Tell us how you develop your sound and style to make it different from other musicians.
I approach every track I create the same way: give the listener something they haven’t heard before. To me, that is achieved by bringing together varying styles and concepts. In my songs you’ll find a lot of synthesizers, but also a lot of natural instruments like piano and guitar. You’ll find a lot of changes in intensity and production and a lot of level variation. And you’ll find a really natural lead vocal on top of all of that, which isn’t commonly combined with that instrumentation. Lyrical choices are a big part of that as well. I choose words and phrases like “metadata”, “Antares”, “clay mannequins”, etc., because I find them interesting, and I think listeners don’t hear them very often. I like to add a lot of poetic elements to my songs. When I write lyrics, I want to give the listener a challenging and interesting enough lyric that they could pick up something new every time they listen to it.
Tell us your opinion on the way new artists are coming up and the frequent release of songs.
There certainly are a lot of avenues for modern-day musicians to make a name for themselves. I’m not really opposed to anyone’s route; it’s really a matter of niche and personal skill set. For me personally, I don’t care to pursue the ones based on the image because to me they provide the least amount of substance to the actual craft of music and art.
In terms of release frequency, it’s important to toe the line of staying relevant and releasing quality content. You shouldn’t release terrible songs, just to have content to release, but at the same time, you can’t wait to release an album every ten years. I’d like to release some kind of EP or album every 12 to 18 months.
Tell us your experience as a musician.
I grew up singing mostly in the local traveling and church choirs, and I also played piano as a child. I didn’t do them much between the ages of 13 and 20 in an organized fashion but I picked them back up very heavily as an adult. I started producing music electronically when I was 21, and that’s a major part of my identity as a musician now.
Tell us your opinion on streaming and digital download of songs.
I love having access to millions of songs at any moment. So the system we have set up for streaming music is very enjoyable to me. As an artist, I don’t make a lot of money from that system, but I’m not going to complain because it gives me access to so much music.
Tell us how you see yourself in the coming time as a musician.
My primary goal in the next year is to establish myself in the music industry; that will be achieved mostly by releasing songs that people gravitate toward and respond to. I also hope to really develop a great performance for people to come out and see when I decide to start touring late in 2018 or early 2019.
Tell us five current artists that are your favorite presently.
At the moment I’m really loving Jack Garratt, Kevin Garrett, Lorde’s newest album, Lapsley, and Astrid S.
Tell us your best song up to date and share the link.
The second song I released off my debut EP is called “Passenger”, and I think it’s really something.
Tell us your dream and hope for the future.
For me personally, I really hope to be able to able to make a full-time living from music. It’s taken a very long time to get to the point I’m at now, and I would imagine it will take a very long to achieve that status as well, but I think it’s attainable.
Tell us what you think has changed in the music industry.
Generally speaking, the things that change the world are also the things that change the music industry. Most notably and obviously, the advent of social media plays a huge role, and the technological advancement of the internet and streaming really changes the dynamic of power in the industry.
Tell us your opinion on TV and radio stations playing the same songs from established artists mostly and giving little chances to independent artists.
I understand it, being that those things are driven primarily by money, but it is frustrating. And frankly, it’s much more frustrating as a music listener than a music creator, because I don’t think the majority of content on the radio is very good, and I’m not too keen on listening to it.
Tell us the challenges you think independent artists are facing and how they can be tackled.
The biggest challenge for independent artists in my opinion is a lack of financial resources. The listener expects your song to compete with a song that is the best of the best, yet your operating budget is 10% of what your competitor had at their disposal. So you have to get a little creative there. And that’s the easy part because when it comes to press and promotion on the back end, your competitor is likely working with 100 times the money you are. So to me, the financial gap is the most noticeable. Outside of that, I would say independent artists lack the networking base that established industry participants have inherently.
Tell us your opinion on how corruption is affecting society and how it can be eradicated.
Corruption for me is largely an extension of financial influences. A good example would be your local politician or elected official. It is likely they are funded by some giant corporation or lobbyist. This funding also likely holds some influence on how they conduct themselves or which way they vote once they are in office. And there are times that influence contradicts what the people they represent actually want. If a person elected by the people doesn’t represent the people, because of an outside influence, I would consider that corruption. That’s just an example, but as a general rule, the more money you have in any given system or process, the more likely it is to be corrupt. If you can get rid of the money, you might have a shot at getting rid of the corruption as well.
State the links to your social media and stores.
Tell us what you think about using social media to promote music online.
I grew up when there wasn’t a lot of social media, so social media doesn’t appeal very much to me; I don’t like taking selfies, and I don’t like sharing every moment of my life with people. But it is a great way to connect with fans, so I try and share things with them because they’re curious to know what’s going on with me and what I’m actually like as a person. Social media provides a way for me to show people who I am outside of a song.
Tell us about the beginning of your music career.
I would say that I officially committed to music as a career when I started taking vocal lessons seriously as an adult and started hitting the studio regularly to work on tracks. Both of these were around the same time from late 2014 to 2015. Before that, I would just do things sporadically, and without a clear direction. Then when I went and recorded at a million-dollar studio in California in November of 2015, I realized what it was going to take to release quality, professional music and I’ve been working since then to do so. Finally, with “The One I Feed” I think I’ve been able to do that.
Tell us what still motivates you to go on with your music career.
For me, it’s all about records. I love putting on headphones and losing my mind over a track whether it’s the first time I’ve heard it or the thousandth time. So that’s really the crux of why I choose to do what I do: to make records that people can get lost in.
Tell us about you as a person.
My favorite three activities are singing, playing sports, and watching movies (in order). I grew up in a very small town where I first learned to sing and I’ve been in love with it ever since. I have one sister who is a year and a half older than me and one wonderful niece who is going on 3 years old. I try to approach things from a big picture perspective, and to me, that means I try and maintain awareness of how my decisions affect other people and the things around me. Also, I was once stepped on by a horse, a true story.
Elaborate on the story behind the song.
“Passenger” is the most specific song I’ve written, and the most detailed. It’s about a girl I was seeing a while back who I was really madly into. And largely the song is just a personal progression for what the relationship actually was, and why it was unsuccessful, or even if I should consider it unsuccessful. It’s constantly bouncing around time-wise. There are a lot of flashbacks and a lot of moments in the present, both real and imagined.
Tell us the process involved in making this song.
This one took a very long time to complete, something around 14 months. I had originally intended to do it as an acoustic track with just a guitar and my voice. But it just kept changing and evolving over time until finally, it was a full hybrid track between synth and acoustic sections. The lyrics also changed a lot over time. For example, the reason I started writing the song was from the original first line which was “You left something in my room, what a familiar tune, the last of the residue.” That version of the song was all based around the physical object of a necklace that I found in my room that she left there, and was bookended by me metaphorically giving it back to her. But it changed to be more about the object of the car, and the overall dynamic between the two of us. The last piece of the puzzle was a revamping of the chorus/break section which was done very last minute, both instrumentally and lyrically.
State your artist’s name and elaborate on it.
The name Nokay comes from when I was a child and my aunt suggested I drop the “k” from my name (my name is Nic). She started referring to me as “Nic No-kay” and I always visualized it as Nokay. And I just thought it looked really cool and matched the style of the artist I was. I always envisioned the emphasis being on the “No” part though. Like pronouncing the word “okay” but with an “N” at the front.
State the title of the song and the meaning.
I decided to name it “Passenger” because it represented a dichotomy between the literal and figurative. On the literal side of things, the relationship with the person described in the car and myself was very much rooted in driving around together. I just used to pick her up a lot, and it stuck with me. Figuratively, the lyrics of the song call into question the dynamic of the relationship and who was really in control, as well as a kind of imaginative plea for her to take me to whatever life she’s living right now.