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  • Victoria Applegarth

Meet Nicola Gaea: The London Singer Whose Music Feels Like a Warm Hug for Your Soul

© Karis Beaumont

You need to listen to Rise, Nicola’s melodic debut EP dusted with a glimmering patina of authenticity, affirmation and intimacy.

It’s a Wednesday morning and when Nicola joins the Zoom call I immediately feel a sense of calm, my pre-interview nervousness evaporating, not only because we both began by admitting to indulging in a slow morning, but because Nicola is someone who evokes a sense of tranquillity and genuine kindness. Her aura exudes warmth, airiness, and brightness and this certainly translates into her distinctive melodious, soul sound, one which has evolved over many years. 

Music has always been an integral part of Nicola’s life. She recalls fond memories of her mum cooking, with old reggae and 80s soul classics drifting through the house. “Music always felt like home to me”, she notes and why it was, hence, a no brainer for her to pursue music as a career. When she was only ten, she got on her school stage and sang ‘Killing Me Softly’ by the Fugees; “I remember thinking ‘wow this is so cool, like is what I want to do.' It's a really special moment in my memories and something that will stay with me forever.” 

Ever since then she has been carving out her own authentic spaces and forging a tender path filled with an unyielding sense of community, one that has led to her debut EP, Rise. Across the project's six tracks, Nicola envelops listeners in an atmosphere of intimacy and privacy. It's as if you're peering over her shoulder as she pours her soul into a diary, writing on her experiences and perspectives on the world around her. 

We had the pleasure of catching up with Nicola to chat about this new body of work, the importance of collaboration in the creative community and why she is so disinterested in the trappings of the modern day rat race. 

Your EP is out, which is super exciting. It’s been nearly two years in the making and has been a very personal journey - how do you feel about the release? 

It feels surreal that it's gotten to the point now where I'm actually releasing it out into the world. But because like you said, it's been two years in the making, I also feel a sense of relief. I wrote the original versions of these tracks and demos nearly three years ago now and that is a version of me that I feel like I've been holding on to, because I've been sitting with this music for so long. 

I almost feel like I'm shedding that version of me in the past, which is a natural and healthy thing to do. It feels good to make space for new Nicola to evolve, essentially, and just be ready to start making even more music. I still feel like there's stuff that I need to write that I obviously wasn't writing at that time, because I was focusing on ‘Rise.’

How do you hope listeners connect to your EP? 

Because it is such a personal piece I definitely feel very vulnerable releasing it, so I'm trying not to put any expectations in the sense of what people are going to think and how people are going to feel. 

With that being said, I did write it from such a personal place; holding up the mirror in kind of what I think about the world, my perspective and my experiences. So, if people could listen to the EP and relate, feel like they're not alone in these thoughts and feel like someone gets them, then that would be amazing.

Honestly, when people listen to this EP, I just want it to feel like a warm hug and that they just feel seen and to give them a little bit of a new lease of life to keep going.

Collaboration played a significant role in your EP. How was working with Michael Njuguna and Jason Robinson?

I couldn't have done it without them. To be honest, it really does take a village - that statement is becoming more and more true to me as I go on in this artistic journey.

I met Jason at university, so pushing on like 9-10 years ago now, and we met through a mutual friend. Since then we have had a natural connection musically and now, he's literally like my musical brother - we've been on such a journey together from when we were creating beats in our bedrooms at uni from what they are now. He's really helped me tap into creating a sound based on what I'm feeling and that version of me at that time. He's really allowed me to just learn how to reflect on my feelings, experiences and my emotions sonically and as we've gotten to know each other, it has just meant that he gets it, and he gets me and I feel like that level of relationship takes years to nurture. 

That's something that I really don't take for granted and why I'll always work with Jason in some capacity, because I really value that type of connection. When you find your people, you’ve got to stay close to them, especially within an industry that can very easily be like the concrete jungle. 

Same with Michael. I actually connected with Michael one or two years ago on Instagram. 

We have a lot of mutual friends so it kind of felt like we knew each other already and he's just an amazing sound engineer. He really listens and hears music differently and has just helped me take my music to the next level. He mixed and mastered ‘Blue Skies’ and when you listen to the song with headphones properly, even I hear different things every time. That just goes to show how amazing he is at what he does. 

I couldn't have done it without them, long story short.

Why do you think collaboration and a sense of community in the creative industry is so important? How have you found navigating the London music scene, which can sometimes feel quite competitive?

Honestly, again, I just think it takes a village, so being aware that you're not in competition with anyone. There's space for everybody, if we all kind of take on the perspective that it takes a village. 

I feel like if there was going to be any sort of competition, it’s maybe the independent underground scene against the labels. I think it's time for us in the community to take the power back into our own hands which we're seeing a lot now. In the last couple of years, I think a lot of independent artists are realising this - that we don't need labels to create the careers that we want, especially in the age of social media. 

That shows the importance of community and the importance of having people around you that back you. You really can just build your own teams nowadays and do your own thing. I think it's important to own your creativity and have control over what you do, so no one can turn around and use all of your hard work against you. 

I am not against labels, but I definitely think that their place in the industry needs to change and it already is changing. I think they don't hold as much weight and as much power as they did and whilst I still think they have a place, it’s just not what it's been.

I definitely think it’s evolving - you only have to look at the recent Tiktok and UMG beef! And why do you think organisations like ‘Help Musicians’ and the ‘Mobo Awards’ are so crucial in today's industry?

Being an independent artist is hard, especially financially, so these organisations are so crucial to an artist’s wellbeing really.

‘Help musicians’ didn't just offer me financial assistance with the EP, they also offered mentorships. I spoke to two amazing mentors that gave me advice on business strategy and how to publish and distribute the EP. They also offer mental health check ins as well. 

Just having that support is just crucial. They help a lot of independent musicians in the UK to find the strength to just keep going because essentially, that's what it's actually about. It's just about not giving up. It's very easy to give up when you feel like everything is against you, when you feel like you're not earning enough, when you feel like no one's listening to your music and when you feel like no one's supporting you. So, having organisations like them just gives you the courage to keep going. 

Looking at your Instagram and listening to your EP, nature seems to play a really significant part of your life and artistic expression. Have you ever experienced a profound or transformative moment in nature that has had a lasting impact on your music, but also personally?

I don't think there's been one particular transformative moment, but I've always just felt at peace when I'm in nature, when I'm outdoors. I wish I could explain exactly why, but it's more of a feeling than something I can express in words.

I just feel connected to everything when I'm outside - I feel connected to other people, connected to the ground and what it is with nature as well, it makes me feel insignificant. I think that's very important for my ego to feel like I'm a piece of a bigger puzzle, and a bigger world. 

Something that I've been trying to do a lot more recently is look up in the sky. It's very easy to actually not look up often, when we live in the nine to five rat race. When I look up, I realise that there is actually so much more than my issue that I'm worrying about right now and that is the feeling that nature gives me. It just allows me to connect to myself on a deeper level and, in turn, that definitely influences my creativity. It puts me in a place where I feel like I'm speaking from a raw and authentic place, because that's just how I feel whilst being outside.

Are there any specific environments or landscapes that you find particularly inspiring?

I feel like I've been inspired in quite a few different environments. With my song, ‘Blue Skies’, for example, I wrote that when I was walking my dogs in the park. It came from a poem that I wrote originally on my phone notes, and I was literally looking at the sky and it was blue. 

The last song on my EP called ‘Home’, I wrote in Cyprus on the beach about two years ago. I was just looking at the ocean and looking at the waves and again, just feeling that connection with nature and feeling like I was returning home to myself. 

But then I also wrote a lot of the EP isolated and by myself at home. Cultivating my own spaces is really important for me to, like having a bath, journaling, putting on a candle and dimming the lights. As long as I'm in an environment where I feel like I can connect to myself, then my creativity flows. It's kind of like, my higher self, my heart and my mind are all where they're supposed to be and that's the sweet spot. It's kind of like creating moments where I can be my truest self. 

© Karis Beaumont

I think everyone knows that social media can be a very toxic place, but it's so important nowadays to market yourself and tap into these spaces. How do you navigate the online world? 

I think it's all about balance. There will definitely be people who are telling me I'm not doing enough on social media. Of course, it works for some people, but I think it's also about knowing yourself and knowing what works for you and finding that authentic form of expression. If I went on Tik Tok and started doing videos, my friends and family would just be like ‘What are you doing? This feels weird. This doesn't feel like you’. So, I just try to be present on Instagram in a way that feels right for me. 

Honestly, I take a lot of breaks - the only reason why I'm kind of semi active on Instagram now is because I'm in release mode. But if I'm not in release mode, then I have nothing to say on social media and that's okay - I don't need to be here, there and everywhere. What I'm actually finding as well is that, because I've just been true to myself in the sense of how present I am on social media, people understand me more as an artist, and in turn, are respecting me as an artist. When I do post on Instagram I feel like people are resonating and interacting with me more, because it's more intentional and meaningful.

I think it's just do what works for you.

I think it's definitely crucial to find that balance. Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring singers who are just starting out on their musical journey or just general advice for creatives trying to master their craft?

Never give up. Honestly, that is the biggest one. I'm trying to tell myself no matter how hard it feels, no matter where you think you should be on your journey, just never give up and also surrender to the present moment. Continue to give yourself the space to grow and to evolve - it's okay to not be the same version of yourself today as you were yesterday. That's what's beautiful about life, you know, just go with the flow in that sense. Also, know your worth - that's a big one I'm starting to learn 100%.

With a voice as soothing as a gentle breeze and lyrics that resonate like whispers from the earth itself, Nicola emerges as a luminary in London's music scene. Her EP clearly outlines a personal revolution of the spirit and of the self, offering insights into her musical journey and providing us with comforting fragments of guidance and encouragement.  

Slow Sunday mornings, the sensation of sunlight streaming on your face, the comforting embrace of an old friend - those are what Nicola’s music conjures up for me and why I certainly will be listening to her new EP, Rise, on repeat.

Follow Nicola on Instagram and listen to Rise on all major streaming platforms. 


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