Interview: NAHLI

‘If you put everything in, you’ll get everything out,’ muses rising star NAHLI.

The last 12 months have been a whirlwind of high-profile collaborations and debut releases for the soul/pop newcomer.

Having featured on big garage tracks from RudeKid and Conducta, NAHLI released her first single, Say Nothin’ late last year.

NAHLI followed that up with her second single, Relapse at the start of the 2019, before being invited to collaborate with Crystal Fighters on their recent album.

She’s also been busy recording and touring with SIGMA and features on the new Professor Green EP.

During all this extracurricular activity she found time to record her debut EP, Therapy Side A.

We sat down with NAHLI to talk about song writing, her inspirations, the big-name collaborations and working with her mentor DaVinChe.

How did you first get into making music?

I’ve always been surrounded by music. Both my parents are singers professionally. My mum put me in ballet school aged three and I moved onto Italia Conti which I received a half scholarship for.

I started writing my own songs when I was about five and they’re all scribbled in diaries that I wrote.

Basically, I’ve been surrounded by music my entire life. I met DaVinChe so many years ago and he is the first person I ever really sang in front of because I was always too shy to before then. It’s amazing that we have been able to do this entire journey together.

How did you meet DaVinChe and how did it feel to be his first signing?

I was actually scouted to be in a project he created years ago. I was badgering on at him like twice a day because something in my head kept telling me that I needed to have him as a part of my career and I honestly didn’t really understand the urgency for it, but now it’s apparent.

I would just call or text like, ‘Hey so what’s going on? Did u like my singing? Am I gonna be a part of the project? until he decided that I was persistent and passionate, and I got the call to say it was a yes and that was the beginning of our journey.

He also produced your track Say Nothin’ and provides vocals on Daddy Issues, what was the process of working with him like?

Working with DaVinChe is hilarious because we read each other like a book! We know each other sooo well and it’s a real brother sister balance. He’s family. Aside from music, he’s a genuine friend too. I call him up with boy problems and he gives me really solid advice. He’s taught me many valuable lessons over the years, and we’ve grown loads together.

He’s got such a dope voice and I’m proud to have him singing on the tracks. His vocals are on Say Nothin’ too! His vision is incredible, he’s extremely talented, but he’s also really open to my ideas which I really appreciate. He listens and incorporates everything I add and together we build. It’s a great, great balance. We’re lucky.

What’s the thinking behind your new EP?

I honestly didn’t do much thinking. I just expressed what came naturally to me and DaVinChe somehow managed to help me express myself in a perfect way. I used to bottle up my emotions until they slowly depleted my energy. They’d slowly eat me up and I’d self-sabotage in many ways such as staying in a toxic relationship, drinking too much alcohol, turning to solitude and wallowing in the emotions of feeling lonely. Which was all totally pointless.

Instead, I decided to open up my soul and it felt cleansing. I decided to write all my emotions down and face the idea of others hearing my words. And I felt truly liberated. I felt like being heard would be a way of me finding solace from a bad situation. And it really did heal. I enjoy the fact that people can relate to my music in deep ways. That, to me, is such an amazing thing. I also needed certain people to know how I felt. How they’d made me feel.

My father and I haven’t spoken in a few years now. I needed him to hear how his behaviours affected my life. I needed my ex to know how much I was hurting. I needed them to know. And, now they do. Somehow, that made me feel better.

How would you describe your music to the uninitiated?

HONEST!! A bit tongue in cheek. Outspoken. I’d say it’s not got a particular genre or avenue to be placed in, which is what I like most about it. I’d like to think its liberating, strengthening, enlightening. It’s a bit jazzy I keep hearing. I naturally choose jazz chords, but it’s all subconscious. I didn’t decide how I wanted my music to sound, this is just where I ended up naturally. I never felt like I wanted to fit in any particular box or be specifically commercial. I just make music that I love, and it makes me so happy when others love it too!

You’ve worked on tracks with Crystal Fighters, SIGMA and Professor Green – what have you taken away from those collaborations?

RudeKid and Conducta too! It’s been a mad year you know…I’ve only been working on my solo career for one year, unsigned. And I honestly cannot believe how car I’ve come already. The fact that I was in a room with Professor Green and SIGMA at the same time was so baffling.

I sort of rocked in and got on super well with everyone and we all stuffed our faces with kebabs and sweets and had such a laugh. I made great friends with all of them but especially Cameron from SIGMA. He’s honestly one of my best friends now, we have such laugh. I couldn’t believe my ears when SIGMA called me and asked me to sing their live shows, I was rooted to the spot.

Next thing I knew (nine days later) I was standing in front of 5,000 plus people in Romania singing my lungs out and I have never ever felt an emotion like it in my life. It was insane. I became immediately addicted to that feeling and its only made me work harder for what I want.

That is the reason artists stay up all night in the studio. That’s the reason we struggle with no money for the most part. Because one day, it all makes sense. One day it all comes together. If you put everything in, you’ll get everything out. MANIFEST.

Does songwriting come naturally to you?

Yeah, it does. I’ve always loved writing. English literature was my favourite subject at school, and I write in a diary every single day about my thoughts and emotions. I used to write poems for my local village newsletter when I was a kid.

I just love words. I love sitting there and pondering the best and most creative way of expressing a sentence or a feeling. I love finding new words. I love (and this is so geeky) testing myself on how to spell words I’ve never heard before. I love all of the English language.

I love swear words. I love how they get an emotion across so swiftly and effectively. I love old fashioned sayings. Love it all.

Who or what is your primary inspiration?

My mum. I want to make a bag of money so I can get her a bit old fashioned house for her. She’s done so much for me and she’s the most giving and generous person I’ve ever known. And me…sounds so self-indulgent. But I honestly just want to prove to the broken little soul I was before that you she can get through anything and will get through anything. It’s ok to fall down. Just slowly pick yourself up and mend your broken pieces and wear them as scars that you can be proud of.

We are resilient. We are strong. Our minds are so powerful!! I want to be able to help people who are going through bad times in their life by sharing a little personal experience and showing everyone that life is beautiful and its ok to make mistakes. It’s ok to not be perfect. You can get back up over and over again!! Life is about reinvention.

What do you have on repeat at the moment?

Tom Misch. TOM MISCH!! God, I love that man. He is so insanely talented. If I could ever work with him, I reckon we’d create something so sick that the Queen would have it on repeat. I am just getting into Green Tea Peng at the moment. I also love that song by Lolo Zouaï – Caffeine. Ben L’Oncle is sick too. Amazing tone to his voice. Plus, he sings in French sometimes so that’s kind of to die for.

What’s next for you?

Therapy [Side B]. How bloody exciting. That’ll be in the new year I reckon. I am SO EXCITED to share that one!!!! Mainly because I’d grown as an artist even more so by this point and I’m super, super proud of what we created. Plus, I’ve got a feature on there of one of my favourite artists.

I feel so blessed at this time. I feel so peaceful and happy with the response I’ve received so far and I’m looking forward to growth, I really am. We can always improve our craft and I intend on doing so as I grow as a person. Life is so special. Me and DaVinChe are just gonna keep running around being creative and having fun!

Therapy Side A is out now via ALKMY Records.

nahli.co.uk