Coming from a small town in Scotland, singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt is branching out into the world and making a name for herself. Her music encompasses a universal pop sound and expresses subjects anyone can relate to. You may have seen her on one of Taylor Swift’s personal Spotify playlists, and trust me, she couldn’t have been happier about it. “Oh my god, that was literally the highlight of my life. She was a huge reason I picked up the guitar,” Nesbitt gushes over the phone. Like Swift, Nesbitt is busy working hard to grow her own empire. With a debut album coming out early next year, Nesbitt chats with us about collaboration in the music industry, how the industry has changed in this digital world, and remaining authentic in her lyrics in our Fall 2018 issue.
Coming from a small town in Scotland, what’s one major lifestyle change you weren’t expecting when touring and working in the US?
I moved to London six years ago and had to learn fast. I had to learn to be a little more street-smart. When I came to the US, there were just so many places I had never seen before. But going to a foreign place is one of my favorite things. America is huge, and each state is very different.
Did your town and environment in Scotland have any major influence in your interest and process in music?
I guess so. It’s not the most musical place. It wasn’t a place of many studios so it forced me to learn how to write music organically, which I’m very grateful for.
There’s obviously a certain level of thought you want to give your work, but sometimes working on something too much can kill a good thing. How do you find that balance?
I’m quite instinctive when I write. I write three different ways. One way is just me working in my room. With whatever comes out of me, if I think it is good, I will continue with it. Sometimes there are organized sessions. You are forced to be with these other writers, and you have to stay the entire time. If you are stuck in the room, it can force you to work on something. You get a feeling when something is good, and when it’s not, you just leave it.
“People say pop music can’t be authentic, but I think it can. you can do rock, pop, or rap music. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re getting your story out.”
Tell us a little bit about your single “Loyal to Me”.
I wrote most of that on my desk in London. It’s about my best friend who started seeing this guy and really liked him. She felt like he was seeing other people, and he had a bad reputation. It became clear he was just a fuckboy. It’s about all the warning signs that come along with being a fuckboy. It is kind of like a checklist. If there’s anything in your gut that someone is up to no good, it’s usually true. I originally imagined it for a girl band, and I think you can hear that with all the harmonies. It’s something a little different.
Is there a different type of nervousness and build up to a single being featured in a TV show or movie as opposed to releasing a single on your own? How is that feeling?
It’s very cool to be heard on TV. A lot of these songs for the new album, I wrote in my bedroom, and it’s crazy to see it go from that to something like television. TV is something I would really like to get into and write music for that and the kind of emotional atmosphere. There’s a lot of pressure when it’s just a single. I get nervous a lot of the time.
In March, you released “Psychopath” with Sasha Sloan and Charlotte Lawrence through Spotify’s Louder Together project. Can you explain more about this initiative Spotify has created?
They contacted me and asked if I wanted to be part of it. It’s the first collaborative release they put out. Obviously, I wanted to be part of it, and I had never really worked with other female artists on something before so I was excited. We wanted to do a song that is empowering to females but also something we all liked to do.
In your view, do streaming platforms, such as Spotify, help or hurt artists? What are some pros and cons?
I think there are a lot more pros. I think streaming services do a good job advertising you as an artist. People might be listening to a playlist and discover your song. It gives people a way to discover artists without having to commit to buying something. For me it’s been great, in terms of being a DIY artist. I think, in that way, it’s great because you don’t really need the whole major label thing as much as you did before. I think the only con would be that a lot of people hear your songs but don’t know who you are. I’ve done support tours, and people would come up to me and say, “Oh, I love your song but didn’t know it was you until you sang it.”
Whether it’s a collaboration or working alone, how do you shine a light of authenticity on all you do?
One of the main things for me is lyrics—I always write my own lyrics. I’ve learned when working on a song, the more uncomfortable it is to work on the better it is because people connect to it. People have felt [these same emotions] themselves. We’ve all done things that don’t feel like us so that’s why I try to be as authentic as possible, whether it’s the lyrics I write or whatever it is.
Since artists are able now to release singles so quickly, does it ever become overwhelming to meet these sort of expectations of instant gratification from listeners?
Yeah, it’s weird. Artists used to drop a couple singles and then an album, and now I see artists dropping tracks every month. For me, I’m not that kind of artist, writing all the time and dropping singles. I have a body of work coming out, and I am excited to drop an album because I hope people will latch onto that and continue the journey. I’ll probably do more collaborations to keep doing things. I think it’s more important than ever right now to keep putting out stuff and remain on people’s radars.
In a world that’s so saturated with online and digital content, what do you think it takes to break the surface?
I actually have no idea. I think it’s a weird world and all about timing or going viral. I think it’s all by chance. As an artist, I think it’s important to have something that is unique and stands out about you. I worked with a lot of artists when writing songs, and I think that gave me an idea of what is unique about me.
Through your journey, how have you measured success? Has the way you’ve measured it changed?
When I started, I was 17. Success to me to was getting on the iTunes chart or selling a venue. Now I am trying to sell out my gigs, move up in venues, and get more listens than I did previously on Spotify. I think now success is a lot broader, more about teamwork between the team and the artist. I think you can either focus on getting on the charts or focus on creating an artistic body of work. I think being able to do this as a job and travel is success in itself.
STORY ELIZABETH STAFFORD
PHOTOS WOLF JAMES
Read more in print and digital: Volume III, Issue No. 004 – Fall 2018.Like this