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Nina Nesbitt: The Sarcastic Singer-Songwriter

Kacey Deamer |
May 1, 2014 | 7:17 p.m. PDT

Operations Director

Photo courtesy of the artist.
Photo courtesy of the artist.
Make no assumptions — Nina Nesbitt is not another blonde with a guitar. The 19-year-old singer-songwriter has already toured with Ed Sheeran, released five EP's in the U.K. since 2011 and had a Top 40 hit with her single “Stay Out.”

Nesbitt is like any other teenager — except she has about 250,000 likes on Facebook and 150,000 followers on Instagram.

“I think coming from a small village outside of Edinburgh [Scotland], the Internet has been really helpful,” Nesbitt said. “It’s an easy way for anyone to find out about my music, but it’s still a bit weird to use.”

It was also social media that brought Nesbitt her breakout moment: a tweet from Ed Sheeran inviting her onto his European tour in 2012. Sheeran was playing a small radio show in Edinburgh and a friend who worked at the station invited Nesbitt to come and listen. After he wrapped, Sheeran was hanging around chatting and asked Nesbitt what she was up to.

“I said I want to be a singer-songwriter, like as a joke,” Nesbitt recalled. “He asked me if I played guitar and I said yes, so he said play me a song so I was like 'OK.' He tweeted me the next day and invited me on tour. He was just breaking the UK and now he’s done really well.”

Though the two haven’t stayed in touch, Sheeran’s rising star may be a trajectory Nesbitt soon follows. 

While some are quick with the Taylor Swift comparisons, Nesbitt stands in her own category by bringing a biting wit to her lyrics. Her most well known song, “Stay Out,” leads with the lyrics: 

"He's got a Rolling Stones tee / But he only knows one song / They think they're from the sixty's / But they were born in 1991."

That type of social commentary finds its way into much of Nesbitt’s music, which she credits to her tendency toward writing a “musical diary” where it’s always about the story and the music simply accompanies the story, the words.

“I think the lyrics are a little but dryer than most pop music, like they’re sarcastic and observational,” Nesbitt said. “It’s about honesty.”

Her musical diary ranges from songs inspired by personal experiences to movie montages. One of the songs on the new album, “Not What Your Dad Wants to Know,” came from a TV commercial in Scotland that Nesbitt said: “was just a funny advert.” 

When the inspiration is personal, however, there’s more ease in writing but challenge in playing the song.  

“The really personal ones are the easiest to write, I think because they just come out,” Nesbitt said. “But they’re probably the most difficult ones to share because you know that people are going to listen to the song, going to judge it. If they don’t like it that’s kind of a bit weird, because it’s really personal.”

Artists like Stevie Nicks, Debbie Harry, Alanis Morissette and even Taylor Swift act as both inspirations and aspirations for the young artist. Nesbitt said she finds herself drawn to female singer-songwriters because their music is the most impactful.

“I listen to anything that makes me feel something, whatever genre it is, if I can relate to them, can relate to the lyrics,” Nesbitt said. “I can relate to almost any Taylor Swift song.”

Can’t we all.

SEE ALSO: Who’s Next? Singer/Songwriters On The Up

One day Nesbitt may find herself playing to sold-out arenas just as her heroines have. In just the past two years, she’s gone from supporting act to headlining an 80-person capacity venue to now selling out 2,000-person capacity shows in the U.K. 

The young artist has already headlined smaller venues in New York and Los Angeles, though her popularity in the U.S. isn’t nearly as mainstream as back across the pond.

“I kind of feel like I’m just starting out here [in the U.S.],” Nesbitt said. “So this is like it was in the U.K. about two to three years ago.”

Yet fans outside of the U.K. have even found ways to access her debut album, “Peroxide,” which was released in February. Nesbitt said YouTube has played a huge role, like social media, in both gaining fans and granting fans access.

A difference between listeners across the pond and those here, Nesbitt noted, is connection to the words. Shows in the U.S. are both concerts and sing-alongs. As someone who identifies as a storyteller in her music, Nesbitt said it’s incredible to meet fans that are so passionate about the lyrics themselves.

“At the signings people would come up and say ‘I love this song, this lyric means a lot to me,’” Nesbitt said. “You don’t really get that anywhere else.”

It’s that response that keeps the young Scot moving forward. As she continues to promote her new album, headline shows and be a 19-year-old, Nesbitt said lyrics would keep pouring out. 

Even if she steps away from a music career, Nesbitt said: “I’ll probably still be writing songs at 40.” 

You can reach Operations Director Kacey Deamer here or here or elsewhere.



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