NYIKO

NYIKO

Following up their collaborative single “The Middle”, NYIKO and The White Electric are back with a brand new single entitled “9x16”.

Written by NYIKO and produced by The White Electric, the electro-pop single conveys the feeling of wanting to connect in the real world.

“We now spend a seemingly exponential amount of time living through our phone screens. There just isn’t a substitute for the real thing. Real face-to-face human connection,” expresses NYIKO.

Inspired by the 80s, the two artists combined their strengths to create a memorable single portraying an important message.

Along with their collaborative project, both artists are working on their solo projects. Boston-based artist & producer The White Electric unveiled his single “Currents” on May 16th. Los Angeles-based artist NYIKO will be revealing more projects on his own and is the owner of independent label Trailing Twelve.

“9x16” is now available worldwide.

Photo & artwork:  Niles Gregory

Photo & artwork: Niles Gregory

Introduce yourself - where are you from?

Hey! It’s nice to meet you. My name is Nyiko. It sounds like Nee-Koh. It’s South African. That’s where my dad is from. I’m not from South Africa. I’m from a little town in New Hampshire called Hancock. It’s a beautiful place full of nature and wildlife and genuinely kind people. There is a certain calmness to it.

What's your story?

Sometimes it feels like my brain never stops creating new ideas, new dreams, new goals. My iPhone notes app and voice memos barely keep up. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve been obsessed with creating. Picture this. It’s the mid-90s. I’m waking up early in the morning to draw superheroes or sit on the floor in my bedroom and record rap songs on a Fisher Price Tape Recorder. Skip to the early ’00s. I’m taking piano lessons but my time practicing frequently ends with me improvising and singing. I take dance lessons and then start choreographing my own routines. My mom is a graphic designer, so I learn Photoshop and start designing show posters and album art. I learn how to write, direct, and edit videos alongside my best friends in high school. Then I discover Ableton in college and start writing, producing, mixing, and performing with it all the time. All that to say, I simply love to learn how to be better at making things and then putting it into action.

My fascination with creating has led me into so many different places and communities. It led me to Vermont where I spent several years studying and playing in various projects. It led me to Los Angeles, where I live now.

When did you start feeling connected to art and music?  

Hip-Hop music was my first love. I remember sitting on the living room rug while my parents listened to Paul Simon’s Graceland and Steely Dan’s Gaucho records. Then I heard A Tribe Called Quest and Wu-Tang Clan coming from the stereo in my older brother’s room. It became clear to me how magnificently dynamic music could be. I wrote rap songs for several years after that, but when I began playing the piano I realized there was an entirely new language I could learn.

Do you remember the first song you've ever written? What did you learn since then?

Technically the first song I ever wrote was a single rap verse. I was 7 or 8 years old.

“I’m Nyiko / The freako / I live in the wood / I don’t do my homework / Even though I should“.

I made a 3 song rap EP around that time as well. Fully fleshed out verses and choruses with minimal hip hop drums and keyboard. What have a learned since then? I mean, I’ve lived a lot more life, which I believe is essential to good songwriting. I’ve learned how to collaborate. I’ve learned how to produce. I’ve also learned that in many cases less is more. For me, the most important part of good songwriting is that it has to be genuine. It has come from real experience and real emotion.


When did you decide to pursue music as a career?

I’ve been making music for the majority of my life, but I really started taking it seriously when I moved to Los Angeles in 2015. That’s when I started writing more than ever before and truly honing my craft.  


What appeals you the most about music?

Music is medicine for the soul. It can be a time capsule for your sweetest memories or your most painful. It can transport you to another place. It can connect you with people from all around the world. It can make you move your body or allow your mind to be completely still. For me, experiencing and creating music is the most thrilling and rewarding thing I can do with my time.  


You’ve just released your new single "9x16" - what's the story behind this song?

Have you ever spent time using dating apps? In case you haven’t, it essentially boils down to swiping through two-dimensional realities of people you’ve never met before and most of which you probably never will. A couple of years ago I was spending hours every week just mindlessly swiping and having superficial conversations with people on these apps. Of course, there were dates here and there, but the process just felt...superficial and isolating. Now I’m not completely knocking dating apps. I think they can be really useful and helpful for people. I have friends who have had really wonderful relationships spawn from dating apps.

So about a year ago, I was swiping through Instagram and started to have a similar reaction. It was this one-sided feeling of mindlessly consuming people’s stories. We now spend a seemingly exponential amount of time living through our phone screens. I wanted to convey this feeling of wanting to connect in the real world. To “live outside the lines” of our phones. There just isn’t a substitute for the real thing. Real face-to-face human connection.  

What do you like the most about this song?

I do love the concept and message. I think we need to be a lot more thoughtful about how much time we spend using social media. Beyond that, I’m in love with the production. The White Electric is a synth wizard. They have such a gift of immediately creating a space with their sounds. They sent me the track and I wrote the entire song that same day.


The single has an 80s vibe. What are your some of your favorite records from the 80s?

Let me preface this by saying I’m sure I will forget some and will be kicking myself later about it. If you listen to my music, you can probably assume that the 80s is my favorite decade for music.

The first ones that come to mind are:

Madonna - Self-Titled

The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead

Daryl Hall & John Oates - Private Eyes

Billy Ocean - Suddenly

Wham - Make It Big!

Talking Heads - Speaking In Tongues

How's it like to collaborate with The White Electric? How did you guys meet?

It’s...electric! No, but all dad jokes aside, he is a visionary producer. They will send me an instrumental, I’ll arrange it, write and sing to it, send it back, then they’ll add all of their beautiful production nuances. We both have extreme attention to detail and perfectionism, which makes collaborating really exciting and, at times, challenging. At the end of the day, we’re both striving to make the best version of the song. That’s what matters. We met all the way back in elementary school! I know it’s wild. We’ve been friends since then but had drifted out of touch after high school. We reconnected in 2017 after he posted an instrumental on his Instagram. I messaged him and was like “dude, this is dope!” and he was like “thanks! I was actually wondering if you would want to sing on it?” That song ended up being “In The Middle” which resulted in us getting a single co-publishing deal with Sony ATV and Heard Well. The power of social media! Well, that and twenty years of friendship.

Photo credit:  Sam G

Photo credit: Sam G

In your opinion, what makes a good collaboration?

When I’m collaborating with someone I look for a few things. Are they listening? Are they present? Do they have a vision? Are they open to new ideas? Are they sharing quality ideas? If all those come back with a “yes” then it’s safe to say they are a good collaborator. So essentially, a good collaborator is a good listener as well as a thinker. They are present in the moment and are constantly thinking about how to make the project better. They are passionate about their ideas while also being flexible and open to new ones. The final product of good collaboration should showcase the strengths of each person involved.

What are the things you are looking for when working with other artists?

I look for artists that have a vision and something to say. I’m generally positive with my outlook and I do my best to express that, so I tend to gravitate towards artists that have similar energy. That’s not to say we won’t create something sad or emotional together. It’s also really important that they have a strong work ethic. I’m a DIY artist myself, so it’s a plus to work with folks who know what it’s like to write, record, produce, and mix a project from start to finish.


You also created your own label Trailing Twelve. What made you want to create your own label?

I created the label out of necessity back in 2013. I had a Kickstarter for one of my EPs and it got fully funded. Part of the Kickstarter was for pressing the EP to vinyl and I didn’t want the album jacket to simply have my name on the back. I also had yet to register any of my compositions with a performing rights organization. In the same vein, I didn’t want my publishing to simply be NYIKO Publishing. It was at that point that I decided to create Trailing Twelve Records.


For those who don't know, what does a label do?

It certainly varies on the size of the label. The main things that almost every label does is formally release music by artists either digitally, physically, or both. Beyond that, I can’t speak to what all other labels do, but I can speak to what we do at Trailing Twelve. For all our artist's projects, we are involved with day-to-day management, creative direction and feedback, digital and physical release and distribution, graphic design, merch design and manufacturing, press relations, marketing and promotion, social media strategy, licensing, and concert bookings. That should cover most of it.


Why did you name your label Trailing Twelve?

In addition to painting and fine art, I studied finance in college. I went on to work in finance for a few years directly after. There’s a term in finance called Trailing 12 Months or TTM. It represents a company’s financial performance for a 12-month period at any given point in time. Essentially, it looks back at the last 12 months of data which is then used to compare against the same period in other years. As a songwriter, I do my fair share of reflecting on the past. I also do quite a bit of comparing as well. Naming my label Trailing Twelve seemed like a poetic way to marry those two concepts together.


What's the best thing about living in LA when you're an artist? And what's the hardest part?

As an artist in LA, you have endless opportunities to learn, grow, support, and connect with other people who have similar interests and goals. You can also very easily isolate yourself and compare yourself to the success of others around you. I’m constantly managing the balance between being active in the scene while taking time for myself to create.


As an artist, what are the biggest challenges?

In many cases, as an artist, you can’t just be an artist. Unless you are one of the few to have a label or team dedicated to your success, you also have to be your own manager, photographer, graphic designer, video editor, publicist, social media ninja, and businessperson. Artists now have the most direct access to have their music heard than ever before in the history of recorded media, while at the same time, artists must work harder than ever to actually be heard.


Why do you make music? What keeps you going?

When I'm creating music, everything else floats away. Music is my meditation. Music is my therapy. I have learned so much about myself by creating music.

When someone reaches out and tells me that they were affected by my music. That it helped them or that it made them feel something - that’s one of the greatest honors as an artist.


In your opinion, what would make the world a better place?

Empathy. Empathy for people, animals, and the planet. If we make a real effort to understand and share the struggles and threats faced by others, we can have productive conversations and take meaningful actions.


What biggest lessons have you learned as a human being and as an artist?

Do not allow the opinions of others to hinder your success. Lead with kindness. Meet as many people as you can. Look people in the eyes when you’re speaking to them. Always honor your word.

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This Is For You

This Is For You

Sera Roadnight - Music manager and PR Magic Tree

Sera Roadnight - Music manager and PR Magic Tree