Louisa Nicklin

I grew up in Auckland and then lived in Wellington for five years while I was studying in my early twenties. My parents were great lovers of music. My mum would play piano for me when I went to bed and my dad didn't play much music but was always listening to it in the house.

I moved to Wellington after high school where I studied Music Composition. I loved this and ended up doing an honors year in Composition. Before this I had mostly performed music but had never done much writing. The combo of studying composition and starting to play in a band (Moses) meant my interest in songwriting and developing musical ideas grew.

I am based in Auckland now and have been back here for about 3 years. I decided to write music under my own name as what I am doing doesn't feel like a particular project where I am trying to do anything in particular. These are just the songs I write and they are so closely tied to my life. It felt right to come out as my own project.

A memorable show for me was definitely my first ever solo set. This was playing at Wine Cellar and was quite last minute. Someone asked me to play and I thought, oh go on why not, I can put a set together! I spent the next few days finishing songs and practicing heaps. The feeling of performing those songs for the very first time when no one had ever heard them before was really amazing.

Putting the band together took a while. I knew of Mason through friends and had seen him drum in various bands and thought we would work well together. Eamon I met while playing together as the band for Tom Cunliffe. We got along and I liked that Eamon came from a jazz background so he would bring something new to the table. The three of us have been playing together for about 2 or 3 years now.

What do you write your songs about, and what is your songwriting process?

I usually write songs about my own experiences and relationships with others (these might be family, romantic, friendships, or even people I don't like very much!). Sometimes I will record demos into logic but often I just record the songs using the voice recorded on my phone.

When I am writing I usually have a book of lyrics that I write in, these can be really mediocre lyrics, to just one or two words put together, a chorus or something I'm really excited about. Then independent of this I will play guitar and noodle around with ideas and chords I like the sound of. Once I have some chords or riffs I like the sound of I will start improvising over this using some of the lyrics I have written down or ideas I have been thinking about.

Sometimes I will record myself improvising as I might do something that I think sounds cool but then instantly forget what it was so it can be great to record yourself playing by yourself or jamming with others. I find that when you are improvising ideas it is when the most organic and authentic melodies and lyrics come through.

I find the best way to choose what songs to record and release is to try them out at gigs. When practicing for gigs a song seems to develop and can become something really great or can feel a bit flat. This is usually how I'll decide if a song is worth recording/releasing.

What is something that you would tell yourself if you could go back in time?

I think I'd go back and tell myself not to get caught up in whether I am good enough at singing to be a singer. I never sang in public until I was about 22 because I always thought my voice wasn't good enough. But the thing is, when I started singing my voice got better and better as I was constantly learning how to use it. I think this goes for any instrument, or even just songwriting, you might as well try it, you will only get better the more you do it.

What are you waiting for?

You've got to be in it to win it!