Nina Violet
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Nina Violet

West Tisbury, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

West Tisbury, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band Folk Alternative


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"Nina Violet - Press"

Nina Violet : Finding the right words

By Ben Williams
Published: December 24, 2008

Music is one of Nina Violet's earliest memories. From playing with the pianos her parents were rebuilding, to learning viola at the public school string lessons, Ms. Violet has always surrounded herself with music. But when she took up the guitar in seventh grade, music moved beyond a pastime and became a salvation from the difficult years of middle school.

"In grade school I wore the most bizarre clothes, and did well in school. It was really horrible," the 26-year-old remembers. "All the kids singled me out. It was either I dress like them and act like them - which I can't do - or be a really awesome freak. Being weird was like a protection thing because I didn't have any confidence in myself."

When she was 11, her older brother took her to a Second Power band practice. Seeing musicians who were having fun playing together gave Ms. Violet new inspiration. She soon took up guitar and started a band of her own. The fierce, hard-edged sounds of rock and roll resonated with her.
Nina Violet, Martha's Vineyard
Singer-songwriter Nina Violet practices her belief in being true to one's self in both her music and her life.
Photo by Ralph Stewart

"When you have no friends, you've got to have something to do, so I sat in my room playing guitar and writing songs all the time. Being good in school was not going to give you confidence at that age. Being good at guitar does give you confidence. It's something you can do with other people."

Ms. Violet's efforts on guitar resulted in a standing ovation at the Tisbury School's talent show in eighth grade - a huge confidence boost.

By the time she was in high school she was taking music lessons off-Island, and touring with Kahoots. "Hanging out with the Kahoots guys was great," she says. "I saw that grown-ups who were being themselves were all the better for it. In grade school they might be considered freaks, but now they were really cool. Knowing a lot of older people gave me the idea that it was awesome to be yourself and if others didn't accept that, to not let it bother you. Everyone else will catch up sooner or later."

Ms. Violet put off college indefinitely to pursue music, and without any major financial obligations she set out to pursue a career as a performer.

She first headed for cities, busking (playing music on public streets) in Seattle, San Francisco, and Boston. She earned rent money by playing viola in the T stations.

But after growing up on Martha's Vineyard, cities seemed too crowed and dirty, and Ms. Violet decided that the toll city life was having on her, compared to the opportunities it created, just didn't balance out. She came back to Martha's Vineyard in her early 20s, and started playing with Willy Mason, doing a weekly gig at Offshore Ale in Oak Bluffs.

"Playing my own gigs was such a source of anxiety," she says. "You're playing guitar and your fingers turn to gook. As far as calming my nerves, playing with Willy was huge. We would do a ton of shows and get really used to playing for a crowd that was there for you. Now I really do enjoy performing."

Fingers ruffling through her hair as she talks, Ms. Violet reflects on her choices. "Musically, I have no idea what I'm trying to do, I just do it," she says. "If I thought about it, I'd probably screw it up. I started with the electric guitar. When I stopped playing with the band and started playing alone, I picked up the acoustic guitar. That's when everyone started accusing me of playing folk music. At first I thought it was a dirty word, but after a while I got comfortable with it."

Although she listened to music that was, "good and loud," she always focused on the lyrics, and that brought her towards folk music.

"Think back to what Woody Guthrie did in the Depression," she says. "He alleviated the suffering of people by singing their suffering aloud. When everybody was thinking these down thoughts and then a charismatic man showed up and sung the thoughts back to them, it made their suffering real and it made it okay. Music has always been an expression from people to God, or to each other or to themselves about the things that they suffer and the joys that they feel."

Ms. Violet will sit with her guitar for hours. When writing songs, the lyrics and music come simultaneously. If she doesn't like something, she doesn't edit it, she simply stops, and starts a new song.

"It's good to find things that are both musically and lyrically poignant," says Ms. Violet. "The writing part of the song has always been really important to me. Lyrics are not about showing how well you can sing or giving your mouth a vehicle or giving a reason to play your guitar riffs... it's really about the lyrics for me."

Ms. Violet is clear about her willingness and determination to let things unfold for her in their own way. "I get psyched when I sell lots of records and it would be - Martha's Vineyard Times

"Nina Violet Live at the Basement Bar"

“A quick listen to some of the studio tracks reveals moments of startling voice control in the emerging Violet….there were enough hair-raising moments of true folk wailing to demand at least a pint from Neil Young. Forget Elliott Smith or Devendra Banhart – this was indie folk with attitude.”
-Dan Ashby - The Yorker, York, Great Britain
- The Yorker

"Nina Violet"

"The highlight of the evening arrives when Willy is off fixing his guitar. Nina Violet briefly takes centre stage. The one song she has time to perform is unexpected, and completely gorgeous. Nina Violet causes a united hushed silence providing three precious minutes of folk perfection. "
-Joshua Cole, Drowned in Sound
- Drowned in Sound

"Roll's Quick Picks"

"“Way Down Washing Dirty Dishes” and “Yellow Flash” feature the kind of soaring, otherworldly harmonies Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear get all the accolades layered and lush as anything produced by Brian Wilson during his fertile early to mid-’60s reign over Los Angeles and the America"
-Crispin Kott, Roll Magazine

- Roll Magazine

"Singer's New CD a Gem of Genres"

"Violet's CD was handed to me some months ago. I had no idea who she was but now am glad I do. This is one of those gems you stumble upon blindly and listen to without any preconceptions."
-John Barry, Poughkeepsie Journal
- Poughkeepsie Journal

"Nina Violet - Che's Lounge"

“The engine behind Nina’s songs is her two-tiered voice, its smoky ground floor separated from its amber-colored upper stories by a beautiful breaking point. Listen, if you can get past the sheer beauty of the sound, to Nina's lyrics. How she settles on words so pitch-perfect yet unexpected is one of the unsettling mysteries that is destined to bring Nina to the world's attention any day now.”
-Daniel Waters
- Martha's Vineyard Times

"Nina Violet in UK"

“We haven't quite worked out who Nina reminds us vocally. Like all class acts she reminds you of several people at one and the same time but the whole thing is so seamless that you have your work cut out to identify them and she just ends up sounding like herself....Buf if we say there are similarities to AIMEE MANN, ALISON KRAUSS, ROSANNE CASH, GILLIAN WELCH and LUCINDA WILLIAMS...well you get the picture: she is right up there.”
-The Band Room, UK
- The Band Room


Nina Violet - Lose Strife
Nina Violet & the Invisible Orchestra



for fans of Willy Mason, Mercury Rev, Yo La Tengo.....see press...toured for the past year with Willy Mason, opening for Radiohead in the UK!