Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt is in the middle of a European tour with Rudimental and has a show this night, but is currently battling a cold that has her sneezing every few seconds and her eyes watering from a scratchy throat. Still, she’s making her best effort to make it through one more interview to talk about her new album, The Sun Will Come Up, the Seasons Will Change, and a U.S. headlining tour.
“I’ve been on the honey lozenges for days,” Nesbitt says. The interview is eventually cut short and continued by email in order to protect her voice for the concert, but not before speaking her mind about the many inspirations for her sophomore album.
The new record is Nina Nesbitt’s first on Cooking Vinyl Records and her first since leaving Island unsure of whether she wanted to be a performer. In that time, during which she continued to write with other artists, Nesbitt’s sound completed a transformation from her folky origins to a glossier, bolder pop sound. She’s come a long way since her YouTube videos first made waves about a decade ago and an encounter with Ed Sheeran led to her touring with him (and briefly dating him).
The Sun Will Come Up, the Seasons Will Change is Nesbitt’s first full-length release since 2014’s Peroxide. It pulls from a swath of influences, including Top 40 pop on “Somebody Special” and “Empire,” and R&B on “The Best You Had” and “Loyal To Me,” which she initially wrote for someone else. Her stripped-back guitar-and-a-microphone sound also makes an appearance on “The Moments I’m Missing.” Nesbitt grew up listening to the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, though her favorite pop singer-songwriter is Alanis Morissette: “She doesn’t hold back on what she wants to say.”
RIFF: This will be your first record on your new label. What prompted the change?
Nina Nesbitt: It just really wasn’t working out anymore for either of us, so I left—we parted ways—in 2016. They didn’t really work with me, and I didn’t really know what to do from there. I think I just needed a fresh start, so I became a songwriter for other people for a while. I started writing with Jessie Ware [on her 2017 album, Glasshouse], the Shires and Olivia Holt in the U.S. She was my first-ever songwriting partner and I loved doing that. I missed singing the songs, at the end of the day, and I created this album, making songs late at night in my little home studio. People at Cooking Vinyl took a little bit of interest. I thought about it for like seven or eight months about whether or not I really wanted to do it. I decided to give it a go … because they allowed me to do whatever I wanted to creatively.
Nineties pop was a big influence to you on this record. What about it appealed to you?
I grew up listening to Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. I feel like that kind of pop is ingrained in my brain, as a writer. I love super-poppy melodies—that sort of Max Martin pop. But I’m definitely more of a singer-songwriter than a performer. I was a big fan of Alanis Morissette. … I liked how in a time of very organized pop she was poppy but unconventional. The songs that she wrote were really raw and emotional. I was really inspired by that. … I also listened to a lot of R&B music, like Aaliyah, TLC, Destiny’s Child. Those influenced “Loyal to Me,” one of the singles. That was originally written for someone else, and it was a chance for me to try something different.
What story are you telling on The Sun Will Come Up, the Seasons Will Change?
It’s like an open diary of someone in their early twenties. All the songs are things I’ve experienced living in the big city [Nesbitt moved from Scotland to London]. I’d say the story is my personal growth. I feel like your early 20s are quite weird, where you don’t know who you are or what you’re doing. It’s about finding out what you want, who you are and what you’re doing. It tells the story from the start of quite a sad place and coming in to where it will hopefully be uplifting to people.
Is London still home, or are you back in Scotland?
London is still home. Scotland’s obviously always going to be “home” home, but I don’t think I’ll ever move from London. After living there for six years I think it would be really hard to move out. Everything is just so accessible, and you can get food deliveries 24-7; ha! There’s also such a great music scene.
You filmed the video for your song “Colder” in the former Palm Springs home of Bing Crosby. Whose idea was that, and what interested you about doing that? Did you get any special vibes from being there, or was it mostly a cool conversation starter.
It was such a magical place! We actually just booked an AirBnB only to be told when we got there that it was his old home, which kinda added an extra special layer to it. It was in the middle of the Palm Springs desert and was like nowhere I’d ever been before.
What would you be doing if it weren’t music? It seems like you got caught up in it early as a youth, before you had a chance to make a decision.
Yeah, totally. I was really interested in criminology, and I definitely looked into it, but I think deep down I always wanted to do music. I definitely think if I wasn’t doing music now I’d run a dog daycare center for small dogs. A bit niche, but it would be relaxing.
You’ve been through the Bay Area at least one. In your time here, either on tour or for fun, do you have any favorite memories from being here?
I’ve only been twice and only for shows but it was honestly one of my favorite places on the last tour. I really wanna be a tourist and do Alcatraz. I drove up Twin Peaks … last time, and it was so beautiful. Apparently, I got lucky with the weather.
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.