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In Conversation: How Nezsa is Soul Searching and Finding Clarity Through Music

In Conversation: How Nezsa is Soul Searching and Finding Clarity Through Music

In Conversation: How Nezsa is Soul Searching and Finding Clarity Through Music| Afrocritik

“I started writing the EP at a time when I was deciding what I wanted to do concerning music. I was at a crossroads, unsure if I wanted to fully commit to music or just continue doing it for fun. After writing the songs, I gained clarity and decided that I wanted to take music more seriously”. — Nezsa. 

By Hope Ibiale

A few years ago, Nezsa — real name Vanessa Adaeze Enoka — moved to Canada from Nigeria. Nezsa, who has always sung in the choir, never envisioned creating music professionally until after randomly lending her vocals to a friend’s record that generated a little buzz in 2017. While she was surprised by the reception the song received, this moment pushed her to begin to imagine a life as a musician. In 2020, she took her first step on this new path by releasing her debut EP, Bitter-Sweet, marking the beginning of her musical journey.

Nezsa then took a break to decide if she wanted to fully commit to making music. During this time, a music distribution deal from emPawa Africa emerged as a clear sign for her to continue pursuing her passion for music. This break also became a period of introspection, during which she poured all her questions and confusion into the newly released 6-track EP, Soul Searching. While the alternative R&B artiste might have been uncertain about the direction of her music career after her first project, her sophomore EP provided clarity.

Gathering momentum, she has now been spotlighted on several platforms including on Apple Music’s ‘Up Next’ artiste and on Spotify’s ‘Fresh Finds’ playlist, solidifying her status as an emerging talent worth watching.

In this interview, the singer and songwriter discusses her music, the inspiration behind Soul Searching, how experiencing different cultures has influenced her artistry, and her upcoming projects.

You have released 2 EPs and several singles, I am curious, how did your musical journey begin? 

I first realised I wanted to be an artiste after a friend featured me on their song. I just happened to be at my friend’s house when they were recording, and they asked if I could sing. I dropped a verse, and they said, “You have to be on this song.” After they released the song, it got a bit of buzz, and I was shocked. I had always wanted to sing and grew up in a choir, but I didn’t think making music was something I could take seriously. After that, I learned how to record myself and everything else from my friends. That was when I started taking music seriously.

What are some of the primary influences on your music? Are there specific artists, genres, or experiences that inspire you?

Day-to-day life and simply experiencing things inspire my music. I tend not to talk a lot, but I feel like I communicate more through my music. In terms of artistes, I am inspired by Lana Del Rey, Wande Coal, Rihanna, Coldplay, Frank Ocean, and many others.

In Conversation: How Nezsa is Soul Searching and Finding Clarity Through Music| Afrocritik
Nezsa

How would you describe your music to a first-time listener? 

I would say my music is calming. It’s for when you want to be introspective, reflect on your life, or simply enjoy your evening.

How do you navigate the challenges of the music industry, especially as an alternative RnB artiste?

For the most part, I find that not being able to release music as often as I want is challenging. Additionally, the marketing side of music and having to constantly be online are difficult aspects. Also, getting people to listen to my music is still something I am learning how to do.

You were born in Nigeria, and currently live in Canada, how have these two cultural experiences influenced your work as an artiste?

Being in Canada has given me the freedom to create and makes me feel like making music is more achievable. Canada is a multicultural environment where you can hear a lot of Reggae, R&B, Hip-Hop, and other diverse sounds, which has allowed me to create freely. In Nigeria, the music scene is mostly focused on Afrobeats, which initially made me doubt the possibility of pursuing music seriously. However, seeing artistes like Ayra Starr and Tems succeed has also influenced my work, along with the new environment in Canada.

You currently work with emPawa Africa, how has this partnership shaped your musical journey? 

Working with emPawa Africa has given me a platform. There was a period after my first EP where I took a break. The emPawa deal made me sit up a bit and made me realise that I wasn’t just releasing music for myself. emPawa Africa has provided me with support and other opportunities I wouldn’t have had if I were solo, and I am grateful for that.

A few months ago, you were recently announced as Apple Music’s ‘Up Next’, what does this mean for your career?

It means the music I am making has reached a level where it is high enough to be recognised. It reassures me that what I am doing is right and that I am on the right path.

Are there any other specific experiences or milestones that have significantly impacted your music career?

I have received other DSP placements. Another significant event was when Tems’ manager, Muyiwa Awoniyi, reached out to me and expressed his appreciation for my music. He also encouraged me to keep pushing forward. This was a pivotal moment for me because I admire his work with Tems. They also included my song, “Trouble”, on Tems’ “Leading Vibe” radio show playlist.

 

You were an opening act for Adekunle Gold’s North American “Catch Me If You Can” tour, what did you enjoy most about performing live? Are there any memorable live performances from other artistes that have stood out to you

Seeing people sing your song back to you is a unique feeling, and witnessing how they connect to it is my favourite part of performing live. Lately, I’ve been enjoying stage performances by Tems, Tyla, and Ayra Starr. Adele’s performances are also calm and captivating.

What was the initial inspiration behind your new EP, Soul Searching?

I started writing the EP at a time when I was deciding what I wanted to do concerning music. I was at a crossroads, unsure if I wanted to fully commit to music or just continue doing it for fun. So, all the songs I was writing were a bit more introspective. After writing the songs, I gained clarity and decided that I wanted to take music more seriously. One of the discovery points about the EP was letting my dad know that I was making music. For a while, he thought I was just in the choir; he never knew I was an artiste. The first song off the EP is “Pressure”, and this was me finally announcing that I was making music.

Your debut EP, Bitter-Sweet, is centred on love and relationships. Now, your recent project has themes about self-discovery. Why are these themes important to you? 

They are important to me because those are the things that make us feel, and it is easy to talk about these themes in music in a melodic way. When I feel certain emotions and can’t find the words, I just turn them into music. One thing I am interested in is collaborations. For the most part, I have been solo. I would also like to explore the boundaries of the kind of music I promised myself I would make. As an artiste, I believe you have to grow and keep up with the evolving times, even though you are trying to stay authentic to yourself.

Nezsa Alt 001 scaled

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Describe your songwriting process.

I always stay in a dark or dimly lit room when I am writing. I do this because it is quiet, and I can hear my thoughts.

In an interview with Native Magazine, you stated that you were working on your debut album, To All the Heartbreakers, what should listeners expect from the project? 

Firstly, they should expect a different title because a lot of things have changed. At the moment, I have written more than two albums. They should also expect something completely different from Soul Searching because I am going to be a bit more experimental. I’ll be adding more Afro influences to the project and including a couple of collaborations.

How do you spend your time when you’re not making music?

My life revolves around music, but apart from that, I am also interested in fashion, photography, movies, and running a natural hair business.

Is there a piece of advice that you’ve gotten that’s been invaluable to you as an artiste? 

One thing my manager is always echoing in my mind is to stay open-minded. Whether it’s in terms of how I envision my sound or gravitate towards a certain sound, he always tells me to stay open-minded. For instance, I got the beat for “Trouble” accidentally. I knew the beat was for another artiste, but I stayed open-minded and recorded it and the song is one of my biggest songs to date.

What artistes would you want to collaborate with in the future? 

Artistes I’d like to work with are the same as my inspirations, but in reality, I prefer to have a song and see who would fit that vision before making a decision. I don’t want to pick a collaborator randomly; I want it to be an intentional choice.

If you were to work with an artiste on the record “Trouble”, who would it be?

I would pick Tems, and if I had to choose a male artiste, I’d say Burna Boy. Burna Boy has a few collaborations with Jordan Smith, which is not a pairing people would expect, but they work so well together. I can see us making something together.

What’s next for Nezsa?

I might be doing a university tour in Canada. A few shows this summer and some live recording sessions. 

Hope Ibiale is a writer and journalist. She has a keen interest in music, film, and literature. You can connect with Hope on X @hopeibiale and via email: hopeibiale@afrocritik.com. 

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