“Nina’s age is important.” So goes the tagline on her PR laden site, and as I stand outside her dressing room waiting to interview her, I can’t help but feel the point is easily hammered home. Girlish squeals punctuate a constant chatter and as the door opens we are met with something very far removed from the normal backstage area. Girlfriends are crowded onto leather sofas, nail polish and Nando’s as far as the eye can see. Should Nina Nesbitt have a rider, I would imagine it reads something like this:
– gal pals
But then- why should it be anything otherwise? Until recently, Nesbitt was a regular Scottish schoolgirl. As she hums a Stevie Nicks classic to me backstage, I call to mind just how recently Nesbitt herself was on The Edge of Seventeen. A chance meeting with Ed Sheeran may have catapulted her into the spotlight but it shouldn’t be forgotten that at the end of the day she is still a regular 19 year old who loves nothing more than hanging out with her friends and making music.
Said meeting, at age 16, was such a success that Sheeran promptly took her along with him on his near sold out European tour. Nesbitt was afforded a taste of the high life, and it would appear she liked it. And so began a somewhat whirlwind period in the life and times of Nina Nesbitt. Three years later, the Scottish based songstress has three hit EPs- the first, The Apple Tree, self-released- a debut album and countless festival appearances under her belt. Last year saw her headline two tours and become the toast of Radio One with her infectious “Stay Out” EP. September saw her cover Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” for a John Lewis advert, a sure fire shoe-in to fame. Considering the above, it would be easy to forget Nesbitt’s tender years. Then, we speak.
To converse with Nina Nesbitt is to be transported back to a simpler time, when downtime involved girlfriends, sleepovers and smores. As we discuss her performance at interactive culture festival SXSW, I’m reminded of what it is to be young. A question about musical icon Blondie illicits a response so honest and enthusiastic I can’t help but smile: “oh my God I actually like fangirl-ed so much!” On playing SXSW: “I was just like, oh my God!”. On meeting Blondie: “my life has pretty much been made now”. A successful trip, by all accounts. As she tells me of the awesomeness of Texas I begin to wonder if Nesbitt is aware of just how far she has come. A spot at one of the world’s biggest and most highly regarded festivals is not to be sniffed at; it would appear Nesbitt is beginning to make waves in all the right places. As she smiles back at me, placid and perhaps a little nervous, I wonder how she will cope as the full force of the unforgiving music industry hits.
To look at her it’s all too easy to judge by the cover and see an innocent girl, blinded by the headlights of potential impending fame. As we discuss the differences between the Edinburgh and Glasgow music scenes, she talks of her “actual crying” over the closure of the HMV Picturehouse and her desire to support a space which showcases the blossoming talent within the capital. It’s heart warming to hear, yet will it be nothing more than a pipe dream? I want Nesbitt to succeed but wonder absentmindedly if such a quest is too big for a spirit so seemingly delicate. Then, an unexpected turn. When talking of her journey into gigging, I’m surprised to hear of her struggle to secure space; I had never previously considered the implications of being a musician aged under 18. Cue an excessive amount of sneaking into pubs just to, quite literally, get her voice heard.
And so I begin to see another side to Nesbitt. Ballsy, bold and unafraid to experiment. She has moved effortlessly through musical genres, relentlessly gigging to promote her latest sound. In her own words her music has got a lot rockier of late, her image swiftly following suit. With a bandmate’s girlfriend working as a stylist, I’ll admit that initially I feared Nesbitt may be nothing more than a beautiful clothes horse. She makes no qualm of stating that she has help with her fashion choices, yet get her onto the topic of a day spent shopping and it quickly becomes clear that this one more than knows her own look. In such a materialistic industry, image is key- and Nesbitt is well aware of this. A lover of 90s grunge and 60s chic, Nesbitt counts Topshop, Nasty Gal, Urban Outfitters and American Apparel amongst her favourite places to shop. A pretty standard response, yet scratch the surface of her style icons and the answer is rather more unexpected. Kurt Cobain is top of the list, and looking at Nesbitt’s recent wardrobe choices- Doc Martens, sheepskin coats and tea dresses- it’s suddenly easy to see the stylistic references influencing her style. “When you’re playing music it’s important to dress in the style in which you want to be perceived”.
Perception. The longer we speak, the more Nesbitt changes and sculpts mine of her. Placid, perhaps, yet witty and eloquent to boot. Her fan base of “Nesbians” may be formed of mostly teenagers but that doesn’t stop her from penning lyrics such as “I’ve come to the conclusion you’re quite fit/But I’m under no illusion you’re a dick”. Nesbitt may be a lover of selfies and staying out but don’t doubt for a second that she’ll utilise her experiences of both to pen a kick ass tune to knock many a musical buff’s socks off. Sitting through the band’s soundcheck, I’m staggered at the strength of her voice; raw, undoubtedly, yet powerful and far reaching. As we rap up our chat, I pause for a second to take one final glance around the room. And then, I spot it. Nestled amongst the Nails Inc and Nandos, a lone bottle of Southern Comfort. I glance at Nesbitt. Her previously girlish smile now seems a little more knowing, a little less innocent. Her heavily lined eyes mask an educated outlook. The music industry may be unforgiving, but I have a feeling Nina Nesbitt will cope with whatever it throws at her just fine.
Photography: Charlotte Klein