Name: Nikita Bassi
Occupations: Singer, songwriter
Nationality: British-Indian
Current Release: Nikita Bassi's "Find Out" is the latest single off her Chapter EP, due for release in early 2022.
Recommendations: I’m going to go with two pieces of music - "Tracksuit" by Chrissi. She was a student at a college I was a teaching assistant at and I’ve been following her journey since I left. And "Saturday" by Sam Fender. My boyfriend is a Geordie so I’ve been to a load of his gigs with him and his mates - he is incredible.

If you enjoyed this interview with Nikita Bassi and would like to stay up to date on her music and creative activities, visit her official homepage. She is also on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and Soundcloud.

Nikita Bassi · Find Out

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?

I was writing songs at about nine years old, a few years after I started taking piano lessons. They were really terrible songs about my Labrador, Sinatra.

I rarely felt connected with the classical style I was listening to and learning to play, although I do find myself drawn to orchestral instruments with my writing these days. But as a young kid, I was the typical pop-obsessed Spice Girls / Britney Spears fan. I remember that Britney was the first album I saved up my pocket money for, in 2001. I miss going to CD shops.

I guess I was also inspired by music playing around the house and in the car when my dad drove me to school. Dad would play some songs from old Bollywood movies, as well as a lot of George Michael, Rod Stewart, Terence Trent D’Arby, Lisa Stansfield, Michael Jackson … Mom played a lot of dance music from the 80’s & 90’s back then. My gran was a massive influence in me actually pursuing music; she is an actress and enjoys singing too, even though it isn’t a huge part of her professional life. We would sing tunes from musicals together in her little summer house.

I think she tried to direct me into acting but I was absolutely horrendous at it so just sidestepped out of musical theatre in my own time.

For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?

I was obsessed with trying to sound like Shakira, as a kid! I definitely tried to go on Stars in Their Eyes - Kids, as her. Then I think I just moved about, channelling a load of other artists over time - Lana Del Rey was a big one in my teens!

It’s definitely an easy trap to fall into. Then I suppose you realise it’s just not about that. It’s actually ideal to sound unique and your influences come through naturally, or not, and that’s fine.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

Focusing on artistic identity became quite toxic for me, personally. I’ve only recently learnt that. I used to find that stuff so interesting, being ‘an artist,’ looking a certain way, having a whole ‘vibe’ I guess. I do think about it a little bit, but when I put too much thought into all of that stuff, it just becomes a lot of noise. I lose my love for music itself and I don’t feel inspired to write or anything.

I used to feel like I was trying to play a kind of character by releasing music and promoting myself because I had all these lists, mood boards and boxes I felt I needed to be ticking. Now I try to remind myself to just write things, share them, enjoy it, be myself, don’t take myself too seriously. I get that other stuff is important but it really has to be an after-thought, for me.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

Finding my own sound was confusing. Aged 19 and moving to London, I didn’t know what ‘my own sound’ even meant, and then it was just a normal question at uni. It felt really good when I started using a lot of world instrumentation, which I continue to use in a lot of my songs.

Equally, I put less pressure on what ‘my sound’ is, now, same as with the stuff about artistic identity. I like to think that stuff just comes organically, especially when I’m doing an element of production myself.

As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?

My first studio experiences were at uni - I was so uninterested in production and how the studio worked, for some reason. I think singers had a bad reputation for being like that, at the uni, and I fit the stereotype perfectly … I like that I can now actually get involved in making the music.

Learning to produce is an on-going journey for me and I need to challenge myself more so it can fuel my writing, and what I can actually accomplish alone from my bedroom, rather than relying on others. It’s great to collaborate - I do like it - but it’s also great to have the option to do things yourself. It’s so much more financially sustainable too.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

Social media changes have been a whole thing to stomach but also added a lot of opportunity.

SoundCloud was a thing when I was at uni. I loved putting little demos up there - I loved listening to playlists on there too and finding new music. The ‘having a certain amount of followers’ stuff can feel a bit rubbish and didn’t really exist when I was a kid. It can feel so lame, when you’re someone releasing music! I feel overly self-indulgent and it feels extremely desperate, hinting for people to follow you on socials. I really don’t suit being an artist in that way and felt I was generally more drawn to sharing music through performing live.

On the flip side, say with TikTok, I’ve recently started sharing rough versions of new songs on there and I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s such a cool platform and community for independent artists and people who are genuinely interested in their stuff. I definitely don’t think social media is all-bad.

Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?

In terms of songs I’ve actually released, my production just serves as a base really. Then I go into the studio with Cores and he adds stuff, we re-record vocals, he mixes it, we send it off to be mastered. I’m getting some better equipment soon which means I’ll be doing a slightly bigger chunk of that stuff in future, but still not all of it, so it will always be a collaborative process.

In terms of writing, I’ve been doing that by myself for ages and just asking friends to send audio recordings of things that I couldn’t create with midi files (in Logic.) I really need to start getting in an actual room with people and writing again. I used to do it a little bit, pre-pandemic, but it was in a more ‘let’s finish a song in a day’ approach, which I couldn’t click with for some reason.

Everyone works so differently. I’d rather just play about with some ideas and drink some wine. I think some similar people are out there somewhere!

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

I work as a nanny, Monday to Thursday. I get home at about 6pm. I go through phases where I’m really inspired and I can write music until late and all through the weekend. I go through other phases when I can’t think of anything and I go and meet people or just fall asleep at about 8pm, or watch a year’s worth of Netflix shows in two evenings. I’ve been doing a bit of adulting lately, buying a house and getting engaged, so definitely looking at a fair bit of wedding and home decor porn on Pinterest.

Then sometimes when I can’t write I’m just like - you need to get out this house and stop beating yourself up, which I do. I like to be busy. Also, when I didn’t have a routine during lockdown I became genuinely nocturnal for a while. I think I need to work.

Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

I did an EP launch, for my first EP in 2019. It was probably the most terribly organised event of all time.

My friend kindly set me up with this cool function room in her work building in the city. I bought about 200 cheap bottles of Prosecco and couldn’t get the menu bar off the projector screen that was playing behind me. A friend of friend played a set before me. We couldn’t park in front of the venue as it was a busy road so my friends were helping me lug the equipment from half a mile away for about two hours. We were just about ready in time for people turning up. Honestly, it was chaos.

But we had the best time, and at the end of it and I felt a sense of relief that next time I would have a much better idea of what I was actually meant to be doing.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

I find the creative process to be random. I don’t have any strategies whatsoever. I can very rarely switch off in general - one of those people with 100 tabs open in their brain all the time.

I would like to find a more peaceful state of mind one day. That might be a nice space to be creative in. Or maybe a bit of chaos isn’t such a bad thing.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

Pursuing singing as a potential career has been problematic at times. I think I started to almost resent music because it was so hard to make money from it and I used to chase a really conventional idea of success with it all.

I’ve readjusted now, but before I was like ‘I’m on this ridiculously difficult career path and not even enjoying it.’ It was ridiculous really. I put too much pressure on it becoming my sole income and forgot to focus on actually making music I like.

There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?

I guess the key is on-going education. It’s sometimes hard to know what you can and can’t say or do, to be honest, and I think a lot of us are scared to put a foot wrong as there is so much to learn about this stuff. We just need to have open conversations and be patient with each other, figure out what’s appropriate, WHY something is hurtful …

Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?

Live music with a great set design that actually suits the sonics, makes such an impact for me, so I’d say sight and sound is the one that springs to mind …

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

I am really trying to be more honest in my songwriting lately. I think that’s important, and something that connects me with artists I listen to, whether it’s about their mate or their political views. That’s not to say someone who writes incredible dance tunes with three words in it, isn’t an artist. But yeah, writing honestly about feelings and opinions is something I do want to try.

I’ve always leaned into surface level love songs, I think because it was less exposing. I’ve been writing a lot lately about feeling kind of lost as a creative trying to fit into society! I never would have done that before. It’s nerve-racking after writing very safe things. I suppose this is still quite safe. I need a sec before I get into politics. Can hardly work that out in my own head …

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

I find music can take me back to a particular time in my life and remind me of someone or something in a really powerful way, kind of recreating a moment. Even just some melodic pattern at the start of a song can do it.