When she’s not producing for others, she’s self-producing her own artist project Ninajirachi. Having made huge waves and signing to NLV Records while still in high school, her melodic, pop-influenced electronica has taken a dramatic turn in her recent releases. And now, her latest release Cut The Rope is the first to feature her own vocals.
Meet Liveschool trainer Nina Wilson.
Watergun / Stingray marked a shift in your sound towards a “tougher” aesthetic – what do you think was at the root of this shift to more distorted sounds?
I’ve always loved and listened to ‘tough’ music, but I used to struggle to produce it because I didn’t understand it in a live/club/festival/rave context. I don’t think I really understood it until I started clubbing and playing shows myself. After touring for a bit and becoming a better DJ I realised that it’s the kind of music I love to play, so I organically fell into making a lot more of it.
Last year seems like it was pretty huge for you with some heavy touring, your artist releases as well as producing other artists. What’s the difference for you between these 3 modes? And what’s it like switching between these 3 headspaces?
I have to switch headspaces pretty frequently, so I find it decently easy. A lot of the time I feel like I’m in all of those headspaces at once. Even when I’m touring, I’m usually travelling/playing shows on the weekends and writing/working on the weekdays in between. Producing for other artists probably feels the most disparate because I’m working for somebody other than myself, taking direction, moulding to their workflow/taste/etc. Sometimes it feels more like facilitating than creating, but that totally depends on the session/artist.
How are you using Ableton in the Studio?
I’m using Ableton pretty much from start-to-finish for everything. I’m not really a hardware person, I often use my computer keyboard to write chords and my mouse to program MIDI. I think this is mostly because I’ve never had a designated music workspace and I learned to produce with just a computer, so now I feel like it’s all I need. And I’m also obsessed with Sound Design, making my own samples and synths.
What do you usually do when stuck on a track? Or how do you push through on a track that needs finishing?
When I’m stuck on a track I usually try to step back from it for a little while and work on something different. It feels like a waste of time to force something when it’s not making me feel good. If I don’t have the luxury of time though, sometimes I like to bounce an idea and listen to it in iTunes while I sit back from the computer and watch something else – kind of like an AMV. I’m a very visual person, so I find that listening to the track while looking at something other than my DAW helps me to imagine that I’m an ‘average listener’ and not the producer. From there I can more easily make notes on what to do next.
Is there a time you’ve heard your own music being played somewhere that has surprised you?
One time I was driving back home from Wollongong the day after playing a show and I was with my mum and one of my best friends. We stopped at a place called the Scarborough Hotel to have lunch and as soon as we walked in they started playing my song called Pathetic! It was an awesome confidence boost and felt very special.
What’s the best music advice you’ve been given? Or what would you go back and tell yourself as a beginner?
I would go back and tell younger Nina that she’s so much cooler than she realises, she shouldn’t try so hard to please people and she should back herself more.
Is there someone else’s work that changed the way you think about music?
I would say Mallrat, because I love the way that she writes and sings. It’s very gentle and rhythmic. When I was very young my favourite artists were people like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry who have very big and powerful voices. I started writing pop songs when I was in primary school, but I never felt like I should sing them because I don’t have a voice like that. I’ve followed Mallrat since she first started releasing music and everything about her is amazing and very inspiring to me, but most of all she’s changed the way I think about my own voice. Her music has helped me realise that I don’t need to belt to be able to sing the songs I write.
What’s one track with a killer drum sound?
The first thing that came to mind was Turn Off the Lights by Dog Blood, I play it in a lot of my DJ sets. The drums aren’t overly complex or anything, but every piece just hits in exactly the right place. They’re so clean and gritty at the same time.
How much is music a solo pursuit for you and how does collaboration factor into your work? Or when and how do you turn to others for feedback or input?
It feels like a mix of both – I spent years making music alone before I started collaborating so I’ll always feel very comfortable working solo. I think being a good writer/producer and being a good collaborator are very different things. It took a lot of practice for me to feel comfortable collaborating, but now I find it really fun. I turn to my friends and team for feedback all the time too, pretty much whenever I’ve made something I like and I want to hear their thoughts on it.
What’s the latest for you work-wise?
I just finished touring with What So Not which was amazing! I’ve literally been a fan since I was 14 so I feel very honoured. I also want to release an EP in the next few months, but we will see. The goal is at least two EPs this year. To do three would be very cool. But we will see! Anything could happen!