Nina Nesbitt Talks New Single, Songwriting and Being a DIY Female Producer: Interview

Nina Nesbitt
Alex Lake

Nina Nesbitt

Story-telling pop sensation Nina Nesbitt is back with a new single, "The Moments I’m Missing," featuring Manitoba born-LA based R&B singer Goody Grace.

The lyrics eloquently and cleverly discuss Nina’s rapid assent to fame and her feelings of not being able to take it all in at the time. "Now I've had a lot of time to look back and see what was amazing and what was shit." She explained, "It's not about missing as in longing; it's about the moments I'm missing from my brain. It's about recollecting." 

Listen to the "The Moments I'm Missing" here:

The single was fully written and produced by Nina who was discovered by Ed Sheeran at only 17. Nina scored a U.K. top 15 album with her debut album Peroxide in 2014, characterized by her heartfelt lyrics and an acute skill for seeking out a unique and catchy melody. 

The now-22-year-old talks how her sound has evolved, how she approaches songwriting for herself and others, the responsibility of a female producer and what's next for her as an artist.

How did Ed Sheeran discover you when you were 17? And what is your relationship now?

It was at a radio gig where I played him a song and then he asked me on tour. He's been a big part of my musical journey for sure, and I'll always be grateful for that. He's a good mate and I know he'll always have my back. He deserves all the success after working that hard.

How has your sound evolved and changed since your debut album Peroxide in 2014?

I think it has definitely matured and become a lot tighter in terms of what my sound is. I wrote most of Peroxide when I was 17, 18, and I was trying to figure out who I was, let alone what type of music I wanted to make. I never once thought about melody on that album, which seems completely mad now. There were a lot of influences and styles, a lot of experimenting. Working with other artists and writers over the past couple years has really given me a clear idea of my strengths and weaknesses and what is unique about me as an artist. I figured it's my storytelling lyrics, falsetto range and tone of voice, so I write songs to utilize those. 

When can we expect the release of a new album? What are you most excited about for the new record? 

Next year! I'm so proud of it. It literally feels like my soul laid bare in a record and every song is very personal. I can't wait for people to hear it. I played my first new music show last weekend and I literally just wanted to start crying on stage with the feels. [Laughs.] As much as I love a catchy pop song, I wanted to make a record that made people feel something and was sonically cohesive.

Explain the experience of being the sole writer and producer of your new single, "The Moments I’m Missing". 

It just kind of wrote itself one evening! I write by myself all the time, when I'm not in sessions and I've been teaching myself production for years but this was the first track that I felt was release ready, production wise. I discovered this huge sample database that day, which really inspired this song -- not judging the samples by what genre they were, and just sampling sounds that I actually liked and thought were cool. Then I wrote the top line over the instrumental I'd put together.

I felt like the by the bridge I needed something different, so I hit up my friend Goody Grace to put his story on that bit. I love the collaborative process, but I'd been writing with other people every day for months, so it was nice to have some alone time. I could never have written those lyrics in front of someone else.

What was it like working with Goody Grace on the track? 

I met him at a studio day with Gnash at Abbey Road in the same room The Beatles recorded in. It was such an amazing day. Goody is such a young talent and he's got a bright future for sure. We said we'd do a song together at some point, and since he's a great lyricist I thought "The Moments I'm Missing" would be the perfect song for him to be on. 

What inspired you to take the route of DIY production and take things into your own hands? 

I was in between labels, and to be honest it was hard to get producers to work with me, being unsigned at the time. I thought, well if no one else is gonna do it with me -- I need to learn to do it myself! So I did. I absolutely love collaborating with other people, but I think it's so important to always be able to rely on yourself because there are ups and downs in this industry. I've always been very independent, and I love being able to enjoy different parts of music. It's amazing to be able to hear the sound in your head and instantly make it come to life.

Can you speak on being a female producer in a male-dominated field, and give some advice to aspiring female producers? 

I feel like in our society there is definitely still a lot of underlying sexism. It's funny how many guys are surprised when you pick up an instrument in the studio, or write your own songs. Growing up, I always thought that girls sung and guys mostly worked behind the scenes, writing and producing, because that's all I'd seen. So when I started having these studio sessions with mostly older men, I did feel slightly inferior and almost apologetic if I put my foot down about a certain thing.

I guess maturing and being in the industry for a while you realize you're actually just as qualified as anyone else, male or female. Nothing is right or wrong. You just have to trust yourself. If you're writing or producing music for yourself, you know best. You have to just go in to sessions believing you have earned a place in the room. So much of it is to do with confidence.

It's evident that you want to inject your new music with more obvious pop inspirations -- who influences your work today?

I grew up on pop music, thanks to my Swedish mother. So I've literally had it ingrained in my head from birth. I love anything Max Martin does, I think he's a genius. Everything is so simple but so effective. I've definitely tried to keep that in mind for poppier songs on the album. I'm listening to the new Lorde and Haim albums on repeat right now. Bangers.

Since songwriting is so personal -- how do you approach writing songs for others differently than you do for yourself? 

I feel like I'm there to extract a story from them and work with them to make it come to life. It's not that these artists actually need help writing, I think it's just a really fun day and it's hard to be self aware all the time when you're the artist. Sometimes you can see or hear something special in them that they haven't discovered yet.

Has there ever been a song you originally wrote for yourself but gave away? Or a song you wrote that you new would be perfect for a certain artist? 

I wrote half a song a while ago and knew my voice didn't suit the chorus so I kept it in the back of my mind till I was in a session with Jasmine Thompson one day, and she was telling me this boy story, and I was like, "Wait! I have this idea!" Then we finished the song together and she absolutely NAILED the vocal. I hope people get to hear it soon.

I also love writing for pitch, which is where you get in a room with other writers and just write what you think is a great song. This is probably my favorite thing to do, because you get complete freedom. You can be anyone for the day. Writing for [specific] artists, including myself, can be restrictive. 

What's next? Anything specific you would love to do?

I wanna get the album out very early next year, and I’d love to play a festival season next year too -- It's my favourite thing to do. I'd also love to write with other artists again now that I'm finishing up my own album. One way or another I’ll always be doing music, whether it’s writing or performing.

Watch the lyric video for "The Moments I'm Missing" below: