Bringing promise to pop

Scottish pop singer Nina Nesbitt on variety, Taylor Swift and upcoming Town Ballroom concert


When Nina Nesbitt asked Ed Sheeran for musical advice in 2011, she left with an opening slot on his tour. Since then, her career has evolved into that of an honest and experienced pop songwriter.

She’s traveled the world, gone independent and caught the eyes of some of pop music’s most dominant forces. On April 29, Nesbitt brings her feel-good pop anthems to the Town Ballroom’s Leopard Lounge for her first-ever headlining tour.

Nesbitt discussed the show, her songwriting experience and her upcoming record in an interview with The Spectrum in preparation for her upcoming Buffalo concert.

Q: Looking through your discography, you offer a lot of variety with your work. Combined, your last three singles have 15 different versions. You have acoustic versions, remixes and track commentary. What inspired you to have this much variety with your work?

A: I like a lot of different styles of music. Obviously, I’ve got the original versions and I love dance music, so I was like “I want to get a few different remixes.” [There’s also] acoustic versions. I think if it’s a good song, it should be able to go through lots of formats. [That’s what] I try and challenge myself to do when I write music. It’s just a way of –– you give a song life and you’re giving it more life as well.

Q: Coming from Scotland, how does it feel to find success in the U.S. like you have?

A: It’s surreal. I’m getting more radio play here than I have in my own country, which is crazy. … There’s so many opportunities. You wake up in any city every morning and feel like you’re in a different country. That’s really exciting. And also meeting people that have been listening to the music for a little bit is amazing –– getting to meet them face to face finally. Yeah, I’m really grateful to be given the opportunity to come here, and I think it’s good coming here and trying to start out is a challenge but it’s an exciting one.

Q: You have a history of writing songs for others. Actors do a lot to prepare for roles, whether it be talking to addicts or trying to pursue a new lifestyle. How much effort, practice or research does it take to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and write from their perspective?

A: A lot of the time I just write for myself and just write about my own life, but I don’t want to keep the songs because maybe it’s too poppy or doesn’t fit the album or whatever. … When I cover a song, I want to sing songs that feel like a real song that I can get emotional with. But sometimes [artists] tell me about their life and what they want to write about, and you’ll just sit and chat for a while and from that, you’ll write a song about it. It’s never like having to pretend to be someone else. … [I write] about things that I love so hopefully other people love it too. I tried to do the whole writing generic pop songs about nothing but it just doesn’t really [work] for me.

Q: What do you want fans to take away from this new record?

A: It’s kind of a journey start to finish. It starts off quite sad and then there’s a turning point which is “Somebody Special.” It’s kind of empowering by the end of it. … It’s kind of like a little bit of a self-help album.

Q: I know Taylor Swift was a big inspiration early in your career, and she just recently put you on one of her playlists. What’s the feeling when you see support come full circle in this sense?

A: That was so surreal because she was literally the reason I picked up a guitar at 15. …To see her put “The Best You Had” on her playlist was incredible. I couldn’t believe it. Anyone that does their thing for that long as an artist and manages to stay at the top for that long is such an inspiration. And yeah, I’m a big fan of her writing so that was really great.

Q: Does a solo tour give you freedom to do things you may shy away from as an opener?

A: Yeah, for sure. As a support I wouldn’t play much from my back catalogue as I’d want people to discover the new music, but as a headliner I play stuff from the very beginning in case people are at one of my shows for first time. You can also design the stage and do production, which is fun. But they’re both equally as fun shows. Support slots present the challenge of winning people over which I love.

Brenton Blanchet is the senior arts editor and can be reached at and @BrentBlanchSpec.