When it comes to band origins, the story of Nikki Whitehead, the lead vocalist of Canadian alt-rock band Nikki’s Wives, is unfortunately all too familiar and rooted in a longstanding structural shortcoming of the music industry. “When I was first starting out in music, I was quite young and inexperienced,” she explained while preparing for the Junos in London, Ontario.
“This combination led me into certain situations where I felt like I had all control taken away from me—I was doing what I loved, but I had no say.” Whitehead harnessed her early experiences into a firm dedication to declaring her agency, and formed Nikki’s Wives, who, along with Dylan Lauzon and Nate Baylor, blend melodic savvy and earworming riffs with the irreverent attitude of Liz Phair or, more recently, Halsey. But the band’s ambitions expand beyond the typical benchmarks of musical success. They are equally invested in fusing their music with a clear social mission. For their video for the track “Get Paid,” the band donated the proceeds to the National Compassion Fund, a U.S.-based charity that directly supports survivors of gun violence.
Now splitting her time between Nashville and Toronto, Whitehead is resisting an industry that often projects clear expectations for female-fronted bands, and has instead elected to build her influences out of musical trailblazers who have impacted the sound and spirit of the band. “One positive of having those experiences so young, is that it forced me to grow up and develop as an artist. I think that’s where my inner ‘bad bitch’ comes from.” In her own words, here are the artists who have helped provide the sonic backbone for Nikki’s Wives.