out during her performance (she gamely “played right through,” she says). She showcased here at the Bitter End following meetings with music business executives.
Though she only had a guitarist supporting her (she also plays guitar), Lang, who last summer opened nationally for Robert Francis, clearly showed the potential noted by the likes of MTV (she has a song licensing deal there), Oscar-winning composer John Williams and fellow film composer (and vocalist on Spirit’s 1969 hit “I Got A Line On You”) Jay Ferguson–and none other than New York’s own Rosanne Cash, who has called Lang “a beautiful girl with a fantastic voice.”
The daughter of Hollywood film producer Rocky Lang and granddaughter of 1940s and ’50s singing/acting star (and animated Chiquita Banana commercial voice) Monica Lewis, Lang’s set focused on her new five-song EP Feel Better.
“It could have been called Five Songs About Men!” says Lang. “The titletrack–and first single–is a typical breakup song, about being completely crushed by somebody. But I’m blessed because now the guy I wrote it about is constantly hearing it!”
The video for the song has already notched 14,000 hits on YouTube, and is being followed by a clip for “Bros Before Hos.” That song, she says, was “written as a joke–about liking a guy whose best friend claims you.”
All her songs are based on true experience, Lang adds. “Nothing is exaggerated. I’m a big observer of people and relationships, and an inspired person who surrounds herself with crazier people.”
Lang started her music career at six, when she asked her dad for a guitar. He wanted her to try the piano first, but her fingers were too tiny.
“There’s never been a day since when she hasn’t practiced,” Rocky recalls. “And since writing her first song at seven, her music writing has been evolving.”
At 16 Lang gained experience in the studio with Ferguson, who worked on her father’s movies Nervous Ticks and Race For Glory. She also attended the Los Angeles County High School for The Arts, where she studied jazz vocal.
“I wasn’t a jazz singer but jazz influenced,” she says, also listing punk rock, Joni Mitchell, Alanis Morissette, Lily Allen, James Taylor and Alison Krauss among her influences.
“People hear her and embrace her,” her father notes. “And she’s a great role model–my role model!”
Here Rocky’s referring to his daughter’s charitable work including benefit recordings for the Christopher Reeve Foundation and The American Diabetes Association (ADA). Last year she donated all proceeds from downloads of the Feel Better titletrack to the ADA’s Download For Diabetes fundraising program.
Lang was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 10; she was prominently featured in a recent USA Today story–along with Patti LaBelle, Bret Michaels and Nick Jonas–about celebrities battling the disease.
“I’m a singer with diabetes–not a diabetic singer!” she says. “We all have afflictions–not disabilities–that don’t define who you are but are part of who you are.”
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