#ModicInterview – Niia
Niia is better known by her stage name Niia, is an American singer, pianist, and songwriter. Niia was trained by her mother in classical piano and began singing and performing at the age of 13. Niia’s mother hails from Italy and is the daughter of an opera singer, while her extended family boasts many vocalists trained at the Juilliard School. She was invited to attend the Berklee College of Music summer program at age fourteen. After high school, Niia moved to New York City where she briefly attended the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music as a Jazz vocal major. She later settled in Los Angeles.While living in New York, Niia met singer, songwriter and producer Wyclef Jean. After working with Wyclef and producer Jerry Wonda, Niia was a featured artist on 2007 single, “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill),” which also featured Lil’ Wayne and Akon. The song peaked at number twelve on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 after fifteen weeks on the chart and was RIAA certified Platinum.
Enduring and in-demand Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Niia announced a new EP, “If I Should Die” out June 4th. The EP centers on existential and surrealist themes filtered through an enigmatic pop, jazz, and R&B lense. The EP features Khruangbin bassist Laura Lee, Solo Woods, 9m88 and Girl Ultra who is featured on the hypnotic single released last month, “If I Should Die”.
Having executive produced every track and directed every music video, “If I Should Die” follows Niia as she finds her creative independence. She’s not just on screen, she’s also behind-the-camera, pulling the strings, and playing god with the emotions of any voyeur curious enough to listen, watch, and feel. She’s completely tapped in, yet wholly removed from this world. Rather, she’s sequestered in her own kingdom of doubt, anxiety, lust, karma, and sense of self.
Niia says of the EP:
“If I Should Die sounds pretty brutal, but it became my reality… This is about facing time as an enemy and my own death. I’m asking how long I have to climb this ladder of the music industry. I realized this is just what I do, it never ends. This is my passion. I can’t keep searching for answers, because there are no answers. Once you find your peace with not knowing the truth, you find confidence.”
Watch the music video for “If I Should Die” here
Niia has earned over 20 million streams on DSPs and shared the stage with artists such as Jorja Smith and Gallant. The EP “If I Should Die” follows her albums I and II: La Bella Vita.
Tell us a little bit about your first introduction to music.
I was raised in a family where piano was mandatory till we were thirteen. My mother was a classical pianist and always supported The arts. I feel in love with jazz voice through a Sarah Vaughn record and honestly haven’t been the same since. Jazz was my gateway drug into music.
Meanwhile I was listening your track ‘If I should die’ featuring Girl Ultra I wondered, which era of music influenced you the most and why? How was working with Girl Ultra?
I’d like to say the early and late romantic eras. I have a Chopin tattoo. In the nineteenth century during the romantic era it was all about breaking the rules of classical music. Some composers still kept the structure of classical, but explored and pushed the boundaries with their compositions. I like the idea of keeping some high musicianship and structure in my music whether classical, jazz, r&b, or soul present- while putting my own spin to the music. I like the combo of old meets new. Timeless with a twist!
I knew my song needed someone special that cared the way I do and girl ultra was. Working with her was an actual dream. She’s a beautiful artist and soul.
What story are you trying to convey with your new EP out on June 4th ‘If I should die’? What makes it unique?
I’ll say it’s more about myself than my other records. I’m not only talking about falling in and out of love (which i usually only love to write about.) I was afraid to really transform, to turn the page, but knowing I wanted to. Feeling the frustration & fears of outgrowing my old self or knowing I was evolving and letting go of old behaviors, wanting to know what was next, being afraid, but ready. That- I feel is the story and magic behind if I should die. New Niia happening over here!
We are in love with ‘Hurt you first’ from you first album ‘I’! What does this album mean to you personally?
This album is like looking in a skinny mirror. It’s me, it will always be me… But it isn’t really me. Skinny mirror Niia is fire! But so is the real Niia. There’s a little distortion because it was my first full album, which I find alluring and nostalgic. That song also makes me laugh to myself now because for the first time I got hurt first- I wish I took my own advice. Na, it means I’ve grown.
When you’re not recording and performing, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
I started up beekeeping again. I love watching foreign films, cooking pasta, and spending time with my skincare products lol. I’ve been working on a script I’m really excited about too!
What particular song have you written that resonates with you the most?
I am a sucker for any ballad. I love to take my time. Right now my song Ace hotel is hitting me hard lately.
How do you approach making music? What’s your process?
It’s never the same. Some days I start on the piano, other days it’s from drums, or a line from my phone notes, or a sign I saw walking out of the Italian deli. Recently it was from something my therapist said, I wrote it down thank god! I try to follow my curiosity and then keep exploring where to take it next. I am grateful I get to work with such creative people – that always makes for insane ideas and wild times.
What was interesting about your collaborations with Laura Lee, Solo Woods and 9M88 for your new EP?
What they all have in common is talent, undeniable presence, and a sense of self. But, they’re all so different! It’s funny if I had a dinner party with them all… I know everyone would get along really well and that makes me really proud and happy. No bad energy! Also, the outfits would be incredible.
What is on your current playlist?
I had to make a playlist for my sister’s wedding so recently a lot of hall and oats and Marvin Gaye – which is always the vibe. And Mariah Carey always.
What does a normal morning with NIIA look like? What is the first thing you do when you wake up?
I am not a morning person. I long for the day when I will be. A good normal morning is usually me waking up and looking at my journal of what I need to do for the day. I always make a to-do list before bed. If I get it done is another question. I recently have been doing my sound bowls for 15 mins every morning.
A dream place you would like to perform live?
In Ravello, Italy
What would you write in a letter to your future self?
To my future self???? Hmmm….practice piano more and call your dad.
An interview by Mira Postolache
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