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Love letter to outlaw country: Nicolette & The Nobodies

Blog/MusicApril 10th 2019
Hayley Mullen

My Dad was a classic and prog rock 70's guy, but my mom had some gems hidden in the collection.

During my year of working at CFMU, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some truly amazing people; Not just my wonderful coworkers or our volunteers that help make CFMU what it is, but also some of the talented Canadian musicians and bands that make up CFMU’s musical library and ever-changing Top 30 charts. As we close out this school year and head into exam season, I reached out to one last band that I was itching to learn more about: Nicolette & The Nobodies.

Led by vocalist Nicolette Hoang, Nicolette & The Nobodies are a Guelph-based country western band hot on the heels of releasing their first major album this past February, Devil’s Run. The aforementioned “Nobodies” consist of Guitarist Ian Bain, Drummer Nicole Gulewitsch, Bassist Emma Howarth-Withers, and Guitarist Daniel Paillé.

Resting comfortably in CFMU’s Top 30 for some time now, Devil’s Run is a clear love letter to the genre; I featured my personal favourite track “Bites the Dust” on a recent episode of my show Study Jams, which highlights Canadian artists and video game tracks.

I was fortunate enough to interview Nicolette Hoang and learn more about her and the band, including their origins, influences, and songwriting process.

LISTEN: Guelph Outlaw Country band Nicolette & The Nobodies' debut album Devil's Run

What drew you to country and western music? Had you written music in other genres before Nicolette and the Nobodies?

N: I first started getting into Country music when I moved back into my parent's house after living in Toronto for a while. I wasn't doing much at the time, so I borrowed my Dad's record player, set it up in my room and started dusting off their collection.

My Dad was a classic and prog rock 70's guy, but my mom had some gems hidden in the collection. She liked the late 60's and 70's sunshine country records like Tammy Wynette and Glen Campbell, so my interest in the songwriting style and aesthetic is rooted in that era. Those records are great examples of what's great about Country and Western music in how it can be so many things at once. It can be simple, clever, and from the heart or it can be very cinematic and story driven.  

I hadn't written any music before this band! It'd been a long time since I had even tried to write songs

I hadn't written any music before this band! It'd been a long time since I had even tried to write songs due to a lack of confidence and perfectionism always getting in the way. For me, being able to write country music feels more real to me than anything else, it's my comfort zone. Once I realized that I leaned into the support I've had from the people closest to me and my band.

Exeternn 4

How did the collaboration between you, Fury’s, and Softside come about?

N: Danny, Emma, & Nikki are old friends of my partner. We were getting together regularly for karaoke at the local ANAF and they would encourage me to get up and sing. Honestly, before this, I would only sing at home alone or in the car! Since I had been pouring through the vinyl collection, I only really felt comfortable singing Country songs. I would get up and do Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard.

I must've sounded alright, because they started to encourage me to write, play and make music together. What I love about the Fury's being apart of my band, is that they bring the grit, punk, and fight that I want in country music. 

it is when I feel like it sounds like realistic dialogue one person would have with another, then I feel satisfied. 

Ian, my guitarist, of Softside, saw us play at a local show and expressed an interest in country music. He asked us to play a show in Sarnia with him and Emily Michaela. Ian's a great guitar player and I needed someone to add the kinda flourishes that says, you know exactly whats comin'. He recorded some demos for me, and the stuff he came up with on them was just what we needed. We couldn't let him go after that. 

Nn album release feb16 10

You’re credited with all the songwriting for the band’s latest album, Devil’s Run. Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? How do you know when a song is “just right”?

N: I collect ideas in my phone or notebooks of things that I've heard or experienced. Most of my songs start out as a line or melody that's been caught in my head, on repeat, until I find it's footing. Usually, I try to root it in a feeling and then flesh it out from there. I'll take it to a guitar in a space that I can feel completely alone in- then sing that line, find it some chords, and see where it goes until I have a workable verse or chorus. Basically, I'll play it 'til something comes. 

The "just right" moment for me is when the song sounds natural- like it didn't take me days/weeks/month to write it! When it's more like a thought that came in and out of my mind, or shouted in the heat of a moment, and when the melody sounds like the things I'm trying to say but couldn't find the words, that's when I'm most happy with it. 

I guess another way you could look at it is when I feel like it sounds like realistic dialogue one person would have with another, then I feel satisfied. 

Nn album release feb16 40

What has been your favourite gig/performance so far? 

N: Our record release show in our hometown of Guelph this past February! We sold the place out (which was wild), I got to wear a new outfit, put out merch for the first time, and we just had the best time getting the chance to celebrate all our hard work and what we've built together. 

As of right now, what’s the best part of being a musician/band? Conversely, have there been challenges you’ve faced?

N: The best part is creating something out of nothing with people that you care about. As a band, we've been able to build a fun idea into something we're really proud of and we've all grown and really come together as musicians the past two years. 

The challenges aren't surprising. Trying to find the time to balance our art and work lives is always a struggle, as is money and trying to navigate the Canadian music landscape. I don't come from an artistic family, So I've had to try and figure out how to do this band thing as we go. It can be stressful and emotional at times, but the rewards are usually worth it. 

Check out Devil’s Run on Bandcamp and Spotify. The band will also be performing at Riverfest Elora, August 16-18.

Hayley Mullen is a 4th year Communications student and the Production Coordinator at CFMU. She hosts Study Jams every Thursday on CMFU, and has been a devoted musician/composer for over eight years.

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