Nina Gordon Proves There Is 'Life' After Veruca Salt

Rock band's former co-frontwoman goes pop on solo debut.

On the eve of the release of her first solo album,Tonight and the Rest of My Life, former Veruca Salt co-frontwoman Nina Gordon remembered how liberating it felt to leave behind the tense situation with her old band.

"It was pretty miraculous how quickly I adjusted," the vocalist and guitarist said. "And that's why I know it was the right decision for me to leave the band, because almost instantly I felt the weight of the world sort of fall away, and I suddenly felt extremely free and streamlined."

Tonight and the Rest of My Life establishes Gordon's departure from the brash Veruca Salt style, characterized by songs such as "Seether" (RealAudio excerpt). The singer fully gives in to the trembling sweetness in her voice, and the record's evolving, often-orchestral sound marks her arrival in territory closer to Aimee Mann's new Bachelor No. 2 than Veruca Salt's latest, Resolver.

For a review of Tonight and the Rest of My Life, click here.

The record marks profound changes in Gordon's life: the dissolution of her relationship with her best friend and Veruca Salt co-founder and frontwoman Louise Post (who is continuing the band with all-new personnel and a markedly harder rock sound); a new-ish boyfriend, former Veruca Salt drummer Stacy Jones; and a change of record labels that left her album — originally scheduled for release last August — in limbo for 10 months. Tonight also reveals in Gordon the confidence that comes from moving on to better things.

'I Had To Get Out'

In 1999, Gordon's label, Outpost/Geffen, was folded into the Interscope label in a corporate merger, and Outpost and Interscope were "feuding," according to Gordon. The restructuring was threatening to hold up Tonight and the Rest of My Life. The singer felt caught in the middle and wanted out of her deal.

With a kind of determination befitting her newfound confidence, Gordon took charge. "I had to get out," she said. Ultimately, she landed at Warner Bros. "It was definitely the smartest and best thing that could've happened. Now it's a total love affair between me and my record label, which has never happened to me before. So I'm psyched."

The feeling is mutual, Peter Standish, Warner Bros.' vice president of marketing, said. "I think she has a real passion for what she's doing," Standish said. "And it comes across both in the music and in the work she's doing to let people know about this record. She has a positive attitude. We love the music, and we love her, and we feel lucky to work with someone as talented as she is."

That kind of support buoys Gordon as she enters a new phase in her career. The singer was always the more pop-oriented member of Veruca Salt, compared with Post, whose musical inclinations leaned toward stadium-rock and metal. Making a solo album allowed Gordon to fulfill her own pop vision.

"I chose to leave the nest and go off and do my own thing. Really, everything is very different," Gordon said. "That's not to say that I never looked back and never had any doubts, but overall, it was a totally positive thing."

That blend of vulnerability, doubt and confidence punctuates Tonight, particularly on the Sarah McLachlan-like title track (RealAudio excerpt), with a melancholic melody that underscores Gordon's optimistic chorus: "I feel so light/ This is all I want to feel tonight."

The poignant "Got Me Down," a farewell to an ex, expresses a similar sentiment as Gordon sings, "Tell me when it's over/ And it's time for me to get up off the ground." On the driving love song "2003" (RealAudio excerpt), Gordon can't wait for the future to arrive; but on the biting "Badway," she sings, "I can't get dressed when I'm this low."

"I was realizing the other day that the [album's] first three songs are these positive, forward-looking, sort of empowered-feeling songs," Gordon said. "Then on the fourth song ['Badway'], I just do a nosedive — it's like, 'Sorry, it can't last. ' "

Record's Personnel Make The Difference

When it came time to capture her emotional, personal songs in the studio, Gordon turned to producer Bob Rock, who had worked with Veruca Salt on 1997's Eight Arms To Hold You. "I knew that he and I really did have a similar take on things, musically," Gordon said.

With a supporting cast that included Jones, his former Letters To Cleo bandmate Michael Eisenstein and Gordon's brother, original Veruca Salt drummer Jim Shapiro, Gordon felt liberated from a band format. "We could explore things that we wouldn't ordinarily explore or that we never really thought to explore in the band," she said. "It was a much more free environment, and things happened that I don't think would've happened had there been this very rigid band structure."

Gordon also marveled at the assistance from L.A. producer and session musician Jon Brion, who played a variety of keyboards and guitar.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's a genius," Gordon said. "He would go and play the strangest stuff, and sometimes we'd all be scratching our heads, wondering, 'What is he doing? This doesn't make sense.' But when we mixed the record we realized that whatever he had done had just made the song."

While Gordon admits making the album was "very collaborative," she's proud that Tonight and the Rest of My Life essentially boils down to her singular vision.

"Ultimately, while everybody was playing around with ideas, I got to listen and say, 'I like this,' or 'I don't like this,' " she said. "I got the final say, and it's much easier than getting in a room with four people and making everyone agree somehow. It's much easier to have one person saying, 'Yes, no, maybe.' "