Nadia Reid on folk, women in music & Preservation

Feature by Tallah Brash | 09 Feb 2017

The Skinny catch up with New Zealander Nadia Reid ahead of her UK and European tour celebrating the release of sophomore album Preservation

When we catch up with Reid, she’s only been in London for a day or two and is feeling “incredibly foggy” due to jetlag caused by the 11-hour time difference between southern England and New Zealand's South Island. After a few laptop problems encountered at both ends of a Skype call, we discuss Reid's inspirations, the story behind her new album, and her plans for 2017.

The Skinny: How long have you been making music for and how did you get into it?

Nadia Reid: "Well, I guess I started writing songs at about 17, but it’s only been the last few years that it’s been serious, in a more public arena. But yeah, I certainly started in my late teens and I’m 25 now, so I think maybe five years of playing relatively professionally."

Who or what would you cite as your greatest inspiration?

"In terms of other musicians, I was listening to a lot of Jolie Holland and The Be Good Tanyas – those two bands were massive for me as a young teenager. And also I kind of grew up going to folk festivals so I saw a lot of live music, but I think what inspired me to do it was [that] I had a really great music teacher and it just felt like this natural thing to do. I was very encouraged  to play the guitar by my mum; there were no pressures on me to do anything academic."

How would you describe your own music?

"I say folk to people that ask, but y’know, I think it’s really hard to talk about genre. Folk can mean a lot of things – it’s quite broad – but generally the thing I think of with folk music is that it’s storytelling and it’s pretty honest and generally quite simple in terms of chords. Some people would argue that this album is a folk album and y’know, I feel like a folk singer and a folk artist, but genre’s a tricky one."

You've been compared to the likes of Laura Marling and Julia Jacklin – how does it feel to be on the receiving end of these kinds of comparisons?

"Yeah, I like all of those artists and I think they’re very talented but it’s this weird thing that people just have to do; they have to compare. It’s like, 'you’re a female and you play guitar and you sing'. I think a lot of journalists want to put you in this comparison box.

"I mean, I know that it helps other people: ‘If you like this, then you’ll probably like this,’ but I feel a little uncomfortable being compared to Joni Mitchell; sometimes I feel it’s a little bit unnecessary, but it’s great to be considered in the same sort of (field) – do you know what I’m saying? I respect these artists incredibly but sometimes I feel like it can be uncomfortable to have these comparisons."

It feels like there are a lot more women getting recognition in music these days – have you personally noticed a change?

"It’s hard to know really, I mean there are a lot of really strong women whose music I follow at the moment. When I was growing up we had this competition that ran in high schools, and a lot of really established artists have done it when they were going through high school – it’s called the Smokefree Rockquest. I remember doing that three times at high school and there were hardly any girls, it was always a lot of males. It is awesome and about time to just see more women. Women in the bands as well. I think Angel Olsen has a pretty sweet band with some pretty kickarse women in it!"

How has life changed for you since the release of your debut album Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs?

"Well, I think the biggest change is that I’m doing full time music now, as of three months ago. Before that I was working in a couple of cafes and I was also at university. I guess my plans have changed a little bit – I had this idea that I would finish a degree and maybe become a teacher, but now I actually don’t have time to go to university. Music’s kind of allowing me to pay bills so it’s taking up more of my life, which is a really positive thing.

"It allows me to create and make more music, and to be playing more, and that’s the thing that I really love. I love touring and I love coming across to the other side of the world, but I think it hasn’t really sunk in. I still have my back up plan… and I guess my fanbase has grown a lot – we came over here last May and did that tour and I think it set some stuff in motion."

You worked with Ben Edwards again on your upcoming Preservation album. What's it like working with him and did you know straight away that you wanted to work with him again?

"He’s a really amazing guy to work with; I know him very well which is very important to me. [We] met when I was about 18 and he’s been very encouraging – because we know each other well, I feel like he understands me and I feel very comfortable around him so I love working with him, and I guess for the second record it just made sense to do it with him again, and he was really pumped on the idea and wanted to do it. I think it’s really important to have bonds with the people that you’re creating with, and I think that comes through in the record – our development comes through as well."

What is the new record about and how do you think it differs from your debut?

"[It's about] romantic relationships and the things we experience as humans; who am I in the world and what’s the point of a lot of things? I think a lot of it is observing the people around me and the people that I walk past in the street; things that happen and relationships that happen, family members.

"It’s just this way of creatively expressing experiences and I think a lot of it is stuff that we can all relate to. We’ve all been in love and then we’ve all not been in love. We’ve gone through this separation of a break-up, and so yeah, I don’t know. That’s hard to answer but I guess they’re kind of sad love songs.

"I feel like this there’s some really similar themes [to the first record] but I feel like I’m exposing a little bit more of myself. I feel like I give a little bit more away; it’s more about myself and probably more personal. But yeah, I think generally [it's] the same kind of thing but just a few years older; more lessons learnt."

Are you looking forward to touring the album?

"Yeah, I’m really excited! This time around we start in the UK and then we go over to Europe to finish. I’m touring with my guitarist Sam Taylor – we did the big tour in May – I kind of feel like I know what to expect now so I’m able to just enjoy the process a bit more. I love playing. I love it!

"The plan is to just play the new songs and play some old songs and just celebrate the birth of the album; it should be good. We already have plans to return in the summer. We totally got this timing wrong – we left 28 degree weather for winter so I’m still kind of sunburnt. It’s interesting. I'm not sure how that happened!"

Oh no! What's the weather like in London at the moment?

"Yeah, it’s pretty grey and pretty cold but we’re good."

So you'll be looking forward to the summer over here then?

"Yeah, the festivals! I think we’ll do a bigger summer tour as well."

Do you think you'd do the summer as a full band?

"Yeah, I think that would be the goal – at least to bring another person over – it’s quite a long way to come, but that’s the idea. We’re really excited!"

Preservation is released on 3 Mar via Baisin Rock – catch Nadia Reid on tour this February at the following places:

10 Feb – Green Door Store, Brighton
11 Feb – Fulford Arms, York
12 Feb – Broadcast, Glasgow
13 Feb – Deaf Institute, Manchester
14 Feb – Crofter’s Rights, Bristol 
15 Feb – Hoxton Hall, London