The rising superstar talks her debut album MOONCHILD, her Indonesian heritage and what else she’s got in store for us.
If there is one artist who we are currently rooting for, it is singer-songwriter NIKI. Dropping her debut album MOONCHILD today, NIKI is carving her name into the industry with her stellar exploration of eclectic styles and mesmerising stripped-down piano ballads. Filled with dreamy soundscapes and lush nostalgic orchestrated anthems, NIKI offers us an album that tackles identity and empowerment. Standout tune “Nightcrawlers”, infuses trap-tinged beats with NIKKI’s sweet and encapsulating vocals for a feel-good end of summer track.
Speaking on the album the singer said, “The whole album is a musical parable about self-discovery and growth. My previous works were also lyrically much more conversational and rooted in reality, whereas this album is more poetic and metaphorical. It’s honestly fitting, though, because I was a total literature nerd growing up! This was my way of paying homage to that kid in class writing poem, obsessing over Disney and Sylvia Plath.”
Having started her career at the tender age of 15 opening for Taylor Swift, NIKI has gone on to receive critical acclaim from not only critics but her fellow artists, for her genre-blurring artistry and expressive songwriting. We sat down with NIKI talking the album, inspirations and representation.
Check out the interview below…
Hi Nicole, how has lockdown been treating you? Has it changed your outlook on anything?
It’s been challenging, honestly! At first, I was super stoked to have a break, so it was nice initially. Now, I‘m just itching to get back to work! Nevertheless, it has been an awesome, growing experience. It’s forced me to really, intentionally slow down and appreciate the little things that I would otherwise miss with a packed schedule. So a lot of learning is taking place right now and I‘m grateful for that!
How has your Indonesian heritage influenced you sonically?
I think Indonesians tend to be drawn to either groovy chord progressions or just pure, straight emotion! Being Indonesian, I’m personally drawn to that kind of music as well. Nothing beats a slow, sad ballad and that’s why I’ve written songs like “Around” and “Lose”. I guess it kind of reminds me of songs my parents and aunties and uncles and cousins would listen to growing up!
Who did you grow up listening to?
I listened to a lot of R&B initially (Destiny’s Child, Boyz II Men, Earth, Wind & Fire, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, etc). Then as I got older I started appreciating the singer-songwriter approach to lyricism that you find in artists like Phil Collins, The Lumineers, The Paper Kites, etc.
Do you feel like you have to have a responsibility in representing Asian artists – in particular female Asian artists?
Yes! Absolutely. It’s really important to me that Asians everywhere can see me and relate to my story. I want Asian kids today to grow up able to physically see somebody on screen that looks like them! I never really had that, apart from the movie Mulan. That’s what I want to help change.
You had an incredible start and even opened for Taylor Swift at 15 – what was that experience like?
It was absolutely surreal! I’m so blessed that I got to experience that because it helped solidify my idea of wanting to pursue music. It also helped me realize a new passion for performing! Getting to actually meet Taylor Swift was a sweet cherry on top too! She was so humble and welcoming, and still an inspiration to this day.
Congratulations on MOONCHILD – where did the name come from?
I realized that I generally feel most creatively stimulated and energized at night! At one point in time, I was staying up till the crack of dawn writing songs. The word “MOONCHILD” came about from that era.
And what was it inspired by – any themes or experiences in particular?
Where my prior works were about love and youth, MOONCHILD is very much about self. The whole album is a musical parable about self-discovery and growth. My previous works were also lyrically much more conversational and rooted in reality, whereas this album is more poetic and metaphorical. It’s honestly fitting, though, because I was a total literature nerd growing up! This was my way of paying homage to that kid in class writing poem, obsessing over Disney and Sylvia Plath.
How do you want the album to make people feel?
I want them to feel everything! That was the goal. MOONCHILD is my most wide-ranging and versatile body of work yet. I really believe there’s something for everybody, regardless of where they are in life!
Do you have a favourite song or lyrics from the album?
No. I don’t have any favourites because these are my 10 favourites! That’s why they made the cut, out of all my other demos and ideas!
How do you think your sound has progressed since your breakthrough EP “Zephyr”?
I’ve really embraced versatility as my strong suit. In the beginning of my career, I was overly fixated on having a “sound” and making sure my music and persona fit within labels and boxes that others have put in place for me. Making this album was incredibly liberating because I forced myself to let go of all that and make music that felt true and authentic to me, and only me. I realized throughout that I really have diverse taste and that is ok! I am inspired by many sounds and genres and the product of free-thinking is what made this album. I don’t believe in genres anymore! Artists are free to experiment, explore and express. Boxes and boundaries encourage the opposite of that.
What’s next for you? What are you excited about next?
The world healing. And when it does, going home to visit my family. Then going to all of my favourite restaurants and stuffing my face. Then going on tour.