Horse Power

23 May 2012 | 5:46 pm | Ben Preece

"He’s all, like, 'I’m going to take two bands on the road and I’ll decide on the day who I play with on the night.’ That’s amazing – who does that?” Lanie Lane talks Jack White and songwriting.

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Have one conversation with Lanie Lane and, even if you hadn't heard her music, you'll quickly realise the girl is in it for the long haul. Further evidence will be unearthed as you hear her music – to come as far as she's come in a fickle industry like the Australian music scene and not necessarily be conventional-sounding certainly is impressive. Her debut album – To The Horses - ducks and weaves through an uncompromising mix of blues, rockabilly and rock'n'roll, while her lyrics offer tales of heartbreak, love and lust in a haze of what feels like a smoky bar somewhere in Texas.

And these examples of her talents have certainly been lapped up by the powers that be, the ones that create synergy and opportunity that puts performers on the map. Just this week, Lane took out the most nominations (four) for this year's APRA Awards, largely thanks to the song, (Oh Well) That's What You Get For Falling In Love With A Cowboy. Somehow, though, even an achievement this great seems to be overshadowed by some of biggest goal kicks to date – she's recorded songs with none other than Jack White and was invited to play his Third Man Records showcase at South by South West this year, while her album debuted at #12 on the ARIA Chart and snared FBi's SMAC Award for Album of the Year. And that's not even counting the relentless touring of Australia, the US and the UK and having the time of her life while doing it.

“I feel pretty good,” she shyly admits. “I feel like I'm just doing what I got to do – it's a pretty awesome life. The APRA noms are awesome, especially the fact that it does come from APRA, my peers and the industry as such. It's an important part of being a musician and a songwriter, so that recognition is really exciting. The great thing about it is that it cuts to the chase, it's down to the song and that's what I've always said is the number one thing. Nothing else matters if you have the good song – people forget that though, it's so simple and the most basic thing that you can ever say about music. Even if it's successful and it's shit, it isn't going to get the longevity or the connections. I just try to write a really good song always; nothing else matters.

“I've been writing songs for fifteen years. It might seem like I'm new and I am to an extent but it's been a long time. I feel like I'm still learning and still becoming competent. There's a quote that gets thrown around a lot whenever you get asked about songwriting from Paul Kelly – he says he feels like he's never fully nailed it, like can you ever nail it? I think that's really true, but at the same time you have to have faith in what you're doing and as long as it's coming from the right place – it's a really honest thing and whatever needs to come out – then I feel like it is the right thing.”

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One of the most beautiful things about what's currently happening to Lanie Lane is that this honesty and this individuality is being recognised on every level while remaining original. There isn't anything else like her on the radio and she's certainly not about to fall into line and follow a trend.

“That's just me,” she says without an ounce of arrogance. “I keep kind of warning people that the next record is not going to sound anything like that. I mean, I'll have the same instruments and stuff yeah, but we'll probably chuck in a few extra things. A lot of these songs have been written on the Rhodes with a keyboard and I've never played piano in my life – this is a whole new thing for me, teaching myself to play and write on a different instrument. So the songs are really different and I just feel like it's a matter of me wanting to have a long-term career and writing whatever feels right at the time. It probably always will sound different because I'm not following trends and I'm not thinking about what other people are doing basically. It doesn't come into my head – the whole, 'What does that person sound like?' and I don't reference stuff. People often think I am referencing but it just doesn't happen.”

While not referencing, Lane is utterly inspired more by attitudes within careers, artists who can create an encompassing body of work while maintaining that individuality she's so hell-bent on achieving.

“I love Patti Smith,” she gushes. “She's just so incredible and I love her on just so many levels. I was watching this documentary – Dream Of Life – and it just reminds you of what you're doing, I think any artist should watch it – your job in life is to create and yeah, sometimes you have to do a day of promo or boring shit but she lived in such a way that whatever she was doing, she was still creating. I cried throughout that doco.”

Another artist to clearly have an impact on the life of Lanie Lane is Jack White, another uncompromising soul who took her under his wing somewhat, recorded a couple of songs with her at his Third Man Studios in Nashville and gave her that showcase at South by South West.

“People like that… When you're in his world, it really is his world. People want that – it's real. He's all, like, 'I'm going to take two bands on the road and I'll decide on the day who I play with on the night.' That's amazing – who does that?”

Currently on her own headline tour as well as opening for White on his debut solo tour Down Under, Lane isn't leaning hard on her laurels. She has already begun writing the next record and seems to be feeling pretty damn good about it so far.

“I've got 15 or 20 new songs so far,” she reveals. “Sometimes I feel like I haven't written a song for a month and then I will write one a week. I do what I do and I don't put pressure on myself – this week, for example, I've had the whole week at home so I've made a conscious effort to work through this new song and to get it where I want it. Because I'm writing on a different instrument, it takes a bit more work. But I am really lucky, I feel like I'm in an early part of my life – it's still fresh and I am learning all the time. I don't get bored and I love that feeling of learning something new and not knowing where it's going to go. I love the unknown!”