Getting to Know: Nii
Nii is a pop artist based in Leeds, with influences including John Mayer, HAIM, and The 1975. Nii's music brings a refreshing positive energy every time, and is an artist very much on the rise. Since the release of his first single 'Midnight in Tokyo', he has been recognised by Fender in their 'Undiscovered Artist of the Year' competition, has recently supported Alfa Mist at Brudenell Social Club, and has just released a music video for his most recent release ‘Silk’.
On 26th August, Nii will be releasing his latest single 'Now U Know'. We were previously treated to a stripped-back guitar rendition of this track in his Cabin Fever, which you can watch HERE. This new single certainly differs from his Cabin Fever performance, as it has a more electronic, pop-based focus, whilst retaining a light summery atmosphere.
On the production of ‘Now U Know’ Nii says “this song is a bit different for me since it mostly doesn’t have any prominent guitar parts.” He says “my vocals speak entirely for my identity in this track, it’s new ground for me”. We had a chat with Nii to find out more about how he first got involved with music, and where he's heading next.
For people who haven’t heard of you, how would you describe your style?
I would say my style is a mix of pop and alternative influences. Definitely tends to have a youthful energy but stays earnest lyrically. My focus is always to write songs that hold up regardless of any genre specific elements. If I can play it on my own with just a guitar then it feels like my style and something I want people to hear.
How did you first become involved with music?
I first got really into guitar playing as a kid, I remember seeing an electric guitar on TV and thinking it was the coolest thing in the world, still is to me. Later on I got sucked into what was being played on radio in the mid 2000s, which was a lot of guitar bands like The Kooks, Razorlight, Kings of Leon and Arctic Monkeys. From then I got obsessed and knew I wanted to do it as well.
When you performed ‘Now You Know’ for us on our Cabin Fever series, it was in quite a different style to the final recorded release. A lot of your videos are largely stripped back guitar performances, whereas the music you release has more electronic edge to it. Would you say that this difference between styles gives you more freedom to try out new things?
Yeah definitely, venturing out into production allows me to make the music how I envision it. I ultimately want to play larger shows and I love playing with a band. The stripped back performances allow me to express myself in a more autonomous way, which I enjoy. But I like the challenge of making something bigger. Funnily enough I actually had already produced the Single version of ‘Now U Know’ before playing it live for you guys. Since it bounces between full production and solo performances easily I felt like I had an alright tune.
How would you say that your sound has developed since you first started out?
Quite a lot, I have been aiming for this sound for a while but in the past 2 years I have seen the most development towards actually making it. I started out learning and trying a lot of different things. I guess it comes with just getting older and gaining knowledge on the way. It’s hard to say exactly how much better I have become, but I know what I do now is more well informed and rooted in who I am.
Who are some artists that have really influenced you over the years?
I would say the biggest has been John Mayer, especially starting out as a guitar nerd, his story as a guitarist turned songwriter sort of gave me a blueprint. I love Frank Ocean and James Blake for their songwriting and soundscape choices. And I can safely say I didn’t know how I wanted to sound until I heard HAIM back in 2013. Them along with Paramore and The 1975 define what a “guitar band” can do in the modern age and that’s influenced me greatly.
What has been your favourite live performance that you have done?
For my own music it would be playing at the Hive at St Marks festival November of 2018. I played at St Marks a few years before as a guitarist with another band and said to myself this venue would be a dream to play my own music in. Once I did it felt like a full circle moment. But then as a session guitarist, hands down my favourite show was playing guitar for Garage Classical at The Royal Albert Hall. That was insane.
What’s an album that you have been really enjoying over lockdown?
I have really enjoyed Whitney’s album ‘Forever Turned Around’. It’s super chill Canadian Folk stuff that I have found really enjoyable. It came out end of 2019 but just got round to listening. Would definitely recommend.
What can we expect from you over the coming months after your new single?
I will be releasing more music towards the end of the year and I am working towards an EP release early-mid 2021. So just a lot more music coming out that ventures into different styles. Some indie, some more pop but it will all make sense as a whole.