Put simply, “NAHLI” and “authenticity” are practically synonymous. The artist hailing from North London is pop music’s most eminent rising star – a force to be reckoned with boasting a unique sense of individuality and a keen edginess leaving nothing short of intrigue. A listen into NAHLI’s discography is like processing a sonic diary; but as if that’s not enough unadulterated honesty, she’d be the first to pen you a personalized essay filled to the brim with intimate facets detailing the significance of individual journeys and self-discovery. In many ways, she’s music’s perfect dichotomy: sweet yet gritty, edgy yet innately profound. NAHLI defines what it means to be a singer in their most raw state while simultaneously offering listeners a warm hug with every new lyric released.
Perhaps music’s best kept secret will only be hidden for so long – behind her platinum blonde bob and sparkly blazers is a fiery pop star awaiting to press the gas pedal on a journey toward stardom. From what we understand of NAHLI’s pure integrity and ceaseless high morale, it is more than likely she’ll ride full throttle, going 0 to 60 in mere seconds.
Eager to poke the eccentric mind of the master, EUPHORIA. sat down with the songstress to delve into the importance of always being a work in progress, art as a transcending form, and her latest single “Catch 22.”
How would you describe your presence as an artist? Do you aim to communicate a specific vibe? Or is every day a new surprise?
I always want to express that we all go through hardships, but we do come out the other end. When I was growing up, I always liked hearing music when the artist was having a similar time to me because I felt understood and heard suddenly. I’d think “OK good I’m not the only one.” Sometimes we can feel really isolated when we’re deep in our emotions and music feels like the only way out. I love just expressing my own truths and my own pain because not only do other people relate to it and it helps them through tough times, but it helps me too. It feels really therapeutic to get it all off my chest.
I tend to write my music as diary entries. I write down the day I’ve had every single day and pour out whatever emotion I’ve had, whether it was a great day or a not so great day. And I’d take those entries into the studio with me and write from it so I could always capture my feelings in their rawest form. Undiluted. I suppose my presence as an artist is to tap into all the people who are going through some shit. I really struggled with breakups my whole life because I couldn’t fathom how lovers can turn to strangers in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t make sense to me and I really struggled to let go in the past. I give a lot of myself to my partners, I think.
What type of impression do you hope people get out of your music? Maybe a desire to dance, laugh, or cry – anything in particular?
I want you to feel understood and ready to face whatever adversities you’re facing. I want you to feel stronger and empowered. I want you to feel like I’m speaking directly to you about my issues and hoping you can understand me too, kind of like a therapy session. That’s why I gave it that title. I want it to be thought provoking. The lyrics are really important when you’re listening to my music.
When people think of NAHLI as an artist, what do you hope people will say?
I hope people will say I’m fluid. I am not a very judgmental person and I try to stay extremely open minded about absolutely everything. I hope people will see the things I have to offer as not only a music artist, but a painter too. I just have a deep desire to create. I’d like people to see me as someone with kindness and with the willingness to listen and help anybody where I can. I give a lot to music. I had an amazing message the other day from a girl who was stuck in a toxic relationship and she said she sat down and really listened to the lyrics of “Mama’s Boy” and ended up leaving her partner. She just listened to my words and plucked up the courage to leave him, and that’s the most amazing message I’ve ever received. Because THAT’S what I want. I want to share the courage I’ve gained from my bad experiences. The wisdom I’ve picked up along the way.
None of this is taught to us, I suppose, and this generation is so different to our parents and they don’t always understand how difficult it is these days with so much social media and constant temptation around us. We’re all getting so bored so quickly. Constantly needing something new to excite us. It’s so much to keep up with. Sometimes it feels like the world is going so fast around us and it’s often hard to keep up. I hope people will think that me being so open about being straight my whole life, but then finding a girlfriend … I hope that helps people to understand themselves a little more and that we’re allowed to change. I’ve had girls come out to their parents because I did online, and it helped them. Ultimately, all I want from NAHLI is to help us all be better in understanding ourselves. I’m still learning too.
You’ve collaborated with some amazing artists, from Big Narstie to Crystal Fighters. Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
I’d really love to collaborate with KAYTRANADA, I think they’re dope. One of my favorite albums is their 99.9% album. I love the Neptunes. I love DUCKWRTH. I’d love to open for Billie Eilish one day, who wouldn’t? She’s absolutely unreal.
Tackling multiple areas of art beyond music, you’ve shared a bunch of projects from writing to drawings to paintings on social media. Does painting ever influence your music (and vice versa)?
I was influenced to paint Kurt Cobain by my constant need to listen to Nirvana albums on repeat. I watched The Last Dance recently, and that’s what sparked my new obsession with Dennis Rodman. When I posted that painting online, Carmen Electra liked it!! Crazy. My whole PLAYBOY series was because I watched a documentary of Hugh Hefner and I thought his journey was fascinating. So, I guess I’m just inspired by whatever is in my eyeline at that time. I don’t really go out of my way to search for what to paint, the idea just pops into my head and then I go do it.
I’ve been thinking about doing Elvis Presley recently. He’s my father’s icon so it would mean something to me to paint that. My father and I haven’t spoken in almost four years so it might help me emotionally because I struggle with that a lot, I feel quite abandoned. My paintings have to mean something to me otherwise I don’t enjoy it.
Would you describe who you are as a painter any differently from who you are as a musician? Or do the two live together in harmony to create your art?
When I write music, I have a buzz in my head. Whirring thoughts. Thoughts banging around inside my head as I recall memories to write about. I can get quite overwhelmed by writing sometimes because I’m digging into spaces that were once more painful, and sometimes I feel the same pangs when I revisit them. But painting I feel at my calmest. It’s like all my thoughts disappear and I’m purely focused on the paints touching the surface of the canvas. I’ve tried everything in the past to try to calm my mind, with things like meditation or exercise but it never really worked. It’s just a total accident that I stumbled upon painting and realized how much it has helped me realign my thoughts into some sort of orderly fashion. I feel really liberated to be fully in control of something. No one can tell me how to do it, I just do whatever I like with the paints. I feel LIFTED that I have found something else to be proud of.
I only started painting because I’d broken my leg and I just couldn’t do anything else except sit and paint. My housemate at the time was a painter and she used to bundle me in the car and take me to the studio if I was struggling or feeling stuck in the house etc., and I just picked up a brush and went from there. She’s the ultimate hype girl too, so she’d be like “NAHLI THAT’S SO GOOD” and push me. The praise was really helpful, because honestly, I had no idea what I was doing!
Now I’m selling my own pieces six months later. My girlfriend and I go on trips to Hobbycraft and just fill up the car with canvases and paints and brushes, and she just chills out while I sit for hours doing my own thing. It’s so nice. I’d say the two live together in harmony for sure. I love giving equal time to both. I never get bored. My life feels really beautiful now.
You’ve described yourself as being a personality somewhere between your “quiet, alluring mother and a really boisterous father.” How has writing music helped you find your own unique voice?
I think I found it hard growing up because both my parents are really difficult people. My mum is absolutely amazing. I couldn’t love her more, but she has a lot of her own problems that she’s struggled to deal with. I felt a lot of the repercussions of that, I still do now. My dad had a lot of trauma in his earlier years and that’s affected the way he is as a person quite dramatically. He pretends he’s OK all the time, but he’s not, and instead he just has outbursts of being a total wanker instead.
When I was growing up, I felt very split between two families. My parents had broken up when I was really young and my dad met someone new and they had their kid, and my mum met someone, and they had two boys. So, I felt I was bouncing between two families where I didn’t really fit. I felt like a bit of a burden and I’d act out and fall out with everyone all the time. It was hard. I had my Dad. His name was Simon, but he died when I was 15. I think everything really went tits up after that and I found myself working in strip clubs and all sorts.
Writing music has helped me get a grasp on myself a little more. I have taken a lot of time to work on the parts of myself that I see in my parents. All the things I don’t want as a part of my character. I suppose I found who I was in music. Only recently though. It’s been a real journey over the last few years. I took myself on holiday alone a lot so I could just read books and work on myself loads. I’m a Capricorn so I really dedicate myself to things that feel like they matter, and I knew that this was going to be really useful for my future.
Everyone is dealt whatever hand they’re dealt, and it’s up to us whether we want to dwell on it or whether we want to solve it. I am readily practicing gratitude and I think music has helped me achieve that. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for music and for the difficult times, or I’d have nothing to write about!
Music seems to have always been there for you no matter how dark a day may be. For those who listen to your music as their own release/medicine, what do you hope they get out of your discography?
I’d hope they gained some clarity from my songs. I am in such a beautifully happy state of mind these days. I’d never have envisioned that for myself a few years ago. I’ve just moved into my most gorgeous house after couch hopping for years. I used to struggle paying my phone bill and I’d be cut off all the time and I’m in a position now where I can finally take my mum out to do nice things we couldn’t do before.
I want my listeners to know to keep going, keep pushing. Life gets us sometimes but, fuck, it’s even more amazing once you’re out the other side. What a blessing it is to be here. I never want to take health for granted. I want my listeners to feel empowered and solid. There’s so many young people dying because of suicide and drug use because not everyone can always see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if I help one person see the world in a brighter shade, I’ve done my job. Yeah relationships can be shit, parents can be weird, but we can absolutely get through it all.
I’ve also always vowed to have my DMs open to anyone who’s struggling. I will always take the time to talk to anyone who’s in a bad place because I know what it’s like. I used to isolate myself when I was sad and what a silly way to cope that was. Drank far too much alcohol. All the wrong things. I want to shed light on things that we don’t always speak about. To be honest, “FYM” is a great example of that. We’ve all been in a position where we still want to be intimate with an ex because just because we broke up, doesn’t mean I don’t fancy you anymore! It’s so fucking annoying! If i could love you less, then I’d definitely fuck you more. As the lyrics go.
Are there any artists you tend to listen to when you’re feeling low?
I tend to listen to Michael Jackson a lot if I’m sad. Mainly because he was my absolute idol growing up and whenever I hear certain songs, I’m transported back to my childhood and I remember why I needn’t be sad. I’ve got so much to be happy about. So much to feel joy for. My parents are alive and well, my brothers are beautiful and succeeding and happy. My girlfriend is wonderful. My friends are wonderful. My music is great, my art is popping. I have SO much to be grateful for. My favorite song in the whole world is Zero 7’s “Destiny.” I have that on repeat a lot if I’m having a bad day. Your latest release, “Catch 22,” is available now, but in a single sentence, could you describe your upcoming projects as a teaser for what’s to come?
Just expect a whole load of new honesty. Songs about red flags, self-sabotage, sex. Every song coming from a really authentic place. This second half of the EP isn’t sad like the first one. I’m stronger now. It’s like me passing on my experiences in a sassier way. It’s the same sound, except I guess I’ve grown a little more since then so it’s flourished. I am so excited about this one.