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Meet Nieve Ella, the indie star becoming a defining voice of Gen Z music

As she releases new track 'The Things We Say', Nieve Ella tells us about developing a hugely devoted fanbase.

By Nick Reilly

Nieve Ella (Picture: Mollie McKay)

When Nieve Ella first picked up her late dad’s guitar as a teenager, ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles became the first song she learnt. But after tackling that song – conveniently written on a single string for fledgling guitar heroes – it was her own voice that made a core audience of Gen Z music lovers prick up their ears to what she had to say.

“I started writing as a teenager and it was just my experiences of growing up and feeling weird and not feeling like I could fit in, but also going through experiences with people romantically as a young person too,” she explains.

That tight knit fanbase – which constantly converses with the singer online – is among the main reasons she was able to sell out her debut tour last month. It’s followed up by ‘The Things We Say’ – a passionate pop banger about the ever relatable theme of fiery feuds with friends. In 2024, you can expect Nieve Ella’s voice to become even more prominent…

Hello, Nieve Ella! We’re speaking to you just days after your first sold-out tour wrapped up…

Yes! That’s been such a big learning curve for me, because I’ve always been a support act and have played festivals but I’ve never had my fans be in one room and sing back at me. It’s been a thing where I’ve walked on and had the first lyric of a song screamed back at me. The screams of my fans, I’ve just never heard anything like it. It’s very different to what I’ve experienced before, but in a really good way. It’s a weird thing, but also brilliant.

It’s funny too because I know a lot of people in the crowd by name through speaking to them on Twitter and I was just shocked to see them there. I’d see them afterwards too and they’d ask how I know their names. It’s because I am literally a normal person. It’s as weird to me as it is to them!

What’s the one thing they’ve latched on to and found in your music?

Well I started writing as a teenager and it was just my experiences of growing up and feeling weird and not feeling like I could fit in, but also going through experiences with people romantically as a young person too.

It just doesn’t really work out a lot of the time, so I feel like that is so relatable to the community that I have now. They’re of that age where everybody’s still growing from that, so they still feel so related to something that I don’t feel related to anymore. I love connecting to them on social media too. I love hearing little things they’re up to.

This is our PlayNext series, where we get artists to explain what they’re all about. Nieve Ella, how would you describe your music?

The answer I’ve always given is just that I’m just a young adult girl who is experiencing life and just writes about it and puts guitar to it and makes sad songs feel like it’s just a bit of fun.

You just wanna dance around your room to a sad song. Like that’s it. It is just what it is. When I go in the studio and I write a song I just let it feel whatever I’m feeling. If I wanna put a sad chord in it but also have this smashing drum over it then great, because it’s like anger and sadness. I just put how I’m feeling out there and it works so good.

One of the interesting things about you is how you came to music quite late and it started when you picked up your late dad’s guitar – can you explain?

Yeah, it was during lockdown and I’d been wanting to leave a college course that I absolutely hated and I wanted to go into music, but I wasn’t allowed at that point. Randomly one day I picked up my dad’s guitar that he left for me and my brother. I took it from my brother’s room and taught myself ‘Blackbird’ by The Beatles because it’s literally on one string. Since that moment I’d be in my room learning 24/7 and when I look back at videos now I just think I was so bad!

But after two weeks of that, I wrote my first ever song about my dad passing away as a kid, and I just posted it. I wrote it in an hour, and I posted it on YouTube and just left it there, and I was like, that’s it. I didn’t think anybody would see it.

And then suddenly, all of the people from my school and my family and my village, they were just posting it everywhere. That was brilliant because when I applied for music at my college, I sent that video and they saw I could sing. TikTok helped too, I’d spend hours doing covers on there, which helped me practise a lot.

There’s some lovely synergy there, you wrote a song about your dad on his guitar and that’s led to your success, in a way. Something quite beautiful has come from a thing of great sadness.

Yeah, and I think the most poetic thing about it was that he actually wanted to do that himself. Like that was his dream. And I didn’t know. I’ve now learned more stuff about him and what he did in his band and his bandmates have sent me his demos from years ago. It felt like his spirit and his passion and now I get to do that for him. Everything he wanted to do, I get to do. It’s so beautiful.

Your latest song comes in the form of ‘The Things We Say’ – tell us about it…

It was actually a song that I wrote in the first session back from the Inhaler tour. I went in with a guy called Joel Pott and I was feeling a lot of pressure, I just said to him I can’t write any songs. He told me it was fine and so that day we didn’t even write a song. Instead, he asked what I’d been up to that weekend and I had gone to my friend’s birthday weekend in Brighton. But we had a massive argument over me putting my suitcase in his car. He’d accused me of scratching it and it just blew up. We argue like cat and dog in a best friend type way, but not like that. It was explosive!

I told Joel about it and suddenly realised ‘oh god this is it!’ I wrote this whole song about how even when you love someone so much, the way that we talk to each other is just quite horrible. It’s very personal and true.

Are you reconciled now?

Yes! We made up that weekend and he’s a musician too. He kept wanting to listen to it and told me it’s one of the best songs I’ve written. I told him it was about him and he ended up coming in the studio to do backing vocals.

And who was right in the argument?

Well, from my point of view, there was a lot of scratches on the car, and the scratch that he pointed out was about two centimetres big? I just think I’m right in the situation, but he’ll definitely disagree!

And finally, what’s next for you?

Well, the demos I’ve been making since October sound more like live music. They’re bigger and it’s something I definitely just want to head towards. Guitar, drums, bass and feel good bangers!