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Music Interview

Nikola Rachelle

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Nikola Rachelle
First came Daniel, then Natasha and now Nikola. That's right, another member of the Bedingfield clan is intent on winning over our ears and conquering the charts. But rather than be lumped in with her siblings, Nikola Rachelle is determined to establish her own identity with her blend of progressive jazz, blues and soul.

We spoke to Miss Rachelle about the promising career that lies ahead of her and the past that's inspired her. Plus, she tells us the real reason for dropping the Bedingfield name, what it's like to be serenaded thousands of feet in the sky and much more...

Why did you decide to drop the Bedingfield name?
"Rachelle is my second name, and I've loved that name since I was four. When I was twelve, I was like, because the Bedingfield name wasn't famous then, 'I want to be an artist and I want to be called Nikola Rachelle'. So I've kept to that. Even though the surname is wonderful, I just decided to go with what I loved in the beginning."

I'm sure a lot of people have assumed you were worried about being too closely associated with one of your siblings?
"I don't think there's any way you can - I wouldn't want to hide it. I love their music and I'm proud of what they've done. I don't think I'm better than them at all, so if I dropped it for that reason it wouldn't be very good. But it's definitely not for that reason."

How would you describe the sound of your music?
"I kind of describe it as soul-jazz-progressive, because it's such a mix of styles, and I think it's getting more and more defined the more we're making this album."

Did you ever feel pressured to make sure the style of your music wasn't like that of Daniel or Natasha's?
"I have to admit, I started out very ... not weird music, but very intensely my music, very just whatever came out. Slowly, over the years, I've been trying to devlop into writing what the heart is feeling, rather than just a spilling out of the soul - I wanted to be a bit more constructive. I don't think I've really had that problem of wanting to get away from what they've been doing, because I started off in a very different sense anyway. I don't feel any competition - we're all best friends, we all love differences in people and in ourselves."

Your EP is going to be released solely on iTunes. Are you planning on releasing a conventional single somewhere down the line?
"Somewhere down the line I'm sure we will. I'm currently working on the album, I've been doing a lot of writing and demoing, but we're getting closer and closer to actually recording the album."

Your MySpace site has a song called 'Bullet', which I really loved!
"That's...single of the week on iTunes, so that is really exciting!"

That's a free download?
"Yes, that's a free download. I'm sure when we've finished making the album that we'll release it."

Some of the lyrics of the songs of yours that I've heard - particularly 'Bullet' and 'The Man From Venezuela' have very personal lyrics. Sounds as if they're directly addressing a real person. Is that accurate?
"All my writing is from extremely real experiences. The man from Venezuela I met on an aeroplane - he sat down next to me and had a voice like Sinatra and completely serenaded me. His face was literally an inch from my face. It was then that I realised why people love performing, and performances, because we all want to be serenaded, caught up in the moment. That is basically describing an experience that I had in a moment. 'Bullet' - very personal experiences, most people have experienced that, when there's a piece of someone else left in you and you can't let it go."

As well as writing from personal experience, can you take friends' experiences and turn them into songs?
"Yes, I definitely do that. I love people, I love watching their differences, seeing how they live their lives, express themselves. A lot of the other songs you'll hear on the album are about watching someone else and going 'that's the beauty', even if it was done in a way I wouldn't do it, there's still beauty in it. I'm definitely a people-oriented person."

Do you have a set songwriting process?
"I tend to write them both together - lyrics and melody. When you get them together, you get a moment, a piece of something you're feeling. I love writing them together. I'm not really a person who does melody first, then lyrics. But my lyrics come from poetry and poetry's quite musical anyway, so I kind of see lyrics start to form a melody by themselves through that process."

In terms of song inspiration, have there been any other totally random inspiration for songs that has just come to you?
"Art gives me inspiration - looking at paintings that someone else has done definitely gives me inspiration. Movies, sometimes at the end of a movie I just can't help writing a song - I'm like, 'I just have to write the emotion I'm feeling now'."

Any specific movie?
"Funnily enough, Bjork's movie, Dancer In The Dark. I didn't like Bjork before I watched that movie, but now I adore her, I absolutely adore her, because she's given us a moment...I think I wept, I think it was the first movie I cried to. It gets me. It gets my heart. I think that for me was a big moment of looking at someone expressing pain and being able to express it and I think that's been an inspiration in my life."

Was there a specific song that came from Dancer In The Dark?
"I don't think it's from that particular movie, but there's one that goes 'emotional landscape', that is my favourite song that she has, that is definitely my favourite song that she has."

Don't worry, you weren't the only one who cried to that film! It definitely had my tearducts going. ET seems to be the film that most people cry to first.
"You know what, when I was four, I think I cried to Dumbo."

Cruelty to kids with those films! Anyway, when you write songs, does the environment you're writing them in ever help to shape the song?
"Extremely, yes. When I'm writing, I've got little hidden secrets all the way through my lyrics. Sometimes it's only me and the writer who understands, or me when I'm writing by myself. I put loads of little hidden codes and messages to myself. For me, songs and poetry are like a diary. I'm going to look back at this album and say 'this was a good time in my life. All of this happened, and I've got it all in there.' Sometimes I've taken the name of the piano and put it in the song somewhere, maybe early on, though. But that's the joy of writing."

All your fans will have the Da Vinci Code thing going on.
"That's funny, I like that idea, I've never thought about that before!"

I heard you had some throat problems. Are you okay now?
"I had my tonsils out, and it was the worst experience of my life! I'm laughing, but actually, do you know, opera singers get their tonsils removed to make their voices clearer, and I think that's worked - I think it sounds better. Also, I was getting sick all the time, and as a singer, if you're getting sick all the time, it's not good for singing! I decided to do the big operation. Very not nice. It's all sorted now, it's all good. I'm very well."

You've played a lot of live dates over the last year, previous to releasing material. Do you find this a good testing ground for what works, and what doesn't?
"Yeah, cos you can see people's reactions. In truth I think people stand still when they're listening to something first. There's something about the body which gives attention, stands still, trying to hear every sound, every lyric. When you get reaction, you begin the song and the beat grabs them and you feel 'I love it, I love it'. I think though that live is very different from album, and what people like on the album may be different to what they like live. I've yet to experience that."

What's been your most memorable gig to date?
"I did Jazz Cafe with Lemar - he sang after me - it was wonderful, a whole room of people completely there, loving being in the Jazz Cafe. It was a vibe, it was cool - I've always wanted to sing in the Jazz Cafe and that's a moment in my life that I put down as I SANG IN THE JAZZ CAFE!

Your music, from what I've heard, it's really well suited to that intimate cafe place where you can connect with the audience. Is it ever an ambition of yours to play bigger, more anonymous venues like Wembley Arena?
"I'd love to. I backing sang in Wembley Arena, actually, and that was a moment in my life when I was like 'I am proud today'. It was for my sister. To sing there, my own songs...that would just make my life [complete]."

Do you think it would be harder to connect and communicate?
"The only difficulty is you've got a bigger space between you and the audience, but if they know the songs, they're singing along, I don't see any problems. Also, music is about making chemistry with the audience, and them making chemistry back. Distance doesn't have to discourage that. People wanna be intimate, people wanna be caught up in a moment. Let's hope I can do that."

Somewhere down the line, do you hope to experiment with different styles of music?
"Definitely, I'm definitely experimental with music. It's a passion of mine and I've got a lot of songs that I've written - every now and again I just write my crazy songs. I'll definitely have an album one day of all the stuff that isn't commercial. Definitely release that, I definitely want to do that."

What artists have given you inspiration in the past?
"Fiona Apple is a big inspiration of mine. She has beautiful lyrics. Tidal Waves is her old album and it just does it for me. Every little piece in it is romantically perfect. Jeff Buckley, can't fault him, he's phenomenal. Eva Cassidy, India Arie - you know, I've listened to her since I got her first CD, I listen to her once a week. Sinatra's a massive influence. Myles Davis - amazing. I think most of the artists I love create a mood, and I listen to them when I want to hear the mood of the creator. That's what I love about them."

Artists like Sade, Norah Jones and Fiona Apple seem to have a similar musical sensibility to yourself and they're also huge over in the States. Is America somewhere you'd like to go?
"If America accepted me, I would be overawed and absolutely delighted. I definitely would like to do that. MySpace is cool, it goes to America as well. There are no boundaries there; music's getting more and more...less, this is my country's music and more just picking out music you like from each country. America is definitely enjoying English music, so I'm very hopeful and quite excited."

What are your plans for 2007?
"Definitely focus on the album, getting a full band is very exciting for me. Definitely number seven interest. What else...I would like to go on a wonderful holiday - I would love to go to Jamaica [but] I [do] love England, I love being a Londoner, English rain, and when you're a songwriter, rain gives you a good time to write...I love England."

Thanks for chatting, Nikola!

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