Music Spotlight: Nicolette and The Nobodies

I’ll confess. Sometimes I get so many emails I can’t read them all. The downside to that is I am sure I have missed several great artists. But thankfully, I did open Taran’s Smith email when she pitched Nicolette & the Nobodies to me.

When I heard the song “Better Days,” my audible response was, “What is this?” When I saw Nicolette Hoang, I wondered, “Where did she learn to sing like that?”

If you just listened, you would think Hoang was raised on a steady diet of Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Hoang’s parents are Vietnamese immigrants who fled to Canada during the Vietnamese War. She was raised in Guelph, Ontario, where her parents enrolled her in the Royal Music Conservatory.

Nicolette and the Nobodies

She stated, “I primarily only played classical piano as a kid, but I taught myself guitar, and I taught myself to sing. But they did provide me instruments, so I always had access to music.”

She continued, “I did love classical music, but there wasn’t much freedom for me in it. And then I went through phases. I always loved popular music, but then I went through Jazz. There was a big period where I only wanted to play and sing jazz standards.”

Hoang was in her early 20s when she was rooting through her parents’ record collection. They had a handful of country records.

When she put them on, she knew, “That’s for me.” They resonated with her.

She admitted, “There are times when I’m just I’ll go through phases where I’ll listen to some different stuff because I love rock music. I love punk. I love pop and jazz, soul, and migrate all over the place. But then I hear a really good country tune, and I’m like, ‘That’s me.’ Nothing hits like that.”

And although Hoang grew up in the 90s, the older country music speaks to her.

She recalled, “I remember hearing Tammy Wynette for the first time and feeling like, This!

Immediately enthralled by Glen Campbell, Hank Williams, Lynn, and George Jones, she devoured the classic Country catalog with ferocity.

“It was so emotionally complex but presented simply and direct. Anyone from anywhere can relate to these songs,” Hoang said.

And though the Canadian doesn’t have quite the same Appalachian accent as Lynn, the way she sings and the content of her self-penned songs reminded me most of her.

Nicolette and the Nobodies

“I love how direct [Loretta] is. There is something courageous to that. It takes a certain amount of guts to say it as it is,” Hoang said.

When Hoang met up with the Nobodies around nine years ago, they mainly played covers. Eventually, the singer got into songwriting, and she found another vehicle to express herself musically.

Still working in her family’s optometrist shop, Hoang only recently realized that performing her original country-western music was more than a side hobby.

On April 12, Nicolette & The Nobodies released their debut album The Long Way. Hoang has never been to songwriting school or learned “The Nashville Way” of group songwriting. But with her extensive musical background, writing original songs was just the natural next step.

Writing this album, Hoang took a period to thoughtfully relish the opportunities before her and to reckon with her role as a woman of color in a predominately white, male genre. The result is a collection of personal and adventurous songs. On The Long Way, Hoang is unfettered.

“It’s a hot mess of emotions,” she stated.

When you hear Nicolette & The Nobodies perform their original song, “Show Up,” if you close your eyes, you are conveyed to a time when Patsy Cline and her ilk were popular. The song was based on a true situation that a friend was experiencing. Her friend was in a bad relationship and Hoang wished she would just leave him, but then as she started writing, her own emotions came out.

Hoang shows her sassy side on the tune, “Rodeo” which endears her to me even more. With the lyrics, Don’t you worry about me/ I can make it on my own/ You mighta broke my heart, Kicked it to the side of the road/ But I’ll pick myself up, find another love/ Cause this ain’t my first or my last rodeo have it has the perfect mix of Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson, and Loretta Lynn that makes my heart happy.

She shared, “‘Rodeo’ is about when you’re struggling to sit in the feeling of where you are. It’s a little bit of suffering in silence. You want to be better than ever right now, but under the surface, you’re struggling with your vulnerability.”

There are other gems on this debut record like the rocking “Don’t You Dare,” the Loretta-like “Didn’t Know,” and “Losing More,” a duet with Paul Weber that transports you back to the heartache of Wynette and Jones. But the artist’s favorite song is the title track “The Long Way” a song about Hoang’s childhood, a tune that sounds like it is straight out of 1960/70s country even though the singer was not yet born.

She explained, “I wrote that song about missing my childhood house and my grandparents and the way my parents were when they were young. And that you can’t really go back there because even if the house is still there, it’s not the same. They can’t look after you anymore. It’s just remembering a place and a time extremely fondly.”

I am blown away by the scope and depth of the debut album, The Long Way. For reasons unknown to me, Hoang gets country music. She understands how simple lyrics can create profound statements. She has the musical background to play or sing any genre under the sun, but she chooses country music which is a blessing to us all.

If you live in the Nashville area, you can see Nicolette & the Nobodies for her first live show in Nashville at The Basement on May 16, and they will play a lunchtime set at 3rd & Lindsley on May 17. Check its website for other shows and more information.

If you like traditional country western music with a twist, you will love Nicholette & The Nobodies. There is nobody like them on the planet.

You can follow Nicolette & The Nobodies on Instagram, X, Facebook, YouTube, and all streaming services.

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Bethany Bowman is a freelance entertainment writer. You can follow her blogInstagram, and X(Twitter).




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