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Nadia Reid: A Songwriters Truth

Nadia Reid. Photo credit Ebony Lamb
“It’s not like I’m selling soap or something. I’m selling my whole existence and it’s a vulnerable place to be.” Nadia Reid on the blessings and the burden of being a songwriter.


There are certain songwriters who can create songs that touch on something universal, at a level of understanding where despite the fact that they are writing about their own experiences of the world, their words resonate with us as if they were writing about our own. Nadia Reid is one of those songwriters. She can transport the listener to a place of reflection, with a voice that settles on your being, gently. For she is an observer. She carries the blessing and the burden of feeling the world deeply so that we can listen to her songs and understand a little more about ourselves. Nadia describes it as like living on a slightly different plane to everyone else.

"To be a songwriter, to do this crazy thing, I think you have to be kind of on this other frequency,” Nadia explains. “It’s not really up to us, I think of it kind of like a calling. It’s this beautiful burden. I feel things really intensely and I really like that about myself, now. A few years ago this was a thing that would cause me a lot of discomfort, and sometimes I would feel like something was wrong with me. But now I am fascinated by my ability to feel and write. I’m fascinated by people. Sometimes it’s really intense, but then I remember that this is part of it. If I couldn’t feel this, I couldn’t write songs.”

Writing songs, Nadia says, is a process she uses to understanding herself better. The creation process is an inward-looking journey. One where you are examining who you are closely, intimately. It’s doing something the majority of us avoid at all costs - a concentrated examination of who we are and what is our purpose. Nadia explains that her most recent album, Preservation, is the result of this inward journey that she has taken to understand and accept the unique way that she experiences the world.

"I’ve never regretted anything I’ve released. It never feels like I’m giving too much away."

“I look at my beautiful friends and I think, ‘you’re just so balanced!’ I just do not have that and probably never will. Making this record was me starting to identify with that and not treating it as a problem. In the past I’ve thought, ‘am I nuts? Do I need to be medicated?’ I tried all this stuff to numb myself down and now I’m just like bring it on, it’s all part of the package.”

It takes a certain kind of bravery to look inwards to your unconscious truth and then present it to the world through story and song. While many would shy away from such vulnerable exposure, for Nadia, this is her whole reason for being. “It makes me feel really alive. It is such a healthy thing for me to do. I’ve never regretted anything I’ve released. It never feels like I’m giving too much away. It feels like this perfect measure of vulnerability that’s enough for people. And it’s really important, because life’s complicated.”

Creatively, Nadia explains that her songs almost arrive to her. That doesn’t mean to say that it’s easy, but just that they come out of her from a place so deep that even she doesn’t really know how to put it into words. “It’s something that just happens both at the same time,” Nadia explained when asked if the lyrics or the melody come first. “It’s this unconscious space of creativity that I can get to sometimes. It really is unconscious and it’s almost like a channeling of something. It’s me, but it’s like an unconscious flow. And sometimes that’s really hard to find.”

However, the most challenging aspect she finds is when she has to face the business side of being a musician. There is a contradiction between the creative endeavour and the practicalities of making it in the world. The standard career drive does not fit this picture. Her reason for making music is not to build a business, but if she wants to continue to be able to make music for a living then a business she must create!

“It’s not like I’m selling soap or something. I’m selling my whole existence and it’s a vulnerable place to be.”

“It gets tricky when something that is a creative outlook becomes a business. This thing that I have done for as long as I can remember has turned into this business where it requires money and momentum and for you to be in this golden space where you’re being talked about. You have to sell yourself. I struggle with that because it really isn’t about making a career. It was not the goal for me. It was this thing I truly feel I was called to do, couldn’t stop doing it and can’t stop doing it and is one of the only things that makes me feel truly fulfilled.”

This can be an unsettling place to stand when your career and your sense of self are so intimately connected. “It’s not like I’m selling soap or something,” Nadia explains, “I’m selling my whole existence and it’s a vulnerable place to be.” Added to that pressure, and perhaps because of it, she feels there is an expectation that her work should feel fundamentally essential at all times. “Sometimes I feel it is important and worthwhile and other times I cannot find that, I don't feel like that. In those times that’s quite frightening. But also I think of it as a protection mechanism because if I did think it was important all the time I’d probably into a bit of an arsehole.”

These challenges become more apparent as her career grows bigger and she finds herself faced with more opportunities. Nadia’s way of keeping it all in perspective is to maintain a really clear set of values that she established right at the beginning of her career. She’s grateful for the hard years of playing gigs to unpredictable audiences in random bars across the country and feels that these times where she’s had to persevere have clarified her reasons for why she creates music. “I’m doing this because it makes me a better person. I do it for the connection with other people. And the creative process is a really healthy thing for me. It’s tempting to jump on the ladder and try and make it but that can’t be the focus, that’s just the bonus side effects of working hard and a bit of chance and luck.”

Nadia Reid will be performing at Coastella Music Festival on 17th February 2018




Written by

Hannah Mackintosh

1 Nov 2017

Hannah is a Wellington-based writer, community organiser and lover of stories.