Culted Sounds: Niia talks about her new Al Pacino-inspired album Bobby Deerfield

Culted Sounds: Niia talks about her new Al Pacino-inspired album Bobby Deerfield

by Juliette Eleuterio
8 min

Niia was always destined to become an artist, and not just the singing type. The Los Angeles based emerging artist should be on your radar if she isn’t already, but not just for her musical abilities. Apart from singing, songwriting and being multi-instrumentalist, Niia also takes on the role of the creative project, with herself being her main project.

She directs her own music videos and has carved out the image of a creative type who’s always in the know about anything that fits the “if you know you know” label. This year, Niia has released her fifth studio album Bobby Deerfield inspired by the Al Pacino movie after attending a private viewing at the actor’s home in LA. Today, we caught up with the artist to talk about her latest album, the importance of a visual story and her dream car.

Bleu Mode©

Hey Niia, how are you? What’s your go-to icebreaker–style fun fact?

I’m good, thanks! Probably that I’m a double water sign.

Let’s talk about your latest album Bobby Deerfield. It was inspired by a 70s Al Pacino film, though it definitely isn’t his most successful work, nor was it really well-received at the time of its release. Why did you choose this film specifically to name your album? What about it inspired you?

Honestly, when I first saw the movie it didn’t blow me out of the water nor did I even think about it in regards to being an inspiration for my new album. But, as weeks passed it was all I could think about. I became obsessed with Formula 1, I started learning how to drive stick, and just couldn’t get Bobby Deerfield off my mind. I think what inspired me about the movie on the surface level were the cars, the style, Al Pacino, but the character of Bobby and what he represented really resonated with me and my sense of self and legacy.  I also think it’s important to find inspiration in places you wouldn’t expect. Not every muse is a giant star. We can be inspired by anything, even an Al Pacino Flop. 

@ikakhargelia ©

There seems to be a duality with this album’s music, some of them like A Star for A Star which dives into your fears and worries while others like Targa feels like it’s you getting rid of all inhibitions and just living to the fullest. Why did you choose to highlight these two seemingly opposite ideas?

Again, I think it wasn’t an intentional choice. I guess it just came out. At the beginning the writing process for this album was really difficult because I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to write about or say. I wanted to challenge myself lyrically by not only writing about romantic situations. Where I was in my life just came out. Bobby Deerfield just revealed himself and I learned as it was happening what my album was all about.  The irony is these two themes are truly me.  Now looking back on the album everything feels like it could have been deliberate and planned but it wasn’t at all. 

@hugh_lippe ©

Do you find it daunting at times to publish such raw and personal material, especially with songs like Idk what to tell my friends, which I’m sure your friends have all heard by now?

Yes and no. Yes, because of obvious reasons. It’s hard to hear what strangers think sometimes, let alone your friends. No, because I’ve had people walk up to me and tell me how certain songs of mine mean to them. Idk what to tell my friends specifically I’ve had a few people express that they’re going through the exact same thing. Realising that others are going through some of the same issues I’m working out makes me feel grateful and humbled honestly. I am not that special and I am connected to some many incredible other people through sharing my shit.  I also don’t really know how to be dishonest in my music.  Sometimes I wish I could but who would that really serve besides my ego? It’s been said it’s the duty of an artist to give and share. If this is true, It should be honest right? 

When it comes to creating songs, what’s your approach? Are you a journaler? Do melodies come to you while you’re driving through LA?
All of the above. I’ve kept a journal since 4th grade. I’ve taken some months off here and there, or my Notes app has taken over…  but I have always been a pretty consistent journaler. My car became my favorite place especially during covid and it kind of stuck. It doesn’t always start the same, sometimes lyrics, other melodies… which keeps it exciting.. you just have to wait for the clue to lead you. 

Bleu Mode©

On top of being a musical artist, I would also describe you as a visual artist, having such a strong self-directed image. Why are visual aesthetics so important to you?
Thanks, that means a lot! I think the senses are so vital to connecting or escaping. Hearing, Seeing, touching etc.  I feel that they are all so connected. When I used to practice Debussy on piano, I could see the trees blowing in the wind, I could see the ocean. We live in such a visible age where visuals are almost more important than the song… we can get lost in the image. It’s important to be in control of what you want to see to take in, also how you want others to see you or what you’re trying to create. You can also hide in visuals which as I’ve gotten older I try to be more deliberate of what my visuals need to be. Sometimes less is more. One of my favorite visuals that everyone has recently been sharing again is Sinead O Conors “Nothing Compares to You video.” It’s just her singing to camera. That’s all that visual needed to be! It’s iconic! However, It’s also a lot of fun to create a visual world that goes with music that’s wild, theatrical and over the top!

@hugh_lippe ©

Who or what are some of your inpos when it comes to your own visuals? Any artist or art movement?
There are a lot of Italian films I always go to and many film directors…. Photographers, artists, etc. I love a lot of surrealist art & there are some incredible theater stage designs that are unbelievable too.. Right now I’m really into Penny Slingers new photo book, and the films El Planeta and Parallel Mothers.  Some of my go to’s are Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, John Cassavetes, Fellini, Dario Argento, David Chase, Alfred Kubin…   

Cars are a big thing when it comes to not only your music and your new album inspired by the race-car themed movie, but also to your IG page, posing in front of Ferrari’s and F1 cars in Helmut Lang and Prada (iconic btw). Where does this car obsession stem from?
Since I moved to LA over eight years ago I think my obsession has grown. I have so many memories in cars with my family driving around Italy, fighting with ex boyfriends, singing alone on the top of my lungs..  cars feel vital to my identity in a strange way. I never really realized it until this album. Cars are also just an incredible symbol in history. What they represent, how they’ve been advertised is so fascinating. It’s also just pretty badass to pose with fast cars. What could be better? Oh, maybe driving them really fast!

@niiarocco ©

What’s your ultimate dream car?

Porsche 911 Targa. I also dig a Toyota Turbo in carmel 

Since you’ve just released a new album, I’m guessing/hoping you’re taking some time off for yourself. Unless you’ve got another project you’re working on you’d like to tell us about, what is your motto for the rest of 2023?

No time to waste. I have a tour to plan for and already in talks about new music. My motto is “I am what I think about”. I will be trying to practise more positive thinking for the rest of the year! Oh, and to pay my parking tickets on time!

Bleu Mode©

More on Culted

See: Culted Sounds: DEJA on lifting up her listeners & the changes needed in the industry

See: Culted Sounds: Feux talks new music, new styles, and new directions

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