Nina Sky Interview
|Label:||Polo Grounds/J Records|
|Next Project:||The Musical (Q1, '09)|
|Twitter:||Nina Sky on Twitter|
|Website:||Nina Sky's Website|
What could be better than a beautiful, multi-talented female R&B singer/songwriter? Nina Sky fans already know the answer to this question: a matching pair of them. The double-threat duo, composed of identical twin sisters Nicole and Natalie Albino, brings a lot to the table; both possessed of powerful singing voices and strong songwriting sensibilities, the two look to a wide range of influences, incorporating Nicole’s skills as a DJ and guitarist, their Puerto Rican heritage, and production from some of the biggest names in the music industry today into an intoxicating fusion of pop, hip hop, and R&B.
After four years of traveling, performing, writing, and collaborating, the sisters are preparing to release the follow up to their self-titled debut album, whose “Move Ya Body” brought them success in the clubs and a number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Sophomore effort The Musical, set to drop in the first quarter of 2009, will reintroduce Nina Sky as a mature, versatile twosome, and showcase their growth into masters of the songwriting craft. The album’s first single, the Rick Ross-featuring “Curtain Call,” gives listeners a taste of what’s in store on the forthcoming release..
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s own DJ “Z,” Nina Sky step inside the booth to talk about the family member who inspired them to become musicians, the sheer volume of material they’ve recorded in preparation for the new album, and their favorite producer to work with in the studio.
Listen to the Interview
Nina Sky Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, ‘Z,’ doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a duo with a Musical on their hands. Please welcome identical sisters Nicole and Natalie of Nina Sky – how are you?
Nicole: What’s up?
Natalie: We’re hanging out – what’s goin’ on?
DJ Booth: Thank you for joining me inside the DJ Booth.
Nicole: Thank you for having us inside the DJ Booth.
DJ Booth: It is absolutely all my pleasure.
DJ Booth: It is, I swear. Your self-titled debut, ladies, dropped in 2004. Since then, we haven’t heard much from Nina Sky, so recap the last four years for us.
Nicole: Well, the last four years have been spent doing lots of things – we’ve been traveling and performing, we’ve been DJing, Natalie has been designing. We’ve also been working on our new album, The Musical, which we’ve been really excited about. We’ve been recording a lot, and writing a lot of songs – lots of fun stuff.
DJ Booth: Lots of busy, but busy equals good.
DJ Booth: You broke into the industry with Universal, the new album is going to be released under Polo Grounds and J Records. How much of the hiatus, four years, was due to label-related issues?
Nicole: We were fortunate enough, when we were at Universal, when we asked to be released from the deal, they just let us out. So it wasn’t even dealing with that type of stuff; we were still grinding when we got out of that deal a few years ago, and then we just signed with Polo Grounds and everything started to run smoothly. Yeah, it wasn’t even spent sitting around, it was just spent grinding and recording and getting everything together for this album. We never stopped recording, even when we got out of the Universal deal.
DJ Booth: What would you say is the most noticeable difference between your time spent currently on J Records and Polo Grounds as opposed to while you were signed to Universal?
Nicole: I think the biggest difference is we’re so hands-on now. When we were at Universal, we were very disconnected from everything that was goin’ on. Nobody seemed to be in reach when we wanted to meet with people, and as far as getting everybody together and recording and actually putting the album together, and this time we’re fine, and our album is just about done. We worked with so many great producers, so many great writers. We’re actually making progress, and it’s exciting. They’re encouraging us to be hands-on and to learn more about the business, and I guess that’s the biggest difference. We’re co-executive producing the album, which is really exciting, that’s really big, so I guess that’s the biggest difference.
DJ Booth: Creative freedom is a gigantic difference, you’re absolutely right.
Nicole: It’s amazing.
DJ Booth: There’s a quote in your current bio that I’d like you both to elaborate upon, in regards to where you both draw your material motivation. It said, “We’ve experienced love, heartbreak, fun times, and sad times.” So, what has been the happiest non-musical moment since you released your debut, and what has been your saddest non-musical moment since then, as well?
Nicole: Happiest non-musical moment…
Natalie: We released our album?
Nicole: You know, that’s a great question.
DJ Booth: Thank you.
Nicole: You’ve stumped us… A happy time for us, not related to music, and not related to the album… For me, when we first came out we were so busy and we were running around and doing so much, and our time was all dedicated to recording and business and making that happen, and last year we had some time to go out to Puerto Rico and hang out with our grandparents, which really made us happy, ‘cause we never really get that time to spend with our family, and we got to spend like two weeks out in Puerto Rico, which was really nice. I think that was a really happy time for me – it was for you too, right?
Nicole: That was a really really happy time. A sad time…
Natalie: Last year, we lost our aunt, which was very sad for us. She was a big musical inspiration. She was the only person in our family that sang and did music when we were younger. We started singing kind of because of her, ‘cause she used to do musical theater and act, so we lost her last year.
Nicole: That was a really sad time.
DJ Booth: Well, I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt, but I will agree with you; whenever I’m in Puerto Rico, I have a blast. I’m sure your aunt is looking down from above, very happy with what the two of you have accomplished thus far.
Nicole: Thank you.
DJ Booth: You’re very welcome. Let’s focus on the album. We’ve alluded to it several times thus far. The title is “The Musical.” The press release for the project indicates that it’s “an elaborate work of art.” Now, those are the words of someone at the label who wrote up a press release. I want to know from the two of you, how would you describe this project?
Nicole: We felt like our first album was a draft to this bigger production, and we got to the studio and starting working with all these great producers and all these great writers. When you put together a musical you want all the right actors, all the right writers, the right musical score, the right theme. [In] a musical, whenever there’s a big emotion, there’s a song being sung, so that’s how we put together our album. We wanted to work with the dopest writers, the dopest producers, we wanted the content to be right, so that’s why we titled it “The Musical.”
DJ Booth: Because the project’s conception was several years ago, as you just mentioned, have there been times where at one point you loved a song, but then after you created 10 more, you said, “forget that one?”
Nicole: Many songs have come and gone.
Natalie: Yeah, we’ve actually recorded over 100 songs for this album, ‘cause we started recording it when we were signed to Universal, and now we’re recording, we’ve worked with a lot of other producers. There have been a lot of songs that we loved when we recorded them, and we were like, “This has to be a single!” and then we record another song, we’re like, “Okay, we’ll give that one the boot and make space for a new one.” There have been a lot.
DJ Booth: So you’re getting your quote unquote “Tupac” on, basically – you’re buildin’ up that catalog.
Nicole: Yeah, I guess so. [laughs]
DJ Booth: Production credits on the new album include Ryan Leslie, The Runners, Cool & Dre, and DJ Toomp. Were those all actual studio collaborations, or did you have to do the whole ProTools Email magic thing?
Nicole: No, they were all in-studio.
Natalie: Yeah – everyone that we worked with, we’ve been in the studio and actually got to vibe with them. We didn’t take any tracks and just record them on our own, with an engineer; we actually got to sit in the studio and rock out with all the producers that we worked with.
DJ Booth: Which producer gave you the best vibe?
Natalie: Personally, my favorite producer to work with is Salaam Remi. To me, he’s a musical genius. Everything that he does is fire, and his vibe is right – you get into the studio and it’s all about getting to know you, and seeing where you’re at, instead of just giving us a beat and saying, “This is what you’re going to do.” So I really liked working with Salaam.
DJ Booth: For the sake of consistency, was there a certain blueprint that you tried to follow, being that you worked with such a diverse range of producers.
Nicole: Well, we always say, when people ask us about the new music, and what we’ve recorded, and if we tried [for] a certain sound, we just went in there with open minds. And when we go into the studio with anyone, if they have a song that’s rock-influenced, a song that’s dancehall-influenced, hip-hop-influenced, anything, if we like the song we’re gonna write to it, ‘cause that’s who Nina Sky is. We’re influenced by all different genres. At the end of the day, [we describe our music] as a pop/R&B album with a hip hop base.
DJ Booth: You stole my thunder – the next question was going to be based on the first album, it was that danceable pop/R&B fusion. This album seems to be more hip-hop influenced – was there a particular reason for that?
Nicole: There’s no particular reason. It wasn’t something that we thought about before we got into the studio; we just went in with open minds and started recording songs that made us feel something, songs that moved us, and the stuff that we were writing was all personal stuff. We didn’t go in and say, “Hey, we’re gonna do a hip-hop album.” It wasn’t like that. It was just whatever inspired us at the moment, that’s what we were recording. When we released “Curtain Call,” people were surprised, ‘cause it was so different from what they’ve heard of us, but if you listen to our catalog, we’ve worked with everyone from Talib Kweli to The Alchemist to N.O.R.E., and we’ve done all different kinds of music.
DJ Booth: You mentioned “Curtain Call,” which is the Rick Ross-assisted single off the project. Considering the title of the album is The Musical, should we expect additional appropriately-titled tracks?
Nicole: It’s really funny, because we didn’t write that song, and the title goes so well with the title of the album, which is “The Musical.” We have a title track on the album, which is also called “The Musical,” but, besides that, there aren’t a lot of musical references…
Natalie: Well, there’s one called “This Chapter Is Closed,” I guess it’s kinda… But it wasn’t intentional.
DJ Booth: I guess, if you tried hard enough, you could relate anything to “The Musical.”
Nicole: Yeah, but “Curtain Call” just seemed to fit perfect with that title.
DJ Booth: Word is, ladies, that in addition to your work within the music industry, that you’re also working hard on a brand new shoe line. Is there some truth behind this?
Nicole: We have things in the works. Natalie’s working on a T-shirt.
Natalie: Yeah, I designed a T-shirt for a line called MadeMe Clothing. That comes out in December. I’m excited about that – it’s my first clothing collaboration.
DJ Booth: I gotta definitely lock you in, then, ‘cause then you could make me some clothing – I need some new clothes!
Natalie: I’ll get you one in your size. What’s your size?
DJ Booth: Large.
Natalie: Okay, cool, got you.
DJ Booth: Going forward, ladies, after the release of this brand new project, first quarter of 2009, where would you like to see your career go?
Nicole: Right now, we’re just focused on our immediate goal, which is just to finish this album finally, after three years, put it out and see it be successful, have our first single, have our second single, just keep going with that. Beyond that, Natalie designs, I’m sure she’s going to design more, I also DJ, I want to do that more, and we’re just into all arts – Natalie also paints, we love to act, we love musical theatre, so you never know where you’ll see Nina Sky.
DJ Booth: The sky is the limit. Ladies, go ahead and give everybody a website or a MySpace page.
DJ Booth: Well, ladies, thank you so much for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth. It was absolutely my pleasure – the best of luck.
Nicole: Thank you so much.
Natalie: Thank you, bye.
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