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New York, London, Paris, Munich: Talking Pop Music With Nina Nesbitt

Ah, pop music. The only genre we love to hate, and hate that we love. What was once the territory of 14 year-olds has become a key element of adult listening as well. In the past, older folks had something called “adult contemporary”–a stomping ground of ballads, smooth jazz and easy rock. Then Celine Dion happened, and adult contemporary stopped happening. Now, you are as likely to hear Katy Perry in an office as you will in your daughter’s bedroom. Suits listen to Pitbull and Kesha on the subway along with kids on their way to school.

So, when the music industry has become a streamlined machine, using synergy to make Top 40 the songs that are selling you cars, clothes, and impactful moments on television (and in turn, making those songs stay in the Top 40), is it still possible to be an artist?

Nina Nesbitt – “Stay Out”

Nineteen-year-old Scotland native Nina Nesbitt is taking on pop music with a bit of a punk mentality–believing in herself, doing her own thing, and hustling to make that thing happen. After being discovered by Ed Sheeran three years ago, Nesbitt parlayed the experience and exposure into self-releasing her debut EP, The Apple Tree, and opening for Sheeran on his European tour. Self-promoting and performing as often as possible, Nesbitt caught the attention of record labels. Island Records (U2, Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse) picked her up, and her hard work has paid off via industry accolades, including being named Best Emerging Artist at the Scottish Music Awards (following in the footsteps of Emeli Sandé and Amy Macdonald). More EPs were released, and the continuous performing and releasing new music has led to Peroxide, her first full-length album.

Ms. Nesbitt fits into a very different sub-genre of pop music. When I asked her where she sees herself fitting into the spectrum she replied, “pop with a bit of an edge to it: indie-pop.” It’s not that bad a name, either. More akin to Lily Allen (who appears on Nesbitt’s song “Mr.C”), Jake Bugg and Tom Odell, her music has substance, meaning, and tells a story. “I’ve always written about what happens to me,” she says. Her song “Stay Out” offers a street-level look of life: “She thinks she’s in Barbados/ But outside it’s minus three.” On “No Interest,” these observational lyrics become close to Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” with brief glimpses offering entire packaged stories: “Sit on the bus and I get on the backseat/With a hooded and a bottle of JD/I’m throwing looks cause the baby’s crying/Wish the mother would stop denying them milk.”

“I definitely write about subjects people want to hear, and people can relate to,” Nesbitt explains, echoing a key element of pop. As are the catchy guitar and great pop hooks which cover her songs and serve less as a driving force of the song, than a compliment to her smoky sweet voice and profound lyrics.

Nina Nesbitt – “No Interest”

When asked about her album, Nesbitt said it is “musically quite broad” with “a lot of variations,” and she’s right. There is a complexity to Nina Nesbitt’s music which is hard to put one’s finger on. With songs like “Selfies,” a pure pop anthem–about taking selfies (of course)–it would be easy to put Nesbitt in the same category as Taylor Swift. With other songs like “No Interest,” the pop sound wraps you like a warm blanket, but the lyrics hit you in the head like a shovel.

Speaking on musical influences, Nesbitt echoes the dichotomy in her music: “It’s not like one or two people. It’s what I hear around me, in the shops, or on the street.” She does, however, recognize how artists like Stevie Nicks, Alanis Morissette and Deborah Harry have impacted her desire to both write and perform. Her music mimics this–the songs fit perfectly with the soundtrack of both teenage life, and the background of an average office setting, while Nesbitt’s voice and lyrics are pure art.

It’s hard not to think of artists like Lorde when considering Nina Nesbitt’s music. Both have created music on their own, remaining true to the traditions of the pop genre, while exploring untapped opportunities to forge unique, deep and meaningful pieces. As the industry continues to push giant stars with all of the math and science of over 60 years of pop music, something is changing. When asked about youth culture, Nesbitt states, “The Internet has given us a voice. No matter where you are from, who you are, you have a forum.” Both Lorde and Nesbitt have taken advantage of the opportunities social media have to offer, and it has paid off.

Nina Nesbitt – “Selfies”

Pop music is a complicated beast. Easily brushed off as “bubble gum,” it is important to remember most contemporary musical movements in the past 60 years have been because of pop music. The Beatles are icons, but they began their career insisting, “She loves you (yeah, yeah, yeah).” The Clash created an essential catalogue of alternative music, but they are best known for songs like “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” made the Top 40, and U2…well, they are the giants of pop music.

Is it possible to be a pop sensation, and still be an artist? The groups named above prove it has been the case in the past. After listening to Nina Nesbitt’s music the future seems safe as well.

Nina Nesbitt’s EP’s are currently available on iTunes. Nesbitt’s album Peroxide is available in the U.K, and will be released in North America early next year.

Nina Nesbitt tour dates:
Appearing at “Live At Leeds”
Sat 05/03/14 Leeds, United Kingdom Various Venues
Appearing at “Isle Of Wight Festival”
Sat 06/14/14 Newport, United Kingdom Seaclose Park
Appearing at “T In The Park”
Sat 07/12/14 Kinross, United Kingdom Balado
Appearing at “V Festival” (Shropshire)
Sat 08/16/14 Shropshire, United Kingdom Weston Park
Appearing at “V Festival” (Chelmsford)
Sun 08/17/14 Chelmsford, United Kingdom Hylands Park

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