An Interview With Pop and Hip-Hop Star and Top Singer-Songwriter, NIKKI ERA!
Posted On 03 May 2019
Nikki Era is swiftly being recognized as one of the nation’s top singer-songwriters. Her hip-hop track she collaborated with rapper, Zak Downtown, “Won’t Stay Down” was handpicked as the featured song for season 2 of FOX’s music competition series, The Four: Battle for Stardom. Nikki’s songwriting career includes songs written for entertainment power house companies including Disney Channel, Universal and MTV. She has penned titles such as Nickelodeon star JoJo Siwa’s hit bop, “D.R.E.A.M.”, Meg Donnelly’s “Smile”, and Dove Cameron and Sofia Carson’s song for this summer’s highly anticipated Disney Channel Original Movie, Descendants 3. As a contestant on season 16 of American Idol, Katy Perry compared Nikki to a modern day Barbra Streisand and Lionel Richie thanked her for “blessing” the judges with her stage performance. This past year, she had the opportunity to write and record Mickey’s 90th Birthday Theme song and covered Aretha Franklin’s “Think” in Paramount Pictures’ feature film What Men Want starring Taraji P. Henson and Tracy Morgan.
Check out Nikki’s newest song, “Fantasy Boy” here:
Connect With NIKKI ERA Here:
Learn more about Nikki Era in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you?
I’m actually in LA right now! I love New York but I lived out here for a bit so it’s nice to come back and create stuff with old friends and shoot stuff! The vibe is so different out here than on the East Coast so I wanted to come out here in the middle of recording the EP to see if I got a fresh perspective on anything.
Now that we are into the 4th month of the new year, how has 2019 been treating you so far? What are some goals that you have for yourself this year? How are those New Year’s Resolutions going?
I actually didn’t make any resolutions this year. I kind of did the opposite and decided to just be a little nicer to myself and with the expectations I had. I’m definitely focusing on my EP, “MEGA” but I’m not holding myself too closely to any deadlines. I’ve been eating better and trying to be honest about my feelings and my relationships. It’s definitely an organic time. No pressure!
Growing up, how important was music in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
Music was so important to me. I don’t know if it ever really was a choice when I was younger. I just always remember singing and liking the feeling of performing for my family and friends. I started out doing musical theater and it’s always something I would love to return to one day. I think it gave me confidence to be anyone and do anything. I played a clock, once. I played boy and girl roles. I was never Cinderella, though. But my mom told me no one really wants to be Cinderella anyway.
Was there ever a time when you thought about doing something else? If you weren’t a musician today, what else could you see yourself doing? Would you be as fulfilled in life?
OMG yes! When I went to college I thought maybe I would be pre-med. On my first day I remember leisurely walking to the store to get a breakfast sandwich and a coffee before heading to class and another student with a backpack stuffed to the brim came running past me and knocked my coffee down. I was like wow that person really wants to get to class. When I walked into my first biology lecture and sat in the back I saw that same student in the front row on the floor taking notes a mile a minute. I walked out of the class and switched all my classes that day. I was like that person needs to be my doctor… and I joined the theater program.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
I think just the ups and downs of it all, and the fact that it’s not like other “normal” professions. People who aren’t in the business don’t understand that just because you’re not on the radio everyday doesn’t mean you’re not doing well.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live now?
I’m from Staten Island and there’s a big Italian culture there. I grew up listening to Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Louis Prima. I love the idea of old Hollywood and Atlantic City. I love the idea of any time period that’s gone by. I’m super nostalgic. I think the basis of everything I do from writing a pop song to singing is based in that time period because those songs will always be classics. I also grew up listening to a lot of Motown and disco music because of my Dad. Now I live in the West Village so I’m in the heart of Bob Dylan territory. He’s probably my favorite artist of all time. He just never conformed to anything. I love that and love how politics of the time entered into his art. It’s important that artists can entertain and use their platform to bring certain issues into the mainstream conversation.
Let’s talk about your newest track, “Fantasy Boy.” What was the inspiration for this song? How would you say that it compares to anything else that you have released?
“Fantasy Boy” was the beginning of a totally new time in my life. It was Chapter 1! I hadn’t made my own music in a little while. I was just writing so much for other artists and TV/Film projects. I got the itch to create again but I didn’t want it to be similar to what I was doing for anyone else or to be what was happening at the time. I kind of just thought, “what do I see myself dancing to on stage?” Then a 80s vibes came into my head. I love how it was a slightly cheesy and predictable time in some ways but I wanted to put my own spin on it. As the months passed and I released “Fantasy Boy” a whole world played out in front of me and I was like “OMG I found her!” This is the new me and I started making “MEGA”.
What was it like making the music video for “Fantasy Boy”? How creatively involved with the process were you?
So I actually made the lyric video myself in iMovie. I had the idea that I wanted to use retro footage and while looking for free stock footage, I came across Streets of Rage. It totally fit the vibe and stayed up one night until 4am with my dogs staring at me and made the video. It’s not perfect but it’s MINE and I love that I got to make it myself and more so that I had the confidence to do it. I feel like as people we’re like “oh I kind of know how to do that”, but then we don’t always follow through. I’m trying not to that this year.
When do you hope to release more new music and a full collection of new songs?
I’m in the process of recording my MEGA EP now…it may be turning into an LP though haha I can’t stop making music with my producer BElllA because I just love everything we do and he’s so super talented. Right now including “Fantasy Boy” and a bonus track it’s 9 songs so we’ll see. I’d love to release it for the Fall with visuals and some tour dates. The next release is the Fantasy Boy remix though! Mikey Pop x BElllA did it and I’m obsessed!
How excited were you to have one of your songs be the featured song for season 2 of the FOX series The Four: Battle for Stardom?
I loved that because I had just gotten back from American Idol Season 16 and my mom had been diagnosed with cancer when I was in Hollywood week. It was stressful, sad and just a lot to process. She’s good now but at the time my anxiety was crazy. I got home and I felt really defeated. I heard the beat and the hook poured out of me. Like NO I’m not giving up. I’m going harder. Zak Downtown is honestly one of my favorite rappers and we’ve become good friends. He’s on the record too and that was awesome. When I found out it was going to be on the trailer I was like well, isn’t that ironic?
What has changed about your style of music? How has your creative process grown over the years?
My style is constantly changing. It never stays the same and it’s been a struggle for me to define my sound sometimes until I decided to just do it all at different times, and in different eras of creativity. Right now is the MEGA era and I’m so excited to be glam and bring a keytar on stage with me!
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
I’m a millennial so social media is a love/hate for me. I’m also an old soul. I would love to rewind back to a time when I could be in Studio 54 – no cell phone, dancing my makeup off my face. Alas, we are here in 2019 so I go on Instagram.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
My favorite artists are Alanis Morissette, Janis Joplin, Fiona Apple, the Spice Girls, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Céline Dion, and James Taylor. Currently I love Robyn. She’s so badass.
Where can fans see you perform next?
Probably NYC. Once I’m done recording I’m going to put together the live show. The theater nerd in me really wants it to be a show-show (cue Jazz hands) so there will be a lot of moving parts.
If you had an unlimited budget and your schedule was free, what would your dream music video look like?
OMG best question ever. This is literally what I think about everyday haha. I would definitely be riding in a vintage Ford Mustang along the beach in Miami that takes off into the stars and visits all the planets with a guy I just met with lots of tattoos. Once we get to Venus I would meet up with all of my dancers who are dressed like it’s a 1992 Versace runway show and we would do moody dance sequences and later I would end up at the bottom of the ocean with a full mesh gown with hair extensions of all different pastel colors floating off into the water. But I can somehow breathe… 🙂
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, what musical item would you take with you and why?
My weighted keyboard so I could still write my 4 chord ballads and sometimes pretend I’m Carole King.
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
I would have loved my music to be featured in the film Teen Spirit. I hope they make another one! I wish they would feature it on Stranger Things, that would be unreal!
Do you remember the first time you ever heard one of your songs on TV, in a movie or elsewhere? What was it and how did it feel? Where were you when you heard it?
The first time I heard myself was at a screening for a friend’s series called “The Filth”. It’s an indie series that I hope the world gets to see soon! They used a lot of my older music and I made them a theme song called “Filthy”. They premiered it in L.A. at this amazing theater and I was like WOW I love making things with my friends. I also loved hearing my voice during the Grammy’s on a Disney commercial.
At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?
I hope people take away a sense of freedom and can’t get it out of their heads. I hope they come see me perform live because it’s my favorite thing to do, and that they feel like they can do anything and feel a little more alive inside.
Would you like to share anything else with our readers about your music?
This is just the beginning and I hope you love this new chapter of music. MEGA will be here soon and to me it means BIG. Big everything. Big love. Big creativity. Big synths. Big beats. Big heart. Big clothes. Big makeup. It’s about being wherever you are and being fully present. Don’t be afraid to clear a space for yourself in the world. And if you have to…bulldoze it!