It’s not a common state for Lane – “I don’t really drink these days,” she admits – but it’s understandable this afternoon. For one thing, we’re in Austin for South by Southwest, which is like schoolies for the music industry – except the drinks are free. And last night was the big one for Lane, who was performing as part of one the festival’s centrepieces: Jack White’s Third Man Records showcase, headlined by the man himself. After the huge year she’s had, she deserved a good time. And she got one. “I ended up getting inducted into the Black Belles as ‘The White Witch’, and then I was hanging out with John C. Reilly!” The actor was playing on the night as well, with his deadpan country side-project. “He was driving me around and everything – he took me to the after party and then he drove me back to my hotel, because it was like 4am. He was like, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take ya home!’” she laughs. “It was nice to just let loose a little bit – but I’m glad I don’t wake up with a hangover very often!”
As one of the lucky few who made it into the venue (the line stretched back four blocks, and could only be skirted by the ultra VIPs – David Frick, James Mercer and Bill Murray amongst them), this writer can safely say that Lane did us Aussies proud. On stage alone with just her guitar, in a tassled shrug jacket and a skin-tight black dress, her vintage melting pot of bluesy rockabilly, spaghetti western, Motown and country was devoured by the crowd, with The Black Belles swaying in time, right up the front.
Such a reception should come as no surprise: Lane has made a name for herself amongst the Jack-White-loving set. The now Melbourne-based (but Sydney-raised) artist was picked up by the retro-revivalist hero after she sent over a few of her self-produced tracks last year. “Yeah. And the next day he emailed,” she laughs, shaking her head. White invited Lane to his iconic Nashville studio to record a couple of tracks with him – My Man and Ain’t Hungry – and although it happened early last year, she’s still not sick of talking about it. “SO lucky. And we had to keep it a secret for SO long – like, six months. One day: no idea, just a fan – and the next minute he’s emailed me, and then we’ve planned when I’m going. And that was like two months in advance – had to keep it quiet – went and recorded it – keep it quiet for three more months… So when finally the news came out, I was like, ‘Oh good! I can talk about it now!’”
And Lane made quite the impression on Jack White. “There’s a lot of singers post-Amy Winehouse that have come out and been able to get a lot dirtier, a lot more soulful in the female vocal side of music,” he told The West Australian in Texas. “I like her twist on that. I like her style… She’s gonna do some real interesting things in the future.” It’s no surprise then that after her imminent Bangity Bang tour, where she’ll be joined by guitarist Aiden Roberts (Belles Will Ring, The Maple Trail), bassist Zoe Hauptman and drummer Paul Derricort, Lane has been invited to open for White’s headline shows when he’s here for Splendour. The shows at Melbourne’s Festival Hall and Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion will be two of the largest she’s played.
Entirely self-taught (“I’ve had two singing lessons off Elana Stone – and that’s about it!”), Lane is one of a handful of young Australian artists who’ve broken through in a big way this year. Our interview took place at the Aussie BBQ in Texas, the SXSW’s annual showcase of homegrown music, and as I followed her to the press room she grabbed Matt Corby from the crowd by the arm and whispered something in his ear. They both laughed. “He’s absolutely ripping right now,” she tells me. “Maybe three years ago we were all doing these little shows, just plugging away and stuff…but he’s gone BANG! – like, 20 levels, instantly. And Kimbra – people like that have gone BOOM!” I ask if there’s a community that exists there, amongst the kind of Aussie artists who can go to a conference like this and absolutely blow it away. “Well, we’re all kind of doing our own separate things,” she answers. “It’s really random when we do see each other, and we’re always at work. Just before, I played a show and Matt was like, ‘Let’s go! Let’s have a ciggie!’ So we just went outside and sat in a little quiet corner and got away from everyone, and just had a really nice chat, about music. Just to bring it back down to that level – the base level – of what we’re all here to do.
“You take the moments when you can, because you have to keep each other grounded, you have to keep each other supported, and encourage each other,” she continues. For her own part, Lane is happy with the pace her career has taken. “It sort of is crazy, but it’s not too crazy – it’s just crazy enough that I can handle it,” she says. “You get what you’re ready for in life, and I think that’s why you have to look after yourself as well. If you don’t pay attention to you, then all of that stuff takes over – and that’s when people get into trouble, start getting addicted to things, have meltdowns or whatever. I feel like where I’m at is really good. I’m happy with the pace of the game.”
The pace of the game has taken her from 15 years of independent songwriting, to a label deal, to Jack White, to her debut album, To The Horses – which won FBi Radio’s SMAC award for Album Of The Year, landed her four nominations for the APRA Music Awards, and had her on rotation at pretty much every Americana-themed saloon-styled whiskey bar around the country: the pin-up knock-out of the rockabilly revival. Although, she says, she takes issue with that label. “That whole ‘rockabilly’ title has been following me around constantly. Which is cool, but I feel that there’s only a small little part of me that’s related to that. I do know about rockabilly music, but I’m not a bloody expert on it! To The Horses only had a few songs on there that touched on that genre, and somehow I’ve ended up with this whole title!” she says. “So when I do shoots and stuff now, I try to get away from that – a) because I don’t want to be pigeon-holed, and b) out of respect for the people that are real [representatives] of that world… I don’t wanna offend the real rockabilly people!”
With the album cycle for To The Horses still in full swing, Lane’s follow-up is a fair way off. “I really wanna start working on the next album,” she says. “I said to my band, ‘Guys, can you just have a lot of sex please? We’ve got to make the sexiest music you’ve ever heard.’ That’s my goal.” But although she’s yet to flesh out any of the new songs, she knows one thing for certain: her second record is going to be different. “Because I’ve had that massive [rockabilly] label on me, now when I’m writing I’m like, ‘This has nothing to do with that – at all!’” she laughs. “I just hope that people who’ve been supportive and are into my music now can grow with me, because [this new record] is going to be so totally different.” It’s not a conscious decision to shirk off that pigeonhole, though; Lanie Lane has been developing her music for as long as she’s been writing it. “I’ve always done what I’ve done. I’ve always written music, and it’s always evolved from year to year. So it’s not that I’m just suddenly changing – I’ve just never had to do it in public before.”
BY STEPH HARMON