In part two of our exclusive interview with Nikki Jean, she talks about her upcoming record, artists she would like to work with, and also what she did for Valentine's Day. Enjoy.
Q: As an artist of your kind, there's always a risk of having to "go POP" or stay to your roots, and then end up somewhat unrecognized. Kinda like you have an India Arie and then you have Britney Spears on the other hand, have you ever thought about this?
NJ: Yeah, but I think that people frequently misunderstand where I come from, because I got my "big break" you would say from Lupe, but I'm not like a Hip-Hop artist, I've never been a Hip-Hop artist. I've always been, and i'm not... Like I don’t consider myself an R&B artist. I've always loved Classic American song writing and songs, so that’s what my record is based upon. Good songs and good song writers. My favorite song writers are POP writers.
Not pop in the Britney Spears sense, but pop as in Carol King, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Barry Mann, [inaudible] These are all people that are my absolute heroes and I wanna make music like they made and I don’t know if that’s gonna be considered pop or R&B and I think that it’s unrealistic to assume that... Like, pop is not a dirty word. Pop stands for popular and a lot of times when you experience popular success, people say oh, you’ve sold out, you went pop. But I don’t know, I’ve always wanted to make good songs.
I didn’t start off wanting to be like a hip hop songstress or Like with NV Riche, that’s the situation I fell into I never intended to be in an alt rock, or indie rock, or hip hop rock band but that was never my aspiration either. So I’m really not worried about other people expectation so or about selling out. I really trust Sam to make a phemomenal record and I’m def going to write a bunch of songs that I believe in. There’s not going to be a single song on the record that I don’t feel good putting my name on.
Q: So if you had to put yourself in one genre... I personally don’t like or agree with the whole genre thing, but u know people are probably gonna ask you. So what genre do you consider your music to be?
NJ: I feel like it’s probably... I don’t know. I think we’ll know more when the record is done. It’s hard to say before all the songs are written and the record is done, and how it’s gonna be marketed.
Q: Speaking of hip-hop... Hip hop saved my life. What inspired you to write the hook for that song?
NJ: Lupe! He gave me the track and said I want to write the song about this. Write the hook. It was really that. He already knew - he had the whole story of the song mapped out before I even wrote the hook. He was like, here’s the track, heres the concept, write the hook and that was it. You gotta give him what he wants. (laughs)
Q: You come across as very down to earth but pretty ambitious. Where do you see yourself, musically, five years from now? Where do you want to be five years down the road?
NJ: Five years down the road, I definitely want to be really happy. Right now, just working and pursuing my music makes me so happy ‘cause I’ve been working so long to get this opportunity – it’s incredible. I think you can psyche yourself out when you start aiming for hardcore things. Like, I wanna do this, I wanna do that. Kinda like people who say ‘I wanna have 3 kids by time I’m 27’. That kind of planning could never work for me. I’d totally psyche myself out.
So I don’t do that with my career either. I just try and say ‘Right now, I want to make the best record I can.’ And I wanna work as hard as I can to promote it. I know that I wanna do every radio interview I can. Every promotional performance, every in-store. I just want to work the record as hard as I can. And I think that if I do, that work will give me the opportunity to make another record.
Which is really all you can hope for. You can hope for more, but like, this is a competitive industry. It’s a very hard market right now. I’m just tryna do my best work and make a record I can be proud of. Five years from now, I hope I’m still baking and making music, and financially stable enough to take some cool vacations, buy a house... um take care of my mum. Those are the things that I really wanna do... the things that are really important to me.
Q: What ever happened to your segment on eatdrinkordie.com? Did it ever go online?
NJ: You know what? They held it hostage. I actually sent the clip to Summiyah. They actually really, really liked it. So much that they wanted to do a bigger program about it. And they approached my manager about it, and he thought it was probably best to focus first on the music and then later on the cooking and baking later. Cause I would prefer people to say, ‘That’s Nikki Jean who sings. Who knew she was so good at baking or that she loved food so much.’ I’d much rather if people said that than say “Hey, that’s the girl who bakes cookies. Who knew she could sing. That would be not as preferable (laughs).
I think it’s just a matter of timing, and we want everyone on the same page. Focused on the record – first, and then we’ll see what happens from there.
Q: So you’re just gonna save it for later. They’re not gonna just get rid of it or try to shut it down?
NJ: Not at all. Everybody is really excited about it. Summiyah, what were your thoughts on the trailer?
Summiyah: I love it. I thought it was really cute. I loved it. I’m excited to see it get bigger, whenever that time is right, but I really liked it.
NJ: I had a lot of fun making it. It was so much fun. It made me feel like, “wow, this could be my day job!” But I could never give up going on tour. But down the road, I definitely wanna spend more time cooking and doing stuff like that. Like, it’s what I do for fun anyway and I always think you should find a way to do what you really enjoy and do it for a living. So it’s something I’m defintely open to in the future.
Q: What are you doing today for Valentine’s day. Any special plans?
NJ: I’m going to go see Caroline. I’ve been looking at the billboards for months for that movie. Even though I didn’t know what it was like, just the graphics made me think “wow that looks fly.” So today I’m gonna do that. Treat myself, and that’s the biggest thing right there. (fades out)
Q: What artists would you like to work with the most? If you had the chance to invite them to a studio session with you.
NJ: Well you know, being a songwriter, there are people I would be interested in writing for, but those aren’t necessarily people you would want to be on a track with. (fades out)
In terms of singers who have really interesting voices, those are the people I find myself wanting to, you know, like, “Wow it’ll be so cool, it’ll be such an honor to write for them.” In terms of people in hip-hop to work with, I can’t think of anyone whose work I respect more than Lupe’s. He’s really... The more you see his work, the great conversations, and how his mind works. I really believe he’s one of the geniuses of our time.
But I will tell you – a while back- my favorite rapper, Slug, from Atmosphere, was talking to me about doing a whole mixtape with me. And I was super excited... And he was like “You’re gonna be super busy and we’re gonna have to postpone it.” So when and if that could ever happen, I’ll be super stoked. Cause I grew up listening to his music, and him being from Minnesota; he was always like a hero. And how they did it; how they conquered the industry is just amazing. And how they did so much on their own terms.
Q: Has there been a specific artist that you never talked to, but when u actually met them, you were like whoa... that’s not what I thought.
NJ: Yes [laughs] Yes, over and over again. And that’s like one of the saddest experiences. They are your heroes. Especially when you love someone’s music; it’s just sometimes, I choose not to meet someone I’m a really big fan of, cause I don’t want to risk being disappointed. I know that sounds funny, but you always think “man, if I had a chance to meet them I’d jump at the opportunity. But... after a few choice meetings you’re like, “man, I’m never going to listen to that song the same way again... like man, it’s not worth it; it’s just not worth the risk.
Q:You used to have a website which now links to your myspace page. Do you know if there’ll ever be another official Nikki Jean website?
NJ: Man, there’s about to be like more official Nikki Jean sites than I can really handle. You know, a lot of the questions you guys have are the same ones that I have. You know, when is my YouTube and MySpace page gonna start looking like an official artists page?
Mmhmm, I don’t know, but um, but I think when it happens that’ll be exciting. It’s gonna happen cause it’s in my contract and I don’t know when and it’s so interesting cause there are a lot of things you don’t have control over when you sign a recording contract and I’m just kinda working hard on the record and waiting to see how the contract is going to change my life, and restrict my freedom and what’s its gonna allow me; give me the opportunity to do. I don’t really know yet.
It hasn’t really changed anything yet, other than the fact that I’ve had to sit down and talk with lawyers. Other than that, I feel no discernable changes in my life. But we’ll see. We’ll see when everything starts happening.
Q: Do you have anything encouraging to say to anyone out there who is pretty much in the same footsteps that you were, at the beginning of your career. Like, what can you say has helped you the most along your journey?
NJ: If you quit, you’ll never know if you could make it or not. If you quit, it’s game over. But as long as you keep going, there’s a chance that you could make it.
Q: You have a really, really amazing personality. What are the some of things that have shaped you?
NJ: Three things really shape my personality. My mum is one. She always stressed how important it was to treat people the way you’d like to be treated, and she didn’t allow for any kinda attitude or injustice, or anything like that. You’re no better than anyone else, but you’re also no worse than anybody else, so treat everybody with respect.
And the second thing is just, like, the grind, the hustle, will humble you. Cause you work so hard and stuff doesn’t come back. And you’re just working and working and you’re just waiting for that reward and you know there’s no guarantee that it will ever come. And when you look at it – no one deserves success. If you could just earn your success; then a lot more people will have it.
There are so many people who work really really hard and are never gonna have the opportunity to do what they love. And everyday you just have to be grateful for the opportunity you have. Some people don’t have like, running water, let alone a chance to pursue their dreams. So you know, that’s very humbling. And the third thing that’s really is amazing is that I had a the opportunity to meet a young female artist, who I won’t name. But like, years ago. I never forgot how it felt to be disrespected and looked over by someone who in my eyes had everything I ever wanted. I looked at her and said wow, she’s living my dream and she doesn’t even appreciate it. And she’s not even nice.
If I were in her position, I would be nice to everyone. Like, I’d be happy all the time. Look how mean she is. I always know that if I had the chance, I would appreciate the chance I got, and I wouldn’t be mean to people. I won’t disrespect people and blow them off and take them for granted like I saw some people do. And that made a really lasting impression to me.
Q: Final words?
NJ: This is Nikki Jean, with nikkijeanlive.blogspot.com. Thank you for listening. Keep coming back, right here. Stay tuned ‘cause this is about to be the journey of a lifetime. And I want you all to come with me. Have a wonderful day!
Q: Thank you so much Nikki Jean.
NJ: Love for you guys. It hasn’t been easy. I appreciate you guys taking time out of your day to have a chat with me. Really dope!
Q: We really, really appreciate it.