Rising singer-songwriter Nakala (Majestic Casual) sings a distinct narrative for every track she releases. Most recently, Nakala’s new single “Undeniable” talks a lot about the undeniable change that was happening around her when she was writing the song. In this particular track, she sings about her own experiences. However, change is inevitable no matter what chapter of life you find yourself in.
Consistently across her releases, Nakala combines a dream synth-work and tight drums (she learned how to play the drums at a very young age – more on that later). Her first single “Paris” hit #3 on the Spotify UK Viral Chart and her debut EP Owe It To You was streamed over 8 million times.
It was really interesting to hear Nakala talk about her new music, her purpose – rather than ways to describe her music – why she surrounds herself with people who carry similar energy, and how we can get rid of dream killers (They’re real! They exist!). We concluded this interview with a deep reflection from Nakala on how, as a collective, we can essentially change the world.
Your recent single “Undeniable” is incredible. You mentioned before that you wrote the song during a time when things were changing around you and loved ones were moving on to new journeys. That is an undeniable part of life. How have these undeniable things shaped you and where you are now in life?
I wrote “Undeniable” at a time when I was moving around a lot. I didn’t really have a home, per say. My family was moving a lot to different countries, and I was being left behind in a way. What I found during that time was I was loved. I had (and have) a great girlfriend. I was able to ground myself through love and through music. That really helped me write the song. The more I was able to accept what was happening – which wasn’t easy – the more I was able to accept who I am and I am here for a purpose.
The people who love you will love you for who you are. That shaped the song for me. Things will undeniably change, that’s just how life goes. It’s not easy to keep up with all that. Once you have a purpose, you look back and see how that shaped you. You see how you’re able to move on and understand why you are where you are now.
You also said that in today’s world we’re surrounded by “dream killers”. Can you expand on this? How do you make sure these dream killers don’t get to your dreams?
Yes, dream killers are everywhere! Be careful. You know what a dream killer is? It’s someone who basically projects their own fears onto you. It’s someone who doesn’t believe in you and what you’re doing. We all know they’re everywhere. Sometimes they’re strangers who don’t believe in you. Sometimes they’re your outside circle friends who you know are not supporting you. We even have the people closest to us – I guess it comes from a place of worry – they don’t think you should be doing what you’re doing or they don’t believe in you or they’re worried for you. They’re basically just projecting what they think they’re capable of onto you. Not everyone is the same; we’re all capable of different things.
Just because one person doesn’t think you can do something — or if a million people don’t think you can do it — isn’t really a reason to stop doing what you love. It’s a mind game, isn’t it?
You just have to keep a strong mind. Even on the bad days when you want to give up, you have to keep going. That’s really hard, but if you can be consistent and you can drag yourself out of bed to do something when you don’t actually feel like you want to do it today, that’s getting rid of the dream killers.
You sing about your partner building you up and keeping you on track. You say “the best people will want you just as you are.” Sometimes it takes a while to realize that if you’re surrounded by the wrong people. Can you tell us a little bit about how you realized this yourself?
The best people will love you as you are; they’ll take you as you are. You’ll want to surround yourself with people like that. It’s not always possible to do that because people will always have their opinions — even sometimes, as I said, the closest people to you won’t always necessarily like what you’re doing or agree with what you’re doing. But you have to find that in yourself. That’s more important than having other people’s validation. Obviously you need to find that self love and love yourself unconditionally. For me, that has come over time. It’s still not there 100%. I don’t know if anyone’s 100%. I’ve learned to be more patient with myself.
Over the last ten years I’ve changed personally. I’ve definitely grown way more confident in who I am and who I want to be. My direction in life has become more direct and stable. I know what I want. I might not always be able to get it, but I am going to take baby steps to get there. If I mess up, that’s absolutely fine, that’s part of life. If I don’t always make the right decision, that’s also fine as we learn from those things. I know I have a lot of people who love me and accept me for who I am. I’m lucky because not everyone has that.
It’s important to accept yourself first and that involves letting go of your ego and letting go of your expectations of yourself or things you want to change about yourself.
You write all your music. What goes into your writing process? How has your writing process changed over time?
My writing process really hasn’t changed over time. Whenever an emotion came over me, I would sit at the piano or the guitar and write a song. That really hasn’t changed now. I usually have a subject in mind. I’ll have gone through something that I really want to write about. I’ll do the same thing, sit at the piano, find the mood I want, and go ahead and write. The only difference is, sometimes now I write when I don’t always feel like writing, or I have to do something that I don’t really feel like doing at the time or something needs to be finished quickly. That doesn’t really come from a very naturally creative place, but it does say a lot about discipline. It proves that you can work around the clock. I don’t always want to be that kind of songwriter, but I also want to be someone who can write on demand. I want to have those skills, too. Over time I’ve had to learn how to do that.
In Nakala’s words, how would you describe your music?
It’s actually surprisingly hard to describe my music. Yes, it’s R&B, I’m a female artist, I’m singing about girls, it’s chill, and a lot of the topics revolve around love or heartbreak. But it’s really what purpose do I want my songs to have? That’s a different question. It’s really for people to connect and for people to relate, especially people in the LGBTQ+ community. Deep down, that’s really the purpose of my music. People just want to relate to songs, don’t they? My music is R&B. I sing about love a lot of the time. But the purpose of it is for people to relate and find comfort in listening to lyrics that they can understand.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?
There are loads of artists I would love to collaborate with for different reasons. I’ve always said I would love to do a song with Young M.A., and do one of those throwback R&B tunes. I would love to collaborate with H.E.R., for sure. She’s a crazy talented musician. I love bouncing off musical minds in the room. Someone like Jacob Collier would be super cool. Obviously, Stevie Wonder. Bryan Michael Cox, the guy who did Usher’s Confessions album. There are a million people on my collaboration list. I think that’s the same for a lot of artists. That list goes on.
Your lyrics often are about relationships. If you’re willing to share, what song was the hardest to write and why?
The hardest songs to write are usually the ones that hurt. The best ones, in my eyes, make you cry when you’re writing them. That has happened multiple times! I cried writing “Go To Sleep”. I remember the first video I ever made for it, to remember what the song was like, I had been crying so my mascara was everywhere. The next song would be “Weightless (Freestyle)” – another one that hits me right in the heart. Things felt devastating when writing that song.
I read that you played brass in orchestra, went on to learn guitar and piano, and then started singing and songwriting at 13 years old! How did learning those specific instruments at such a young age influence your career in music?
When I was 10 or 11 I was playing an euphonium in my orchestra. I thrived at it, I loved it. I was destined to do music because I was already loving it. Before that, I was learning drums. It was one of those things that I just naturally picked up very well. I happened to be really good at it.
Going through school and college, I picked up guitar and piano way more. I guess when I was learning instruments, that’s when I started to explore other artists and other people’s music. I remember seeing Brian McKnight playing and singing at the same time probably on YouTube back in the day. I remember looking at him and being like, “That is what I need to do.” Even now, I am nowhere near where he is but that’s the type of thing that I remember that pushed me to be a better musician and pushed me to continue learning like that.
My dad used to listen to a lot of Stevie Wonder and I gravitated towards it. You can’t really say exactly what happened that got you where you are now, but there are a few standout moments for me like whilst learning piano and whilst learning guitar, I would learn these particular songs, especially Stevie Wonder and the piano. I would absolutely fall in love with it. It was crazy to me that anyone could be that talented. I think that’s what really spurred me to keep learning instruments and keep learning my piano and guitar. Effectively, that has made me the musician I am today.
What can fans expect from you next? Where do you see yourself and your music career in a few years?
The fans can definitely expect really top class music. I haven’t even released my favorite songs. I’m just waiting for the right time, the right environment, and have the right team around them to make sure they’re given what they deserve as songs. I have a music video coming out in August for “Paris”. Hopefully by the middle of next year, I’ll be able to drop a bigger project. For now, good quality singles that bang!
As we’ve discussed, change is undeniable. How can we elevate people as a collective through change?
I think essentially if you’re asking me how to change the world, I have the answers -I’m about to tell you. People need to experience change so we can realize that we didn’t know the answers to everything. Things will change, you think you know where you’re going, and something will change in that path, and you land up somewhere else. It’s all about having the mindset, before the change happens.
If we all knew that this isn’t permanent, that things might change, that we don’t have all the answers, that I don’t know everything, I can’t understand what that person is going through, they don’t understand what I’m going through, but effectively, with love and understand, change won’t be so hard. Maybe if this were the case, change would be embraced more. I think that’s mainly what people need.
There needs to be a way to spread more love, empathy, and understanding, especially with what’s going on in the moment in the world – it’s clear that we all need some training on how to accept people. It goes back to the accepting part! A lot of people struggle with that. I assume it’s because they’re not used to what they’re seeing. They can’t relate. If something is different from them, if something has changed from what they’re used to, they can’t accept it. We need to all come together and learn that you don’t have all the answers to everything, and we can only get through this life collectively. We cannot do this separately. We all need to come together and accept who we are and accept that there is going to be change.
People need to experience change so we can realize that we didn’t know the answers to everything.
Listen to “Undeniable” by Nakala, out now.