If you don’t know who Nadia Nair is, you’re seriously missing out. The Swedish-Indian artist is making waves in the music world with her ethereal music. After spending some time under the radar writing for other artists (the list includes Soleima, Zikai, Skip Marley, and Steve Angello), Nadia stepped into the spotlight with her own EP in 2013. Six years later, her sound remains just as game-changing. Always eclectic and refusing to be restricted by genre, Nadia Nair dropped a new single on May 17th. Her new song, ‘See Things’, features 3x Swedish Grammy-nominated rapper Mwuana. ‘See Things’ passionately depicts a broken relationship and melds Nadia’s vocals with Mwuana’s flow.
I had the opportunity to speak with Nadia about her most recent single, upcoming projects, and much more.
(Answers have been edited for length and clarity)
Mia Vittimberga: When and why did you start creating music?
Nadia Nair: I started creating music at the age of eight. Poetry and learning the violin was all a part of that process. I needed a place to vent and express myself. As a kid, I struggled to find my place both among friends and in the world, which felt like a scary place to me.
Which musicians do you admire?
I can’t say there’s one that influences me more than another. I’ve always loved a lot of different music – everything from rock to Indian music to R&B and psychedelia. A lot of electronic and classical music too. I was introduced to hip-hop later in life and it became a great awakening for me. It made me push myself lyrically from the poet I always identified as, to the artist I am today. Strong independent artists inspire me. Artists ahead of their time who don’t give a f*ck and look fear in the eye while they build on their craft.
What was your childhood like growing up in Sweden?
My childhood was playful but tough. I was a deeply overthinking kid. Hypersensitive, because I always believed in a better world and wanted to be part of creating it. I saw the arts as a tool. I felt the heat of being a minority in the performing arts as I took different classes. But I was also thankful for the opportunity to be able to create after school from a young age. Education is free in our country and I feel so lucky that my parents pushed me to do what I wanted to do. My mum, who always did art, came to this country an immigrant and had to work twice as hard as anyone else. Seeing her work, study, do art on the side and be a full-time mum while ensuring that I got equal opportunities has been a huge motivation for me.
How has your cultural identity affected your music?
Being a part of two cultures has enriched my creative experiment. I’ve turned confusion and misplacement into art. I have chosen not to choose a box. I’ve defined myself.
What would you most like to change about the music industry?
Everything. The lack of respect for artists and creators. Getting paid should not be a luxury. For the industry to stop exploiting underrepresented acts due to their color, gender, or sexuality. I don’t have all the answers but I am well aware I wasn’t put on this earth to give great speeches, but that has been expected from me quite a lot. I think people see me as very outspoken because of my bold artistry. But my voice was given for another purpose, and that is to sing. Our voices hold great power. Everything we do and say resonates. I think about that when I sing and create. No vibration or message goes through me unnoticed. It’s been that way since the time of my ancestors and I’d like to honor that craft by using it the way it was intended: to connect and heal with people.
What do you love most about your job?
That I get to connect with people, healing myself and others through my art.
What songs by other artists are you currently listening to?
It’s been a lot of Blood Orange, A$AP Rocky, and Khruangbin as of late. But I’m always listening to Lykke Li and Rihanna.
Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
If it weren’t for my best friend Nats I don’t think I’d be singing as much karaoke as I should have been! Hers is “Zombie” by the Cranberries, sometimes we’ll duet it. My solo song is probably “Rude Boy” by Rihanna.
What was it like working with rapper Mwuana? How did you two meet?
Mwuana is a soul I instantly clicked with. He’s just this natural raw force of talent. There are some people whose energy just matches yours. When recording “See Things”, we stood there in the studio taking it all in. And by the time we were done, we both were like “Wow, what kind of visuals do we want?”. It was just mutual respect and craftsmanship all the way.
Are there any musicians that you would love to work with?
Kindness, but I am currently working with him. Lykke Li for sure. Also FKA Twigs and Blood Orange.
What has been the proudest moment of your career?
Doing a complete gig without any mics or amps. It was just me, an acoustic guitar and a small drum pad playing for a room full of people sitting on the floor of a London art gallery. I’m glad that I didn’t sound like sh*t and was able to be present with them.
What are five things you can’t live without?
As in physical things? My Paw Paw papaya lip ointment from Australia, there is no better lip cream. Coconut oil, garlic, and books. I was going to say boxing gloves also but probably tampons?
What has been your most memorable live performance so far?
Probably an art gallery performance I did in London or the Way Out West festival in my hometown, performing a bunch of unreleased songs. The love from your hometown just feels another type of way. It can make you sick with nostalgia.
Are there any projects you’re currently working on?
Yes, some are more to the visual side. I am getting more and more into directing and want to explore that a little more. I was never really just a singer. I am an artist, and every day for me is about defining that term. It’s also given me the opportunity to collaborate with other musicians. That really enriches the whole experience. A second album will come too, when the time is right.
Featured image via Nadia Nair’s Instagram