Nicki Kris is a singer/songwriter based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her music has captured an international audience since the soul stylings of her debut album, I Come Alive in 2013. Her songs have been featured in award-winning movies, TV shows, and on radio stations worldwide, and she has been on the official ballot for the Grammy Awards for the past six years in numerous categories, including Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Rock Song, and Best Rock Performance.
Nicki’s unique and powerful diva-style voice has been compared to artists Pink and Adele as well as top female rockers of the past, Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks, while her songwriting takes a decidedly modern turn. Nicki’s latest release, Heartbeat [N.K.M Records], is a collection of empowering anthems, catchy sing-along tracks and a few remixed classics that effortlessly showcases the transformation of the shy organic singer/songwriter that wowed us in 2013 into a confident assertive songstress with the vocal chops to match. The end result is a collection of Alternative Pop/Rock anthems and catchy tracks, some of which have already been recognized in several international songwriting competitions along with a few remixed classics that have received over a million plays collectively since their launch.
1. When did your dream of becoming an entertainer begin?
I think I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer. I’ve been singing and performing since the age of two, writing songs since high school and after a long break started recording material in 2010. During those gap years, while I accomplished many other things, (got a real job, got married, and had kids) I felt like I was going through the motions and not really being true to myself. I feel like I’m playing catch up, but I’m getting there. Getting back into writing, recording, and performing is slowly bringing out the person that I was always meant to be.
2. How did you feel the first time one of your songs was selected for a film and how did that come about?
Honored and humbled. I was literally just getting back into writing and was in the middle of working on my debut album when one of my networking connections, who happened to be a student director, reached out and said they were interested in using one of my songs for a student film. Not a major placement and I don’t think the film was actually ever even made, but it made me realize two things. First and foremost, networking and making connections is key and second, getting my songs on the radio wasn’t the only avenue that needed to be explored in order to get my music heard.
3. What has been your greatest achievement as a singer/songwriter?
I’d like to think that my greatest achievement is still yet to come. I have a lot that I still want to accomplish, especially since I feel that I’m really just getting started with my music career. I would have to say that I’m especially proud of everything that I’ve been able to accomplish so far as I’ve been riding the music biz highway pretty much on my own since I started getting back into it roughly eight years ago. The fact that I’ve been able to release multiple albums, several singles, had music on TV and in film, won several songwriting awards, and have had multiple official GRAMMY ballot placements without a label or a big team helping me on a day to day basis, in my mind is pretty awesome.
4. Tell us a little about your latest album, “Heartbeat” and the story behind the title track.
Heartbeat is the album that I’ve always wanted to make. It’s been over a year in the making and the 14-track album is a culmination of years of blood, sweat, and tears and comes from a place of finally being true to myself and my dreams. Heartbeat really digs deep into who I am as an artist and songwriter. This album was about me finding my voice and my assertion of how music is truly my heartbeat. My producer and co-writing partner on the album, Kevin McNoldy and I really tried to incorporate this feeling throughout the album especially in the lyrics and recordings.
The title track is a perfect example of this. We wrote the song as a follow-up to another track called Captain America. However, Heartbeat was written to be more dark and dramatic specifically because at that time there was continuous 24-hour-a-day turmoil going on with the US political landscape as well as all the harassment and sexual misconduct stories. We wanted to write something that would capture the feeling of despair and almost drowning in all of the “what happened now,” but that would also offer a hopeful message that regardless of us dealing with more bad news, lies, manipulations, and distortions on a daily basis, there will always be hope, and love will always win.
5. You’ve be placed on the official ballot for the Grammys over the years. With the awards show quickly approaching, how has your view of music and the industry changed since you first started out?
I have been placed on the official ballot and up for GRAMMY consideration for the past 6 years in multiple categories. The ballot is where the nominations come from. When I started getting back into the music business winning a GRAMMY or even being on the ballot and up for consideration for a nomination was the farthest thing from my mind. It still is.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy being part of the Recording Academy and I have a ton of fun with the whole submission/campaign process as well as attending the awards every year, but winning isn’t a priority for me. If it happens great, but I’d much rather focus on writing and putting out quality music, or writing for other artists, and TV/Film placements than anything else. I want to be able to inspire people through my music. Music is one of the few things that everyone in the world has in common and can relate too. To be able to leave a lasting impression on someone with a song that you wrote means more to me than any award.
6. What are you currently working on?
Right now I’m promoting the release of Heartbeat as well as working on a few side projects. Since I’m constantly writing I already have enough material for another release, but I’m in no rush to put out anything new the rest of this year as I’d like to give Heartbeat the room it needs to reach its full potential.
7. Where do you hope to see yourself in five-years’ time?
I’d really like to be one of the go-to songwriters for artists as well as for specific TV/Film requests. While I love releasing my own material and performing is always a blast, I think I have a lot to offer from a songwriting perspective. I’m also interested in producing and running my own Independent Label. One of my short term goals is to find a female producer who might be willing to do some mentoring and guide me on that path.
8. What has been the greatest lesson you've learned during this journey?
I really hate to say it, but I’ve learned that not everyone is happy with your success and you also need to be careful of who you trust. The internet and the fact that anyone can create music these days has really caused the business to become very saturated and cut throat. It’s also fostered a climate where there are people who do take advantage of you. This actually is one of the reasons why my five-year goal involves being involved from the production and songwriting side rather than in front of the crowd. I’d like to be able to help and guide the next generation of singer/songwriters out there.
I’ve also learned that you don’t need to be signed by a major label in order to be successful. Does it help, yes, in some ways of course, especially from a marketing and radio airplay perspective. But it’s not impossible to be successful in those areas just by working hard, making connections, and doing things on your own. I’m a prime example of this.
9. Finally, if you could share some words of wisdom for a young singer/songwriter just starting out, what would you say?
Write, write, write! Experiment and be yourself. Don’t be afraid to work with other writers or think out of the box when it comes to writing a song. They don’t all have to be written the same way. Don’t be so quick to want to be signed by a major label. While they might be able to get your songs on the radio, you might also have to give up a lot as well. There are so many DIY (Do it Yourself) resources out there that I’d highly recommend trying it on your own first.
Finally, surround yourself with people that you can trust, who believe in your dream, and who will support you no matter what. If they don’t, move on. Get a mentor if you can who’s been in the business who can guide you. And for those Moms and Dads out there, if you have a budding singer/songwriter/musician, encourage and support them to follow their dreams and be everything they think they can be even if it means they don’t have the job you always envisioned them having.