Lanie Lane

Rolling Stone, 2014

A trip to the Peruvian Andes cannot be without its epiphany. When Lanie Lane made the pilgrimage earlier this year, shooting the video to single ‘Celeste’ was the least celestial part of her journey.

“I had this astrology reading there, about my Saturn return,” she tells Rolling Stone, back on terra firma in a café near the Mushroom Group office. For the uninitiated, astrologers believe that this period – as a person transits from 27 to 29 – is a monumental crossroads. If you’re a rock star you may well die. Happily, Lane was warned that the craziest ride is yet to come. It didn’t surprise her. The cycle between the last album, To the Horses, and this, Night Shade, has been all about transformation.

Back in 2011, Lanie Lane was the peppy Americana pin-up who broke through with ‘Oh Well, That’s What You Get For Falling in Love With a Cowboy’. At once coquettish and rambunctious, she demanded attention. Her debut album with Ivy League, To the Horses, went gold, and amid festivals and TV syncs she found herself working with Jack White and Paul Kelly.

Three years later, she’s immersed in a very different lifestyle. This Lanie has ditched the ruby lips and cheesecake wardrobe. Her hair flows loosely, her face is somehow more gentle. She’s found peace in the Victorian Goldfields where she now lives with her boyfriend Jez Mead (who also contributes trumpet and guitar to Night Shade) – a far cry from the old share house near Tullamarine Airport, overflowing with musicians. But it’s not so much a treechange as a spiritual awakening.

Anyone paying attention to interviews at the end of 2012 shouldn’t be surprised at the change of sound at least: Lane hinted that she was leaving country and rockabilly behind. New tracks like ‘Salute’, with its trippy guitars and tribal drums (is that a hawk circling?), are psychedelic enough to smudge your edges. Lane is sober these days… but should we be?

“Well, one of the albums we listened to the most was Dr John’s Night Trooper,” she laughs. “If you can find ways to explore other dimensions while sober, that’s so much more potent.”

Night Shade was engineered by Tim Whitten (Gaslight Radio, Augie March), but Lane took the producer’s role. Manager Andy Kelly checked in every so often, but assured her that Ivy League didn’t want a replica of To the Horses. Not all of Lane’s purist fan base may be so sympathetic, but she takes the stance of pleasing yourself, since you can’t please them all. She’s also quite relieved to have shaken the shackles of those high-maintenance outfits.

“That wasn’t a marketing ploy – it was what I loved to wear,” she says, “but after seven years I wanted to transition into something else. When I started to do that internally it began to feel like I was putting on a show externally, which was weird and wrong.”

In fact, Lane was on a mission to rid herself of anything that didn’t feel right. It’s no coincidence that much of Night Shade explores the circle of life: when we seek renewal, something has to die.

“My whole life, I’ve been doing things that don’t feel like me,” she says. “I had no awareness about the way I was presenting myself.”

She can trace this disconnect back to childhood. Lanier Stefanie Myra Johnstone had an artistic upbringing with permissive parents on the NSW Central Coast. “And then it was bang, straight into the classroom,” she recalls, “which was a big trauma. I wasn’t prepared for all that structure and I’ve carried that oppression with me all this time.” Lane recently sought closure through kinesiology, with a meditation session regressing her back to face her fears. Now she sees structure as a tool with which to realise her ideas.

“I feel like I had an activation of ‘all right, you want to be aware? Here we go. Boom boom boom,’” she says of the past few years. “When you crack your heart open to that it’s so painful, but you’re also opened up to so much joy.”

One conscious change Lane has made is to surround herself with strong women, such as Christina Fire-Mane, who runs sound-healing workshops, including that Peruvian excursion. “My relationship with men has changed,” Lane says. “I was so insecure. I had these attention-seeking tendencies. I was behaving in an adolescent way. Now I feel like I have better boundaries. I respect men and men respect me.”

A song like ‘You Show Me How I Should Like It’ – with its snake charmer trumpet line – demonstrates Lane’s new appreciation for sensuality with intent. “It comes from inside and it’s really fucking hot,” she smiles, wide-eyed. “Creativity and sexuality come from the same centre in the body, the sacral chakra.”

Even with a cycle of touring stretching out in front of her, Lane feels better placed to take on the world. She’s learned to recognise what she wants, how to ask for it and when to say stop.

“But still, sometimes I just want to go, fuck it, and live in the desert and build an earthship,” she concludes impishly.