Make It Music: Nina Nesbitt
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Singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt is back with a brand new bang. Having spent the last two years growing artistically and carving her own identity, Nina’s music has evolved from its acoustic roots to produce heartfelt tracks that are her most honest reflection yet.
Born in Edinburgh, half-Scottish/half-Swedish Nina began uploading videos to YouTube from her bedroom at the age of 17. Her music grabbed the industry’s attention when she charted at No.21 in the UK top 40 with her first single ‘Stay Out’.
Since returning back to music after some time out, it’s been an exciting few years in the world of Nina. She’s supported the likes of Justin Beiber on stage in Hong Kong, her YouTube channel alone has cultivated over 32 Million views and to top it off she’s serving as a role model to young women everywhere, having spoken on the issue of body image at the Women in the World summit.
After recently signing to Cooking Vinyl records, Nina has released her new single ‘The Moments I’m Missing’, featuring rapper Goody Grace. She’s also set to drop a new album this year, which promises to be a mixture of pop-inspired melodies that tell tales of young love, heartbreak and growing up.
For her Make it Music session, Nina has performed her track ‘Best You Had’, with soulful backing vocals from the London Contemporary Voices Choir.
We caught up with Nina post-performance to talk about her ever-evolving sound, partying with Kendall Jenner and where she finds her style inspiration.
Hi Nina! So it’s been three years since you last released an album – why the wait?
For about 50 different reasons! It’s a very long story. I left the label that I was on, didn’t really know what I wanted to do and I just thought the first album had a purpose to making it, because it was the first record and it felt like my whole life’s efforts had gone into it. Then I was like ‘oh, what do I do now?’. It was kind of a weird period of time. When I started, I was making mainly acoustic, folky guitar stuff because I couldn’t really afford to get production done or didn’t have studio equipment, so I ended up just being an acoustic artist because that’s all I could do. After that album, I thought, ‘I actually love electronic sounds’ and I love bands. I just wanted to experiment. So I started going down the route of doing a pop album, more or less. Then I put a song out called ‘Chewing Gum’, which was in the middle of this album and the next one. The direction of it felt wrong. I thought ‘this is so not me, maybe I should be a writer’. So then I went through a phase of thinking I’d just write pop songs, because I love writing them, but I don’t like performing them because me trying to dance to it on stage is really awkward. I was in these sessions with other artists and stuff and I’d go home at night and just want to write about my own life. I find the way of me processing things is to write about them. So I did it in my own time in my bedroom and then ended up writing half the album. Then I got offered another record deal with Cooking Vinyl, who are amazing, and they’ve just let me do whatever I want, so it’s great.
Today you’ve performed ‘Somebody Special’ – what’s the inspiration behind that song?
I went on a trip with my friend to America – like a little writing trip – and I thought the album was more or less done at that point. Then I was like, ‘I’m just gonna go and write songs whether or not they’re for me – I’m just gonna write’. I got to Nashville and I was in a session with a few talented guys; we had the whiskey out and it was proper Nashville, Southern America style! We decided ‘Let’s write a song for Selena Gomez. Let’s imagine what she would do’. Obviously we weren’t writing for Selena Gomez, but we wrote this ‘Somebody Special’ song. As it went on, I thought ‘I quite like this for myself’. So we finished it off and then that was it! It was literally an evening session, so it wrote itself within an hour. Then I didn’t hear it for a month and when they sent it to me I was like ‘Ok this has to be the first single’, because I feel like it marries both the pop sound and the more acoustic sounds together.
Would you say you find most of your inspiration from love – either current or past – or just through daily life experiences?
Anything really. This album is very personal. My gran heard it and she said she thought it was like an open book, so I guess that’s a way to describe it! It’s basically just the unfiltered life of my friends and me.
Do you think maybe sometimes you can be too open? For example when your gran is listening?
Maybe… Oops! I don’t like a certain type of music; I could listen to pop or grime or country, it could be anything, but as long as the record gives me an idea of who that person is and as long as it feels authentic, then that’s the thing I like.
Particularly when listening to ‘Best You’ve Had’, it seems you’ve got a skill for writing that allows you to imagine yourself in that scenario. Where did that inspiration come from, as it’s a pretty poignant song?
It wasn’t actually a personal situation. I mean, I’ve definitely felt like that in relationships, but I didn’t write it about myself at the time. A lot of my friends are young and single and we’ve all been in and out of relationships. I think a recurring theme is when someone breaks up with you or you break up with them, you know that you’re not supposed to be together, you know that they’re gonna find someone else and you’re gonna find someone else. But then there’s that little bit of you that thinks ‘Don’t let them be better than we were or what we had’, kind of thing. Its people’s egos playing on them, I guess.
We’ve read recently that you encourage fans to send in their love stories to you and you plan on writing songs based on their stories. Were there any that really stood out to you?
I got loads of DM’s on Instagram and the ones that really stood out weren’t necessarily the most dramatic stories, they were just the ones with the most detail in. When I read them, I felt like I was literally there as that person. It was a really cool experience.
Where do you usually write? Is there somewhere you find it easy to escape to?
Normally, I write in my bedroom studio. My studio is literally half a metre away from my bed and sometimes I actually move the studio into my bed at night. I have all the lights on, I sit with my laptop and mini keyboard and just plonk away. I like writing sessions too, but usually it’s just a happy accident if it ends up being a Nina song.
So who have you written with in the past? Is there anyone in particular that you bounce off?
I wrote ‘Best You Had’ and a few others with Jordan Reilly, another guy called Lost Boy – they’ve been like the main guys for the album. Originally I wanted to produce it myself, but then I realised I’m not quite at the level they are, so why would I produce it when I could collaborate with them and make it better? I’ve done a few co-productions and a few productions with them and they’re young, upcoming and both fairly new. They’re cool to work with because they’re not necessarily like ‘Well this has worked before’ or ‘That’s not right’, they’ll say ‘That sounds good’ or ‘That sounds cool – let’s just go with it!’. So that’s been good. Then obviously Dan in Nashville, who I guess has had a lot more experience so that was also really good.
Speaking of collaborations, would you love to collaborate with and why?
Michael Jackson! Or I really like Calvin Harris. I love the features he does, like ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ because its kind of still stripped back, but really good. Or Max Martin; he is like the pop god.
Who is the most famous person you’ve met and how did that come about?
Erm… probably Justin Beiber! It’s really embarrassing… Me and my manager went to Hong Kong for two days – so you can imagine, we were like ‘let’s party the whole time’. Justin Beiber was playing an event I was at and he said, “Hey, what are you doing later? Come party with us!” So we were expecting this whole party to be there, but it was literally me, my manager, Justin Beiber and Kendall Jenner in this karaoke room. They were so lovely, there was food on table, drinks, we were singing away and we had a great time. Apart from when I’d a few and decided to sing a Rihanna song. I thought I was amazing, and we were singing that bad that the speakers started feeding back and Justin posted it on Snapchat, covering his ears. So bad.
If you could perform anywhere and feel like you’d made it, where would it be?
See, I said as a child that it would be Glasgow 02 ABC, but then I played it and thought it was actually quite small. So I feel like even when you do play the venue you want to play, you want to then play the one even bigger! It’s a bit of a curse with musicians, I think.
Today you’ve performed with three backing singers; how was that?
Amazing! My friend is part of the London Contemporary Voices Choir and I’d seen them do a few videos. I’d seen one with Amber Run and it was an A’capella thing, which I thought was so cool. ‘Somebody Special’ in particular has so many vocal parts and I thought it would be so cool to have that all live because I didn’t really want to use a track. So I got the girls down, we had a rehearsal and it was so cool to hear it all come together, because I’ve never had backing singers before. Then we had Sam on keys and all sorts, like a little music box.
Where does your style inspo come from?
Just literally people I see on the street! I’ll think ‘That’s nice’ and then go find one. I like the nineties sort of thing – nothing too dressy. I love dressy looks on other people, but when I put it on it’s just uncomfortable and I can’t walk in heels!
Quick-fire questions to finish! What’s your most used Emoji?
Probably the one that looks off to the side [tries to pull the face] – you know which one I mean!
Favourite festival to play?
T in the park.