Twenty Three Years In:
An Interview with Nicotine
July 21, 2019
WBRU got the chance to talk with Nicotine about everything from her tattoos to her upcoming project(s). Read on to discover what the 23-year-old singer has been up to and what may be coming up next.
Hey! How are you?
I’m good, just driving up to Austin now so it’s the perfect time to talk.
Okay, so my first question is, for your new fans or anyone who might discover you through this interview, can you describe your sound a bit?
Hmm…for my new fans. I dunno, it’s just me. It’s a mixture of my poetry but also a mixture of Southern sounds that I’ve pulled from both sides of my family and just growing up in Texas. You know, just travelling throughout the South as well as picking up things, you know. Also just, I guess, realness. [laughs]
Everything I write is real. Everything I write is honest. Music is my therapy so, if I’m not being honest in my music, there’s no way I’m going to heal from the things that I’m writing about. That’s what it really is.
That honestly sounds like a great sound to have. So, you mentioned that you write poetry. Does that poetry come before the music or do they go hand-in-hand?
They pretty much go hand-in-hand because I use both of them as my main element of therapy or going throughout my life. Sometimes, I’m just in the mood to focus on poetry and sometimes I’m in the mood to focus on music whenever it comes to me. But usually they’re being processed at the same time.
Do you keep some of that poetry out of your music for yourself or other creative outlets?
Oh absolutely, I have hundreds of journals at home. I have journals at my house My mother has some of my journals. Yeah, I write pretty much every minute of everyday. I fill up my phone notes all the time. I am constantly writing because I am constantly inspired to write. So, there’s a lot of things that, I don’t know, I might release in ten, twenty years, who knows? I have a bunch of things I’ll probably never release! [laughs]
A whole career in the iPhone notes!
So, while you’re writing all of this personal lyric, how did you know you wanted to take that and broadcast it to a larger public?
Well, ever since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to be the same thing: a musician. I was in choir, you know, a few different kinds, for twelve years of my life because I was just so obsessed with singing. It got to the point where I knew I wanted to be a singer, but I was too scared. I was just used to singing other people’s music for shows and not really doing anything to expose myself into the world. Then, one day, my friend Trevor was just like, “That’s enough! We’re taking your ass down to the studio. You’re going to record these songs because it’s too good, and the people need to hear it.” So, I trusted him, and I did it. I cried because I was so scared. [laughs] Then, ever since then, I’ve just had to. I have to. I feel like if I’m not releasing stuff I’m going to explode or overflow. Being able to create and release new things to the world is a big refresher for me. It makes me feel so much better to have the weight lifted off my shoulders. It makes me feel even better that it connects to so many different people.
It definitely does. When you have all these people listening to your songs, do you want them to hear your story or have it relate to their own stories? What are you hoping they get?
Hmm, that’s a really good question because usually, I don’t make it for that. I make it for myself. …but it is a good question because I have such a special relationship with my fans. It’s so precious, just the love that we reciprocate with each other. Tt’s amazing. If they do take anything away from it, I would want them to take the idea of not letting any obstacles stop them from, you know, doing the things you feel you were meant to do in this lifetime on this Earth. You know, my story might not be the same as anyone else’s story, but there are people that relate to it or are inspired by it or people who feel safe and understood. I love that, that they can feel that. I want them to take those feelings and go out in the world and share those feelings with other people so that it can just continue to grow. They don’t have to necessarily share my work. I don’t care about that, but just the feelings that they get from it. It’s just really important for me to spread the love, you know?
Yeah, I get that. And I think you definitely do that through your songs.
And you mentioned that a whole of that comes from the relationship you have with your fans. Could you describe that relationship a bit more?
It’s kind of hard to, but that’s okay. We’ll get through it [laughs]. My relationship with them… They feel like they’re my dang kids, you know? They’re so precious and so many of them are so young, and I’m glad. I see some artists, and they don’t really try to cater to the younger kids or whatever, but I love that. So many of these young people are finding my music and learning from it so they can take those lessons they’ve learned and put them in their lives while they’re ahead. That’s so much better than when I had to learn the lessons too many years too late. They’re gaining the knowledge I learned through my mistakes and through my pain, and they get to apply it early on. It’s crazy to see them crying or running up to me and just so excited to talk to me. It’s crazy because them being excited gets me excited, and I don’t know who is on a higher level [laughs]. I don’t know if they understand like, I’ll sing regardless, but they are the key in why my dreams are happening for me. It’s because they’re so supportive. They show up, and they show out. Without that, none of this would be possible. So, I love and I appreciate them forever forever forever.
That sounds so sweet. It seems like you all get so much from that relationship.
They keep me going!
For sure! I feel like so many fans don’t realize how reciprocal of a relationship it is of love and love on both sides.
Yeah, a lot of people don’t understand that the love runs deep. [laughs] The love runs so deep with this.
Definitely. So, a lot of your fans are really young, as you mentioned. However, you’re still pretty young yourself! And I saw on Instagram recently that you just turned 23. First off, happy belated birthday to you! Secondly, I noticed that this age seemed to be pretty monumental and reflective for you. I wanted to ask why 23 was such a big age for you to reach and accomplish.
Okay, 23. It is so important for me because it’s been a thing for me probably since I was eight. I left home at about eighteen, and I started this journey that I’ve been on for the last few years. I wanted to be healthy and in a good level-headed space where everything was making sense because things weren’t for a really long time. I don’t even remember what started it. One day the age twenty-three just hit me, and I was like, “My life is going to be completely different by the age of 23. I know that. Something big is going to happen during my 23rd year of life.” I’ve been manifesting that and working on that and just really believing in that. I’ve been feeling it in every part of my being, and I’ve been seeing it. Every time I think about it I can actually see it right here in front of me. It is what has kept me going. There have been many times along the road where I have lost myself. I lost myself in my depression, excluding myself from the world. The last time that happened it was 2017, and I lost everything. I really thought that I was just going to die. I didn’t believe I was going to be able to go on. I didn’t have any motivation. Then, I came home, spent a lot of time by myself. I really sat there and fixed my demons and figured out what was going on with me. So, for the past two years, I’ve been focusing my ass on becoming a better version of myself. To look back on that journey, to see where I am at 23 is such a crazed emotional thing for me. It’s one of my many accomplishments. Some people would be like, “Oh, it’s just a birthday.” To me, it’s a huge accomplishment, one of my biggest accomplishments. I’m just excited to live out this year and accept my harvest from all the seeds I have planted this last year. I know so many beautiful things are coming to me for me, and I’m so excited to share those with my fans and the world.
Congratulations, truly. It’s just incredible that you knew before all of this that 23 would be your year. It really does seem, from everything you’ve told me, that this will be your year. I’m really excited for you on that front. So, to ask, when you were going through those lows, how did you maintain the energy to keep going forward with your projects and yourself? What inspired you to not give up there?
Well, there was this point in time where I called my managers, and I was like, “Fucking Open Letter.” That’s literally what I was saying, “Fucking Open Letter. I don’t ever want to hear this album again. I don’t want anything to do with it. I want to start over. I don’t want to deal with it.” There was just so much pain that was attached to it. It was driving me crazy to have the pain attached to the album shoved down my throat all the time because it was becoming so successful. It was driving me crazy, and they agreed with me. They were like, “Okay, fine. If you don’t want to do it, we’re not going to make you do it.” I kind of just took a lot of time off. I was trying to make new music, but it wasn’t sounding right. I realized I really needed to get back to square one. So, I just turned on my album one day, and I listened to it. You know, I just looked at it and how my fans react to it. I realized I never properly let out all the pain that was attached to it. I never performed it or did anything with it. So, my managers were like, “Okay, now that you’re ready to process this pain, we’re going to give you a tour.” I guess the thing that kept me going was just the fact that, over time, as I was spending more time by myself because I pushed everyone away or they just left anyway, I started to realize, “I’m worth something.” Like, I enjoy my own company. I think I’m a pretty cool person. I feel like there are people around me who see my worth and appreciate my worth. Just because some people don’t doesn’t mean other people won’t and can’t, and it doesn’t mean I’m not capable of overcoming these things and proving my worth to mainly myself. So, I just kinda stood up and was like, “Yah, I’m definitely going to keep going because I have a vision, and I know I’m meant to do greater things. I know that I can help the people that I love and inspire other people to help the people that they love.
And so, when you were on that tour to reclaim this album did you find that closure you needed?
Oh, it was amazing! The first show I played was so funny because when we perform we do a walkout. So, the band members went out one-by-one and are all on stage, and I’m behind the curtain just peeking out at the crowd. I was terrified. I was looking at my managers, and I was bawling my eyes out. They were like, “Nic, you got this! You can do it! You can do it!” And I was like, “I know, but I’m so scared.” I was so so scared, but then I got it together. I wiped my tears off my face, and I walked on that stage. The crowd went crazy, and we ended up doing a killer show. Every show after that just kept getting better and better. There were things, of course, that went wrong. It was a tour, of course things went wrong. But it didn’t matter because I got to connect to all of these people who were there just for me. It’s a crazy feeling to go from convincing yourself that you’re all alone in this world to stepping out of that shell and realizing there is so much love in this world that has your name on it. It is just waiting for you to find it. It’s just beautiful. I love performing. It’s even more therapeutic than writing sometimes, being surrounded by such amazing energy is great.
Yeah, you seem to literally see your creation get validated right in front of your eyes. Now that you’ve had those performances, what’s next for you? Are you looking to write more music that moves on from the pain or are you still channeling that?
So, I’m already working on multiple things. I’ve been working on an EP for a really long time now. I am working on a debut album, but we’re not sure when that’s gonna drop. I do know that I have a visual coming out. I have a single coming out. So yeah, there’s definitely some things to look forward to. The new sound is more mature because I wrote most of the songs on Open Letter when I was 18 or 19. Now, I’ve experienced so many more things. There are many more songs that are just me embracing my Houston elements, the sounds of where I’m from more, more funk, more R&B, just more good-ass music. I’m still considering if I should intertwine my music with my poetry for the next album; I’m not sure yet, but there will be more poetry being released as well.
Sounds like you have a lot of incredible projects coming up! That’s so great to see.
Oh yeah, I’m working! [laughs]
Truly seems like the 23rd year is doing everything you expected it to!
Yeah, it’s been amazing.
I’m so glad. I actually only have one more question for you. Kind of random, but I noticed on your photos you have quite a few tattoos. The meanings behind tattoos are just something I’m personally interested in, so I would love to hear about yours.
Oh yeah, my tattoos are all super important to me even if it’s just a tattoo which I don’t really think some of them are. Hmm… let me see. Do you want me to just go down the list?
Yeah! If you want to!
Okay, cool! My first tattoo I got when I was seventeen. It’s a songbird: a bird made out of music notes. I got that because, obviously, I’m obsessed with music and singing, but also it relates to the whole caged bird thing. You know, just birds represent flight and freedom and movement, and that’s what music represents to me. So, that’s that one. I got–originally the tattoo was cigarettes that said nicotine–that covered up with a double-headed snake to represent my duality. I have a pot of money that says “Pot of Money Records” on my arm because that’s my stuff: Pot of Money Records. We’re going global. [laughs] I have a cowgirl with a cactus that says Nicotine and the Warm Tones because…Well, you’re just going to have to be on the lookout for Nicotine and the Warm Tones. That’s all I’m going to say. It’s coming. I have my parents’ birth years on my ankle. I have white tears on my face. I have “Down to Mars” tatted on my back because I’m just obsessed with Outkast, and it also represents my more masculine energy although I do carry a lot of feminine. My masculine side can definitely jump out. So, I also have “We’re all going to hell for the songs we sing” on the back of my neck which is one of my favorite movie quotes from “Walk the Line.” It just resonated with me ever since I first saw the movie when I was like nine, I guess? Hmm, what else do I have? Oh, I have a tattoo on my butt. [laughs] It’s cherries. It’s a memorial tattoo for my friend Milfie; she passed away a few years ago. So it says, “In the words of Milfie, get into it.” I think that’s all really.
Thank you! I always love hearing those stories.
Oh, wait! I forgot one. I’m so sorry! My last one. Well, I guess two. I have “Black” tatted on my fist. I also have my blue, yellow, and green Venn diagram tatted on my chest. That one is really important to me. It represents my overcoming of my depression. Yellow and blue equal green the way sun and water equals life basically.
That’s really cool. I saw that one in a picture and just thought it was beautiful.
Thank you so much!
Well, I think that’s all the questions I have for you. Thank you so much!
Oh, thanks! I really enjoyed talking to you.
I enjoyed talking to you too! I really appreciate you being so open and sharing so much with me!
Okay, have a good one!
You too, bye!