Nicole Atkins sits on a tan couch backstage at City Winery, downstairs just past the casks of housemade wine, in the greenroom that looks more or less like what you’d imagine: signed posters on the wall, a mini-fridge with a wayward Corona and a couple Red Bulls. A few plates with mushroom flatbread-style pizza and an extremely photogenic steak sit before her as she chuckles with the venue’s manager.
She’s scheduled to go on at 8, and the time is just a little before 7; she’s bare-faced and dressed in a cream-colored chemise. There's a white sheet spread over a chair in the corner, which Marci, friend and fan of Nicole, sits on. Later, we discover this is her outfit—her singing caftan, a phrase I just created that shall live in infamy—and Marci will die of embarrassment as Nicole picks it up, reassuring her no-harm-no-foul and then pulls it over her head.
Zero diva, y’all. She’s legit awesome.
Now, if you haven’t had the opportunity to hear Nicole Atkins sing, you’re missing out. She has a powerful, almost timeless-vintage quality to her voice; it is confident, a little smoky, beautiful. To say the least, the woman has some pipes. And in person, she is witty, funny and very warm. She’s also a looker, with a cool aesthetic that is half rockstar, half earnest artist. The New Jersey native has been at it since she was 13, but her full-length solo debut album dropped in 2007. Since then she’s toured the world, released additional critically acclaimed albums, played on Letterman and even been called a lady Roy Orbison.
Here, check out a video from her most recent album, Slow Phaser:
BUT HOW DOES SHE DO HER EYELINER?!
The stage at City Winery is one of the most civilized I’ve been to. It almost felt retro in that you sit down, you stay seated, and you order some dinner and wine. The lights are sort of dreamy, reflecting off all the wood, and they illuminate the rather small, stark stage; she’s going to be playing with only her guitar and sometimes with accompanying guitarist, Scott. She’s the opener for Rhett Miller of the Old 97s (I know, I know SWOON), so most of the audience is ready to see some incredible talent, but she still wants to look like a babe, and that’s not hard, all things considered.
Nicole starts with concealer. And if you want to know what concealer, don’t you worry—I’m going to tell you. She starts with Clinique Airbrush Concealer in 02 Medium, and applies it under the eyes and along the T-zone before using BareMinerals BareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation in Bare Natural 07 in the application brush.
Then she’s straight on to the LORAC Pro Contour Palette.
“I’ve never contoured before. I’m dying to try it!” Marci gives a few tips on how to contour, like use the darker shades under the cheekbones, as Nicole starts to sculpt her face in the manner of which we have all become accustomed (I’m trying to avoid saying Kardashian). After a bit of blending, she gets the hang of it but isn’t really sold. “I don’t think I did this right. I look like the Walking Dead” she quips, and blends out the shades even more before using the medium shade contour as a base for eyeshadow.
“I’m a big fan of white eyeliner along the waterline. It really opens my eyes on stage. And I discovered that even if I do it messy, it really doesn’t matter, nobody is going to see it up close anyway. It just needs to have the effect I want,” Nicole says as she takes The Body Shop Matte Kajal While Liner and attempts to apply to her lower lids. The product is acting out, though, and she chucks it. “Well, back to the NARS!” grabbing her favorite: NARS Larger Than Life in Santa Monica Boulevard—it never fails.
She does a quick line before going onto MAC’s new Le Disko Dazzleshadow in Let’s Roll, a sparkly copper that goes all over her lid, later texting Marci that she's a huge fan of the collection.
She goes back to the contouring powders—“I’m working the palette!”—as she deepens the shadow along the brow bone for a glittery smoky eye finished with a bold wing courtesy of L’Oreal Infallible Gel Liner in Blackest Black and curled lashes, perfect under a sweep of bangs. Her lashes get the Lancome Grandiose Mascara treatment. Then, as a final step, she dusts her cheeks with a little Shiseido S2 Blush, a peachy cream that acts as both highlighter and blusher. The lip color is still up for debate.
We get to talking about skincare, and she runs down her favorites for keeping skin bright-lights ready: She loves Le Mieux TGF-ß Booster, a serum chock full of peptides and moisturizers (from what I can tell, it's working), TecNiche Intrinsic Face Lotion, La Mer The Eye Concentrate and a few big spritzes of Aura Cacia’s Chill Pill for fragrance.
For her hair, she likes to have a messy, beachy look, achieved with Joico Hair Shake Finishing Texturizing Spray, a cool liquid-to-powder product that makes hair big and sexy.
And that’s it! She runs through a few songs with Scott before Rhett Miller arrives and lets us take the obligatory Instagram shots. They’d both had the same haircut just a few years ago, but Atkins has grown hers out considerably. By the way, Rhett Miller’s hair is absolutely amazing in person; it’s a thick mop on a gorgeous face that never ages, BUT I DIGRESS.
Scott changes into a bright plum western-style shirt and Nicole notices it is the exact same color as Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar in Belladonna, and thus, the lip decision has been made. It’s a purple night for the duo.
It was about that time for us to exit and everybody to get on stage so Marci and I went out to our table, ordered some hummus and pita, a pizza to call our own, and sat back to enjoy Ms. Atkins in all her glory, “straight in from Brooklyn in her granny’s Le Sabre.”
She of course slayed, and Rhett Miller was an explosion of energy and talent as well. (Also, hey, Nicole, I read that you love Harriet Wheeler. Girl, we need to be BFFs, stat. The Sundays are my absolute favorite; if you cover them I need to see it!)