If her stunning beauty doesn’t take your breath away, then her sweet voice will have you hook, line and sinker. She is co-lead singer of the band Nouveau Riche and just recently accompanied rapper Lupe Fiasco on his tour, The Cool. Both singer and songwriter, Nikki Jean’s steadily growing fan base makes one thing very apparent: she’s about to take the music world by storm! And her infectious personality and daily video blogs will make you feel like you’re kicking it with your girlfriend. Clutch reached out to the lovely Nikki to find out her inspirations and, of course, when her debut album will drop.
Q: You originally went to school for acting, when did you decide to start singing professionally?
Acting and music have always gone together for me. Some of the first songwriters I fell in love with were musical theater writers like Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hammerstein or Jerome Kern. I gravitated more towards the songs and the craft of writing them than I did the actual dancing around bit. In 2000 I started hitting the songwriting pretty hard.
Q: You’re co-lead singer of the band Nouveau Riche, how did you guys meet?
In 2005, I came up to Philly for a Roots barbecue, I was leaving town the next day and stopped by the studio to say good-bye. While I was there I started playing piano and Dice Raw heard me. He asked me to join the band on the spot, and I’ve been here ever since.
Q: Who are some of your musical influences?
Umm . . . I love this question. Joni Mitchell, Irving Berlin, Carole King, Prince, Sting, to name a few. I can’t stop listening to Bill Withers right now.
Q: You just got off The Cool tour with Lupe Fiasco. How did you meet and what has been your experience touring with him?
I was doing some work with Chris & Drop, a production team that is featured on The Cool. They played one of the songs we did together for Lupe, he liked it and called me up. A bit surreal to be honest to see some unfamiliar number on your phone, answer it and hear “Hi. This is Lupe Fiasco. Is this Nikki Jean?”
Q: Life is a constant inspiration to artists: love, birth, loss, heartbreak. How has your life inspired your music?
Before I started working with the band, 99 percent of my songs were about love and heartbreak. My own personal love and heartbreak, completely true stories all the time. Since I began co-writing with my band mates it’s really broke me out of that habit. Now only 85 percent of my songs are about love and heart ache but all the songs that are for ME (as opposed to writing for other people) are true . . . so far. I don’t want to box myself in.
Q: I know that you also write your own songs. How does your creative process work? Do the words come first or the music?
They come at the same time, and they’re both pretty flexible. The main thing I look for when I’m writing is a melody that sticks in my head and lyrics that sound and feel good when they come out of my mouth, as well as being meaningful. There are a lot of meaningful words out there that sound awful.
Q: If you had the opportunity to work with any musical artist, who would it be?
Ha! So I can say my number one and possibly mess up to the opportunity to work with my number two? They could read this article and feel jilted. No way!
Q: When can we expect an album from you?
Q: What do you hope your listeners will get from your music?
Most recently my hope has been that it will not make their lives worse. I know that seems like a strange statement, but a while back one of our (Nouveau Riche’s) fans committed suicide. She only came to a few shows but her friend told me she knew our music well. I started thinking about how some of my words were embedded in her mind and wondered if my words made her feel worse or better. Most likely, they did neither but if there’s ever a chance for them to hurt or help, I would like for my music to help.
Q: How would you describe your fashion style? Who are some of your favorite brands/ designers?
Favorite Designers: Betsey Johnson, Diane Von Furstenburg, and I really enjoy rockin’ Hellz Bellz.
Q: Name one vice, one pleasure and one addiction.
Vice = Orbitz gum. I chew gum like a chain smoker smokes.
Pleasure = A cheeseburger from Standard Tap and a bottle of really good beer.
Addiction = I don’t know, I have a very addictive personality. So I typically try to destroy my addictions before they get very big. That’s why I don’t have cable or any game systems. But I think I’m going to get a Wii soon. I played Guitar Hero with my little cousins over the winter and yeah, I think I’m addicted.
Q: Lastly, what products do you carry in your clutch; what cosmetic items won’t you leave home without?
I WISH I was that together to carry a “clutch” all the time. I try not to leave the house without lip gloss. Other than that, if it ain’t on when I leave the house . . I do without.