#InstaxInterviews: Nina Nesbitt

We went backstage and spent some time with indie pop princess Nina Nesbitt.

Nina Nesbitt Glow Festival Singapore AIA
Photo: Joel Lim/ZYRUP

The music was booming, the sun was scorching, and the festival-goers of Glow Festival kept cool with their trendy Instagrammable drinks (watermelon slushies and kombucha, yes please). Backstage, singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt was resting in her dressing room, getting ready for her set, which was due to start in under an hour.

I waited for her handler to give an all-clear, and entered the room. Inside, the 24-year-old was seated on a sofa, decked in a neon-green top and a pair of patterned sunglasses resting on a platinum-blonde hair. In other words, looking very much like a chic festival-goer herself.

The Scottish songstress exuded an effortlessly cool demeanour as she spoke with me. It’s not always that I interview someone whom I was introduced to through the lens of another. Nina is the ex that is referenced in Ed Sheeran’s songs like ‘Nina’ (how subtle, Ed) and ‘Photograph’. And I was excited to get to know who Nina Nesbitt is, from, well, Nina Nesbitt herself.

We speak about her sophomore album, The Sun Will Come Up, the Seasons Will Change, and how her experience travelling and touring has inspired her.

Nina Nesbitt Glow Festival Singapore AIA
Photo: Joel Lim/ZYRUP

Thank you for speaking with us! Welcome to Singapore! How has it been so far? I believe it’s your first time here?
Yes, it’s been great. We have been here for a day and I’m getting sunburned. We went to the aquarium today!

Are you planning to see anything else while you’re in town?
I want to see the Marina Bay Sands and Gardens By The Bay.

Has travelling inspired you as an artist?
Yes, definitely. I spent a lot of time in America, and it’s just different music I would never have come across. A lot of music sort of comes from America and then influences the rest of the world. So it’s quite interesting to be there. But the UK is like my favourite place to be because there is just so much good music from there. Asia – I haven’t really been through properly, and I want to check out some more. In fact, I listen to some K-Pop like Blackpink and BTS.

Earlier today, I saw your post on Instagram about an encounter with a Komodo dragon. Tell me about that.
I went to pee basically —I had just woken up— and in the bathroom, I looked down and I [started] hyperventilating because there was this big, black lizard with red spots on it. I thought it was poisonous, so I called the reception and someone came, but it took so long! He said “Oh, it’s poisonous!” but he was like “This is a baby [one], though” and explained that it was part of the Komodo dragon family. But all’s good now.

That’s definitely an, um, exciting way to begin the day. But here’s something that’s actually genuinely exciting: Taylor Swift put your song on her personal playlist! How did that feel?
Oh, that happened yesterday so it was really cool. It’s the second one she has put on her playlist now, so it was really cool. To think that she has released many albums and all!

Are you a big fan?
Yeah! She is the reason why I picked up the guitar when I was 15. So it is kind of mindblowing to have your song on her playlist. I feel really honoured. She’s got great taste.

Let’s talk about your latest album. Personally, I wish I had someone make these kinds of songs when I was growing up! What were the motivations for you to write these songs
I think just being in your early twenties and late teens… just all of the weird and wonderful experiences, figuring out who you are, and your friends having babies… all these crazy things you’re going through that you are figuring out. It’s like an open diary of someone in their early twenties.

The sound is very early 2000s Pop–R&B. Was it a decision on your part to say that you wanted this particular sound for the album?
Yeah, I think there are a few different sounds in there. I really liked a more stripped back, more electronic elements. When I wrote ‘Loyal To Me’, I originally wrote it for somebody else. I write for other artists as well, it’s never really for me. But then, I was like, “Actually, I really like it!”, so I kept it for me, and then it kind of formed another side of the album.

There’s no doubt that you are very honest in your music. Does take you to be in a certain headspace to get into that? Is it hard for you to open up?
Yes, it’s quite hard. I was afraid it would be hard on tour because I’ve never really toured this much before and I realised I have to be back home in the quiet in order to bring that.

So yeah, it does take me a while to feel for it.

What tips would you give to people who are starting out in songwriting now that you’ve been there, done that?
I think it’s so hard to write a good song. You have to write a hundred songs in order to get like, five good songs. I think it’s just the more you do it, the better you are. And working with other people is really helpful. It inspires you. The most important thing is to try to be as honest as you can be and to try to dig inside.

Is there one person that has influenced you a lot after working with them?
Not really, to be honest. Not one person. A lot of it, I just did it in my bedroom. And [I was] influenced by a lot of samples that I’ve played before.

When you look back at your career, how can you say that you have grown as an artist?
I think I’ve just grown as a human. It’s just a natural progression.

How has the internet and social media impacted your career?
It’s been so helpful. For a while, I felt like you needed to have that major label, and have that sort of support but now you can just put the music out that you love.

Is there any strategy at all when it comes to releasing music?
Just go with your favourite songs really.

Tell me more about your new projects and the new music that you’re working on.
I’ll be releasing something soon at the end of the year, and I’m starting to work on my new album.

Is there anything you can tease us with?
No, you have to wait! (laughs) But there are new songs coming out this year and maybe music videos.

Nina Nesbitt Glow Festival Singapore AIA
Photo: Joel Lim/ZYRUP

Portions of this interview were edited for clarity and brevity.

Watch the highlights of AIA Glow Festival featuring Nina Nesbitt below: