Please tell us about yourself
If we had to sum up our conversation with Nirmika Singh, we would call it to both fun and light-hearted. And these are words that resonate with her personality. The singer/songwriter made a move from Delhi to Mumbai to pursue her music career and never looked back since. Working as the Executive Editor of Rolling Stone India as well as paving her own path in music, Nirmika balances both her work and passion for music like a #GirlBoss. Her staggering willpower to be versatile is what made her follow the musical path and that’s where she finds solace. How did she start off? By fronting her first band Nirmika & A Few Good Men. And now she’s writing songs for acclaimed names from the music industry such as Clinton Cerejo. Chatting up at her jam pad over a cuppa tea, the extremely edgy Nirmika Singh talks to us about what made her take the path less chosen, everything that goes into living her life, and how her style makes heads turn.
1. When did you first realise your inclination towards music? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
If I really have to go far back in time I would say when I was 13. I was part of a hobby club in school where they’d teach guitar. At this time that I was listening to English bands like Roxette and Guns N’ Roses. I remember putting in a cassette and playing music at full volume when there was no one at home. And then I’d cuff my skirt to turn it into a mini, pretending I’m a rock star. This was a time when I’d watch MTV with my sister. I think all this made me realise I like singing.
On my 14th birthday, I asked my dad for a guitar. Back in 2001, it cost him Rs 2,200 and that was a lot of money. I started learning songs on the guitar, then I started singing in the school choir. Later on, I was surrounded by musicians and that’s how I got my first call from a club in Noida; the singer had fallen ill and they wanted me to take over. I was 18 or 19 maybe; I performed there for 10-15 days and liked it.
2. When did you realise that being a lyricist was your calling?
I grew up watching my parents reciting poetry (both my parents are poets) on DD India. I started writing poetry too, and that too when I was 9. When I was about 13 or 14, I was writing poetry without any melody in mind. I think it was only when I went to college that I composed my own songs in English.
3. You are an editor at Rolling Stone India and also a singer, how do you maintain a balance between both?
To be honest I never think about it. It is natural for me to come back home and either write or jam. I have been doing it since I was in college. I studied journalism at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi and also worked as a musician. Both these things have become such intrinsic parts of my being. I am compulsively creative and I feel very miserable when I’m doing only one thing at a given time. The days that I’m not writing, singing or practising I’m either cooking or knitting. I also love embroidery. This keeps me going and I ensure I don’t have any time to sit idle.
4. Belonging to a generation that’s influenced by Pop and EDM, how did you decide to follow the path of indie music?
It wasn’t a conscious decision but one that you have when you’ve listened to a lot of music. From 13 or 14 I was listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, the likes. I was influenced by jazz improvisation and that kind of music builds you for life. I was always around older people who listened to refined music. And for me, genres like jazz and funk happened before rock. That also worked to my advantage because I understood the nuances better. Once I absorbed that kind of music, I started listening to rock. I also had an electronica phase, but it was intelligent electronica music and not EDM. Most of my idols are women such as Carole King, Ella (Fitzgerald), Alynda Lee Segarra from Hurray for the Riff Raff; their work has so much more meaning, substance, and story. That’s also how the Indie route happened. I wanted to be somebody who tells a story…somebody whose lyrics resonate with people.