Nina Nesbitt: Going independent, the songwriting process and the sophomore album

Toby Bryant sits down with Nina Nesbitt...

Toby Bryant
29th May 2018
Image: Toby Bryant

Over four years ago, a fresh-faced, 19-year-old Nina Nesbitt released her debut album Peroxide, marking the emergence of one of the industry’s most exciting singer-songwriters. It’s been a long time since then but Nesbitt is back with a new sound and an upcoming sophomore record.

With the phenomenal success that singles such as ‘The Best You Had’ and ‘Somebody Special’ are having, you’d hardly believe that Nina Nesbitt endured the loss of a record deal and began cutting her teeth as an independent artist. Chatting backstage before her headline O2 Academy 2 show, just how well new material is going down lights up a smile on the Scot’s face:

“I put out 'The Moments I'm Missing' last summer and just thought that if I get a million streams on that I'll be really happy. Then it just kept going up and hit 5 million. Then we went to put 'The Best You Had' out and I thought, oh god, I don't know if I can hit 5 million… it's almost at 30 million now, it's crazy.”

“I think it's a sign of how the music industry is changing, there's so many independent artists just putting a song out and if people connect to it they have the power to move it up a playlist. It’s a good way because the people that are listening are choosing the music. There's still radio and press but streaming is a really important way now."

Nesbitt is closing her headline UK tour in Newcastle, after months in the U.S., where she will return in a few weeks’ time. It’s a hectic schedule before the release of Nina Nesbitt 2.0, but the 23-year-old still found time for a homecoming Edinburgh show the night before her final stop off in Newcastle:

[pullquote]In London there are gigs on every night and stuff, it's more of an event up north.[/pullquote]

"I love playing in Scotland in general because it's quite rowdy. Glasgow is such a good crowd but Edinburgh was great last night and it's cool to see all my friends are stuff."

"I feel like the further North you go, people really appreciate when you come and play. In London there are gigs on every night and stuff, it's more of an event up north. People get dressed up... I just did the meet and greet and all the girls' make-up was on point - people make a big effort."

It’s a tour that gives Nesbitt the chance to see fans react to the new material first-hand. Her stellar set includes a host of exciting, unheard tracks as well as fan favorites in ‘Mr. C.’ and ‘The Apple Tree’. ‘The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change’ doesn’t feature, but is the latest track to make it onto streaming services that will be featuring on the new record. It’s a pondering reflection on changing times, dripping in glorious nostalgia:

“I was walking in Parsons Green, I used to live there, and I had just come from a session which was a bit crap. It was turning into Autumn time and I thought this year has gone so fast. I just wanted to capture the sentiment of how everything is constantly changing. I'd just come out the other end of quite a depressive episode of my life and I was like, wow, it's so weird how your mindset can change like that and you feel like a different person.”

“So, I went to my gym there and sat by the swimming pool, closed my eyes and pretended I was by the beach and just wrote all the lyrics. I love sitting by the water when I write lyrics so I just sat with my notebook and wrote all the lyrics, then got home and put it to music.”

[pullquote]I never want to be stuck not able to put music out[/pullquote]

It’s Nesbitt’s songwriting knack that is so unique in her work. Her social media accounts feature frequent snaps of her home studio, adorned with mood lighting as her rough vocal runs echo around the room. Whilst unsigned, the songstress undertook a process of inviting fans to share experiences which she could turn into a song. The ensuing four tracks mark the transition from Peroxide to the new work:

"It was easy [to write about fans' experiences]. I wasn't signed at the time so couldn't afford to pay thousands of pounds for a producer to produce my music. I never want to be stuck not able to put music out so I wanted to learn production. I'd been dabbling in it for a while and I just wanted to do a project that would push me to learn it to be a release standard."

Recent Spotify Single ‘Psychopath’ sees a rare collaboration with Charlotte Lawrence and Sasha Sloan, to commemorate the streaming platform’s Women’s History Month. The three artists had a mere six hours to meet and write ‘Psychopath’, a tongue-in-cheek rejection of a boy:

“Spotify wanted it to be about women empowerment and we didn't want to be too "woo girls", so we wrote a song that we all liked and still felt empowering. Then it was on Billboards and Time's Square and Sunset Boulevard, it was crazy - good exposure to lead people to our own music. It was great as well to have female artists coming together and working together instead of being in competition."

Although feature tracks are few and far between for Nesbitt, her songwriting skills are often sought after by other artists. During her set, she name-drops Rihanna as someone who one of her tracks was put on hold for, before laughing it off when she realised just how many the American’s team keep for her.

“The lyrics always come from me. That's what I do best. Musically, I'm not classically trained or anything... I get bored of my chords easily. 'The Best You Had' I wrote with my friend Jordan who wrote the chords and I was really inspired. I think it just depends on the nature of the song. For an upbeat pop song, like 'Somebody Special', I like collaborating with a bunch of people in a room because I'm not naturally an upbeat pop writer. I like mixing it up."

[pullquote]I feel like I never made that proper cohesive, Nina Nesbitt album. That’s all I wanted to do really.[/pullquote]

The upcoming record will be out “sometime towards the end of the year” she promises fans. I ask her for three words to encapsulate what is coming and “lyrical, atmospheric and empowering” are the adjectives that Nesbitt rattles off. She talks of feeling like a different person to the time of Peroxide, “a different lifetime” she goes on to say:

“I feel like I never made that proper cohesive, Nina Nesbitt album. That’s all I wanted to do really. Now I'm an independent artist again I have more control over what I want to do."

The journey has come full circle and brings with it a mature sound that is already making waves. Just how good Nina Nesbitt’s new album could be cannot be underestimated. She may speak of being “filled with dread” because of growing expectations, but disappointment really does seem unlikely from Nesbitt.


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