The wait is finally over for Nina Vidal's two Japanese-only albums, The Open-Ended Fantasy and Love, Pop & Soul: The Cover Sessions Vol.1, which are now available via iTunes in the US, UK, and internationally. Adored by her loyal Japanese fanbase, who took all three of her albums to the #1 spot on the Jazz chart, the time has now come for her to build on her underground debut, Nina Vidal, and gain the following she truly deserves. Nina took the time to answer our questions on why she chose to produce an album of covers, her views on the Japanese music scene, the problems with being pigeonholed as a "jazz" singer, and the changing face of the music industry. Hit the bounce to see what she had to say, and keep an eye on these pages if you fancy getting your hands on Nina's full discography soon.
SoulBounce: You have just released your third album, Love, Pop & Soul: The Cover
Sessions Vol. 1, after releasing two albums of (mostly) original material, what made you
choose covers for your latest project?
Nina Vidal: Listeners enjoy hearing their favorite songs done in a new way. (Just don't mess 'em up or they may never forgive you!) And I enjoy reinterpreting songs and putting my own spin on them. My producer Caté and I thought it would be a great idea to do an an album of covers of love songs from the past several decades.
SB: The songs on Love, Pop & Soul are certainly an eclectic bunch, how did you choose which songs to include?
NV: It was a collective effort between Caté and I. The songs we chose represent many
aspects of love and the different feelings it brings. From romance to heartbreak. From
The Isley Brothers' "For The Love Of You" to "Tainted Love" originaly sung by Gloria
Jones and made famous by Soft Cell in the '80s.
SB: Both your self-titled debut and the follow-up, The Open-Ended Fantasy,
made a huge impact on the Japanese charts but are considered more "underground" in the US. Why do you think there is such a difference in how your material has been received?
NV: Japan is very receptive to soul and jazz music and particularly open to music from
abroad. Unfortunately, the US seems a bit less open-minded when it comes to sounds
outside of the mainstream. I'm thankful for sites such as SoulBounce that help keep the
non-maintream music boat afloat. Hopefully more listeners here in the US will begin to
appreciate such music.
SB: There are a number of artists that have a strong following in Japan in comparison to their home countries, the UK's Mamas Gun are one example. Do you think that the Japanese music scene is fundamentally different from that in other countries?
NV: Every music scene is different I suppose, and every country and culture has its own ideas about what's hot. I'm thankful for the Japanese music scene, and I'm looking
forward to gaining such recognition worldwide. I don't expect it to happen instantly everywhere, and I'm OK with a slow climb.
SB: You have collaborated with a number of different artists and/or producers
on various tracks, but when it comes to your own material you work near enough exclusively with Caté. Can you explain why you chose to stick with one producer, and why him in particular?
NV: Caté understands me as an artist and has the vision and particular talent to bring
out the best in me and my music. Actually I think we bring out the best in each other.
We've been working together from the start of my career, and from then we've been
creating and growing together. Aside from his production experience working with artists
such as Maxi Priest and Lee "Scratch" Perry, he's had a lot of interesting experiences
that contribute to his creativity and sound. When you add what he's got to what I've got,
you've got magic.
SB: Your first two albums are generally classified as jazz, and even the third
gives pop and soul classics a jazz spin. Do you think that being pigeon-holed as a
jazz singer, a genre considered by many as a bit stuffy and a little elitist, is a barrier to
reaching a wider audience?
NV: Probably so. I always joke that jazz is a four letter word. It's a genre that many
people don't gravitate towards for the reasons you mentioned. Others don't quite get it,
but somehow like it. And there's the minority who absolutely love and embrace it. Many
people's concept of jazz is so small, but jazz comes in many different shapes, sizes, and
colors and is ever-evolving and blending with other genres to form new ones. I don't
see myself as a "jazz singer." Jazz is only one of the ingredients in the stew. I'm a
singer. I sing what comes out of me naturally, and I believe that's as it should be. I don't
believe in trying to sing a certain way to fit a particular genre. To me the art of singing
is best when it comes straight from within and there's not much thought involved. So I
hope I won't be pigeonholed as a certain type of singer. I just do me.
SB: Listening to your albums it's obvious that you have a real love for jazz
music, and in particular jazz arrangements and instrumentation, but that is not the whole
story. Your voice is also very soulful and there are clear pop, R&B, and soul influences.
How did you come to combine all these different elements?
NV: I don't try to. It's just a natural reflection of what's inside me. I grew up listening
to many different types of music and still do. I grew up with and still surround myself with
many different types of people, from different cultures and backgrounds. All of those
are influences of mine and formed part of who I am as an artist. It's only natural that it
comes out in my music.
SB: I understand that when you began writing the material that eventually
became your debut album you had no intention of being the voice behind the songs. You
saw yourself as the songwriter but not the singer. What led to the turnaround?
NV: Caté was the one who convinced me to start singing my own songs. I had initially
approached him to produce some songs I had written, with the intention of having them
sung by someone else. Caté convinced me that I could and should do it myself. And so
I did. And voilá, it worked out. I had no idea I would end up singing at all. I knew back
then that I liked to sing, but I had no idea my voice could touch so many people the way
SB: The music industry has seen a big shift in recent years with many artists
deciding to take a more independent route as opposed to signing major label deals.
Where do you see yourself and how do you see this playing out in the future?
NV: I think the music industry will continue to evolve. Right now independent artists
are able to promote and market themselves in ways that don't require a huge major
label. Which is a great thing because artists are able to have success making the music
they want to make and not give up creative control. This means music lovers are able
to access more great music that's outside of the mainstream. I think this will continue in
the future, especially as the internet becomes a more and more powerful tool for self-promotion. Where do I see myself? I want to continue to be myself as an artist, be
successful, and touch people all over the world. Whichever way allows all three of those to
happen, whether independent or signed, I'll go with.
SB: You studied music business at university in New York, do you think this
has helped with your career up to now, and do you think it's important that artists have a
firm grasp of the business side of the industry as well as the creative side?
NV: Absolutely, although it can be hard to be an artist and think about business at
the same time. The two use opposite sides of the brain. It's like trying to write with
both your left and right hand, which some people do very well, but most do not. I tend
to spend more time in artist mode than business mode. It comes more natural to me.
Thank God I have a manager to cross my t's and dot my i's. But whether you have
someone handle it for you or not, every artist should learn about the business. These
days it's possible to be an independent artist and be very successful. But that requires
knowledge about the business to promote and market yourself successfully.
SB: We know you have only just released Love, Pop & Soul, but can you tell
us what you have lined up? Will you be touring or are you already at work on your next
NV: I'm currently seeking inspiration and writing songs for my next project. As I'm
writing, the lyrics and music are slowly taking shape. The amazing part is sitting down at
the piano and letting the story unfold on it's own. I can't wait to tell it.