Regina Regina - Under The Spotlight

First Published in Country Music International, June 1997

After years on the road pursuing separate careers, Regina Regina have pooled their resources of image, looks and, most important, talent, to produce a capacious debut album characterised by outstanding vocal harmonies.

Regina Regina, the new country duo comprising Regina Nicks and Regina Leigh, seems like a marketing guru’s dream come true: two beautiful women with the looks, the image and the right names all in place. But there’s more to Regina Regina than just pretty faces.

Leigh, from Monroe, North Carolina, and Nicks from Houston, Texas, have been chasing their country music dreams for more than a dozen years. Blond-haired Leigh spent nearly three years on the road as one of Reba McEntire’s background vocalists, while brunette Nicks worked almost six years at Starstruck Entertainment as personal assistant to McEntire and her husband/manager Narvel Blackstock.

Both had been interested in developing a solo career but, like so many young hopefuls in Nashville, they had been side-tracked by the security of a regular job. Nicks had been performing around the Texas scene for a number of years and cut her first record when she was only 15. She moved to Nashville in the hope of making some headway in her career and, while working at Starstruck, had been pursuing a solo record deal. “I guess I must have given tapes to every producer in town,” she recalls. “Wally Wilson was working on the idea of a female duo and he paired me with several women, but I wasn’t comfortable. The chemistry wasn’t right.”

Married to US Air Force captain, Jeff Nicks, a fighter pilot now serving as a flight instructor in Columbus, Mississippi, Regina was prepared to try anything to get a deal. “I had never even sung with another person,” she admits. “I was always doing the solo thing, but it seemed natural that we could do this when we first sang together. Everybody was amazed that our voices blended so well.”

Leigh, who is married to songwriter Tony King, formerly of Mathews, Wright & King, heard Nick’s tape and decided to try working with her. They met during a lunch break in Wilson’s office, sang Amazing Grace and haven’t looked back. Wilson took them to Giant Records boss, James Stroud who signed them to the label in January 1996. They started recording in March.

The first single, More Than I Wanted To Know, hit the country charts in the spring and the album, simply called REGINA REGINA, followed soon after. It is a capacious mixture of fun, catchy melodies, and poignant ballads. From the luxuriant Before I Knew About You or the catchy melody of Asking For The Moon to the sparse beauty of Ticket Out Of Kansas, the album’s country/pop flavour will appeal to a wide audience.

Song choice was arrived at through easy democratic decisions, although Nicks had one song in place before the sessions started, and luckily did not have to dig her heels in too deeply. “Wally Wilson, he asked me if there were any sons that I wanted to cut,” she recalls. “I told him there was this one song, Patty Smyth’s I Should Be Laughing, that I absolutely loved, but it’s not at all country. We started working on it before Regina Leigh came into the picture, and when we got together, it was understood that it would be on the album.”

When Nicks first heard the song she immediately related to the lyrics. The song was on Smyth’s self-titled MCA album and made number 86 on the American pop charts in July 1993. She believes it has a broad-ranging appeal because people can relate to its content. “I listen to country and pop and have always listened carefully to the words. When I heard it, something I was going through with an ex-boyfriend made it really speak to me. I fell in love with it.”

Leigh was also looking for songs with meaningful lyrics. A Far Cry From Him was given to the girls by Reba McEntire who had it on hold for one of her sessions, but when she heard that they were keen to cut the song, she passed it over with her full blessing. This is no McEntire throwaway: the song has a great lyrical story and an edgy country arrangement. “We were always looking for strong women’s songs,” says Leigh. “Songs that women could identify with. That song is about how a woman doesn’t have to be downtrodden after being rejected, how she can pick herself up and make a new life.”

The duo are now on course for wider recognition. All they need is one hit song to bring them the instant fame and fortune for which they have worked so hard. As Regina Leigh concludes, “There are just so many things that finally seem to have fallen into place.”