Following the release of her most recent single “Won’t Pick Up The Phone,” singer-songwriter Nya converses with Variance's Ethan Ijumba to discuss her wide variety of influences, musical journey, and general background about her upbringing as an artist and as a human being. Be sure to scroll down below to read the full interview between two; as well as for more information and related to Nya, be sure to follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook: @ThisIsNya
EI: Before going into your musical journey, originally what state or city did you grow up and/or raised in?
Nya: This is an interesting question for me. I am originally from Tampa, Florida. Tampa is a great city, but I never felt I fit in there. Currently, I split my time between LA and Jose Ignacio, Uruguay, as my fiancé is Uruguayan. I have been lucky enough to live in some remarkable places, from New York to Paris, but I honestly did not know what it was to fall in love with a place until Jose Ignacio. It's home.
EI: From having a background that had you travel, did you have a lot of inspirations musically regarding your sound and persona artists-wise? Such as any specific songs, albums, artists, etc.?
Nya: I have been obsessed with anything involving storytelling since I was very little. I love film, TV, and reading. I take so much visual and sonic inspiration from these avenues. My artistic expression is the only area of my life in which I say bring on the drama. Films like In The Mood for Love or Requiem for a Dream are constant visual references. Books like Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises shifted my perception and approach to writing in all forms. As far as artists that inspire me, I am a huge fan of Sade. She has this effortless sensuality and grace that I would love to possess even half of. The inspiration for the content of my lyrics has to come from my life or surroundings; I need to mean it to write it and sing it well. I love the consciousness and wit of artists like Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse, Marvin Gaye, and Erykah Badu, to name a few. I want to talk about real life and all the messy stuff that comes with it. As I am sure you can tell, I like a lot of music, so I take sonic cues from many directions. Inspiration is everywhere, so the question is always, how do I take all these separate threads and join them to create my sound. That is an ever-evolving part of my musical journey.
EI: With that being said, was there a specific age that you when you got your start in music and were there any specific artists that you looked up to that made you want to pursue a career as an artist?
NYA: I accidentally fell into love with singing at 16. Voice lessons had initially been a means to an end to get a part in the school musical but quickly became more than that. When I sing, I swear it's transcendent; I feel free in those precious moments. The burden of my neuroses, of the past, lifts, leaving me at my best. At that time, I was already writing stories and poetry for fun, so it was a pretty natural transition to songwriting. My first artist obsession was with Frank Sinatra when I was around 10. Singers like Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Amy Winehouse, and Lauryn Hill communicate emotion. They make you feel. Something about that kind of soulfulness just entranced me. Towards the end of high school, I participated in this program with the Grammy Foundation. Amongst this group of young musicians, writers, and performers, I finally felt a sense of belonging. That's when I knew that even though being an artist is far from a safe bet, I was hooked.
EI: With having that deep range of artists you were brought up on, aside from the music you compose genre-wise, are there any other genres that you listen to as well?
Nya: I listen to most genres, especially as the construct of the genre itself becomes less relevant. For the past couple of years, my favorites have been genre-bending artists/ bands like The Internet, Nao, Tyler, the Creator, Remi Wolf, Benee. I never stop listening to Sade, Amy Winehouse, and Lauryn Hill. But basically, anything with soul at its core is usually something I like. I love hip hop from Outkast to early Kanye to Questlove to The Fugees; it is a genre at the forefront of innovating popular music while remaining soulful and poignant. I feel more drawn to the cadences, rhythms, and lyrics of hip hop than almost any other genre.
EI: Again based on your diverse listening selections, what exactly are the inspirations and influences you have when composing songs? Is there a specific process you have when writing hooks, verses, choosing beats, etc.?
Nya: Since I came from a singing and poetry background, rather than starting as an instrumentalist, I often begin writing a song with melodies and lyrics first. With the help of my producer or co-writer, I then take those ideas and give the song its chord structure. I frequently write to chords or tracks and am open to changing my process based on how my collaborators work best. I believe great music is the result of a great collaboration. When working this way, though, which is a pretty common approach, I will freestyle melodies in the booth, and then my writing partners and I, Dr. Frankenstein, so to speak, tie the song together. For example, this melody is good for the chorus, or this part sounds like a bridge. When I listen to a beat or track, I know I love it in the first 6 to 11 seconds; it's wild how fast you just know. That's the magic of music; it's so intuitive, something to be felt. Which means you can't overthink it. As a chronic overthinker, I definitely struggle with that sometimes.
EI: With that being said, based on all that you look to accomplish as an artist, are there any other goals and areas career-wise that you look to one day venture?
Nya: Getting a music career off the ground is an all-intensive thing, so that is my main focus currently. However, down the road, I would love to pursue more work in public health and philanthropy. I went to NYU for a few years majoring in global public health. It's a broad field from epidemiology to public health outreach, but I genuinely enjoyed it. I have lived through what a failing mental health system creates, as have millions of other people, and it's heartbreaking. If I could use whatever success I have to make a difference in that field somehow, well, that is the dream!
EI: So for those who don't know you or haven't heard your music, how would you describe it, based on the sound, themes, and elements incorporated?
Nya: My music tends to be slightly cinematic, and it is always soulful at its core. But honestly, I think it is constantly evolving and improving, especially sonically. My goal every time I write is to get better, so I am always learning something new. However, I hope the commonality throughout that evolution is that my music is sincere. I am trying to speak from my heart and share a piece of myself with whoever might be listening.
EI: Additionally, is there anything listeners expect from you in the future music-wise? Are there any upcoming projects, singles, that you have set to release?
Nya: There are so many exciting things coming up. I will be releasing the rest of the Requiem of Me EP and some accompanying visual content during the remainder of this year. Additionally, I am currently writing my first album, which I plan to release next year. I am beyond excited to finish and release all this new music and collaborate with an incredible team of creatives, including producer/songwriters Brian Kennedy and Midian, on this upcoming album.
EI: When it comes to that point, is there anything you would like to be remembered for as an artist and as a human being?
Nya: I am goofy and nerdy, and I was a late bloomer. I struggled in my teenage years with bullying and pretty turbulent home life. My point in saying all that is I understand feeling alone and broken and lost. Music was my lifeline, so I hope more than anything that my music will help people know they aren't alone. I hope that I can lighten the load, even if it's just for 3 minutes. It's hard to know where life and the music industry are going to take you. I want to live a happy life, be a kind person, and I want to make great music; I believe the rest will turn out as it’s meant to.