January 29, 2017 Interviews
with the Singer At home in New York
Nakaya is a singer whose sounds doesn’t fit into a particular genre but intertwines with alternative, electronic, R&B and freak folk genres. Nakaya is a New York native raised in Los Angeles, where she was influenced by her musical upbringing. She currently attends the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University. Nakaya tells BGM about forming her own identity, what inspires her, and how she incorporates self-care into her life.
By Ade Oluokun
Photography by Diahann Williams
What are three things you love about yourself?
I am incredibly good at reading people. One of my best skills is assessing who people are without them directly having to explain themselves. I’ve found that it makes me a lot more compassionate towards the people around me.
I love my smile! After thousands of dollars invested with braces, I should love my smile. Even though you may not see it in most photos, I do love to smile. Life can be really tough sometimes, I try to embrace the moments that feel good.
Lastly, I love my detail oriented tendencies. When I was younger, I used to hate this part of me because it felt frustrating that I constantly wanted to redo things to make them better, but I’ve learned that up to a certain extent, it’s consistently helped my work.
What is your greatest love and your greatest fear?
My greatest love is probably my family. As an only child, I spent a lot of time alone but also a large amount of time with my parents. They’re my biggest advocates and essentially the greatest people on earth (obviously not a biased answer). I think my greatest fear is waking up one day and being unhappy with my life as a whole. That’s not to say that I need every moment to be perfect, but I want to spend my life doing things that I care about, that make me happy. It doesn’t have anything to do with fiscal success or material things, but I just want to make music, hug lots of people and be around folks that make me smile and want to be a better human.
On Self Care
How do you incorporate self-care into your life?
Sometimes it can be hard to prioritize self care, especially because of how busy I constantly am but I incorporate self care in taking time for myself and also by gathering energy by being around family or friends. I spend a lot of time alone, sometimes coloring in a mandala book or reading, but I also spend a lot of time with people in my life who are most important to me. This doesn’t always necessarily mean going outside and exploring with them, but sometimes I feel like I’m gathering energy from being with them just by sitting next to them on a couch or discussing my day while we watch tv. It’s really simple things that keep me together when my life feels like it’s getting out of hand.
Tell me about where and how you grew up. How did your upbringing influence your artistry?
I was born in New York, but raised in Los Angeles. My parents lived mid city, but I went to schools in Santa Monica/Westside. I was often the only person of color in a class and it felt incredibly ostracizing after a while. I didn’t like my hair or my nose, mainly because I was young and I looked different. Because of this, my parents enrolled me in mostly black dance academies (Where I studied dance for almost 10 years) on the Eastside. Though I’ve only realized it in hindsight, navigating the two worlds was instrumental in me forming my own identity because learning how to traverse through different socioeconomic and ethnic cultures opened up my world so much.
Do you think your music fits into a certain genre? How would you categorize it?
I don’t think my music necessarily fits a certain genre outside of an “alternative” type of umbrella, but I have often classified my music in the past as soulful folk. Now that my sound is switching up, maybe I should find a new term that fits with it, but I’ve been enjoying just letting people name and categorize it on their own.
Where do you find sources of inspiration?
All over! That’s the best thing about being an artist is that you see the world through a different lens that’s more open to interpretation. I’m obviously heavily inspired by other musicians, but I’m also inspired by my daily experiences. Sometimes I’ll get inspired by something as simple as how it feels to let the AC run next to my face or if a puppy laid their head in my lap in a particularly compassionate way. It can really be anything and everything.
How do you assert your identity within the music sphere?
I’m not sure if I’m ever trying to actively assert my identity because I feel like I am mostly laid back, but I do feel like I’m still in the process of creating my own niche in the alternative scene. There are so many genres of music I’m inspired by that I want to meld them all together in a way that feels unique to me and what I grew up with.
Tell me a secret about yourself.
Hmmm, a secret. I try not to keep too many. They can be really toxic. I do have a random lesser known fact about myself. I used to suck my thumb until I was about ten years old. Super gross habit, so glad my teachers sprayed perfume on my thumbs until I stopped.