Posted On 10 Nov 2017
Today, New York City-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Nina Lee has released her debut EP, “Snapshots.”
She previously put out her poignant single “Airborne” which is a heartfelt and very personal song. Featuring Nina’s stunning, smoky vocals, stark piano keys, and a big-screen worthy narrative, “Airborne” was inspired by her family story. Nina penned the song after discovering 70-year-old, heartfelt letters exchanged between her great-grandfather, a World War II “Screaming Eagle” veteran, and her great-grandmother – the woman behind the man whose steady support and quiet devotion never wavered.
Nina Lee is just 17 years old, but her songwriting taps into a soul that is well beyond her years, telling vivid, moving stories about everything from the power of family, to the effects of bullying, to the importance of inner strength. The Snapshots EP is just what the title suggests – a collage of moments in time that take us on a journey, whether traveling back to years gone by or sharing confessional tales from the present. Possessing a captivating voice that immediately enchants and an indie spirit, Nina is known to break out her ukelele (she taught herself both baritone and tenor ukelele), and also has a knack for piano and guitar. With hummable melodies, a charming delivery and evocative lyrics, Nina is a refreshing and promising new voice that will capture your ears and your heart.
FOLLOW NINA LEE HERE:
Learn more about Nina Lee in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you today? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it? What’s a song you are loving these days? What music instantly lifts you out of a bad mood?
Right now, I’m sitting in my dining room drinking tea, and my whole family is organizing closets and assembling a TV behind me. We just recently moved into a new place and have been unpacking for weeks. We just finally got rid of the last box! The music my sister and I have in the background is usually Ed Sheeran. We can listen to his songs on repeat and never get tired of him because his songs are like stories that captivate the audience listening. I actually recently went to a concert of his and he is so good live it just makes me want to listen to him more. A song that always lifts me out of a bad mood would have to be the song “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. It is what my sister likes me to sing when she is in a bad mood, so I have become accustomed to it as well.
Did you approach the start of this year any differently then you did last year? What have been some of the highlights for you this year? What are you excited for in 2018 which will be here before we know it?!
This year, I have grown a lot as a person through making my album, which has taken up a lot of my time. I approached this year with caution and optimism, because I want to make sure the product I get is what I was envisioning, but also I want to keep an open mind and know that what’s meant to be will happen. I have had a great time recording and performing my songs and making them exactly how I envisioned them. I have had the pleasure of working with some great people who I think will help me on this journey, and I am just excited to see where this next year takes me. Big shout outs to my producer, Steve Greenwell, and the musicians on the album, Nadia DiGiallonardo (piano), Aaron Comess (drums), and Richard Hammond (bass) and my dad on guitar. Hopefully I can continue to pursue my dream and never stop gaining knowledge about the industry.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Was there ever a time where you thought about doing something completely different? What do you think it finally was that pushed you to this career?
I can tell you definitively, music has always been it. Music has been a constant in my life from day one. Before I could speak or walk, I would hum to my dad when he played the guitar, or come up with lyrics for him, even if they were gibberish. When my sister and I were born my dad wrote a song for each of us and has performed them at every birthday, so that also was one of the earliest memories that still remains today. I remember being introduced by my family as “Nina Lee, from NYC” performing whatever it was I was performing, and refusing to come out if I was not introduced correctly. My only goal for as long as I can remember was to help people. No matter what career I pursued, that has always been my main goal. I think through music I have seen that happen and it gives me the recognition that I am doing something right. That is what made me fall in love with music from day one, and still makes me fall in love with it today.
I always like to know how a particular city has influenced an artist. How do you think your hometown has affected the kind of music that you are making today? How has your current city influenced your music?
I think that wherever I am at a certain point in time can dictate how my creative process progresses. There is so much inspiration and material that I can pluck from different experiences and different places. New York has always been a cultural and influential place for me to find motivation. I am now back in New York, but was in Connecticut for a few years, which was really hard on me. I went through bullying and feeling like I didn’t fit in, like a lot of people. That really was when I started to use music as an outlet, which was ultimately my saving grace. I think that where I write has significance to the song; for example, this summer I was in Italy and songs just started pouring out because of the environment I was in. I think that experience and culture really has influenced me as an artist and a writer.
How excited are you to be releasing your debut EP, “Snapshots” TODAY? Did anything surprise you about the whole process? What was your inspiration for this collection of songs?
Snapshots is an authentic representation of who I am as a person. It is something I am really proud of and I am ready put into the world. My songs are so intimate and personal to me that I feel like sharing them will give people a clearer insight into the person I am. But I also believe people will hear the songs and relate to the feelings I’m expressing in them. The thing that surprised me most while making this EP was that my voice was really heard. I was not forced to fix myself into a box; I was able to let my creativity and vision come through. My family and music will always be the two constants in my life and to put them together is what really inspired Snapshots. These songs are little glimpses into my life and my family. It illustrates the fact that nothing and nobody is perfect, but that is what a family is. It would be weird if everything were so called “normal.” Music is what drives me, and family is what pushes me, this is just a collaboration of both.
How did your single “Airborne” come together? How were you inspired by your great-grandfather’s letters? Why did you decide to release it as your first single? How do you think it prepares people for the rest of your EP?
“Airborne” is the heart of this EP. Everything else steams from it. When my great grandfather died, I was not able to articulate my words to my great grandmother to express what I really felt. We found old letters that she had saved from 70 years ago when my great grandfather was in WWII. I saw how fiercely in love he was with her, and when I was sitting at the piano one day, “Airborne” was born. It took a while to make sure the representation was exactly what I wanted but it finally came together. I think of it as a short movie that goes by in 3-4 minutes. It has to have all the substance and all the emotions that trigger people throughout a movie but it has to be condensed. As I said before, I had no doubt in my mind “Airborne” would be the single because it is the foundation of the rest of my album. It prepares people for the songs to come, and the consistent message that remains throughout the EP as a whole.
Now that the summer is over, what was something fun that you did or tried for the first time?
I had a really memorable summer. My sister had her bat mitzvah in Italy, so we traveled throughout all of Italy for a month. My mom is Jewish, while my dad is Italian Catholic so we had a little of both cultures in the trip. I had never cliff-jumped before from such a high distance and I did that trip. We jumped of the boat we were on and swam to a nearby beach where two boys helped my sister and me all the way up. My dad jumped first. The boys spoke little English but made a gesture that we had to squat on the highest rock and push outwards so we wouldn’t get hurt. I was the last to go and as I got up on the rock, I just jumped. It was exhilarating. My mom was on the boat and it needed to be turned around so it wouldn’t hit a rock, so she didn’t see us jump, but I think she would have had a heart attack if she had seen it!
How do you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? Where do you think you are truly the happiest- on stage performing or elsewhere?
In my life, I overthink and analyze everything, but when I perform that all disappears for a moment. That is when I am in a total state of euphoria. I have no worries or concerns in the world. Music moves me and I am truly happiest when I can move others. On stage is my favorite place to be. I just feel on top of the world when I perform. I think that is why every performer does it. Underneath it all, it comes back to that feeling they get. It can be different for everyone, but when I feel it, I am performing and singing my heart out.
Do you believe that the music being created right now will be greatly influenced by the intensely politically charged times we live in right now? How has it affected you as a musician in general?
Music can be something that can bring happiness to a world that is full of hate. Everyone has an opinion they are entitled to, but when it comes down to it, we need to support each other. My childhood has consisted of very different things than kids born ten years before me. The way of life has changed. My goal is to do the best I can to help anyone that I can. I think music can bring people together in times or hardship and triumph. And that is one of the goals I have as a musician.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Artists that inspire me are storytellers like, Amy Winehouse, Billy Joel, Ed Sheeran, Adele, Franki Valli etc. I know that is an unconventional collection of artists, but all of them have inspired my music. I would love to collaborate one day with Billy Joel, because his music carries on through generations, which is something I want for my music. Working with him would be a once in a lifetime opportunity that would teach me more than I could even imagine.
What advice would you give to a young person who is considering becoming a musician one day?
I would tell them I am still a young musician too. From the experience that I have, I would tell them to not get discouraged. Not everyone will give you positive feedback, and some will want to mold you into what they believe will be successful. My advice is to stick to your gut. Be true to yourself and do not change for anyone, because you are enough. Make sure this is what you want to do because it will consume you, but if you love it, it won’t matter. You don’t want work to feel like a job, if you do maybe this isn’t the right field for you. Find something you are passionate about and don’t give up.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I want people to see that I am a real person. I want to be someone they feel like they connect with. I always say if I can just change one life I know I’ll be fine. I hope people feel empowered to be their true selves, and push the boundaries. I aspire to break limits that have been set and encourage others to do the same.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I’m just extremely excited to get my music out into the world. I truly believe that imperfect is perfect. I hope people learn that being nice is much easier that being cruel. It takes so little to be kind and make someone’s day. Just because you are unhappy does not mean you should project it onto others. If you try to be a good person, that’s what matters. And don’t ever give up. Thank you so much for interviewing me, and I hope to talk to soon.