It’s not every day you come across an artist that so early in their career knows exactly who they are – and manages to make history in the process. But that is precisely what one of Nashville’s up and coming artists, Erica Nicole, has done. The debut of her new album and single, “I’m Making Mine,” has helped launched her into history. She is the first female independent artist with three consecutive top 20 records on the Music Row Country Breakout Chart.
With songs like the sassy “I Listen to My Bad Girl” and “Like I Do,” a duet with Jamie O’Neal, it’s no surprise she’s such a hit on the country chart. Growing up, Nicole’s parents saw her passion for music at a young age, but it wasn’t until later in life when she realized it herself. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve fallen in love with music,” she said, revealing that Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” was the first song she ever sang. “It wasn’t until I started living this dream that I could make it a reality,” Citing George Strait, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton as some of her musical influences, Nicole says “there’s no question my music is country” and hopes to become a “force to be reckoned with in music.”
One of the first steps into her music career was attaining a business degree from Western Carolina University. With an entrepreneurial mind and desire to make her own business out of music, Nicole transformed her degree into a proactive tool. “This is my business, this is my livelihood,” she said. “Being innovative, creative, bringing things to life you didn’t think you could – that’s entrepreneurship.”
And bringing things to life is just one of her specialties. The Georgia native made a recent move to Nashville, calling it her “permanent home.” Nicole drew up her dream home from scratch, designing her own floor plan of a ranch-style house that is currently being built in Leiper’s Fork, a place where she says she can do everything from displaying awards to raising kids. “This is my dream coming to life,” she said when walking into her new home after being out on the road. “The architect brought the whole thing to life.”
With her dream home in place and her music soaring to the top of the breakout charts, Nicole is ready to make her mark on country music. “This album is a true representation of me as an artist,” she said of “I’m Making Mine,” featuring the title track. The album not only reflects her artistry, but is also symbolic of where she’s at in her career. “This is the first decision in my career that I made on my own,” she said. “I made a decision to record the song, finish the project and do what I felt was right. I felt in my gut that it was what I was meant to do.”
But success is not always acquired alone. Nicole attributes her historic victories to the team of people that have helped get her there. At the top of that list are her parents, who she describes as her “number one fans.” “I never would’ve made it a day in this business without my parents,” she says humbly. Another key player is producer Kent Wells, who has worked with the likes of Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Brooks and Dunn and countless others. “There’s a lot of great producers in this town, but Kent is the best one for me,” says the new Nashvillian.
Though hard to believe, Nicole has lived with hearing loss since childhood, sometimes making the recording process difficult. Upon hearing a demo, she typically tries to learn it exactly as is and explained how changing the melody can throw her off. But Wells is as talented in the studio as he is gracious, making the necessary adjustments to the song so Nicole can record it in the best possible way. “I didn’t feel insecure anymore in the studio,” she said of her first time working with Wells. “Even with my hearing loss, I’ve become so confident in trying new things. It’s turned my career around.”
Along with adapting to her needs, Nicole also sees Wells as a source of inspiration and motivation, pushing her to her best capacity as a vocalist, artist and performer. “He has a way of bringing things out in me I didn’t know I had,” she said. “I’ve never worked with someone in this business that challenges me to be the best I can be and exceed all expectations.”
In between tour dates, recording, and settling into Nashville, Nicole also makes time for charitable work, something she feels passionate about. She is actively involved with ECAD (Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities), an organization that helps individuals with disabilities gain independence through specially trained and educated dogs. “The moment I met them, I fell in love with them,” Nicole said, who was joined by a veteran and canine from ECAD while performing the National Anthem at Citi Field last month.
With her heart in the right place and a strong team of people behind her, it’s clear that this is only the beginning for Erica Nicole, who is living out her personal motto: “Don’t just dream it – believe it, live it and make history.”