Nadia Reid is a singer-songwriter from Dunedin, New Zealand who has made a lasting impression on international audiences. Over the past year, she was named as a finalist for the 2017 APRA Silver Scroll Award, was nominated for the Taite Music Prize, and performed live on the BBC television show 'Later... with Jools Holland'. Nadia is humble, gracious and writes music that is intuitive and evocative. She recently played one of her last shows of the year in our Wellington flagship store. We caught up with Nadia to talk about writing, performing and recording music.
Story photographed by Yoan Jolly.
At 27 you have achieved so much. What have been some of the best moments in your career so far?
Touring internationally is something I both love and will never take for granted. When I first left New Zealand to tour in 2016, I realised that my music had travelled to people on the other side of the world. That felt like a powerful achievement for me.
What were your expectations of the music industry, and is it living up to everything you thought it would be?
That’s a hard question because I never had any expectations. I fell into music by accident in a way. It was never my dream to be a musician. My dream was to be a vet or a midwife. I grew up surrounded by a lot of music and once I became a teenager, writing songs and playing the guitar became a really healthy outlet for me to process the world around me. I’ve never been able to stop.
You have already recorded two albums. Is it hard finding something that hasn’t been done before?
I am constantly growing as a person, and experiencing new things. I try to keep myself awake. For those familiar with my music will know that I write a lot about the heart, and I don’t think that will change. I mean, it’s universal. I believe we all navigate similar things in our lives to a degree. I feel like I’m in conversation with my life when I write. There is plenty to write about but harnessing the creative process at all times is the tough part.
Your voice as been described as otherworldly. How do you describe your sound & music?
Honest, pure, reflective. I’ve been feeling a lot of joy lately, when performing with the band. I recently witnessed a dance work by Footnote Dance Company who had used my music in a show that toured New Zealand. The movement was expressive and joyous. I liked watching that. I like to think that melancholia can also at times be beautiful and joy-filled. That is what the dancers expressed to me.
You write a lot about personal experiences. Do you speak as openly as your write?
I think so. I’m always up for having a deep conversation. I love being real with people and I love meeting people who are real, awake and present.
Take us through your creative process. Where do you like to write and record your music?
Movement is a big one for me. Getting outside and being alone in nature. Writing, or ‘garbage writing’ as I call it. Writing that is for no one. Sometimes I go back through my journals and get inspiration for a song. Often a song comes when it wants to come. My process involves creating a landing pad for that song. The healthier I am in my body, mind and spirit the easier it is for to the songs to come.
Your set is quite flexible in that you can perform with a full band or solo. What is your preferred way of performing?
I like both and both are quite different. I have toured extensively with just my guitarist, Sam and lately I’ve really been enjoying the band dynamic. I am fortunate to play with such a special band: Richie Pickard, Sam Taylor and Chris O’Connor.
When do you feel most connected to yourself?
Looking at the ocean. In a bath. Up the top of Mount Cargill. On stage.
You’ve just come off another tour. Have there been any significant moments that made you pinch yourself?
Thinking on the last run of shows in New Zealand, I was feeling an immense amount of gratitude towards my band, my team and my audience. I will never take for granted the people that chose to: listen to my music, buy a ticket to my show, organise a babysitter, leave their warm house, stand in a crowded, at a dingy bar to watch me sing and laugh at my bad jokes. That takes effort and I am grateful for that.
How do you decide what to pack when you tour?
I’m getting better at this. I’m a chronic overpacker, so separate it into relaxed wear and performance wear. I wear a lot of black so the odd colourful item is good, and I am obsessed with those packing pods - they’re life changing.
You’re currently mentoring high school students with an interest in music. What has this experience taught you?
It’s been incredibly fulfilling. I’ve loved being back in my hometown and working with the students has been a very healthy focus for me in my ‘down time’. The main takeaway I received from that work is discovering what a wonderful outlet music is for young people. It brings people together, promotes expression and makes them feel less alone and therefore connected.
Did you have a mentor or was there someone who inspired you when you first started in music?
I have a wonderful memory of watching Anika Moa play at The Backstage in Dunedin. I think I was 16 and had to take my mother along to the show. I was so blown away, and inspired by her songs and voice and her confidence on stage. It made me feel on fire. I kept getting that feeling with a lot of live music through the years and still do. I’m lucky enough to now call Anika a friend.
Is there a particular song by another artist that has sentimental value to you?
Song for Zula by Phosphorescent reminds me of living in Wellington and falling sweetly in love. ‘You Gotta Be’ by Des’ree reminds me happily of my mother and anything off Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Want Two’ is very special to me.
What did you do prior to being a full-time musician?
I’ve completed 4 university papers; worked as a nanny; worked in hospitality. I worked at Six Barrel Soda Co. for a year in Wellington and Coco’s Cantina in Auckland. I learnt so much about being a human from working in hospitality and made many lifelong friends.
I fly to Richmond, Virginia in October to make my third record. That is my main focus. Then I will prepare for a busy 2019.
Listen Nadia's music on her website.