Nina Nesbit for The Untitled Magazine, photography by Nicola D’Orazio

In many ways, Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt skipped a lot of the early stages of the typical career path of music stars. After being asked to join Ed Sheeran on tour over a decade ago, Nesbitt saw rapid, almost overnight success, with a slew of new fans waiting at her doorstep to see what more she had to offer. And offer she did, making a name for herself as a thoughtful and introspective storyteller, with a pop sensibility that just last year earned her the Woman in Music award at the Scottish Music Awards. Nesbitt punctuates her often moody tracks with heartfelt lyrics that examine personal emotions and experiences while showing off her ability to make her music universally relatable. 

With her newest track “When You Lose Someone,” off her forthcoming 2022 album, Nesbitt shows off that talent in full force. While the song was written from a place of personal turmoil, she knew she still wanted the song to be understood in a multitude of ways. As she says about the track, “grief has many forms and facets. Learning to be without someone you love is one of the hardest things.’’ The new song follows the release of her single “Life’s a Bitch (L.A.B),” a comparatively upbeat jam taking inspiration from the pop music of the ‘80s.

The Untitled Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Indira Cesarine sat down with Nina Nesbitt to hear all about her new track, what to expect from her forthcoming album, and how her Scottish heritage has influenced her. Read the full interview below and view our photoshoot by photographer Nicola D’Orazio, exclusively for Untitled. 

Nina Nesbit for The Untitled Magazine, photography by Nicola D’Orazio

How’s it going Nina? 

Really well! Getting ready for the release of “When You Lose Someone” on Friday and I’ve been driving all over the UK this week to surprise fans at their houses to play them the song before it comes out. I feel jetlagged, but I haven’t changed time zones. I’ve just been driving like crazy!

Yeah! I saw on Instagram that you were doing a road trip. So you’ve been actually surprising fans and singing the new track? 

I’ve been driving in the car and then they come in and I play it through the speakers so they can hear it before it comes out, cause I thought it’d be a bit weird if I was just singing to them one on one. I feel like I wouldn’t actually know where to look. But it’s been really nice cause I haven’t played any gigs in like two years because of Covid. I feel like online, it’s obviously so nice to get comments from people, but you kind of forget that the person’s real behind the screen. It’s been so nice to actually connect with people in real life. 

I actually went to your preview gig at Norwood in November, I loved seeing you perform live in such an intimate space. The way it was so pared down with just you singing and the occasional piano was…

It was very raw wasn’t it? 

Yes! It was raw. I thought it was really beautiful though, because it focused on the authenticity of your voice and sound and lyrics, and it wasn’t encumbered by all of the sort of backup music that’s there when the album comes out. So many of the songs are actually kind of haunting. It’s definitely a little bit sad. 

It’s quite sad! I’m actually not even a sad person. That’s why I’m like, “why is my music so sad?” I must subconsciously just be really sad and not know about it [laughs].

Yeah, that’s interesting. Where does all that come from? It’s very deep and dark and a little bit moody and enchanting, but haunting, you know? 

You know, I don’t know. I’m the first person to just have a laugh and make a joke of everything. I’m not really someone that wallows in sadness. But when it comes to music, I’ve always been pulled to sad songs. Even when I was a kid I’ve always loved the ballad; the ballads always use to be my favorite track on any album. I remember listening to Christina and Britney and stuff like that, and I would always gravitate towards the ballads. So I don’t know! I think maybe it just feels nicer to sing, as well. I’ve never been much of a dancer, so I’m more like: sit at a piano or guitar and tell a story. But I just love sad music. 

Who would you consider your biggest influences? 

Well, when I was a kid it was definitely just female pop stars. I literally grew up on that. I have a Swedish mother, so I grew up with a lot of pop, like ABBA, Whitney, Mariah, Britney, Christina, all the pop divas. And then I guess as I found my own voice, I gravitated more towards Eva Cassidy, Taylor Swift, Alanis Morissette – more storytelling with an instrument. But I have so many influences! I really couldn’t pick one, but I guess Taylor Swift was the reason I picked up a guitar. I feel like I’ve said that a lot, but she kind of just spoke to me because I thought before: Oh, the girls sing and they get given songs and they dance. And then I was like, “oh wow like you can do it all? You can play an instrument, you can write a song, you can perform it?” As stupid as that sounds, when I was a kid I was like, “that’s what I want to do.” So that was probably the main one for me.

Nina Nesbit for The Untitled Magazine, photography by Nicola D’Orazio

Looking back, with a little bit more perspective on being discovered by Ed Sheeran 10 years ago now, how do you feel those experiences have influenced your career as a musician? 

I had my YouTube channel already going at that point, but him inviting me on tour did definitely sort of take it to the next level and put me in front of huge audiences. And I always say it was like the best crash course in the industry because I was on tour with him and I was on tour with another guy called Example who is a really big DJ – I went on his arena tour at the same time as the Ed tour – and it was just so overwhelming and I learned so much in those few months. People say it takes a few years to build up, but for me it really was almost overnight. And then I had to learn on the job as such. So I think people have kind of seen the journey from day one, which is really nice, but also it means that I’ve had a lot going on that people have seen. 

You are gearing up to go on a massive tour with British singer-songwriter James Arthur. Can you share what your plans are and what we can expect from the tour?

I literally found out about two weeks ago that I was going on that tour and I was like, “wow, I need to seriously prepare,” obviously because I’ve had so much time out due to things being shut. But I just feel so excited to get back to it, and I feel really lucky that we’re able to actually go on tour. And honestly – I’m not just saying this – the place I’ve definitely missed most is touring America. Even though I did tour it for almost three years for the last album. Then I was like, I can’t see another truck stop. I can’t see another McDonald’s ever again [laughs]. But, I’m ready for that food. I’m ready for the traveling. I think I’m just going out on my own and I’m just going to preview some of the new songs, play some of the old ones. And I just think it would be a good run of dates to kind of get back to it and make some new listeners as well, cause it’s a new audience.

Do you have news about the new album, like when it’s coming out? Or a title?

Not quite yet, but it should be this year. I’d say it’s like 80% done. I had a little bit of a 180 on it because I wrote a lot of it pre-pandemic, and then obviously everything kind of shut down for a bit. I feel like I came out the other end a different person. And a lot of the songs I just felt I’d either grown out of, or I just didn’t relate to that much anymore. So I did kind of revisit writing the album in the past few months, and it’s not quite finished yet. But it’s almost there, I think later this year, and I’m excited to get it out. 

You just released your new song “When You Lose Someone.” Can you tell me about the track and what inspired it? 

The track is about losing someone, as simple as it sounds [laughs]. It was a personal experience for me, but it’s kind of something that I didn’t really know how to write as a song. I didn’t really know what to say or if I even wanted to share it. So I was like: how do I take this feeling and make it something that everyone can relate to? Because I feel like losing someone, whether it’s heartbreak or someone passing away or someone that isn’t in your life anymore for whatever reason – there’s so many different levels of that. And it’s really hard to just write one. I wanted to try and capture something that just said it simply, but could relate in lots of different areas. 

A lot of your music seems to resonate from a deep, heartfelt place of relationships and lost love, or tragedies and emotional turmoil. Are a lot of these directly in relation to personal relationships that you’ve had? Where are you channeling these stories?

I would say that with this new album everything is very autobiographical. I had some stuff going on, shall we say [laughs]. But before, on the last album, there’s “The Best You Had,” for example, I wrote that about a friend and that was one of the biggest songs on the last [album], and that one is a breakup song. But I’m forever inspired by my friends as well. I have a really close group of girls; we all went to school together, we’ve grown up together. We’re all still best friends and we have a group chat where we share everything. I’m always inspired by that because I’ve been in a relationship for six years now, so I’m not going to be writing about breakups every day, but I think I can draw from people around me as well.

Your track “Life’s a Bitch (L.A.B),” has a far more upbeat ‘80s pop sound to it, which is a bit of a turn from your other work. What inspired this ‘80s pop influence with that track?

I just fancied doing something new. It’s one of my main goals for this album. Looking at the last album, if I could have improved on anything, I think it would have been the live show, and just having more energetic moments. And then obviously live gigs kind of stopped, and I had written these songs for live. So “Life’s a Bitch” was very much a song I wanted to put out in the middle of festival season. I wanted a song that just got people up.

I’m glad to put it out, but I wouldn’t say it’s the direction of the album. But then I feel like nowadays you can tap into so many different genres and you don’t have to be one sound, which is kind of nice. I love the ‘80s. I’m forever inspired by the ‘80s with fashion and music. So yeah, I don’t know, I just fancied it. 

Nina Nesbit for The Untitled Magazine, photography by Nicola D’Orazio

How would you describe the sound of your new album? 

I think I would say it’s a lot more live-sounding, a lot more in keeping with “When You Lose Someone.” There’s definitely more guitar, piano, real drums, and strings on the album. I kinda got to a point where I felt the industry has changed so much in the past two years, and I feel like there are so many people putting out music, producing in their bedrooms, using the same loops, it’s so easy to do these days. Which is amazing, but how do I make my music different? 

I listen back to a few things from even like two, three years ago and I feel like some of the production needs updating. And I was like, do you know what? I just want to write songs that can hopefully just stand the test of time and be good songs. Do them on piano, do them on guitar and just leave them out there and don’t have anything too stylized. So that’s kind of what I’m feeling for the album. 

Do you consider your sound to be pop? Or is there a genre that you relate to more? 

It’s weird. I feel like I’ve always sat on the line of pop and singer-songwriter. It’s not fully in one or the other, but I’d say it’s just like storytelling in music. The main thing for me is the lyrics and the story. I started off writing poems before I even wrote songs. But I guess the album definitely has a little bit of a Scandy sound, like a bit Nordic, I would say. 

Do you think that your Scottish background influences your music?

Do you know what? I never really thought I was influenced by growing up in Scotland in terms of my music, but the older I get, the more I’m actually so influenced by Scotland because I grew up listening to – no one specifically, but – buskers on the street, folk music, walking into a pub and watching singer-songwriters play. I think it’s similar to Ireland in that way. But I do think that has definitely influenced me. And I just thought that happened everywhere. And then I moved out of Scotland and I was like, oh, okay, there’s not musicians in every bar and pub that you walk into.

I’m half Swedish as well, so I think the pop side has probably come from there and then the singer-songwriter side has come from Scotland. So it’s somewhere in the middle.

Nina Nesbit for The Untitled Magazine, photography by Nicola D’Orazio

So you won the 2021 Women in Music award at the Scottish Music Awards ceremony. Tell me about that experience. What did that mean to you? It must’ve been a pretty exciting moment!

Yeah, it was really, really cool. It’s just nice to be recognized in your home country. I feel like, again, there’s a lot of that kind of folky singer-songwriter band thing that comes out of Scotland, but there’s not been a lot of pop artists, so it was really nice to be recognized by my own country, and also a good excuse to go home and see my friends. I got to wear a full tartan dress, I felt very patriotic. It was just lovely, really nice.

I was reading that at one stage you felt like you were at a crossroads of writing for other people and working on your own music. How do you feel like things have progressed? Do you feel like you’ve made the right decisions and the path you’re going on now was a positive change in direction?

Definitely. I love writing songs for other people, but I think I still had an album that I wanted to create, and I really got to do that with the last one. I still feel proud of it, which is kind of the goal I had. And just getting to visit America, and see around the US and Canada and Australia, so many places that I would never have got to see. So that album, the decision to be an artist again, really opened up so many doors and experiences that I’ll literally have for life. So I feel really glad to have done that. But I do find it hard to balance the writing for others and the artist thing, cause I feel like now there’s so much more that comes with being an artist. You have to basically be a content creator as well as an artist. And it’s a lot to do. I don’t know how people do both to their full potential. But, yeah, I think I’m focusing on the artist thing for now.

What are you looking forward to most this year?

I’m just excited to get back out there and actually see people reacting to the songs, as simple as it sounds. And also it just feels like a really exciting time in the music industry. I feel like you could literally put up a song on TikTok and it could blow up overnight and you could have a worldwide hit. Like you just don’t know. It feels like a really exciting moment. I’m just keen to see where this year goes.

Stream Nina Nesbitt’s music on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube, and follow Nina on Instagram and Twitter.

Interview by Indira Cesarine
Nina Nesbit Photography by Nicola D’Orazio for The Untitled Magazine
Makeup by Colby Smith
Hair by Netty Jordan 

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