On Repeat: Nhala // Queen of Phantoms
Singer-songwriter Nhala returns with the cinematic + emotive album Queen of Phantoms, and we’ve had it on repeat since its release earlier this month. We’re completely enthralled by her smoky vocals + hypnotizing mix of jazz, rnb, pop + soul elements. The 8-track album is proving to be our soundtrack to all of our lovesick tendencies, and if you’re like us, you won’t be able to get enough of Rinse Repeat + Birthday. We chatted with Nhala all about the making of the album + what’s next. ICYMI, learn more about Nhala from our chat with her last summer.
Asymmetric Magazine: Congrats on Queen of Phantoms—it's such a beautiful album! Can you tell us all about it?
Nhala: Thank you! This record was a handful of many songs I wrote throughout the year of 2018. Each song was built around the original piano demos I had tracked at home. I then spent all winter recording vocals at Galexy Studios in Tarzana, CA and did a lot of the vocal production at our getaway studio in Texas. The songs could’ve taken any direction—I had sent the stripped down versions to quite a few producers and ended up finishing the project with my two talented friends Tailspiin and Matt Zavala. They both 100% understood the direction, vision and references I had for Queen of Phantoms. I’m a musician, so I had to incorporate authentic instruments into this project. Thankfully, the producers involved were also amazing instrumentalists. Towards the end, I was inviting my closest musician friends and vocalists over every week, knocking out baselines, guitars, background vocals and adding in some of my own production, as well. The magic was in the mixing—my brother DYSN and I spent hours of quality time perfecting the details, automating, creating dynamics, consistency and an overall presence for this project. Lastly, the tracks were mastered by my favorite Chris Athens—a low end god! The project was finished with ten songs, two were pulled after the album was already sent to be all platforms! I canceled and re-uploaded with a total of 8 tracks before the release. Quality over quantity.
AM: Is there a track that resonates with you most?
N: Lyrically, Rinse Repeat and Birthday resonate with me most. The initial emotion was captured so quickly and honest, they immediately take me back to when I wrote them. Plus, the progressions are very storytelling; these are my favorite to play on piano. As far as my everyday essence, Wicked to My Wild and Sinsational is where I live in my skin. Both could be my personal theme song.
AM: How does the album compare to Nothing Nice To Say?
N: Queen of Phantoms is extremely different from the EP released last year. Nothing Nice To Say was recorded totally live as a fun, light hearted project that I wanted to create with my good friends/band. I was passionate about having a live record out to shed light on real musicianship and how raw music still is and can be! The EP actually was recorded in the middle of writing the songs used for my new album. My bassist (Moose) and keyboardist (Walter Wax) from Nothing Nice to Say are also feature on Back & Blue, Wicked to My Wild, Love Spell and Puppeteer from Queen of Phantoms.
AM: Do you have a favorite track to perform live?
N: I am so impatient to share with everyone the work I’m putting into these future performances. I’m in the middle of choreographing dance and directing the live show myself! I will definitely be playing keys live and some guitar, as well.
AM: What's next for you after this album?
N: I’m excited to continue creating. I have a couple of releases lined up for the remainder of the year. I am a writer, and writers never stop writing. As soon as the songs are there, I will have another project ready to go. My goal is always to create and share timeless music. I hope these songs will continue to live beyond now.
// listen to Queen of Phantoms:
// photos courtesy of Nhala
// Listen to more Nhala on Spotify.