Interview: Nina Smith
Singer-songwriter Nina Smith is fast becoming one of the hottest artists to emerge from the English town of Nottingham. Since releasing her first EP This Love in 2015, she has signed a production deal with producer Yoad Nevo (Sia, Goldfrapp, Sugababes) and performed as support act for artists such as Belinda Carlisle, Finley Quayle and Alicia Dixon. In July she released the song ‘Run Out’, a gorgeous, laidback, soulful track with hints of R’n’B and electro-pop swimming in vibes straight from the 1990s and Massive Attack. She is now preparing to release her debut album White Feather on November 9. Smith is definitely one to watch and we recently caught up with her to find out all about her music.
Hi Nina! Thanks for chatting to us. What are your first memories of music as a child?
Hi Women In Pop! I remember one Christmas in the 90’s begging my mum and Dad for a CD player. We had a cassette player, but all of the cassettes were old and didn’t interest me. When I finally got one I bought a Now That’s What I Call Music! CD and fell madly in love with two songs - one was George Michael’s ‘Jesus to a Child’ and the other was 2Pac’s ‘California Love’. I would listen to the songs over and over again in my room, much to the annoyance of my parents!
So aside from George Michael and 2Pac, what other musicians did you like growing up?
I was a big pop group fan. I adored The Spice Girls, they pretty much taught me how to harmonise and sing in tune. Also 5ive, Destiny’s Child and NSYNC.
How long have you been singing and performing for?
About eight years, but only with proper intentions to record and release my own music in the last five years. I was too nervous to sing in front of anyone as a teenager, but I used to tell everyone I would be a singer when I grew up. Whenever I bump into anyone from school, they can’t believe I followed my dream.
When did you decide you wanted to make music your career?
I guess I knew it was achievable for me when I started recording in a recording studio at 16. I took to it really naturally and found it easy to pitch and harmonise. Following that I started writing songs with a community recording producer called Nick Stez. He taught me how to use metaphors and write from the heart.
Your latest single ‘Run Out’ is fantastic, congratulations! What was the inspiration behind the song?
It stems from a relationship breakdowns with family or friends. At times I’ve been selfish with who I have time for, but with the ones I’ve spent a lot of time with trying to help and fix, I’ve found that it wasn’t returned. That’s where the notion comes from of ‘running out’ of my life at bad moments.
Do you have a usual process for writing and creating your music? What inspires you?
In the past I used to have a set plan, I’d get home from whatever job I had at the time, eat food and grab a drink or smoke and lock myself away until i got excited about an idea. These days because I do it for a living I almost have to force myself to write. My new album was recorded in London, so it meant staying there for the day and quickly trying to get something down to utilise the time I had.
You recently played Splendour In Nottingham, what was that experience like?
It was pretty incredible. It’s a 25,000 capacity festival, so the main stage was overwhelming when looking out to at least 10,000 faces. Myself and the band made sure we made the most of the experience and just had so much fun.
What are your views on the current gender equality in the music industry debate? Do you think we have a serious problem?
I think its genre specific. For something like grime I feel can be very male dominated with only a few females really taking the lead. So it must be hard for promoters of festivals to make it as fair as possible. But when you’ve got large festivals that have multiple musical genres (there are two that come to mind) then I think it’s completely their duty to make it as diverse as possible. It’s quite amazing that in 2018 we are even having to talk about race and gender equality. Surely it can only get better from here right?
In your career have you experienced episodes of sexism, or where you felt you were disrespected because of your gender?
Not so much directly - that I’m aware of - but Ive experienced being in a studio environment and having an assumed role if its male dominated. Like if I’m the only white girl in the room, it’s assumed I must be an acoustic folk singer. It’s not until my music is played that I turn heads and the lads would be shocked I sing R’n’B behind some occasional hip hop beats.
What female musicians do you look up to, or inspire you?
Alicia Keys has always been a powerful role model for me. Especially when she did the ‘no make up’ campaign. I thought it was brave to to go so bare in front of a very image focused industry. It was a bold move.
What’s next for Nina Smith?
I release my debut album White Feather on November 9. It’s an album that has taken me 3 years to record, and is 10 years in the making. Everything I do will be centred on trying to get this new music heard.