Lola Kirke on Growth and the Nashville Tradition on Co-Writing Music

Photography by Zachary Michael

It may have initially been love that lured singer/song- writer/actress Lola Kirke down to Nashville, but it sure helped that Jack White’s Third Man Records was based there too. Now signed to his label, she’s getting ready to release her sophomore album Lady for Sale in late April. It follows up 2018’s Heart Head West on Downtown Records. “As a huge White Stripes fan, Third Man had been on my radar since I was a little kid,” she jovially explains. “I remember visiting Nashville for the first time in my early 20s and trying to make my own record in their cool little recording studio in the store but it was broken. I never dreamed I’d get to be making records with them for real! I’m not entirely sure how it came about but I’m going to venture to say magic. I love country music and the south in general, so it’s dreamy to get to live here.”

She’s a big fan of the Nashville songwriting tradition of meeting up with another musician (sometimes for the first time) in a room and just penning a song, Lola found it complemented her other life as an actress too.

I love co-writing so much. Because I’m an actress too, I’m sort of naturally collaborative and not very shy. So it suits me to come in with an idea and just make something. Plus I’m always collecting song titles and ideas. If nothing’s pressing, I’m just like ‘how about “Life’s Hard, Drinking’s Easy?’” Or something that I would have no idea how to finish on my own. Writing on my own can be a little harder but I love that process too. It’s very private and some- times the only way I can work through whatever pain or bullshit I’m dealing with.

Of course the pandemic stretched out the time between her two records. But as for many artists, it gave her the opportunity to hone the songs on the record. Something she’s grateful for now. “I began writing some of the record on my own in 2019. At that time, the songs all sounded very sad and different because they were about longing and doubt and drinking too much and wanting something you shouldn’t which is all very sad indeed. Then my life kind of exploded later that year and I sort of got what I wanted and the songs started being about that: how thrilling it is to fulfill your fantasy of love.”

Lockdown changed the aesthetic of her music as she started to channel the likes of Martina McBride, Pam Tillis, Vince Gill and other 80s-90s greats.

My producer and co-writer Austin Jenkins had such a great vision for something a little more fun. We had to create the thing the world had taken away from us! We subverted a lot of the darker themes on the record through that lens and I think the results are just wonderful. The songs began to take on the reality of love too— how exciting and disappointing and exciting and disappointing and so on. Of course there are exceptions. One song is about a relation- ship I had as a teenager and another is about the price of the pursuit of fame.

Her acting credits include hits like David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle and Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America. It begs the question whether a background on stage and in front of the camera has helped stage confidence when she is on tour for her music.

Initially I had a hard time wedding my skill as an actress to my work as a musician. I felt like I had to be me on stage as a musician and found myself just kind of fumbling live. It’s hard to play yourself! Other characters are easier. With this record, I’ve been more compelled to craft a “Lola” character. In my mind, she’s a secret 90s country superstar with a confidence you can’t break. Whenever I’ve felt nervous onstage, I just kind of pretend I’m Shania Twain and next thing I know, I’m totally comfortable having a full body orgasm into the mic in front of my mother.