“Sometimes you have to step away from a bad situation and take time to reflect, so you can heal and grow,” says Nicole Kiki Jaffe of her new song ‘It Felt Like Coming Home.’ Her latest piece is reflective of feelings of belonging and connection after emerging from a negative phase. Aware that repeated exposure to a situation would only prolong her healing, Kiki Jaffe decided to devote time to herself and get to know what she really wanted, before being able to return to a place steeped in memories and emotion. And, opting for songwriting as her preferred form of catharsis, she was able to express herself through her latest work – and regain the courage to connect with friends and familiar places.
For Nicole Kiki Jaffe, making music has always been a way of translating pain and sadness into beauty and strength, noticing its ability to move people’s hearts and let them know they’re not alone. She writes both for her own healing and for others. We caught up with Nicole on her new song and what it truly means to her to feel at home.
Can you describe your own experience of healing and self work, and how you were able to weave these ideas into your song?
I actually wrote this song about a very particular experience. My ex ran a song share night at a coffee shop on the west side. It was a small gathering, and the same people would show up again and again. We became a motley crew of close-knit friends. After my ex and I broke up, I made the very painful decision not to go for a while. I knew I would miss those friends, most of whom I only saw at the song share, but I felt like it was important to make a clean break. I took time to take care of myself. I started going back to dance class and doing yoga everyday. I reached out to friends I hadn’t seen in a while and sought out other open mics. I decided to be there for myself instead of waiting for someone else. A few months passed, and I felt ready to go back to the song share. I remember how happy I was to see my friends’ smiling faces. It felt like no time had passed. Everyone hugged me, and I could feel the love in the room. It felt like coming home.
Your song, ‘It Felt Like Coming Home’ refers to the experience of re-emerging after a difficult period. What are some of the things that make you feel ‘at home’?
My friends and family make me feel at home. I’m a pretty introverted, solitary kind of person at heart, but it’s nice to know that I have people I can trust and reach out to. Dance is another thing that makes me feel at home. I grew up doing ballet since I was 3 years old and continued consistently through college. I still take classes at the Sweat Spot. There are times when I feel like a floating head with clumsy limbs, but dance always makes me feel at home in my body.
How did it feel to take time for reflection, healing and growth after a difficult time in your life?
Self work is some of the most important work you can do. As an only child, I feel like I might have had a little bit of a head start since I’m used to spending a lot of time by myself with my own thoughts. There is something immensely comforting in knowing that I will always be there for myself. I can be very hard on myself in general (my inner critic can tell you all about that), but when I’m going through a tough time, I like to give myself space to feel and time to heal. That’s how the real growth happens.
What were some of the main lessons you learned from the situations you describe in your song?
I learned that taking time for yourself is immensely important. In the case of breakups, a lot of people are tempted to jump right back in. While that may work for some people, I’ve found that it’s really important to give myself time to re-center and get grounded again. When I know who I am and what I want, things have a way of falling into place.
Do you have any particular habits or places that most inspire your creativity?
I spend a lot of time alone at home, so I’ve worked hard to create a space that is comfortable and nourishing. Some people might say that too much comfort doesn’t breed creativity, but I find that most of the discomfort I feel exists inside my head. My creativity comes out when I’ve experienced something uncomfortable but have made my way back to a comfortable, safe place where I can reflect on what happened and process my emotions. Songwriting is one of the most cathartic ways for me to do that.
Who or what have you recently been inspired by?
Well, we’re currently in the time of corona, which is proving to be full of dichotomies. On the one hand, we’re practicing social distancing (I haven’t had a hug in a week), but I also feel like we’re coming together as a community more than ever, thanks in huge part to technology. For instance, I took a dance class with Ryan Heffington this morning on Instagram Live. Nearly 2,000 people joined in. We were all dancing in our own separate spaces, yet you could feel the love in the metaphorical “room.” The entire time people were commenting and sending heart emojis and gratitude. I talked to some friends who were in the class after, and so many people said they cried or felt super emotional and that it was the best part of their day. Ryan ended the class repeating the mantra, “We’ll get through this.” It was emotional, magical, and inspirational.
What are some of your biggest hopes for the future?
Short term, I hope we will get through this global pandemic. I want to say that I know we will. Longer term, my goal is pretty simple: I hope to keep making great art with good people. And to always keep dancing to the music.
CONNECT WITH NICOLE KIKI JAFFE
photos / Tiffany Leah Chung
story / Abi Buller