Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed singer songwriter Nicola Brooker about what inspires her, her love of music, and her latest single; Happy New Year.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name’s Nicola and I’m a 20 year old singer songwriter from London.
When did you first WANT to write songs?
From a really young age, I was in primary school. I watched High School Musical and just became obsessed with the character Gabriella [Vanessa Hudgens] and singing and it all started from there.
When did you take a step to start writing songs?
I started writing down my songs when I was about 9; just as something fun to do and never stopped since then.
What was your first song released, and what was it about?
The first song I released was called ‘I’m not Juliet’. I think a feeling a lot of young people have is coming to terms with the fact that life isn’t the same as the books or films you see growing up. I always had the idea that I would have all these epic stories & relationships by the time I was 18 and then when I didn’t it felt like I had done something wrong. I didn’t feel like I could relate to the people around me or the songs on the radio. It actually started out on guitar and was a bit more tongue in cheek, and then when I started to produce it, the overall vibe became a bit more serious.
What was your latest song released, and what was it about?
My latest song is called ‘Happy New Year’. I wrote it a while ago now and my friend [Harry Peters] produced it. A lot of music about relationships is written from the perspective of heartbreak, but this song is about willing someone to let go of a relationship you are moving on from – about wishing someone the best but being a bit blunt about it, like tough love. New Years is a time of new starts & new goals; I actually wrote this on New Year’s Day.
Focusing on your latest song. What were your biggest challenges with it?
The biggest challenge was persuading myself to put something out that was very honest and personal. Also, working with someone else on my music is quite scary as composing has always been something I do alone. I think the whole process was just about allowing myself to take a step out of my comfort zone.
How many songs are you working on right now?
So many!!! I’m always writing songs so I guess I’m always working on a load. I’m working on producing two or three at the moment as well.
Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?
I never really sit down with a theme. I never really sit down with the intention of writing to be honest, it just kind of happens. If I get inspired then I just go with the feeling in the moment. I don’t think it’s something you can really plan out.
What is your favourite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?
This is a tricky one. I really do love ‘Happy New Year’!! I think Harry’s production is just amazing & compliments the theme of the song so well. I’m working on a new one at the moment called ‘London in Me’ and I really love the production I’ve done to that & I’ve always wanted to write a song about my home… you’ll have to let me know what you think when you hear it.
Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?
I definitely listen to Taylor Swift the most. I was in her top 0.5% of listeners of Spotify last year & I don’t stream anything she doesn’t own, so that says a lot… I love songs that are lyrically well thought out & interesting, I really love Stormzy & Dave as well recently, I think their songwriting is so good.
Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?
I write my own! I’d definitely love to start writing with other people but the whole process is very daunting.. One day I’ll write with others.
Do you play any instruments?
I’ve played acoustic guitar since I was about 12 and I can play chords on a piano! I also have my ukulele. I’m thinking of getting an electric guitar soon.
Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?
It’s definitely scary but I do love it. Once you get past the first few minutes of nerves it’s the most fun thing ever. I have a show on the 20th November @ The Slaughtered Lamb. Hopefully more to come in the future!
Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it?
Yes! It’s available under ‘Notes From Nic’ on all streaming platforms.
Are you able to make music full time, or do you have a day job?
I also have a day job! I work in an office in London. I love the buzz of the city, it definitely inspires my writing.
Are your friends and family supportive of your music career?
Yes they’re so supportive of me! I wouldn’t be able to push myself out of my comfort zone or believe in my music if it wasn’t for their constant encouragement. It’s definitely comforting at a live show knowing I’ll see their faces in the audience as well.
Do you have any important events coming up we should know about?
I have a gig on 20th November at The Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell and my new single ‘Happy New Year’ comes out on 20th December.
What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write songs?
You have to write the bad stuff first. It’ll feel cringey and you’ll feel like your work is rubbish and then eventually you’ll get to the good stuff. If you use it to express yourself and write the songs for you, It’ll be good.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I think I’d have to say starting my music Instagram. I never expected anyone to care about my music or even thought I was very good at it. Starting the account really pushed me out of my comfort zone and has made me even more passionate about writing and learning how to produce.
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