Q&A with Nikki Jean (Burnt Orange Juice exclusive) May 1, 2008Posted by rugwu in Concert, Entertainment, Hip-hop, mp3, Photo, r&b.
Tags: Dice Raw, Glow in the Dark, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Nikki Jean, Nouveau Riche
Remember how I told you we’d cross paths with Nikki Jean again? Well one of our sources called us up the night before Glow in the Dark (more on that to come, believe me) to say a certain someone might be available for an interview.
24 hours later I found myself face to face with the vlogging, baking chantreuse-on-the-verge in the back of a mini tour bus outside the Frank Irwin Center. Her smile was disarming, but I’d done my homework. This is what we talked about:
Burnt Orange Juice: So [with SXSW and Lupe Fiasco’s tour] you’ve been to Austin at least three times now. How do you like it?
Nikki Jean: I love Austin! Austin is one of my favorite cities because there’s a really great music and music appreciation scene here and there’s also really cool little restaurants. And there’s this jewelry store called Parts and Labor that’s my favorite.
BOJ: I saw the video you posted on YouTube the other day with Mikey Rocks [of The Cool Kids]. Seems like you’re making some pretty cool friends these days…
NJ: I met Mikey at SXSW! It’s funny how things are all interconnected. The Cool Kids are friends with He Say/She Say, who are new artists Lupe is working with, and I’m rooming with Drea from He Say/She Say on tour.
BOJ: When you’re touring with so many interesting, talented artists, does that make you creative? Do you find yourself writing things down or recording music, or are you just in the moment?
NJ: Particularly with ‘Ye’s set. Working with lupe when he was writing his album was really inspiring to see his creative process and his work ethic. But with ‘Ye’s set, I just can’t miss it – even though it’s an hour and a half and I’ve seen it before. His songs are just so inspirational! And he’s struggled so much to get where he’s at that it just gets me amped. So there’s a lot to learn out here.
BOJ: So tell me about Nouveau Riche. How’d you get involved with Dice Raw and all those guys?
NJ: The boys! I was in Phillidelphia for a barbecue and Dice and Khari [Mateen, bassist and producer] heard me singing and playing piano and asked me to be in the band. Our first show was like 10 days later at the Kimmel Center, which is huge.
BOJ: With The Roots connection and being a band with a rapper, you guys must get compared with The Roots a lot…
NJ: [incredulously] We never get compared to The Roots! I think because our sound is so much more rock than they have ever been and because Tariq [Trotter, a.k.a. Black Thought] is so clearly their front person… whereas I’m the lead singer in Nouveau Riche and there is so much singing… So we’ve never really got that comparision.
BOJ: Hmm, maybe it’s just me. Listening to the Long Tail EP… by the way is that named after the Chris Anderson theory?
BOJ: Cool. Listening to the EP, you’re lyrics have a very sort of real-life poignancy to them. There’s one lyric where you say: “I don’t like myself, I’m in love with you just to spite myself.” That’s pretty heavy stuff. Is it cathartic for you to write like that? Are you a heart-on-your-sleeve kind of girl?
NJ: I think that’s probably the biggest difference between the first EP and the second EP [the unreleased Free Money]. The new one has a lot more universal stuff on it. I have been known to write a string of mean-spirited love songs or kind of bittersweet girl songs… at one point we stopped playing “Save Me” [the song in question] and everything because I was like “What is this? Why am I saying these things over and over again?” So I think it is cathartic writing them, but you have to grow and develop as an artist from a point where you’re just writing songs for yourself or for selfish reasons. I think there’s always room for honesty, but at the same time, you shouldn’t have to cut yourself and bleed just to write a song. There are so many things to be inspired by.
BOJ: With your YouTube videos, that must take a long time to make new entries every day. What makes you want to keep at it?
NJ: It does take a long time! I stopped doing it for a while in the winter or fall and so many people hit me up like, “Yo! Why’d you stop? I used to check those everyday!” So if it’s something that can be helpful to one other person, or brighten up someone’s day, then I wanna do it, even if it takes a lot of work. I also think that it has a lot to do with what got me here, so it wouldn’t be cool to just be like, “Okay, I made it. I’m out!” ya know? I don’t wanna forget that. I think it keeps you in touch. It’s a good reality check.
BOJ: So what’s in the future for the band?
NJ: I’m waiting for this tour to end so I can start playing with the boys again. I miss them! We’re about to put out our second EP on iTunes and then the album [currently titled, Bankrupt]
BOJ: When you’re not on tour with really cool people or doing your videos, what do you like to do with your free time?
NJ: Oh God… Bake. Knit. And I like to cook. I like to do a lot of domestic things, but when I’m not doing that I love to travel… and the spa! I’m like a new spa junkie.
BOJ: Who are you listening to right now, who are you loving?
NJ: He Say/She Say! Also the Sweeney Todd soundtrack. I listen to a lot of classy songwriters: Smokey Robinson, Carol King, Joni Mitchell. I listen to them a lot. In terms of new stuff, I’m listening to Atmosphere’s new record and that’s dope.
BOJ: What’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you on tour?
NJ: Every night when we go out… you can’t see the crowd so much when you’re on stage, but I like to go out to the front during ‘Ye’s set and just see like 10,000 people all jumping up to the same song. Seeing how it touches them really just motivates me to work harder and write more. It’s not really sexy, but that’s really the most important thing to me. All these cool people have been in my shoes or your shoes, so to see them turn around and inspire other people is… dope.
Download the Long Tail here.