Chatting to Nina Nesbitt our Summer Issue cover star

It’s a Wednesday afternoon in the UK and I’m waiting for a call from Nina Nesbitt, who has likely just woken up as she is in a completely different time zone. That’s because Nesbitt is in the middle of America, serving as the support act on James Arthur’s nationwide North American tour. After a long period of uncertainty, it’s the first time the Scottish-born singer has been able to hit the road in nearly three years. At the time of our chat, Nesbitt was just weeks away from announcing her long-awaited third studio album, Älskar, after keeping it under wraps for some time.

Translated into English, Nesbitt’s Swedish album title means love. It will be her first body of work since 2019’s The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change, a record about the ongoing changes that occur in your early 20s. Scheduled for a September 2 release, the 27-year-old reveals the theme for the new album is about exploring love and all its raw forms. “This new album follows on from the last one quite well, it’s not a million miles away,” Nesbitt tells House Of Solo. “I feel like when you get in your 20s, love becomes really complex in all the different areas whether it’s friendship, family, or romantic. It becomes more serious and harder to maintain.” 

After first penning a number of the tracks pre-2020, when the world was in a completely different place, Nesbitt admits she had a tough time getting the album completed as she chose to make a lot of the record in Sweden. Thus, she had to deal with the on-and-off lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic. “Some of the songs are up to three years old while some of them are only three months old, it’s all a mixture. It wasn’t like I just sat down for six months and wrote a record, it’s been a long process,” Nesbitt says. “However, this way, I think it’s given it different angles.”

Nesbitt initially teased a new era last year when she returned with the breezy “Summer Fling” and ‘80s-inspired “Life’s A Bitch (L.A.B).” While those particular tracks have only been added to the deluxe version on the upcoming LP, Nesbitt explains she chose to put them out into the world first because she knew the wait for her new album was going to be a little longer than expected. For this reason, the beautiful piano ballad, “When You Lose Someone,” became the album’s official lead single.

“It’s been amazing to see the reaction, especially on YouTube. Normally, I don’t read YouTube comments but I had a little look at the music video and I saw so many people relating to it in so many different ways,” Nesbitt says about reception the song has received, before explaining its real meaning. “For me, it wasn’t about someone dying, it was more about a relationship dying. The way people have been taking it into their lives in the way that they want is exactly what I hoped that song would do because I feel grief and loss is such a big subject, and it’s not just one thing. Getting to play it live also and seeing it connect with audiences has been really exciting.”

Älskar’s second single, “Dinner Table,” details her relationship with her mother and grandmother and how they all share similarities, despite growing up in three different generations. Nesbitt felt inspired to write a song from this perspective after she wasn’t able to visit her gran, who lives in Sweden, due to travel restrictions. “It kind of made me realise how much I had taken seeing my family for granted. I don’t think you realise until you can’t do it. I now really make the most of the moments, hearing her stories,” she shares. “I just wanted to write a song about it because with the theme being love, there are so many areas of love and I thought it was an interesting subject to write about.”

After playing the song to her gran, Nesbitt insists she couldn’t be happier with the result. “I filmed the music video in her house without her knowing, and then I put it all together and sent her it, and she loved it,” she expresses. “I thought she was going to be really shy, but I told her, ‘Gran, you’re going to be a superstar!’ And then she told me, ‘I already am!’ She’s really happy to share the story with the world.”

One of Nesbitt’s most popular singles, “Loyal To Me,” saw the singer perform a rare piece of choreography in its music video. Upon asking whether we could see her dancing again in another video anytime soon, Nesbitt teases that could be the case with her latest offering. “I’m not much of a dancer but you never know. There’s one called “Pressure Makes Diamonds” that I’m really excited to release. I’ve kind of said that one is “Loyal To Me’s” cousin or something,” Nesbitt declares. “That one has a bit of an attitude about her. The music video for that one is going to be fun.”

At the time of our call, Nesbitt says she is still putting the final touches on the tracklisting but believes there will be four songs on the album that she will have produced herself, three more credits than the previous. While most know Nesbitt as a songwriter, she also wants people to be aware that she produces too. “I think it’s important because when I grew up, I was surrounded by a lot of chart pop music and a lot of female pop music. A lot of the time, it was male writers writing the songs and a female singing them. So, I didn’t really have that example until I found Taylor Swift. It wasn’t until then that I was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing! I can see myself in her, that’s what I wanna do,’” she explains. “And now, with the producing thing, it’s the same. I haven’t really had a female role model so I think it’s really important to put it out there and show upcoming artists whoever they are that they can produce as well.”

Like a lot of artists, Nesbitt tells me she is a perfectionist and is never 100 per cent happy with her own production but made sure to push herself on this record. “It’s kind of intimidating when you work with such amazing producers when you actually give it a go,” she admits. “At the end of the day, listeners just wanna hear something honest and real. It doesn’t have to always have to be a perfect pop production, it needs to capture a moment. You can’t be too picky with it sometimes. I’ve definitely tried to do that with this record. It’s nice to have ownership of what you do.”

Nesbitt believes the reason for the public being unaware of female producers is because of a “lack of representation” within the industry. Growing up, she didn’t know of any and only knows a “handful” today. “By me not having an example, that kind of discouraged me a bit,” she says. On the plus side, Nesbitt is hopeful that that is going to change in the near future. “It’s becoming a little more common, especially with this new generation coming up, I think there are a lot more females getting into production and engineering. I definitely feel it’s coming forward,” she adds.

For many years now, Nesbitt has been an independent artist. In 2014, she dropped her debut album, Peroxide, under a major label – Universal Music Group – before parting ways with them in 2016. “It was a mutual decision between the major label and me. It wasn’t working for either of us and I essentially got shelved for two years,” she says, adding, “I was writing all this music but they wouldn’t release anything so I was glad to have left but also quite anxious about what the future might hold.” At one point, Nesbitt considered ditching being a singer and solely working as a songwriter for other artists, explaining that songwriting is her favourite thing to do. “I started getting a few cuts for other artists and really really enjoyed it but there were a couple of songs I wanted to share myself,” she adds. 

Long story short, indie label Cooking Vinyl came along and offered her a deal to release through them. Expressing that she had nothing to lose, Nesbitt gave producing another album a shot. As a result, her first album in five years, 2019’s The Sun Will Come Up, The Seasons Will Change exceeded her expectations and introduced Nesbitt’s talent to a much larger audience than she ever had before. It allowed her to travel the world and perform on some of the biggest stages. “I only really wanted to make one album and something that I was proud of to have out there,” she says. “On the first album, I think I had over a million streams or something. And with the second, we’re now on half a billion streams. So, it’s quite insane. To make another one is pretty cool, but it adds a bit of pressure [laughs]. I feel really lucky to have that creative freedom.”

Reflecting on her debut album, Nesbitt doesn’t look back on her early material with regret. If anything, she’s proud to see the progression within her journey. “I was about 17 or 18 when I wrote it, so I was still figuring out who I was as I had just left school. So, I think for anyone to know who they are at that age is pretty rare,” Nesbitt explains. “I was just experimenting with producers and learning the path to songwriting really as I didn’t know what I was doing. There are definitely a few songs on there that I’m really proud of, but others that I look back on and think, ‘Aww, I was so young.’”

She continues: “I think as an artist you’re always finding your sound, well, I always am anyway. I’ve never been, ‘This is my sound!’ I think vocally and lyrically I know what that is but sonically it could be anything.”

With just months away from Älskar’s release, Nesbitt hopes listeners find a piece of them within the storytelling. “Had I not released the last one, I would have thought no one would relate to it,” she admits. “I hope people take it into their lives however they want because, for me, it was like therapy writing it. There are also a few bangers on there you can enjoy on a night out, it’s not all depressing they’ll be glad to know.” As for constantly checking the stats on how well it’s going to be doing, Nesbitt says she’s no longer interested in obsessing over statistics. “I used to be really obsessed with how many streams and views I had but now I just put it out and check it every couple of weeks,” Nesbitt explains. “If it gets loads of streams, that’s lovely. But, I’m not someone who watches an update every hour. Maybe my label does [laughs].”

Nesbitt makes a point of not setting herself goals surrounding her music career because “you’re not really in control of it, it’s just up to the people that listen to music.” She adds: “Last time, I never would have set any of those goals because it exceeded any of my expectations so I just wanna get it out and see what happens and write the best music I can.” Outside of music, however, she wants to be able to speak Swedish fluently so she can speak to her gran “properly.”


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