L-R: Nikki Lane, Ashyln Cannon, Cemari Watson and Asheton Frady Breland at Upper Kirby boutique Billy Reid
L-R: Nikki Lane, Ashyln Cannon, Cemari Watson and Asheton Frady Breland at Upper Kirby boutique Billy Reid
Photo by Gladys Fuentes

Outlaw Highway Queen Nikki Lane's Texas Mission of Mercy

Nikki Lane is a badass with a heart of gold. The Nashville-based outlaw country singer-songwriter saw the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey and rallied her troops for help. Her battle cry came in the form of a social-media post requesting donations to fill a truck and drive down to Texas along with her boyfriend and fellow musician, Jonathan Tyler.

“It started to hit and it took a couple of days for it to be personal," Lane explained to the Houston Press over the weekend. "You’re so desensitized from things from a distance. Jonathan’s sister is in Kingwood and she told us, 'It is as bad as the TV,' and he said, 'We have to go.'"

The fast-paced singer hadn’t had a vacation in three years. When her planned trip to Cuba was canceled because of the storm, she and Tyler decided it was the perfect time for them to help out others. “I always want to help," she says. "I wanted to help during Katrina, I wanted to help during Sandy, but it’s not just about what you want to do; it’s about what’s in your bank account, your job, all the variables.”

Her battle cry was heard in her Nashville community, and her fellow musicians and friends really showed up. “We had the drive and we started to wonder, 'Is anyone gonna come? Does anyone care?'" says Lane. "Within six hours this van was full, not even room for guests! Lots of people in Nashville wanted to do something, but it doesn’t mean that they can, other than texting to the Red Cross.”

"People are going to need financial and moral support for a long time," says Lane.
"People are going to need financial and moral support for a long time," says Lane.
Photo by Gladys Fuentes

Lane and Tyler received not only an abundance of donations but a couple of volunteers to make the journey with them as well. The couple made room in their cramped van for fellow musician and friend Cody Huggins and Lane’s sister, Asheton Frady. Huggins's wife was already in Houston serving as a relief nurse, and Asheton, a U.S. military veteran, was eager to aide in relief efforts as well.

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The foursome left rainy Nashville and headed toward Houston with a full van and full hearts; their first stop in Texas was Alvin. “First day we went to Alvin and just picked a church," says Lane. "It was called the Chocolate Bayou Worship Center. We just started seeing how we could help. It was very grass-roots."

The four felt that their impact would possibly be greater in these smaller communities around Houston and decided to make multiple stops and dropoffs before heading to the city. From Alvin they went on to Port Arthur and Nome, Texas, which are also in ruins from the storm.

“It’s crazy," says Cody Huggins.

"Port Arthur is really the first place we saw that was really destructed,” adds Tyler. “I could definitely tell when we went to Port Arthur that there was a lot of people displaced and places destroyed by water.”

The four quickly found a church there and began to help those in need, distribute donations and witness, as Lane describes, “those little glimmers in people’s eyes.”

Lane and boyfriend Jonathan Tyler at Billy Reid
Lane and boyfriend Jonathan Tyler at Billy Reid
Photo by Gladys Fuentes

“It feels good," Lane continues. "It feels better than most shit. To see somebody’s eyes light up, even though it wasn’t a big thing, it’s not gonna fix it but we are all here. If people keep coming and don’t just come here for the week but keep coming. People in my business-management team are saying they will come here in the next two weeks. This is not a short-term thing; it’s not dropping off food and shaking hands. People are going to need financial and moral support for a long time.”

Once the four got settled into their hotel in Houston, the sisters met and bonded with two young sisters from the Kirby family who lost everything in the flood and were seeking refuge in the same hotel. The four quickly bonded over being raised by hard-working single mothers, age differences, birthdays and even similarity in names. Lane and Frady saw the need these young girls and their mother had for a friendly helping hand and a happy distraction from their current situation.

The four sisters went to breakfast and left Mom so she could have some time to herself to get important things done, like insurance claims and paperwork. “I worked hard so that I finally have money in my bank account," Lane states. "The first six years of music wasn’t like that. Now it’s just interesting that I finally have money in my bank account, time off, an emergency situation that we could get to and we are stumbling into people that we can directly impact and will probably see every time we get to come here. You don’t know what to do with your money, and to me, I would rather know that two people and their mom have what they need for a month, even if I can’t fix the whole city.”

Lane knows the impact a good connection can have. “In touring we create, not really fans but family, Fanily!" she laughs. "People that become the people we call first when we get places.”

Words to live by.
Words to live by.
Photo by Gladys Fuentes

I believe the Kirby family will be part of Nikki Lane’s Houston clan from here on out. She and her band not only treated Houston and the surrounding areas to hands-on relief efforts, but donated their time and talent to a benefit luncheon and concert at the Billy Reid boutique on Westheimer and Kirby. The benefit was organized by the John Besh Foundation, which is helping Texans by serving meals and rebuilding homes. All of the proceeds from the lunch and warehouse sale are headed to benefit Harvey victims.

It seemed a perfect fit for the fashionable Lane to do her benefit concert in the boutique. “Art to me is expression, and your outfit is the easiest way to express that," she explains. "A company like Billy Reid is a family-based business. Every time I go to their pop-up at Newport or his Muscle Shoals event Shindig, everybody in his family is around. He’s a communal-type person; he believes in community.”

“What he’s selling the clothes for today is probably cost, and he’s giving all the money away," adds Lane. "It’s a selfless act. Those kind of people are the kind of people I want to represent because they are not just making clothing to be a hipster, but their whole thing is to create a brand which is strong enough to create a movement. That’s what I want to be.”

Lane has done just that, not just with fashion and music but with her generosity to Texas. She and her band will be back in town October 21 at the Continental Club to wrap up her Highway Queen tour along with J.D. McPherson, and is sure to have new members of her fanily in the audience.

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