Following the release and rightful success of her brand new single Clutch, complete with a professional looking set of visuals captured entirely on an iPhone, during lockdown, we were more than a little excited to chat with singer and songwriter Nikitaa to find out more about her musical journey so far. Here’s the conversation in full.
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Hi Nikitaa, thanks for the interview – I hope you’re well and things are OK where you are?
Hi, thank you so much for having me! I am currently in Mumbai, India and even though the lockdown here is super strict I’ve been safe and doing pretty well all things considered.
What can you tell us about the new single Clutch – what inspired you to write it?
Clutch is all about confidence, sensuality and empowerment. It was all of the things I was growing into when I started writing it – which was actually two years ago! I wrote it at a time where I was definitely being fetishized as a brown woman in LA and I had a lot to say about it and a lot on my mind. I felt like I was experiencing the thing every woman experiences in some shape, way or form – this idea or notion that my sensuality, my appearance and it’s appeal were for a man to enjoy, rather than something for me to revel in. I kept turning to music from female artists that I loved for comfort and empowerment on that front and kept coming away not fully satisfied. So naturally, as a songwriter, I took matters into my own hands. And so, Clutch was born!
The single is great, really well done and showcasing a fairly unique soundscape. Why did you choose this particular creative direction?
Thank you so much for that, I really appreciate it!
I chose this direction because I’ve always had a longing to combine the music that influenced me as a child – Indian classical and Bollywood legends – with the music that influenced me as a young adult – Pop, RnB and Hip Hop. I’ve always wanted to create a soundscape that melded those two worlds together, and also reclaimed all that sampling of Indian instruments and voice we’ve definitely heard from Urban and Pop artists in the past, but haven’t often seen rightfully credited.
I have always had a deep love for Indian and Middle Eastern percussion and string instruments, and how beautifully they blend with an amalgamation of RnB and Indian classical melodies. And so my creative direction has always been about building on that. It really feels like a way to express the way these two different sounds and cultures have shaped who I am today and continue to do so.
Do you remember how or where you came up with the hook for the song?
Yes, I absolutely do! I wrote it in the apartment of my musical partner in rhyme – my producer Mukund Komanduri. He lived down the street from me in LA at the time and we were vibing to a quick beat we’d thrown together with a basic idea of what we wanted the song to be. It was pretty late, and the thought of using the word “clutch” and cleverly playing on all the meanings it holds kinda stuck.
I wanted to create this swell over the hook and give it more flow melodically since the verses were softer and the cadence was much more rhythmic. I thought it would be fun for the melody to follow the lyrics. And so you hear this vocal swell on “goes” followed by the fall on “down”. I always knew the actual tag line “I’ll be clutch you release” would be a sort of softer command and so I wanted to craft this cheeky top line to match the sassiness of the lyrics throughout.
I fully allowed myself to just get playful and have as much fun with it as I wanted. I felt like it was the way to write a song with a message like this one.
Given the current social restrictions taking place across the globe, you managed to record the video using only an iPhone, and with only your family members to help out. What was this process like for you as an artist, and has it changed your perspective or understanding of what’s possible in independent music?
The process was surprisingly smooth. Before we started, I had reservations about what I would be able to manage – the shots, outfits, makeup, everything. But I decided to forgo all of that and to just take the leap and make it happen. I feel like I kept a really open mind, and my family came together to support me perfectly and so we ended up with some really good footage.
We really only had a ring light, an iPhone, and a gimbal as far as equipment goes, and only the confines of our home to shoot in. But we had fun getting creative with using those things. I will say, I did a lot of research on the settings I should use while shooting with an iPhone. And I made sure to do quality checks on all my footage. I was just determined to make the best of what I had.
All of it definitely has changed my perspective and understanding of what’s possible with independent music. Starting your career in a city LA – which is overflowing with creatives – you can definitely start to feel the pressure to perform and deliver high quality content. And I was definitely initially influenced by several people who believed that quality content meant a more elaborate setup for visuals specifically.
There’s also this unsaid idea that as an artist you should take more creative control, but at the same time you should allow others to help (sometimes majorly) in executing your vision. It feels like a frustrating paradox. I felt like shooting the video for Clutch broke down and did away with all of that for me.
Nobody steps up to tell you that as the artist you are your own boss. You’re the CEO, the one in charge. Kinda like what I’m speaking of in Clutch, if you think about it. It’s something every artist gets to figure that out for themselves, and it’s a process that requires patience and an open mind but it’s worth it.
My biggest take away is that “the rules” and the “shoulds” are alright and they can guide you, but they don’t have to be your rules and your shoulds. If your art is unique to you, then the way you make it come to life is unique to you too. Especially now, at a time where resources as artists and our means to create and connect with people are changing again.
What do you hope audiences take away from the single and video?
My goal is always to empower my listeners. From Clutch, I hope they take away a sense of confidence and flirtyness and just have fun listening and watching.
But I also hope they are able to feel like limitations when creating art don’t have to continue to be perceived that way. They can be opportunities for growth and innovation.
What’s next for you – what do you have planned for throughout the coming months, and is there a main ambition or goal you have in mind?
I’m pretty focused on creating a solid presence as an artist right now. I feel like as independent artists now more than ever is the time to carve out our individual places within the industry. I’m definitely going to continue to consistently release music and continue to have more ears acclimated to the Goddess Pop sound as I like to call it.
I’m also beginning to integrate more of my native languages into my music and I’m really excited to share that with my listeners. My main ambition is to continue to empower and to introduce people to the unique soundscapes I’m creating!
Is there anything else we should know?
Yes! First, the music video for Clutch was my directorial debut. And there’s more of where that came from.
Second, I’ve been pretty quiet about it so far, but I’ve been taking a deep dive into production as well and getting even more deeply involved in the creation of my own sound. And I’m really excited to share all of this with everyone on future releases!
And lastly, I hope everyone out there is as safe as is possible! Thank you so much for having me!
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Find & follow Nikitaa on Instagram.