photos /Angelo Kritikos
hmu / Georgie Hamed
story / Catherine Santino
In an age where authenticity is scarce and Instagram culture reigns, singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt is a breath of fresh air.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and raised in a suburb outside the city, Nina credits her small-town upbringing as a contributor to her loyal fan base. “It’s made me quite…normal, [laughs] if that makes any sense,” explains Nesbitt. “I think maybe that’s why people relate to the songs. [Like me], a lot of people live in these suburban areas and are waiting to leave. Not in a bad way. But that definitely helped my drive; it was sort of up to me to get myself out there.”
And she certainly did. Nesbitt got her start writing and recording songs in her bedroom and sharing with them through her YouTube channel. In 2011, she met English pop artist Ed Sheeran when he was performing a radio gig in Edinburgh. After playing a song for him, he invited her to join him on his tour.
Since then, her sound has developed gracefully, from folk/acoustic to sleekly produced, R&B influenced pop. Her newest singles “The Best You Had” and “Somebody Special” as well as “Psychopath”, her recent Spotify exclusive collaboration with Charlotte Lawrence and Sasha Sloan, are sonic proof that Nesbitt is coming into her own.
In the years since she first began writing, Nesbitt has honed in her skills and worked with countless artists; but she’s also grown leaps and bounds as an individual. Her forthcoming album is a departure from her folk roots and touches on experiences all 20-somethings coming into their own can relate to.
“I was like 17 or 18 when I wrote the first album; now I’m a bit older, I’m 23 now,” she says. “I think as you grow up you learn a bit more about who you are and what you want. Most of the album is about personal growth and it takes you on a journey from start to finish.”
It’s no surprise that Nesbitt cites Taylor Swift as a major source of inspiration; both started out in the industry as teenagers with an acoustic sound and have grown into pop powerhouses. Nesbitt also admires the way Swift has navigated her career and handled herself amidst criticism.
“I can’t imagine the stress she must experience on a daily basis,” she says when I ask her thoughts on the media’s treatment of Swift over the years. “I think you need the media to build your career but I also think at that level it must be really hard to get a balance.
“Being introduced as a person’s ‘ex-girlfriend’ is quite distasteful I think. Being mocked for dating a handful of guys, when I know most people have dated a lot more than that through their college years. Being body shamed for not having an ‘ass’ or being ‘flat chested or being ‘too fat’; there’s not really any way you can win. I don’t read any negative press, I’ve told my management not to send me any because frankly, I don’t give a fuck. It’s mad because I feel like men don’t receive the same treatment.”
Despite the challenges, Nesbitt has learned to tune out the negativity from the media and focus entirely on her music and her fans – which, with the growing influence of social media, isn’t always the easiest.
In the years before musicians were expected to be on Instagram promoting their own work and sticking to a decided-upon “aesthetic”, fans had more freedom to decide for themselves what an artist stood for and meant to them. Now, more and more, these things are being dictated for us.
“The music industry has changed so much since I started and it kind of goes through trends,” says Nesbitt. “Right now, I feel like it’s popular to build a brand more than an artist in a way; create a pseudonym, image, stand for something, etc. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way but I do think if you have quality songs and authenticity to what you do or say, you’ll cut through eventually.”
“Due to the sheer amount of people releasing you kind of have to present yourself in bitesize form now,” she continues, “I’m not sure if that’s a good thing but it’s the world we live in now. I still believe you gain long-term fans through songs that connect and being authentic, which is actually really hard to maintain when you have so much pressure to cut through.”
For Nesbitt, her authenticity is rooted in her genuine love for connecting with her fans. For her, performing for them is almost therapeutic.
“I absolutely love performing; it’s like my favorite thing to do. I was just a songwriter for a while so I’m looking forward to performing this album,” says Nesbitt. “I love being on stage, I don’t know what it is but it feels like a really relaxing thing for me. I kind of zone out while it’s happening.”
She’s currently in the midst of her headlining tour (she’ll be performing through August), a milestone that causes her to reflect on her early performances; shows that were made up of just a few hundred dedicated fans.
“I remember going from playing my local festival, T in The Park, to 300 people the first year,” says Nesbitt.
“Then a year later I was playing to 10,000; that’s a moment I’ll never forget, it was pretty incredible. I’ve been doing this over 6 years now and to have people that really care and turn up to the gigs is something I’ll never take for granted.”
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES
10/4 – Neumos – Seattle, WA
10/5 – Fortune Sound Club – Vancouver, BC
10/6 – Hawthorne Theater – Portland, OR
10/9 – Holy Diver – Sacramento, CA
10/10 – Slim’s – San Francisco, CA
10/11 – Voodoo Room @ House of Blues San Diego – San Diego, CA
10/12 – The Observatory – Santa Ana, CA
10/13 – El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
10/16 – The Crescent Ballroom – Phoenix, AZ
10/17 – Sunshine Theater – Albuquerque, NM
10/19 – The Complex – Salt Lake City, UT
10/20 – Bluebird Theater – Denver, CO
10/23 – Scott Inn – Austin, TX
10/24 – House of Blues – Bronze Peacock – Houston, TX
10/25 – House of Blues- Cambridge Room – Dallas, TX
10/26 – Harrah’s Kansas City – Voodoo Lounge – Kansas City, MO
10/27 – Delmar Hall – St. Louis, MO
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