Country newcomer Erica Nicole has made an impact on Country Radio this summer with her latest single “I Listen To My Bad Girl.” We caught up with Erica Nicole to talk about musical influences, being an independent artist and a recent personal revelation.
NYC Country Music Lovers: Tell us about your background.
Erica Nicole: I was born and raised in Atlanta and pretty much knew from an early age that music was what I wanted to do. My parents knew and they told me to follow my passion with music, which, for me was country music. I grew up on Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and Reba McEntire.
I got involved with school plays and choirs, and was with the Young Singers of Callanwolde in Atlanta, which is a world-renowned childrens’ choir. I always had the strength and support of my parents through school and it allowed me to capitalize on my dream.
Of course my team has a lot to do with that also; I’ve got an incredible team of people around me. It’s hard to believe that I get to do this every day for a living.
NYC Country Music Lovers: Aside from who you already mentioned, do you have any other musical influences?
Erica Nicole: I’m a big Dolly Parton fan, but at the same time I have a huge appreciation for country today. Women like Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert are such great artists and they’ve done a great job of carrying the torch from the legends. I just hope I can do the same.
NYC Country Music Lovers: You won the NIMA (Nashville Independent Music Association) award for top female artist this year. What does an award like that mean to you?
Erica Nicole: It’s fantastic. As an independent artist, we don’t get a lot of recognition for our music in such a competitive world, especially with the record labels out there, and the artists that they have. To receive an award for best country female artist of the year at the NIMA awards, it’s just an honor. The fact that fans recognize independent music, and appreciate independent music, it’s very humbling. At the same time, in order to get nominated, industry people, whether country or not, whether label or not, come together to vote on who they think is most worthy of a nomination. To receive the nomination was quite an honor, but then to win, was definitely over the top.
NYC Country Music Lovers: Are you interested in signing with a major record label?
Erica Nicole: One thing I’ve learned is you never close any door, you always leave the doors open. Allow yourself the opportunity to see what’s out there. If that means a label, then great. If the timing works out for both parties, fantastic. At the same time, there’s many different routes in this music business that you can take, and for me, as long as I’m able to deliver music like what I’m delivering right now, that’s the most important thing. I’m really proud of where I am musically now, and as long as I can keep that intact, I’m open to any ideas or options, whatever they might be.
NYC Country Music Lovers: Your recent single, “I Listen to My Bad Girl,” went top 20 on the Music Row charts. What does that mean to you, especially as an independent artist?
Erica Nicole: The incredible thing with that – the Music Row chart is not necessarily a fan-based chart, it’s a chart based on radio stations that submit to the Music Row panel that are playing your record. To see so many country radio stations come out and really show their support for me, and stand behind me, and at the same time, say “Erica, this is what we’ve been waiting for,” that’s a really awesome thing for me. I take this seriously, I love what I do and I want to do a great job at it. Being able to deliver to country radio something that they, too, are proud of, is amazing. It’s very, very humbling.
NYC Country Music Lovers: What was the recording process like for “I Listen to My Bad Girl?” How did you find the song?
Erica Nicole: Debbie Pascarella and Dani Jamerson wrote a really awesome song that I loved, and I took and creatively made my own. Not only do I think that it worked, but they really appreciate what I did with the song. Of course, they’re thrilled and celebrating the song as well.
NYC Country Music Lovers: You’re working with Kent Wells, who’s produced for Dolly Parton, and he was just nominated for a Grammy for the Dolly/Kenny Rogers collaboration “You Can’t Make Old Friends.” How did that partnership come about?
Erica Nicole: I’ve been going through a pretty big transition The last 12 months – new team, new management, new promotion, new publicity, new production. Kent Wells was introduced to me by my new management team. I love Kent. Kent and I really connect well musically. I’ve said a lot in the past 12 months that there are a lot of great producers out there, but that doesn’t mean they’re the right producer for you. I feel really blessed to have found the great producer for me, to have found my niche in producers. Kent and I really work well together. He really understands my voice, the capabilities of my voice, what’s within range, what’s not within range. He really takes that, and focuses on how we can showcase what I do best.
NYC Country Music Lovers: Does Dolly have a special place in your heart?
Erica Nicole: Absolutely. It’s Dolly Parton. It’s one of those things – I grew up loving her music, having this incredible admiration for her. To be able to walk into a studio where I know she’s been standing and singing as well, and to be side-by-side with the guy who produces her music and mine, it’s a really humbling experience.
At the NIMA Awards, I performed “I Listen to My Bad Girl” and “It’s Comin’ Down,” and Kent was my guitarist. To know that he had just wrapped up a European tour with Dolly Parton on stage, and now he’s on stage next to me, it’s something about which you have to pinch yourself often.
NYC Country Music Lovers: You only recently began to speak about your hearing loss. Why did you wait so long to speak openly about it and how did you choose the right time to do so?
Erica Nicole: I hate to say I felt ashamed or embarrassed, but maybe for lack of a better word, I felt like I couldn’t talk about. I felt like I needed to keep it a secret because that’s what the people around me influenced and said I needed to. Sadly, I succumbed to and believed that. It wasn’t until I was with my new team that I sat back and said, “I’m going to tell country radio that I’m 75% deaf and let it be known because I think I can help some other people, at least not be so insecure when they go out somewhere.”
My very first show that I did in February, when I made the announcement for the very first time publicly, I had a radio programmer come up to me, he and his wife, and they said that their eight-year old daughter wants to be an interior designer, but she’s afraid she can’t because, at the time, she was 60-65% deaf, and was afraid that she won’t be able to hear her clients tell her what color walls they want, or curtains, or pillows. I think that really struck a chord with me because I don’t want any child to feel like they can’t follow their dream or live their ream, not because of a disability, but because of an inability. I’m really keen on that now, and I’ve been sharing my story with people.
I had hearing as a child, it wasn’t until I was an older teen that I started losing my hearing, and I’m a firm believer that God has graced me with the ability to live my dream, follow my dream, and I’m on this planet to influence others and hopefully inspire them that they can do that too.
It’s continually gotten worse over the years. I’ve had to train myself from growing up and playing everything by ear to training myself how to feel the note, how to feel the pitch, how to feel where I am with a song, as opposed to hearing it. It’s a struggle each and every day. It’s something that changes each and every day, will continue to change, but I have it for a reason. I think my purpose is to really inspire others to follow their dream.
NYC Country Music Lovers: Can you speak about your work with ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities)?
Erica Nicole: I met them back in December of last year. They are a service dog organization. What I love about ECAD is they don’t work with just children with autism, or adults with wheelchairs, or wounded veterans. They are starting a new program in completely uncharted territory to work with those who are hearing impaired. A lot of our soldiers overseas come home, and they were close to an explosion, and lost their hearing. Dogs will be trained to help those that are hearing impaired. That’s something that’s really special to me, for others’ quality of life. I’ve been blessed to have a beautiful, beautiful life, and I want to be able to give back to those who have hearing inabilities and hearing impairments, and help give them a better quality of life. ECAD is going to be doing just that with their service dogs.
NYC Country Music Lovers: You also work with Songs for Sound, with Gary Levox of Rascal Flatts. How did that partnership come about?
Erica Nicole: I teamed up with them just recently. I have a show October 22nd in Atlanta right after my show for ECAD October 17th actually. It’s still a very new thing, but it’s exciting. Any way that I can give back, and try to help and encourage people that just because they have hearing loss, it doesn’t mean that they are disabled, that they can’t follow their dream. My main purpose and focus is to make sure that I am as proactive as I can to help that cause.
NYC Country Music Lovers: What is next for you musically?
Erica Nicole: The new single, “It’s Comin’ Down,” drops on Monday, September 15th, right after I sing the National Anthem at the Mets’ game on Sunday. I’m excited about that. I will be on the road through November, and in between that, I’ll be in the studio with Kent Wells working on finishing the album and just getting the best music that I can ready.
NYC Country Music Lovers: If you could describe you/your music in a just a few words, what would they be?
Erica Nicole: “I sing like it’s the last song I’m going to sing.” I sing for the moment, I really do, I think that summarizes it best.
Learn more about Erica Nicole on her official website.
By Matthew Waga