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New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Alternative Folk




"Nakaya Shares Poetic Video For "Dear Skin""

Long, drawn-out baths, therapeutic trips to the flower market, and casual strolls down dimly lit streets; these are the activities alternative folk singer-songwriter Nakaya engages in during the video for "Dear Skin," shot in her original stumping ground of Los Angeles.
It's the second single off of her debut EP, Out of Breath, and finds the alternative folk singer using her sensual, streamlined voice to dedicate a poetic love letter to her threadbare skin, expressing the desire to repair it while simultaneously pleading for it’s forgiveness: Please stay with me my darling and we’ll rest like we’ve cleansed our sins, she sings. Out of Breath is out now and available to stream in full here. - The Fader

"Nakaya: Dear Skin"

Nakaya has a knack for morphing songs which begin in a subtle hush into catchy, empowering anthems. Raised in Los Angeles, she is currently pursuing a degree in Recorded Music at New York University, and making her own music at the same time. In April she released Out of Breath, her first EP. The album includes the Jack Hallenbeck-produced track “Dear Skin,” and you can get the first peek at the video, directed by Sara Cath and Serina Paris, right here:

I talked to Nakaya about flaws, self-acceptance, quitting dance, and the concept behind the “Dear Skin” music video.

NILINA MASON-CAMPBELL: Can you tell me a little more about “Dear Skin”?

NAKAYA: I’d written a lot of stuff before I picked the songs that were going to be on the EP, and “Dear Skin” is the one closest to my heart. A lot of times I’m a person who has her guard up—it’s for my own safety and my own sanity. I feel more comfortable [when] I keep the private things to myself. I’m not one to put everything out there. But that song felt really important to me as an ode to my skin. In appreciation, or some sort of apology for abusing your body, not taking care of yourself, many, many things. It’s multi-layered.

The nice thing about this song, why I feel really proud of it in particular, is that people can relate to it [even] if the song doesn’t directly relate to them in the ways it does for me. There are a lot of situations that correlate with the theme of the song. Most people come up to me about “Dear Skin” because the lyrics are very transparent, and people can connect to that kind of honesty. That song was very hard for me to write. It feels scary, but I think it’s worth it.

How did you move through that fear to write and release the song?

Writing it was hard for me. Recording it was also hard, but I worked with a very close friend of mine so it was a safe environment where I didn’t feel uncomfortable. The hardest part was when I let other people hear it. Even letting my parents hear it, because sometimes I don’t want to talk with them about very personal issues. Not that they don’t want to hear it and wouldn’t support it, but it’s scary, especially with people who are so close to you. Letting people in my friend group, my classes, my professors hear it, that was the hardest part because I was letting them into a piece of me that I didn’t always like putting out there. After a while you kind of get over it. It happened and it brought up a lot of discussions with people and it turned out really great.

What discussions has it triggered?

A lot of people come up to me and say, “I feel that.” That’s what’s so powerful about music; I don’t think I wrote it for other people, I really did write it for my own sense of catharsis, but what I was feeling is really a human experience and so that’s why people hear it and go “I feel that” or “I really connect with this.” I think that is the most interesting thing ever. How cool is that?

Have you read Cheryl Strayed‘s Wild, which has since become a movie? I saw her speak and when questioned about how she’s able to be so truthful, she said “Be honest. People will love you for it.”

You just do it. What’s hard about being honest is that sometimes it’s hard to admit that you’re flawed. I think that for people, myself included, it’s hard to take the blame for things and go “I messed up.” So when you’re honest people go, “I feel that, too.”

Can you talk about your journey with your skin?

It has a lot to do with real, hardcore girl issues: self-acceptance and loving yourself in your own skin and being really comfortable with who you are. I don’t even think that I’m there yet and I don’t think most people get there for a long time, if they ever do. It’s a constant thing that women are struggling to deal with because there’s this constant pressure: Look a certain way, be a certain way, do a certain thing, appease certain people. It’s hard to go, This is who I am and this is it. The End.

How would you describe the video for “Dear Skin”?

We wanted to keep a similar aesthetic to the “Colored Lines” video. We wanted to play around with the theme of isolation in an actual solitary space as well as in a city environment. It’s in the vein of very ethereal, calming visuals that match the tone of the song, but with an underlying theme of solitude and dealing with being by yourself. Sometimes people just don’t want to have to face themselves and we wanted to visually represent that.

Speaking of solitude, what role does it play in your life?

I call myself an introverted extrovert. I’m pretty extroverted—I’m good at talking to people and I can do that, I feel comfortable doing that, and I like that. But I also need a lot of alone time. I’m a heavy thinker and sometimes too much time with people or in too crowded of a place doesn’t let me sift through my own thoughts. I do my best writing when I’ve had a lot of alone time. It can be in nature or even just in my room, where I’m reading a book or maybe even meditating. Those kind of things really inform my music and what I’m doing.

What kind of music were you exposed to as a child?

My parents listened to all kinds of music when I was growing up. It was a lot of hip-hop because my parents were really big into the ’90s hip-hop scene in New York City, so there was a lot of that going on in my household, as well as R&B, folk music, jazz. It was a big blend of things growing up. There was only music: My parents were avid, avid music listeners and so constantly, if we were doing anything—cleaning, cooking, just hanging out—it wasn’t so much TV, it was more just sitting around listening to music.

Which ’90s hip-hop artists did they listen to most often?

My parents are from New York, so obviously there was a lot of Biggie, Run–DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, those kinds of artists were big in the household, but also West Coast artists like Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Tupac, lots of Tupac.

Did your parents move to Los Angeles to raise you?

I was born in New York and then my parents moved out when I was really, really young. I think it was hard for them to see themselves raising a kid in the city, trying to deal with the weather, all sorts of things like that. We had some family living in LA at the time, who were like “You should just come out to LA, it’s gonna be a lot easier to take care of Nakaya.” So we ended up here.

I don’t even know how people do it on the [NYC] trains, strollers on the train. It’s hard. I think my parents [moved to LA because they] still wanted to be in a city. They didn’t feel comfortable living in a suburb because they mostly grew up in New York City—my mom is originally from the Philippines, but she came out here when she was in her teens, so basically most of her life was spent in New York. So they were like, “We don’t know if we want to do the suburban thing, but maybe something a little bit calmer than New York.”

Did you ever return to New York as a kid on trips?

We used to visit New York every couple of years or so and I remember growing up—you don’t feel it anymore after you live there for a little bit but—there was always that magic, that New York magic. So I always knew that I wanted to be in New York! I remember being really young and having no idea where in New York I was, at all, just kind of trekking around with my parents, but there was a wow factor to everything I did in the city and it felt really vibrant and like where I wanted to be.

Now that you’re going to school in New York, how would you contrast it to living in LA?

I still love New York, but it quickly loses some of that wow factor when you wake up there every day. It’s still fun, but sometimes it’s like, “Damn, do I really want to walk 25 minutes in the cold, or have to walk very far with my groceries when it’s snowing out?” It’s little things like that.

How much school do you have left ahead of you?

It’s another two years until I graduate. I’ve got some time before reality comes and hits me in the face, before people start asking me for money.

What are you studying?

I’m in the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music in NYU’s Tisch School. We do lots of production, performance, and business—it really runs the gambit of everything music industry related. You come out with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Recorded Music, but you go in and take more classes based on your track—whether it’s performance, production, or business.

What drew you to the Clive Davis Institute?

I’ve known, probably since middle school, that I wanted to go to NYU. I didn’t know about the Clive Davis Institute, but I knew that I wanted to be in New York and that I wanted to go to NYU. I didn’t even really know why I wanted to go there, I just knew I wanted to be there. I found out about Clive [after] I did a program called Grammy Camp in New York. I found out about the Recorded Music program at NYU the summer before I was supposed to start applying for schools.

That program and honestly set off really going “OK, this is where I want to be.” I was really young and I’d done a lot of music stuff, but less formally trained music stuff. I was more of a formally trained dancer and that’s what I had done for 10 years. Then I did this program and it totally changed my life. They told me about the Recorded Music program and the funny thing is that I looked into it afterwards, did a tour of NYU, and I still didn’t think it was for me. The way they described it on the tour—“Oh, this is a very rich program, it furthers a different kind of person, it’s really hard to get into”—I kind of felt weirdly discouraged. As a result, I ended up applying to Clive very close to the deadline, but somehow it all worked out.

Before that did you want to be a dancer?

I started dancing when I was young because I was really sickly as a kid; doctors would tell my parents that it was good for me to do some sort of physical activity to get my immune system up. So that’s how I got into dance when I was very, very young. I really liked it for several years and I stuck with it, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

After a while, I was just at the studio for familiarity’s sake. I was there because all my friends were there, because I knew all the teachers and that’s what felt comfortable for me. I did a lot of singing at the academy because we would have performances where I was able to sing, which was really cool, but it took me a really long time to build up the courage to tell my parents, “You know, I don’t really think this is it for me.” I know that they definitely had a hard time swallowing that.

Did they expect you to pursue dance?

Initially they thought I would want to pursue dance. My parents have always been really supportive in any kind of artistic endeavor that I’ve wanted to get into. So I think after a while they had an inkling that I was starting to lose interest: I didn’t really want to go to class anymore, my priorities were shifting. I think they knew, but it was a really bitter pill for them to swallow until I went to that Grammy Camp program and showed them I was serious about wanting to pursue music for real.

What is your parents’ reaction to you releasing this EP?

I think they’re really proud of me. They were nervous that I was quitting dance because I didn’t feel confident. I think that they’re realizing that I stopped pursuing dance because that really wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. It’s nice for me, too, because a lot of kids my age don’t really know what they want and it feels really empowering and awesome to be in a community of people who are so into what I’m into and want to talk about music all day. That’s so exciting! ♦ - Rookie Mag


Listen to the debut EP from New York based singer-songwriter Nakaya. The 4-track EP was produced by Jack Hallenbeck and, in the words of Nakaya's camp, is "an amalgamation of sounds that inspire her" and blends "ambient textures, with freak folk, R&B based melodies, electronic and acoustic production". Get into her stunning debut below.

By Alexander Aplerku, AFROPUNK Contributor - Afropunk


Still working on that hot first release.



NAKAYA is an ambient alternative folk artist. Blending electronic, R&B and freak folk genres, the result is an amalgamation of styles often found in her musical upbringing. A Los Angeles native and current student in the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, she is deeply inspired by moments of silence and reflection witnessed between the two ever-changing cities. 

Band Members