“Can we bring a snare in midway through the verse?” comes the voice from my right. “Only, not a normal snare sound. Make it out of something unusual.” I start scrolling through some sample libraries, tapping up and down the octaves on my keyboard and glancing Nicki’s way anytime something sounds like it has potential. I’m trying to gauge what she’s thinking. Eventually I stumble upon an offset rimshot/hi-hat
combination. I punch in the two and four. “Ok, what about taking every fourth hit out and replacing it with an
808 shaker? And can we make it half a beat later?” I’ve learned to go with her, especially where rhythm is
concerned. It’s in her blood, and that’s a force I know to respect. It’s what makes her who she is. “That’s soooo
good!” she says, chuckling with excitement at this latest production twist.
Nicki Kelly is infectiously creative. Her lifelong love affair with songs finally led to her starting writing them a few years back, with and for other artists initially. The urge to perform some of them herself followed, which in turn led her into the recording studio. “I feel I am at a stage now where I can share where I am,” she says.
Getting here has not been easy. She lost most of her sight in her twenties, forcing her to change her lifestyle in a variety of ways. She’s positive and tough in equal measure. Fitting, then, that the theme of empowerment crops up not infrequently in her songs, from the self-explanatory I’ll Show You What I’m Made Of to the final segment of The Dreamer’s Victory in which she sings, “I believe I can be anything that I want.” I for one wouldn’t bet against her.
Pigeon-holing her stylistically? Even the most well-versed musicologists will find that difficult, such is the breadth of her influences. Snakes and Ladders, a defiant electro-acoustic riposte, seamlessly blends seismic kick drums with Beatles-esq strings and soulful backing vocals. Contrast this with the dark and synth-heavy What Hurts The Most and you get the idea that Nicki Kelly is an artist who will always keep you guessing.
In 2016, Nicki was awarded Arts Council funding for The VIP Project, an initiative that provides opportunities for visually impaired people to pursue their musical aspirations. The project climaxed with a show in 2017 which she herself hosted. That same year she won the internationally acclaimed Songwriting Academy’s ‘Businessperson Of The Year’ award. People are starting to take note of her. One such person is Deborah Frances-White, host of the popular podcast The Guilty Feminist , who invited Nicki to perform on the show. “Nicki is a brilliant performer and a really impressive singer-songwriter,” she said. “I love her style, and her charming delightful manner which augments everything she does.”
Something tells me more accolades are to follow. Her debut EP The Dreamer’s Victory is due for release in
Michael Clarke | Producer of The Dreamer’s Victory