Nikki Moddelmog

Nikki Moddelmog

BandFolkAcoustic

Biography

From the first note, Nikki Moddelmog sounds familiar. The rich voice, the intricate melodies, the unapologetic lyrics bring to mind such artists as Michelle Shocked, Lisa Loeb, Patti Griffin and, clearly, Ani Difranco.

Yet there is something remarkably fresh and daring about Nikki that has been captured on her debut CD, “Pathological Optimist.”

The music is a reflection of the woman. Nikki grew up in the Mennonite farming town of Moundridge, Kansas – but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. With wild hair pulled into pigtails, homemade tie-dye shirt and flowing skirt, she hardly fits the conservative Kansas stereotype. Nor is there much Gen X to be found in her 1920s-era glasses or burnt-orange VW Westfalia bus (built the same year she was born). Nikki looks every bit the quirky, comfortable old soul friends know her to be. In a time and culture of pretentiousness, Nikki is adorably herself.

At 24, after college, marriage, divorce and a move to Wichita, Nikki picked up the guitar. Six months later, she wrote her first song.

“I was at a place in my life where I needed to work things out,” she remembers. “The best place to do that was in music. I could sing things that I didn’t know how to say. Putting what I was feeling into four verses and a chorus helped me get on with my life.”

Along the way, Nikki was helped by the monthly singer-songwriter circle at Wichita's legendary Artichoke Sandwich Bar.

“I’d been writing for less than a year the first time I sat in. I remember listening to a few of the writers, thinking ‘I want to be able to write like that.’ When the really good ones started telling me how much they liked what I was doing, I got serious about my music. It became something I wanted to share.”

Bryan Masters, songwriter and de facto leader of the circle, said, “I never know how to describe what Nikki writes. It’s all so simultaneously clueless and wise. I think that translates well to people. She has a way of seeing things that the rest of us have been blind to. We all feel it. But she puts it to music.”

That newcomer’s look at life may explain why so much of Nikki’s material delivers such a “didn’t-see-that-coming” punch. The 10 self-penned songs that make up “Pathological Optimist” are told from a personal point of view, but they strike a universal nerve. Her simply stated observations of the overlooked become powerful, melodic epiphanies.

Nikki sings of imagined lovers, deafening silence, false starts and neglected beds. Her characters challenge each other and themselves. They hold on, they let go, they grow.

The one thing they refuse to do is fit into nice, neat categories. Nikki’s disc is an eclectic collection that ranges from ballads to bluegrass to pop to tribal rhythms.

“That’s one thing I like about being a solo artist,” Nikki said. “I don’t have to make the song fit a band’s sound. I bring in the sounds I want to fit the music.” The sounds are diverse, but Nikki and co-producer Mark Scheltgen have created a disc that is coherent and concise, with songs that fit together like chapters to form a storybook.

In nearly every Nikki song is an acknowledgement of vulnerability. “I’m quick-witted and charming, and a little bit cute / but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a clue / about what it takes, how to challenge the stakes / how to find my just-the-right you,” she sings in “Play My Game.”

Always, there is belief, hope and action. For the “Pathological Optimist,” “I don’t live in fear; life’s too short to waste away / on the meat and potatoes of a candy-laden bouquet / laced with I wish I may, I wish I might / grasping for something that doesn’t hold on so tight.”

Nikki's music gives voice to the dichotomies of love and the juxtaposition of life's desires and obligations.

One reviewer explained her this way: “Nikki is a charming and disarming mélange of contradictions. Her songs come from an old-soul-meets-Hello-Kitty philosophy of life. In a time of cynicism, she is refreshingly trusting and awkwardly self-assured. She ain’t no poser. She’s genuine, and she’s good.”

Lyrics

who knows

Written By: nicole howerton, nikki moddelmog

who knows

never knew so many choices were made
just walkin through the streets
never knew so many dreams were found
when we're down upon our knees

you can't escape the fear of loss
of what you're not supposed to keep
you have to take a chance, have faith
in the choices that you make

who gets to choose who we lose
who gets to watch it fall away
who gets to keep the memory
of the thoughts that seem to stay
who knows, who knows,
it's just the way it goes
it's just the way it goes

take a step and walk through the door
Don't be afraid to find what you're looking for
it's so much more than a wish filled glance
of some distant circumstance

so i'm dressed for innocence
i'm naked to the bone
just don't take advantage
of the secrets you've been shown

who gets to choose who we lose
who gets to watch it fall away
who gets to keep the memory
of the thoughts that seem to stay
who knows, who knows,
it's just the way it goes
It's just the way it goes

so i'll walk beside the river
cast the stones into the tide
i'd walk a thousand miles
to find what's hidden deep inside

who gets to choose who we lose
who gets to watch it fall away
who gets to keep the memory
of the thoughts that seem to stay
who knows, who knows,
it's just the way it goes
it's just the way it goes

believe

Written By: nicole howerton

i've seen you make the choice,
to give or to get
nothing more than a need,
you haven't gotten to yet

you don't have to give,
and I wouldn't ask
this promise of never,
how long would it would last

don't want for the another,
if it's just not there
don't belong to emotion,
but don't be afraid to care

let's dance to the middle,
find where we belong
and don't ask for forever,
it'd take too long

so believe in what is, accept the rest
don't judge the condition, don't make it a test
just give to your heart what it's wanted all along
nothing more than a place to be loved and belong

there's no shift of perception
no slight of hand
there's no misdirection
don't you see where I stand

so don't worry 'bout choosing,
the right way to bend
your heart will determine,
which heartbreak to mend

so believe in what is, accept the rest
don't judge the condition, don't make it a test
just give to your heart what it's wanted all along
nothing more than a place to be loved and belong

philosophy

Written By: nicole howerton

i hold myself so tight
and the dark it seems so bright
i stare, but just can't see
far beyond that place inside of me

but now there you are
and i'm reaching out
i think you may have chose me
to release me from this doubt

finding you
then finding me
a complicated philosophy
but i'm finding love
uncovering it's path
where i think i'll find myself
at last

and i didn't know how fast
and i didn't know how deep
i'd start to need, to crave
this shifting at my feet

it's uncovering the secrets
and letting go of the regrets
it's more a part of therapy
than the truth of this dichotomy

so i'm finding you
then i'm finding me
a complicated philosophy
but i'm finding love
uncovering it's path
where i think i'll find myself
at last

so release me
then watch me go
there's much more here
than we'll ever know

finding you
then finding me
such a complicated philosophy

Discography

Pathological Optimist