Friday, February 9

Center Stage - Nina Lee

We're pleased to introduce our newest Center Stage artist, Nina Lee - A young and talented singer-songwriter with great talent and infinite potential. 

Find out what inspires Nina, what she's been up to, and what we can look forward to in 2018 in our latest artist feature: 

A real voice and a real story never go out of style. At just 17-years-old, New York singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Nina Lee possesses both. With a jaw-dropping voice, enchanting tone, powerhouse delivery, and the ability to tell an enthralling tale, she immediately captivates.

"I just want my voice to get heard," she explains. "That's the most important thing. This is who I am. It's not edited. It's not auto-tuned. It's just me. I don't want to just conform to what's popular or trendy in order to fit in. I don't want to compromise who I am to meet someone else's idea of who I should be. I just want be portrayed as myself and no one else."

Nina discovered what she’d do for the rest of her life at a very young age. For as long as she can remember, she's been entertaining her family with impromptu performances around the house. She went from crooning along to Frankie Valli and Billy Joel to immersing herself in the records of Ed Sheeran and Adele by middle school. Turned on to Amy Winehouse by her younger sister, the songstress found inspiration in "the Rawness." Along the way, she taught herself both baritone ukulele and tenor ukulele in addition to developing a knack for piano. Moreover, she cataloged her experiences as the perfect creative fodder.

Can you describe your sound in one ramble-on sentence?
My sound is like a cake, it has many ingredients, a little bit of soul, rhythm and blues, and pop which all comes together to form my own individual unique sound, is influenced by the greats like Adele, Amy Winehouse, Billy Joel, etc.

What's your earliest music-related memory growing up?
I have a video of me singing all the words to Dixie Chicks songs and loving every minute of it. Also, I am so lucky to have such a talented father who wrote both me and my sister songs when we were born, so one of my earliest memories is singing along with him to my song! Every year on my birthday he sings me the song and it is something I have always had with him. I think subconsciously my dad saw my musical interest and nurtured it in a way that allowed me to find it myself and experience all of the wonderful things that come from it.

If you were to cover another band/artist's album, which would you pick and why?
Hands down, Back to Black, Amy Winehouse. She has always been one of my musical idols and I still wonder what type of music she would be coming out with today if she were still around. I have always been infatuated by her tone and the clarity of her voice. I feel like my interpretation of her songs would be really interesting to explore. Re-recording her songs would be a challenge because I have to make them my own, but I would be able to pick out so much inspiration from the original recordings, which would allow me to make my own unique version of the album.

Do you write/compose your own songs? Briefly describe your songwriting process
Yes. I love to write and compose. Some people have a diary that they write in to express their feelings, but for me I have songs. They are like little stories I am able to depict in such short amounts of time. My writing process is really organic, and just happens. Some people are really good at math and have an easy time in school, or playing sports comes naturally to them. For me, music is what comes naturally to me. I feel like it flows out of every vessel of my being and allows me to be creative and expressive as my own individual. Being able to create songs is a very therapeutic thing for me.  It has to be done gently and shouldn’t be pushed. I usually never finish a song in one sitting because I like to live with the part I wrote and see if it sticks before continuing, which allows me to connect to every section and word of the song, instead of only connecting vaguely with it.

What was the highlight for you in 2017? Either personally or for your music career?
A highlight in 2017 for me, was recording and releasing my debut EP “Snapshots”. It really is the best feeling to put something that you work so hard on into the world. Through that process, I learned a lot about myself as a person and the type of life I want to lead. I am incredibly lucky to have a rock-solid support system, which encourages me to be myself 100% of the time and to do whatever I set my mind to. Releasing this music has allowed me to put my story into the world, which for me is a huge accomplishment. Music is all I have ever wanted in my life, in one form or another, and making my own music is such a big part of that. Doing what I love everyday means that I will never have to “work” a day in my life, because it doesn’t feel like work when you love it so much.

What have you been working on recently? Can you give us a hint for what’s to come in 2018?
I have so many new songs that I am itching to share with the world. I have a couple of TV appearances coming out in the spring, and I’m getting ready to start recording my new material. I plan to be on stage a lot this year, and to be releasing more music, and videos as well. I’ve been adding some of the new songs to my shows and getting really positive feedback.  I think that 2018 is my year. I feel really good about it. I can feel that this year is going to be different, and allow me to explore so many things that I have dreamed of. I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had, and the opportunities that I will have in the future.

What do you like more: Performing live or recording in the studio?
100% performing, I love it. Performing is this indescribable high for me. In the moment I am on stage in front of 15 people or 1,500 people I feel this rush of energy. I worry about nothing, and nothing gets in my way. It is the time when I am my best self, where I brush off any insecurity I have, and every worry that I have. It is the time where I feel alive. To be able to see people react to my music and connect with it makes every single day worth it. This is what I live for, what I feed off of, and what drives me as a person. When you are recording you have endless chances to make mistakes, but when you are performing in the zone, you have one shot to give it everything you have and more. That is the lasting impression that the audience takes home with them and remembers for the future. I want to make a difference and the only way I know how to do that is by spreading my message of love and understanding through music.

What are some artists/bands that you're into at the moment? Or any particular song you find yourself listening to over and over?
Recently, I have been listening a lot to Ella Eyre. She has this one song called “Home” which I have had on loop for the past few weeks. It is an unplugged version of her singing it in a church with a whole choir behind her. I think she is really talented and has a very unique sound. I am always on the prowl for new artists that I can relate to, and recently I have connected with her songs. 

Any embarrassing on stage moments you'd like to share? C’mon, don’t be shy.
When I was younger I used to do a lot of musical theater, and in one show I played the lead role. Opening night, I was feeling really confident about it, and the second performance I was feeling really good as well, but at the end of the play there was one word that just didn’t come out right. I was trying to say I was from Omaha, Nebraska but all that kept coming out was Ohama (Oh-hamma), and I just could not get it right for a few tries. I just kind of stopped, laughed in front of the theater full of people and continued my lines. It was not so much embarrassing looking back on it, but it was a really funny experience to have.

What's one thing people should know about you?
I am very family oriented. I think that is obvious, when someone listens to my EP and reads other interviews, but to reiterate, my family is the #1 most important thing to me. My family comes before everything. A person with a strong family with good values is very important, especially when you are in an industry like music. It is not a guarantee all the time, and sometimes you have to swallow very large and bitter pills. Being grounded and supported is something that I value, and knowing that about me really helps someone get a feel for the type of person that I am.

What do you enjoy doing outside of music? Does your hobby rejuvenate your creativity?
Outside of music my passion is American Sign Language. I have been learning ASL for 3 years and I have really taken to it. It really is such a complex, and expressive language that I am so infatuated with. It is an amazing asset to have and incorporate into so many things in life. Being able to communicate without speaking is something that has always been very interesting to me, given that my profession is based solely on sound -- speaking, performing, and recording. Music is my protector, the armor I wear. ASL represents the more vulnerable side of me and the more innocent side.

What do you like the most about Radio Airplay?
I love that Radio Airplay has such a vast array of artists and performers to look at. Being cultured in music and seeing all different types of music is what everyone should be doing today. It is amazing that there are so many talented people who you can find on Radio Airplay you never thought you would come across.  It’s so great how the platform allows independent artists like me to get heard along with all the big, signed artists out in the world, including our own inspirations.  I love seeing the lists showing that my song, Willing, for example, was heard by someone listening to the Adele station, or that Golden Years was heard by someone listening to the Ed Sheeran station.  I’ve been using Radio Airplay for a long time and I really appreciate the opportunities it has helped to create.

The above song is a tribute to my great-grandfather, who was a paratrooper in World War II and fought on D-Day and in the Battle of the Bulge, but also to his wife, my great-grandmother, who is still with us at 94 years old.  She was the rock that supported him during the war and after, when the “young boy returned as a shell-shocked man,” to quote one of my lyrics.  It’s really a testament to everyone serving in our military and protecting our freedom all over the world, but also to the family members at home, who love them, miss them and support them every step of the way.

YouTube Channel:
Instagram: @NinaLeeOfficial
Twitter: @Nina_LeeMusic