Nicki Kris is an award-winning singer-songwriter based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her unique and powerful voice has been compared to artists Pink and Adele as well as top female rockers of the past, Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks, while her modern songwriting sensibilities fit into today’s charting sounds. Since the release of her soul styling debut album, I Come Alive (2013), Nicki has grown an international audience captivated by her music. Her songs have been featured in award-winning movies, TV shows, and on radio stations worldwide. Nicki has been on the official ballot for the Grammy Awards for the past six years in numerous categories, including Song of The Year, Record of The Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Rock Song, and Best Rock Performance.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it. Music has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. Even at a very young age, I had the urge to sing and perform, and I spent most of my childhood and middle school years finding opportunities to do so. When I started high school, my passion for music grew even deeper. Like many teenagers who turn to the creative arts, music was an escape for me… an escape from low self-esteem and not-so-great family life. I would find myself tucked away in my bedroom, teaching myself to play a keyboard I had worked all summer to purchase myself, writing down every idea in a notebook that I still have to this day. There, in my solitude, my love for songwriting was born.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career? I don't think it's happened yet! Not really crazy in the way you are asking, but it is a little nuts to hear one of your songs being played in a TV show or film. I've been fortunate to have a few of those and it’s still a little mind-blowing.
What has been the high point of your music path? I’d like to think that my greatest achievement is still yet to come. I have a lot that I still want to accomplish, especially since I feel I’m just getting started with my music career. Since I'm an unsigned or "Independent" artist, I’m proud of everything that I’ve been able to accomplish since I returned to the music business 8 years ago. The fact that I’ve been able to release multiple albums, several singles, had music on TV and in film, won several songwriting awards, and have had multiple official GRAMMY® ballot placements without a label or a big team helping me on a day to day basis in my mind is pretty awesome.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I'm a binge writer. I sometimes don't write anything for months then all of a sudden, I'll crank out several songs at once. I get inspired to write by various things, current events, books, movies, and things that happen in everyday life. I'm also fond of picking songs from other artists or bands and using them as a springboard by writing a song as an answer to their theme or lyric content. I actually used this method of writing on several of the songs that made the cut on my recent album, Heartbeat. I have a lot of fun with it. For me, that's the key, which is one of the reasons why I don't focus on structure or whether or not the music has to be written first before the lyrics or vice versa. I just let the song , happen.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I think we need to do a better job of bridging the gap between the Major Artist (signed to a label) and the Independent Artist (unsigned doing everything on their own). An artist is an artist, whether they are signed to a label or not. There's been a line drawn and I don't think there needs to be one. We're all here for the love of music right? While services like Spotify, Pandora, and self-distribution sites like CDBaby, Distrokid, and Bandcamp have helped, there's still a definite gap in inclusion especially with FM/Satellite radio play, promotion, chart placements, and acceptance in the industry. As a member of various organizations, I'd love to see more mentoring programs and networking opportunities that offer more cross-pollination so to speak. Think of the possibilities.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Living in the moment, I'd have to go with 30 Seconds to Mars, mainly because they've been one of my primary musical muses for a few years now. I've also been to see them in concert and the vibe and connection that they have with their audience and fans is amazing. I'd love to be able to experience something like that up close and personal.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show? I'm so bad about warming up before a performance or recording session. I am getting better at it and have started to try and follow a routine. Nothing too crazy, I generally do some vocal warms ups, drink warm water with honey, run through a couple of songs etc. I also might do some yoga to center myself and loosen up.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it! Probably the toughest song to write and record was Call My Name, which is on my new album, Heartbeat. Call My Name was a direct result of the death of Linkin Park lead singer, Chester Bennington (my all-time favorite band) and a longtime friend’s daughter, both from suicide. I wanted to write a song that not only honored them but also offered hope to others that might be suffering. Hopefully, I've done that.
What's coming up in the future? I'm in promotion mode, having just released my latest album, Heartbeat a few weeks ago, so that's my primary focus at the moment. While I do have a small team that helps me out from time to time, I do most of my own outreach. Primarily, because I think it's important for me to be engaged with my audience and to help get my music out there. I think this forces me to take a look at things from all aspects of the business and also helps me gain more knowledge. Besides promoting my new album, I have a couple of collaborations in the works as well as a couple of performances.
Tell us where fans can access your music?