Nina Nesbitt should feel at home on Edinburgh’s main stage, but a new world beckons in 2014
SHE’S one of a clutch of Scottish artists appearing at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party, but for 19-year-old Nina Nesbitt, being the only Scot to appear on the main stage is an indicator of just how big she’s expected to get in the New Year. While her major achievements so far have been the minor hit Stay Out earlier in 2013 and some paparazzi-baiting romantic links with singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, the release of her debut album Peroxide in February is expected to boost her career to a new level.
It’s not bad going for a woman from Edinburgh who started out uploading homemade music videos filmed around Balerno reservoir when she was in her mid-teens. Fast forward half a decade and she’s seen her limited download release second EP crack the iTunes top ten and get her music picked up by BBC Radio 1, a support tour for Sheeran break her sound amidst her youthful target market, and her live show progress to the stage where she’s been using a full band for some busy festival dates over the summer.
“It’s always different in Scotland to anywhere else I’m performing,” she says from her current home in London about returning to Edinburgh for Hogmanay. “It’s always like a really special feeling because it’s my home country and I’ve usually not been home for a while. When I played T in the Park earlier this year I hadn’t really played that many gigs since Stay Out was released, so I didn’t know how many people were going to turn up or who knew any of the music. The year before, I’d played the BBC Introducing stage. There must have been about 500 people there, and this year there was about eight, nine thousand. It was pretty insane, but one of the best gigs I’ve played.”
With a new track on her album titled Selfies after 2013’s word of the year (the video features Nesbitt taking posed pictures of herself and posting them online), there’s something on the one hand almost self-consciously zeitgeist about her image, and on the other, a sense that she and her management are too canny to not be aware of this. Tracks heard so far from Nesbitt’s album enjoy a youthful sensibility aimed lyrically at her contemporaries, although her voice contains a priceless hint of husky maturity.
“I’m really happy with it,” she says of the record. “I’ve spent about three years writing it and a year and a half recording it. It was meant to come out earlier this year, but I was still writing and I didn’t want to rush it, so we put it back to February. I’m really glad that I did now, because a lot of songs came last minute. I think I’ll get criticised for the album being quite ‘young’, but I wanted to write something that was true to myself and honest, and I think it definitely is the most honest piece of work I’ve done.”
In what sense is it “young”? “It’s break-up themed,” she says cagily. “It’s all about growing up and everything I’ve experienced. I’ve been criticised in the past for being a bit lyrically naïve, but I’d just rather be myself and true to me, and that’s what I was trying to keep for this album. But there are definitely parts for all ages on there, and it’s more edgy than anything I’ve done before. I mean production-wise, I’ve picked up an electric guitar and stuff like that. It’s a real mixture.”
Despite being a multi-instrumentalist, Nesbitt had some help with the record, including producer Jake Gosling (whose previous credits include Sheeran, Paloma Faith and One Direction); songwriter and former Snow Patrol member Iain Archer; and Irish band Kodaline, one of Nesbitt’s favourites, whom she met in Los Angeles. In a strange piece of synchronicity given Nesbitt’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop for a John Lewis advert this year, her fellow alumnus of the store’s 2013 marketing campaign, Lily Allen, has also written a song with her.
“I think you can tell I’ve written it for her because her music’s quite inspirational to me,” says Nesbitt of the song Mr C. “I love her lyrics, they’re so honest. It’s written about when you’re on a night out and somebody wants to buy you a drink – I’ve met a few guys over the past few years and I guess she has as well, that might think because they’ve got a bit of money or whatever that you’ll be attracted to them. It’s basically saying that they don’t have the personality and that’s what matters to me. I guess it’s just the kind of thing most girls can relate to.”
How did the co-writing work? Was it a long-distance collaboration? “No, she was in the studio right there with me. It was actually a song I wrote for someone else, but I really liked it and decided to keep it for myself, so I rewrote parts of it and then we sent it to Lily. She really liked it so she came into the studio and we finished it off together. She was lovely, really nice. I think she’s done really well in her career and she’s been around for a while, so it was great to meet her.”
What did Nesbitt make of Allen’s recent comeback single Hard Out Here, and its controversial look at the image of women in pop? “I thought it was really funny,” she says. “At the moment there are a lot of music videos which use sexual images to sell themselves, people taking their clothes off and all that, and we need someone to poke fun at that. Plus I really like the song.”
How she copes with such a climate herself will be something we discover in 2014, but for now she has her first Hogmanay concert in her home city to get through. “I haven’t actually been before,” she admits. “A few of my friends have been to the street party, but last year I went on holiday and then regretted it, because I like being in Edinburgh, so I’m glad to be there this year. But usually I just go and see my friends and sit in a house or whatever. We’re all quite young, you know?” n
• Nina Nesbitt plays the Concert in the Gardens at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay on Tuesday