A haunting vocal trembles through my headphones filled with hints of sorrow and heart. The confessional lyrics are sung by the up and coming Nao, an artist who’s sombre and nasal voice ushers her listeners into a world of textured sounds and the ever-challenging topic of love. Those artists you know have something special, yet have not hit it big just yet… that’s the sound of Nao, and that’s why you should start listening. Her debut EP, titled So Good, is an introduction to a woman full of soul, offering up a refreshing take on R&B thanks in part to her collaborations with Jai Paul’s collaborator and brother, A.K. Paul. If a fan of the reclusive Jai Paul, more restrained offerings of texture and synths can be found in tracks such as “So Good”. As Nao finished up her European tour opening for the much beloved Little Dragon she took time to answer a few questions for Antidote.
Touring much of Europe with the acclaimed Little Dragon seemed an appropriate place to begin. In regards to her first major tour Nao replies, “supporting Little Dragon has truly been an amazing experience. I would have never dreamed six months ago when I was sitting in my bedroom uploading my first song online that I could be touring with one of my inspirations. It still feels like a dream. Little Dragon’s audience are so giving and are such great listeners.” Nao continues on how the experience has affected her artistry, stating that “Yukimi (the lead singer of Little Dragon) is an amazing performer and vocalist, I find she doesn’t give too much away, her voice is beautifully understated, I respect and have learnt from that a lot. The whole band are all just great musicians, I wouldn’t say consciously their performance style has influenced mine but i’m sure through osmosis some aspects will be present, like in all things that inspire you.” There is no denying that Little Dragon is a strong and exciting act for any new artist to take inspiration from and will be a strong example for Nao in the future.
Other acts that Nao has been enjoying or inspired by is a curiosity she discusses. “There is so much amazing music around,” when asked whom she’s listening to, “I wouldn’t know where to begin. There’s a massive surge of underground talent that is making huge waves it’s so exciting. I’m having a bit of a Dilla stage at the moment and I imagine i’ll be here for a while as he thrown out so much great music.”
The first major break for Nao is arguably the critical hype surrounding her collaboration with A.K. Paul. The sonically explosive track offered a large audience and curiosity about Nao and her music. Nao tells Antidote that “Indeed, I’m sure you’ll hear a little something from us in 2015,” regarding future collaborations between the producer and artist. While “So Good” offered the larger success, the song “Back Porch”, one of the original songs uploaded to Nao’s soundcloud in May of 2014 instantly drew me inwards, leading me to ask what inspired the song. “Lyrically “Back Porch” is from the prospectus of an ex boyfriend. I imagine that he thought I moved on to quickly and disregarded any memories that we shared together, putting them to the back of my mind or leaving them out on the back porch, so to speak.” The sense of guilt and heartbreak linger throughout the beautiful song.
The yearning and heartbreak felt throughout the EP is undeniable. Topics of adoration and rejection are front and centre. “All the songs are bard on real situations,” Nao divulges, “but often taken from different stages in my life. It’s basically whatever the chords, baseline or beat evokes from me when i’m writing. If it’s aggressive, melancholy or sensual I draw upon experiences that express what the music is calling for.”
Nao released the So Good EP independently through her own label, Little Tokyo Recordings. Commenting on her introduction to the industry and her own label Nao states that, “all of this quite is new to me, I love that I have my own label and in future I would like to see it releasing some great artist but at this stage I imagine it is simply the first step to bigger things, hopefully.” 2015 will surely be a positive and successful year for Nao as she continues to produce excellent tracks and build a strong following based on her effortless ability to connect her heart and her voice.