You might recognise NADIAH from her contribution to Chase & Status’ “Count on Me” in 2013 when she went by MOKO. Now, she’s back, and navigating the industry on her own terms, recently featuring on Mura Masa’s single, “Rise” and the release of her debut single “Rise.”
After finding her feet in the industry, the independent artist deals with imposter syndrome and the freedom to record as an independent artist. As part of this change of direction, NADIAH has had help from Kwes (Kelela, Duval Timothy, and Tirzah) and has worked with photographer Raf Pavarotti, all helping her carve her own path. We caught up with the musician before the release of her debut EP under her own name to talk all things music, imposter syndrome, and self-belief.
How has the start of 2024 been treating you? What’s your motto for the year?
2024 has been inspiring so far, I am discovering so much about life. I feel an overwhelming sense of liberation. “The sky truly is the only limit.”
After everything you’ve been through, I have a feeling this year is going to be yours. You got signed pretty early on with Virgin EMI, but eventually you realised that wasn’t for you. Do you think this is something that happens quite often in the music industry, with producers and record label execs always trying to find the next young it artist?
I think this is a story a lot of artists can relate to. When I first got signed I thought this was going to be the moment that would change everything, but looking back I think major labels are still yet to work out how to nurture talent, especially young talent. It can feel like you’re caught in a rat race and under pressure to perform which I think takes away from the creativity and most importantly the music itself. I believe the music should always come first and the rest will follow
Did you also find that you put pressure on yourself to be successful at a young age?
Yes, especially being the oldest child of a first generation immigrant single parent, it is drilled into you from early to become a doctor or lawyer. I always knew I wanted to break the mould and make music from the moment I had to make a choice. Losing my father so young has also been a big driving force behind my passion to succeed as I wanted to show it can be done no matter your circumstance.
It takes guts to leave a situation that just isn’t right for you, even if it seems like everything you once wanted. What finally pushed you to leave to pursue an independent career?
I woke up one day and I realised it wasn’t for me anymore. I didn’t enjoy making music in this working environment, the thought of going to the studio only filled me with anxiety. I felt misunderstood and constrained with the idea of ‘making a hit.’ I couldn’t even write a sentence without feeling the pressure which I knew in my gut was not what being a true musician is about.
After you left, did it take you a while to get back into music or were you ready to go, with your own ideas and creative direction?
I did need a moment to rediscover the true purpose behind why I wanted to create and who I wanted to speak to. I started making music with my musical partner Leaps (Luke Osborne) and Kwes. We started to experiment in a new way without feeling held back. Before long I was back in the studio feeling free and ready to tell my story.
You’ve mentioned having imposter syndrome, something most of us have struggled with at one point in our life. Have you got any tips on how to get over it?
Always believe in your sauce, no matter what. Especially when it’s hard, know that nothing happens before its time, everything we experience is for a reason. We are all put on this earth to shine in our own right. Comparison gets you nowhere, you can only do you.
Now an independent artist, you’ve got two singles out titled “Draw The Line” and “Deception.” How have you found the process of making these songs? What are the differences to making music independently versus with a record label?
To be honest, it’s freedom. The freedom to create on your own terms and as Nina Simone says, “Freedom is no fear.”
One thing about going independent is that you can really control your image. For your latest album cover, you chose to work with the legendary Raf Pavarotti. Tell me a bit more about that work.
Raf and I connect on both a physical and spiritual level. When it came to creating the EP cover we spoke mostly everyday, meditating on ideas we spoke about. We both are deeply connected in our friendship and our personal journeys towards ‘Rebirth,’ so working together came naturally. I showed Raf the EP and instantly he was inspired by nature and the supernatural. He felt we needed to capture a surreal representation of the sound with grandeur and regal presence and we did just that.
Your latest single, “Draw The Line,” felt like a creative rebirth for you. Was there a lot of pressure around creating and releasing that era-defining song? Or did the excitement override the nerves?
At first I was nervous due to past trauma, then as the pieces of the puzzle slowly came together I began to realise this is what is meant to be and this is the journey. The moment I embraced that, I felt a sense of peace and acceptance which slowly transformed into excitement.
Lastly, are there any projects you are working on this year you want to tease?
I have a new EP coming this year which documents this journey to rediscovery and I can not wait to finally share it with the world.
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