Scottish songstress Nina Nesbitt is absolutely amazing – but she’s been proving that for years now.
After making a name for herself with the guitar-led sounds of her debut album Peroxide in 2014, Nina switched things up with ‘Chewing Gum’ in 2016. The 80s flavored, deliciously dramatic electropop banger (about sticking with a lover “until the flavor’s gone”) was deservedly well-received (2.2million+ streams on Spotify). Nina quickly followed ‘Chewing Gum’ with a super special project where she paid respect to her faithful Nesbians by turning five of their love stories into bespoke bops for her self-released EP Life in Colour.
Soon after Life in Colour, Nina inked a new deal with the legendary Cooking Vinyl and has since been busy prepping her second album (known only as NN2 for now). NN2 will be home to three of Nina‘s strongest songs to date: the ridiculously personal ‘The Moments I’m Missing’, catchy breakup anthem ‘The Best You Had’ and the mellow sultriness of ‘Somebody Special’ have collectively racked up a staggering fifty-seven million streams on Spotify.
From ‘Chewing Gum’ to everything so far from NN2, at the heart of everything Nina puts out is her innate ability to tell a story. Pop greatness runs in Nina‘s blood – she is part Swedish after all.
Ahead of an unsurprisingly stellar performance at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms, Nina spilled the tea on why her second album still hasn’t come out yet, the pressure of being a musician and using social media, unfair misconceptions about female artists and, most importantly, being open to stanning for LOOΠΔ.
You shared at your gig at The Garage in November 2017 that you had submitted NN2, then tweeted in December that your album was all wrapped up. So tell us, what’s the holdup – when is NN2 coming?
Nina Nesbitt: I think towards the end of this year… I think it’s so different now with releasing things. I think you’ve got to be at the right place to put an album out with streaming, so with every single I’m kind of getting more opportunities and more streams so I keep putting singles out till it’s the right moment.
Yeah, it’s what most artists are doing nowadays, isn’t it?
Nina Nesbitt: Yeah! And I think once you’ve got enough singles out once you do put the album out people go ‘oh! I know that song, and I know that song!’ I’m still wrapping up one of the songs because the productions been a nightmare but the album is going to be done, soon!
Does NN2 have a title yet?
Nina Nesbitt: Yeah, it does! But I haven’t announced it, I can’t say yet!
How will the rest of NN2 be rolled out? What will the general vibe of the album be like?
Nina Nesbitt: It’s like a proper journey from start to finish, it’s not like a collection of songs. It’s a proper body of work and it is quite linked to the visuals that you’ll see soon. On ‘The Moments I’m Missing’ it starts and when the album comes out it finishes, so it’s like a whole visual story which involves the water and the lotus flower and the TV. That will all be revealed so I’m excited for people to see the visuals, and I feel like now, everything is so reactive. If I put out a song that suddenly ends up in the charts I’ll stick my album out, if I keep building my streams within singles I’ll keep doing that. It’s just whenever the right moment. Now I think people are a lot more open to different roll outs.
What was the biggest difference in terms of writing and recording your newest project compared with your previous efforts, especially Peroxide (NN1)?
Nina Nesbitt: Well I wrote that album when I was 17 or 18? I’ve grown up! Everyone’s like ‘you’ve changed!’ and I’m like yeah… I’m 23, weird if I hadn’t! So yeah, that was very much acoustic and I grew up in a little village in Scotland where there were no studios, so I kind of had an acoustic guitar and that was it. So, that’s what I wrote a lot of the music on and then this was made when I moved to London so I think I’ve been open to a lot more cultures and sounds and a lot more writers and producers as well. I’ve worked with a lot of people, learnt a lot more and I’ve been influenced by different types of music- some electronic, some R&B, some pop… so taking bits, yeah! I think that’s what music’s all about as well, remaining true to yourself but also listening to what inspires you and putting it all into songs.
What is the main theme or message of NN2? Is there a subject within the album you feel strongly about or wanted to write about?
Nina Nesbitt: This album just kind of accidentally wrote itself in a way. I was in between record labels so I was just the songwriter for other artists at that point and I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make another album but I loved writing songs, then I ended up with about five songs that I wanted to put on my own album because they’re really personal songs, like ‘The Best You Had’ and ‘The Moments I’m Missing’, so it had me thinking about how much I want to do the artist thing again. The album accidentally wrote itself and I guess mostly ended up being about personal growth with a few heartbreak songs in there, cos I love a heartbreak song. So I would say that the album is personal growth journey, that’s the theme but there’s lots of different stories; like one is about my friend having a baby, like there’s songs about everything on there.
If NN2 were a living person, what kind of person would they be?
Nina Nesbitt: Um, me!? They would be a storyteller. I’m like, a big storyteller, they would be… emotional. They would be quite up and down, like I’m quite up and down as a person. I think your early 20s are actually in a way, harder than your teens? Because everyone’s like “being a teenager is so hard” and it’s like, it’s really not when you look back. Obviously it is in a way, but I look back and I’m like “wow, I had it so easy” because I was just at school and living at my parents’ house. My biggest fear at the time was ‘whose ID am I going to use this weekend?’ And now it’s like, ‘how can I afford to pay my mortgage?’ Or like, ‘am I going to meet the right person?’ Or ‘am I going to have kids’, do you know what I mean? It’s like, much bigger things now so I think your early 20s are where you’re like ‘fuck, what’s going on?’
2016 EP Life in Colour, where you turned fan stories into personal songs, is such a unique concept for a musical release, but what are some challenges you have faced when creating new music?
Nina Nesbitt: Well I made that when I was unsigned, so I couldn’t go to a producer or I couldn’t afford to pay for the productions or like, I couldn’t get in the room with people that I wanted to work with so I had to just do it myself and I thought… I don’t want to start my new music on something that I’m still learning to do, like, I wouldn’t put something into production that I’m still working on. Whereas I thought this new album was going to be a separate thing, I still want to do it and I want to learn production but if it’s a film project it’s more like we’re all learning together and you’re telling me your stories and I’m writing about them and learning production through that. So, it was more like a learning thing for me and also something hopefully nice to give people who were being patient and waiting for the new music.
Have you ever felt pressured to fit a certain ‘mould’ as an artist?
Nina Nesbitt: Yeah definitely, I think social media’s really changed the music industry compared to when I started five years ago. It was still a massive thing but it was different and I feel like now it’s so much more about having a profile and having a name rather than having something else. I have a large following but people in the industry want singers for their profile more than their music, which is really weird, and it’s like learning how to live in that world and like, exist as an artist in this weird world that we’re in. But I think now more than ever you’ve got to build yourself as a brand and have a kind of like ‘this is who I am’ on your Instagram. It’s almost like a catalogue of who you are so that’s why when you are yourself you have to try and separate it, in a way? So I’m still figuring that out.
Which female artists have inspired you in your life?
Nina Nesbitt: I love Alanis Morissette, she’s one of my favourite people! She inspired me a lot growing up, I discovered her when I was in my late teens actually- Jagged Little Pill and I was like, this album is completely lyrically fearless and I love that. So that really inspired ‘The Best You Had’ which is obviously not as brutal as ‘You Oughta Know’ but I was like, ‘yes! I like this!’ I’m actually playing a festival with her this summer so I’m going to knock on her dressing room door and be like, ‘please come out!’ Alongside Debbie Harry, Stevie Nicks, Taylor Swift– always a big fan of hers, when I was 15, still am! I think she’s really inspiring in the way she’s created this career, she’s very clever. Anyone that’s a female that writes their own and has been doing it for a long time is inspiring.
What is something you have learned earlier on in your career that has now made you into a better artist?
Nina Nesbitt: I think, as cringe as it sounds… just to try and stay true to yourself. I feel like, so often you’ll look at someone on Twitter or Instagram and be like ‘ugh, I wish I was like that’ and ‘I want to be like them!’ when actually, you’re not going to be as good as them because they’re themselves, so you should be yourself. Because, I look at myself and I know I can’t sing like Beyoncé so I’m not going to try: I’m going to try and do my own thing. I have a high, full singing range so I’m going to use that. And just try and work out what your quirks are and what you’re good at or what you’re not good at and try and stay true. I can’t dance, so I’m not going to get up there and dance. I literally cannot dance to save myself.
Are there any female artists you’re particularly into at the moment?
Nina Nesbitt: Someone that I worked with on her last album, actually… Jessie Ware. I think she’s an amazing inspiration as a woman and as an artist. She literally had a kid and was in the studio a month later writing the album and then she’s touring the world with the baby. Touring the world is hard enough but touring the world with a baby is… I don’t even know how she does it, so I think she’s amazing. Who else? I love Lorde‘s new album, I love her whole stage presence. Charli XCX. Halsey‘s great and her stage set looks incredible, I would love to see her live. There’s just so many people, there’s so many girls… Anne Marie, I think she seems like such a nice girl. Dua Lipa. I think there are just so many girls that are absolutely smashing it at the moment.
If you could collaborate with any female artist, passed away or living, who would you want to work with?
Nina Nesbitt: I would like to write a song with Alanis, like a really brutal breakup song. Dead… I can only think of dead males. Amy Winehouse, she’s a legend.
As a woman, is there anything about the music industry that frustrates you?
Nina Nesbitt: Yeah, quite a number of things. I’m trying to think of where to start… just the way we’re viewed. I think it’s getting better but I’ve really had to work twice as hard as a female doing pop music to prove that I can write my own songs, which is quite ridiculous. I just get a lot of people saying ‘oh, you write!’ and just being surprised, so it’s condescending. I’m just like ‘yeah… I always write my own songs, I’ve always written my own songs.’ I’d be going to sessions with guys and at the end of the day they would be like, ‘wow, you can actually write! I didn’t expect it!’ and it’s just like, why? Do you know what I mean? I play instruments as well? People will be surprised that I can play an instrument; I can play guitar and piano and the flute! Or just being in a session where the guy will look at the other guy to go play the chords and it’s like… girls play instruments. Festival line-ups, the way that we are viewed for what we wear adds so much pressure. I see guys play gigs at festivals wearing the same outfit every night and no one cares but as a girl it’s always like ‘she’s too sexy, she’s trying to sell her body to sell her music’ or it’ll be like ‘she’s really frumpy and boring’ and it’s like, I don’t know what to do. I used to think that I shouldn’t dress provocatively, but if I did that should be okay. It shouldn’t be linked to terms like ‘slag’. It’s just so weird with social media as well but I’m just lucky to be doing this at all.
How do you feel about the representation of female musicians? Is there anything that you’d like to change?
Nina Nesbitt: I think it’s already changing. Loads of guys that I personally work with are really supportive and any guy that I write songs with or work in the studio with now are great. I think people just need to keep talking about their experiences.
Do you think there are any misconceptions held by the public about life as a musician?
Nina Nesbitt: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people think we’re really rich which is weird. It’s like, thousands of pounds to put on one show so… yeah, we’re not rich unless we’re selling arenas, because it costs so much money to be able to do what we do, so that’s a misconception. Also, just touring as well, so many of my friends are like ‘oh my God, it looks incredible, like you’re on holiday!’ and I’m thinking, this is literally back breaking, like, lugging equipment around everywhere is so exhausting and people don’t realise how much work goes into it because they only see the show. I think that people often forget some are up travelling through the night or they’re up at 05:00 to get up for the next place and it’s really hard to stay mentally sane while you’re doing all that. But at the same time, it’s the most amazing job because you’re getting to see all these places and meet these people and play these shows, so it’s a bit of a Catch-22.
Is there a quote you consider to be your life motto?
Nina Nesbitt: I just released a song this week actually which was on an American TV show with Lucy Hale, I love her. It’s called ‘The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change’ and that’s my little mantra because as I said, I’m quite up-and-down and when I’m down I’m really down, so whenever I am, I try to remember that this feeling isn’t going to be permanent, this feeling won’t last forever and things are constantly changing. You’ve got to appreciate the good days, and so that’s my little mantra.
What’s left to come in 2018?
Nina Nesbitt: I’m doing a lot more American tours starting in about three weeks and then I’ve got another one in the Autumn! I just want to build up my life and get the album out.
Do you stan LOOΠΔ?
Nina Nesbitt: I’m not too sure who they are to be honest but I love BTS, so if they’re anything like them then I will!