Music Spotlight: Nhala
We're completely smitten by Nhala's recent EP Nothing Nice To Say (released last friday, august 24). The jazzy beats paired with her soulful vocals have us hooked. We caught up with nhala on the three tracks, the experimental making of the EP (the band made it in one take!) + what's next for the la-based singer-songwriter. don't miss her at the sayers club Thursday, august 30.
Asymmetric Magazine: First and foremost, congrats on your debut EP release! Tell us about Nothing Nice to Say.
Nhala: Thank you so much! The entire experience was genuinely fun from start to finish. This project was a live recording with me and my band at Red Gate Recorders. I took a lot of inspiration from 1970's vinyls I had been listening to. It has aspects of urban, funk and soul. I wanted to bring back complete live instruments with no extra production and authentic song writing. I feel you can hear the formula in music today, so I wanted to do something very real and free! What you're hearing is exactly what you would hear at one of our rehearsals and I LOVE that aspect. I'm happy with the project over all!
AM: What was your process like, writing and recording this EP?
N: Being my first project, it was very experimental–lots of trial and error with the technical side. I've never tracked or tried finalizing a live record, and I had my friend Alex Moore help with the mixing, so they could sound Spotify and Apple friendly. The instrumentals you are hearing were one take, so shout out to the guys for being so talented! We did it all in an eight hour window, so you can feel the energy of the room and rawness of the songs.
As for writing, at the time I was going through a falling out with someone who I was finding it tough to make mends with, and I really had nothing nice to say about the situation. All three songs were written very quickly (maybe 30 min tops). I never write a song intended for others to hear–these were three therapy sessions in my room, getting through an emotional time with writing. I did change a few lyrics on the spot for the final product to be less personal so that others could relate to the message and stories. Because the songs finished themselves, I shared them with my band. We had one rehearsal I believe and recorded them a few days later. The entire creative part took no more than a week.
AM: How do the songs on this EP compare to your previous singles, such as Electric Blue and Maybe Baby?
N: I had learned to produce electronic music for a DJ career before my first single as Nhala Maybe Baby. That song has a lot of those elements in the instrumental and vocal production because that's all I knew how to do at the time. That song is very beginner, but it was extremely sentimental to me and obviously the start of my solo career! Electric Blue was an accident. The track wasn't produced for me, but I had used it for a writing outline and claimed it mine because it was the most professional instrumental I had access to. I thought it was a good song to release simply to set a new standard for the quality of my music. My stuff now is much more authentic, as it's being customized and created to compliment my writing style. I have an overall better understanding of the technical side to music than I did before. My writing and vocals are also improving being this is all I spend my time doing every day.
you can feel the energy of the room and rawness of the songs.
AM: How would you describe your sound?
N: People have described it as a more urban Amy Whinehouse. I'm honestly unsure what you would classify it as. I've played live instruments my entire life, and it wasn't until I moved to LA five years ago that I tried singing and turning my poems/writings into songs. So, I feel my sound is super unique because I was never aiming for anything specific. I've always just focused on the craft of jelling my musicianship, writing and voice together as a hobby in which I obsessed over.
AM: What themes do you typically pursue through your music?
N: I pursue anything that will work for a show. My favorite aspect of making music is performing it! I do enjoy theming my music and aesthetic, and I love constant change. For this project, it was themed 70's and a bit funky, hence the album art (a recreation of That 70's Show Cast Photo). I am all or nothing with themes, and I'm thankful music makes it okay for me to be obnoxious in that way.
AM: What other musicians are currently inspiring you?
N: Right now I'm getting inspired by how The Black Eyed Peas transitioned from a raw/live vibe into a more mainstream sound. I'm trying to find a good balance of the two for the future. I'm always inspired by anyone who can put on an entertaining show and who dares to be extreme and different. If it's a music trend, I'm out. If it's a fashion trend, I'm out. I'm inspired not by what I can see but what someone can be and their ambition to embrace their true selves. We don't need replicas and different versions of the same artists; inspire me with who you really are and what makes you special. Authenticity is HUGE for me.
AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
N: Los Angeles has been beneficial for opportunities. You're living in a community of people who enjoy creating! It has been a great starting place to start playing shows and meeting other musicians and producers. I love supporting the many artists of all types here. You can learn a ton from observing, and it helps with staying motivated and inspired. All of the resources are here to be great if you want to be.
AM: Where is one place that you feel completely in touch with your creative self/music?
N: I feel most in touch with my creativity in my bedroom. I'll get a coffee every day and lock myself in my room to write or record. I've made such a sacred creative space. Another place is my old home in Texas where my parents live. You're in the middle of nowhere, much quieter and still–closer to source. There's not much else to do when I visit except play like a kid again, which was writing, dancing, painting, playing piano and singing. It feels fulfilling to create where you learned to create–insane.
AM: What can we expect to hear from you next?
N: I'm already in the process of working on my next projects with other producers and musicians so that I can make more quality songs. I want to focus on my voice, song writing and performing more, so I am more than happy to partner with producers who are amazing at what they do and those who can help me get better at this craft. I plan on a full album and playing bigger shows. Everything bigger, better and quality! This project was a great starting place–a baby step. I love making and sharing my music more than anything else, and I plan on doing more, more, more. Always.