You Belong Here, the debut full-length album from emerging Nashville-based band Leagues, will be released January 29 on Bufalotone Records. In advance of the release, the official music video for the album’s first single, “Spotlight,” recently premiered at MTV Hive. The video can be viewed/embedded here.
You Belong Here is the follow up to the trio’s acclaimed 2011 self-titled EP, which garnered widespread critical notice, including coverage in The Tennessean, the Dallas Observer, Southern Living magazine and Stereo Subversion. Additionally, the Independent Weekly, calls the music, “…indie-imbued pop-rock…coats the handclaps and harmonies of classic power pop with a modern gloss…leveraging the vintage feel of its soaring melody with a snappy rhythm and layers of chiming guitars and rousing horns,” while American Songwriter magazine heralds, “Leagues seem to have struck a nice balance between indie and classic rock.”
After opening for The Fray at the historic Ryman Auditorium and touring nationwide with various acclaimed musicians (Mat Kearney, Matthew Perryman Jones, etc.), Leagues will embark on a nationwide tour this winter, including a special CD release show at Nashville’s Mercy Lounge on February 1 (additional details to be announced shortly). Of a recent live show, St. Louis’ KDHX praises, “…an ebullient blend of Phoenix-meets-Maroon-5 with a sunny, yet love-wan disposition.” Additionally, famed Nashville denim company Imogene Willie documented singer Thad Cockrell’s journey as the band made their Ryman Auditorium debut. You can read about the experience here.
Recorded in Nashville, You Belong Here features ten original songs (three of which were featured on the 2011 EP) and was engineered by Vance Powell (Jack White, Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) and co-produced by the band and Grammy-nominated Paul Moak (Mat Kearney, Martha Wainwright, The Weeks). Of the record, the band comments, “The whole spirit of You Below Here really resonates with us. It’s a phrase that gets tossed around without much thought, but if you take a moment and think about it, it can hold a lot of comfort and depth. Like walking into a party and everyone is genuinely glad you are there. It’s the celebration of togetherness, really.”
Leagues is Tyler Burkam (guitar), Thad Cockrell (vocals) and Jeremy Lutito (drums).
One glorious day some years back, a teenage high school dropout Nikki Lane (née Nicole Lane Frady) packed a trailer with her worldly possessions. With one hand firmly gripping a steering wheel and the other flipping the bird, she said so long to her home, Greenville, South Carolina, The South and any sort of life it had suggested she should live. Western bound, she was headed to Los Angeles for no other reason than just because.
"You grow up in The South, you grow up in a small town, your expectations are a little bit limited," she says now. "People expect you to go to a four-year college, get married and follow that Southern way of life. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do but I knew it wasn't being offered to me."
And so Lane settled in L.A. Without clear direction, she worked various day-to-day jobs and dabbled in fashion, getting shoes manufactured in China and painting them to sell under the Nikki Lane moniker. Five years passed and she started writing music but forsook that path after just two promising shows for a corporate job offer across the country in New York City.
"I'd always wanted to live in New York and somehow ended up talking my way into a really well paying job," she says. "That was an opportunity I couldn't say no to. And so I moved and for a year didn't even touch music. It was like something I'd just tried once. I'd written a couple songs and that was the end of it."
But like any good country singer, heartbreak brought her back to music when her boyfriend left her to record an album in Atlanta. "I was like, fuck that," she says, "Why does he get to make a record in Atlanta while I'm sitting in New York crying? So I just sat down with a guitar, I didn't have anything going on, I didn't have many friends in the city that weren't his friends, it's freezing in New York and I'd quit my job, so basically for three months I holed up in this apartment and I just wrote."
She started learning Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, John Prine and Merle Haggard tunes, the sort of classic country songs that have steeped her own writing now, trying her best to strum along and building her confidence along the way. "And all of a sudden it hit me and I started writing like crazy," she says, "I wrote a whole album in a month's time and just decided I was going to make a record in Nashville. It was like my revenge record."
Empowered, in February, 2009, Nikki went to Nashville, recorded an album she self-released titled "No Room for Cowboys", and returned to New York a musician. That's essentially where IAMSOUND found her. Impressed with her bold vocal chops and wildly infectious personality, the flourishing indie label signed her, Nikki moved to Nashville and started flying in and out of Los Angeles to write and record with producers David Cobb (Shooter Jennings, The Secret Sisters) and Lewis Pesacov of Fool's Gold. The first result of these efforts is a four-song EP titled Gone, Gone, Gone after the opening track, a forceful farewell to The South. Says Lane, “We sat down and wanted to write something about leaving a place and being like, you'll be fine, I’m not coming back.”
They're all stories,” she continues. “That’s the only way I know how to write. All my songs have a beginning middle and an end. I want to tell you what happened to this person and what the result was.”
As if Lane’s history weren’t enough evidence of her well-proven knack for leaving, on her arm rests a tattoo that reads, “Wanderlust calls again.” “I feel like everyday I might be better off if I could get up and go,” she says. “I've had a really hard time staying put because the different scenery is what's inspiring.”
Throughout her contemporary classic country ballads she plays the rambler and sometimes drunkard with such an ardent aptitude she’d fit right in alongside those icons in whose songs she was able to find her own voice.
Lane now lives in Nashville where she also owns and operates a vintage boutique called High Class Hillbilly, selling pieces she has collected while touring the country.