I walked out of the station and heard a voice singing. The weather suddenly felt less dull. Here she was, with her guitar, an old pair of jeans and trainers, just blowing people’s mind away.
Zombie, Seven Nation Army, huge hits she owns like she’s written them. “Surely, she’s just a good cover singer”, you must think…Then she sings her own songs and you see what it means to her. You feel it.
Her name is Nuala. She’s at the weird intersection between Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Amy Winehouse and Ed Sheeran.
Perhaps she has her spot up there too.
Check her singing on a cold sunny day of February outside South Kensington Station…You might be in for a surprise from the crowd. (Skip to 14.00).
The LondonY had the chance to chat to Nuala about her music influences, writing protest songs and what it is like to be busking in the streets of London ahead of her show at the Troubadour which hosted Bob Dylan, Elton John and Hendrix among others in the 60’s.
When did you start singing?
Apparently the moment everyone realised I could sing was when I played the part of Angel Gabriel in my school nativity play, age 4. I had a solo singing part and everyone’s reactions were positive so I guess I just pursued it from then.
Do you remember writing your first song? What was it about?
I would have been about 10. It was about me, my mum and brothers adventure living in America. We lived there for a year when I was 9 as my mum got a job to work at Harvard. The song was called U.S of A (naturally) and was basically about our experiences there, both good and bad.
When did you realise this is what you want to do for a living?
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to sing for a living. I guess I started honing my craft from the age of 10/11 when I started to write songs and learn the guitar.
What was it like moving from Leicester to London? How do you compare the music scene here and there?
Moving to London was the only option for me. Leicester’ music scene just doesn’t compare. The opportunities aren’t there and I found that it was more heavily focused around bands, not solo artists. I also wanted to be around more like-minded creative people, which London has an abundance of. It’s definitely more my kind of place.
Over the past few months, Brexit happened, Trump got elected and people are now terrified about the rise of the far right in Europe. Have you written in the past socially/ politically engaged music or protest songs? Would you consider doing so in the future?
I have indeed. You can check out my song Aristocrats here: https://soundcloud.com/nualabw/aristocrats-demo
It’s quite an old song of mine now but I still think they are some of the best lyrics I have written. It’s basically about those in power and how they say one thing and do another and how they don’t really have the general public’s interests at heart. It’s pretty much a ‘fuck you!’ kind of song. As I have progressed in the industry though I’ve found that people often prefer listening to songs that are more personally relatable, which is why love and heartbreak are more common themes for songs. People today are too complacent, there doesn’t seem to be a want for protest songs and there’s not really a market for them either. Perhaps with all that’s happening now though, I should bring ‘Aristocrats’ back and write more songs like that again. I’m probably guilty of being tarnished slightly by the industry. So yeah fuck what they think actually. You’ve inspired me to write more protest songs!
I heard a bit of Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, reggae, blues, pop and rock all blended in your songs. What are your three favourite albums of all time?
I always get the Janis Joplin comparison! That’s a really hard question. I would say ‘Nevermind’- Nirvana, ‘Exodus’- Bob Marley & the Wailers, A combination of ‘Blood, Sugar, Sex Magic’ & ‘By The Way’- Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
One song you would put in all your playlists?
Wow that’s an even harder question! Haha. Maybe ‘Paper Planes’ by MIA- still love it every time I hear it and it takes me back. Or a good old classic Marley tune like ‘I shot the sheriff’. Yeah not an easy question that! 😛
Your favourite lyrics line?
‘And then one day you find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun’ – ‘Time’ by Pink Floyd
What’s your dream as an artist?
Oh just the standard… Make millions and take over the world! Mwahaha! To be honest I just really long for the moment I perform to a crowd of people who sing my songs back at me. My life would be made. I think like most artists I’d just like my music to be recognised and for people to relate to it, feel it and just enjoy it!
When did you start busking? Were you terrified of it in the beginning? What’s the biggest learning from it?
The first time I ever decided to busk was after a BBC radio interview when I lived back in Leicester. I had my guitar with me and was feeling brave after my interview so decided to just give it a go. I got a good response so did it a few times after then but only started doing it full time about 9 months ago once I got an amp. Getting an amp massively increased my earnings and interest and meant that I could play for longer. I used to be more nervous setting up, before actually playing, as I would draw attention to myself but no one knew what I sounded like yet so I felt as if I was getting judged. As soon as I started playing and got a bit of money I’d be fine. Now though, I really couldn’t care less.
I would say busking has increased my confidence a lot and has made me realise how many good people there are in the world. It’s extremely rewarding. I bring people together with my music. I get to watch different people dance and sing and interact with each other and I receive so much love. It’s really a beautiful thing.
Follow Nuala’s music on her Facebook page: @Nualasmusic.