Nicole Atkins puts drunk alter ego to rest with new album ‘Goodnight Rhonda Lee’

Anna Webber

Singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins takes the State Room stage Thursday, Dec. 14.

SALT LAKE CITY — Singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins has a name for the person she’d become whenever she got drunk: Rhonda Lee.

A bowling name-turned-alter ego, Lee was loud and in control.

And Atkins decided she needed to go.

“You get to a certain age, and you start to realize that certain habits and ways of life don’t really serve you anymore,” Atkins told the Deseret News. “I just wanted to wake up in the morning and feel good about the things that I do, and feel good about my job and my family and all of these things. I noticed that drinking was kind of keeping me in this constant state of getting out of the hangover. And it was keeping me from doing the work I really wanted to do, so I decided to just change that and see what happened. It freed up a lot of spots in my brain to enjoy what I do again.”

This change in Atkins’ life led to the release of her fourth album, “Goodnight Rhonda Lee,” earlier this year in which she puts Lee and her self-destructive habits to rest. Atkins performs at the State Room in Salt Lake City Thursday, Dec. 14.

A lyric from the album’s title track, which was co-written by roots-rocker Chris Isaak, states that “change don’t come easily.” And for Atkins, that certainly reflects the difficult process of reaching sobriety.

“It was something that kind of took me many years,” said Atkins, a New Jersey native. “It was a lot of like, ‘I can do this! No I can’t. Yeah, I can do this. Nah, let’s have one drink.’ Getting sober is very complicated, and a lot of people say, ‘Why don’t you just stop drinking?’ Well yeah, tell anybody that has an issue with it how easy it is for people that don’t have an issue with it. I didn’t really think I’d be able to get it, but you just keep trying and it happened.”

Getting to collaborate with Isaak on the album was a high point for Atkins. The two first met in 2007 when Atkins released her debut album, the more indie-pop driven “Neptune City,” and Isaak gave Atkins her first three tours as his opening act.

Fast forward to when…

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