With her throaty vibrato and lushly orchestrated pop songs, Nicole Atkins made her debut in 2006, bringing to mind a blend of Roy Orbison, Loretta Lynn, and Jenny Lewis. She was raised in Neptune, NJ, and relocated to North Carolina during her late teens to study illustration at UNC Charlotte. After befriending members of the Avett Brothers and logging several years with the alt-country band Los Parasols, Atkins briefly returned to the tri-state area, where a series of open-mike performances in Manhattan's East Village helped her hone a sound that was more indebted to pop music than her work with Los Parasols.
Atkins spent the following years traveling between North Carolina and the Northeast, eventually settling in New Jersey at her parents' house. Performances in New York City helped her attract attention from several local musicians, and Atkins began piecing together a backing band comprised of guitarist Dave Hollinghurst, bassist John Flaughter, drummer Dan Mintzer, and keyboardist Daniel Chen. Operating under the name Nicole Atkins & the Sea, the band secured a residency at Piano's -- a popular nightspot in the Lower East Side -- and struck a deal with Columbia Records on the strength of Atkins' demo recordings and impressive performances. Atkins released the Bleeding Diamonds EP in 2006, and the group decamped to Sweden later that year to work on a full-length album. Featuring the songwriter's self-professed "pop-noir" sound, Neptune City arrived in late 2007, followed by an EP of cover material in 2008.
Before working on a second full-length album, Atkins contributed background vocals to A.C. Newman's Get Guilty and replaced her entire backup band. More changes arrived in July 2009, when she severed ties with Columbia. Although she eventually signed with Razor & Tie, the split with Columbia delayed the release of her sophomore album, Mondo Amore. When it finally appeared in February 2011, Mondo Amore found Atkins exploring her dark side, drawing upon her recent breakups (from her original label, her original band, and longtime boyfriend Paul Ritchie) and a love of '60s psychedelic rock for fuel. ~ Andrew Leahey & Kenyon Hopkin, Rovi