Nilka // Feature Friday

Written by: Kayla Lee

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Nilka

EP: Year Of The Escape

Release date: December 29, 2017

Label: Unsigned

Nilka is a Nashville based alternative indie pop artist whose debut EP, Year of the Escape, is a six track project that was steadily released over the course of 2017, with one track having been released every two months. While released in individual pieces, the full, complete project is an intricate, personal account detailing self discovery, perseverance, and rising above fear and doubt to chase your happiness, all while extracting the bitter venom that your past left you with.

The opening track, "Horizon," is a musically light and airy track, and the heartfelt and inspirational lyrics are reminiscent of warm summer evenings spent watching the sun rise over the water while reflecting on your life thus far, while making big plans for the future. The rest of the EP goes on to explore and expose the vulnerability that makes us human.

"Horizon" sets the tone lyrically for the rest of the EP -- stand your ground, don't back down, and keep your head held high-- which is clearly demonstrated with lyrics such as "Nobody can shake me / I'm breaking the boundaries / Keep on defying with my / Eyes on the horizon."

“Metamorphosis” is a strikingly polished dark and cryptic composition, tugging your hand and leading you down a twisting passageway into the inner workings of your true self. This specific track reminded me of Katy Perry vocally, but with a stripped down musical style with less bells and whistles and a more natural sound. Opening with the lyrics "Heart built like a cage home to all the cannibals/ Calcium and hate making up my weary bones" and closing with "Burn with the Fire let it sear through my veins / Held by the solid Rock of Ages / Thread with the Spirit inter-tangled 'til I am a mirror of the Light," this song is undeniably a narrative encompassing self discovery, self reflection, and self growth.

The caterpillar turning into a butterfly metaphor is surely nothing new, however Nilka's detailed lyrics tell a tale of transformation that makes "Metamorphosis" one of the strongest songs on the EP. While there are certainly religious-leaning references ("Rock of Ages," "Spirit") the beauty of music is that it's subjective, giving the listener the ability to interpret the lyrics in a way that they personally relate to without feeling like they're out of place while listening. 

“Galaxy For Two”, one of the slower tracks on the EP, stands out as a simply crafted gem. Surrounded by a "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" aura, this song dives into silky melodies, smooth, crooning vocals, and straightforward lyrics that carry a dream-like magic to them when paired with the twinkly instrumentals -- "And our hearts collide, cosmic romancing / Will you hold me close to you? / In our galaxy for two."

“Even If Your Voice Shakes” and "Arrow" both have elements of more mainstream indie pop, but still veer towards a more alternative avenue, with "Bury Me In Orchids" being the most pop-sounding track, while still maintaining the signature sound that Nilka carefully crafted throughout her EP.

The lyrics throughout Year Of The Escape are significantly more developed that typical pop songs, with subjects diving deep (and providing a much needed wake up call in some cases!) rather than being only surface level. Nilka conveys her message with poise and boldness -- her music is fresh and interesting rather than the same old same old.

Continue reading below to check out an interview with Nilka, where we talk about Nilka's early endeavors into the music world, favorite artists, the message behind the music, and more! 

Q: With a song being released every two months for the past year, how did you select the order in which to release them? 

A: Picking the order was a little tricky for me at first. I knew that I wanted to release the songs as a collection since they each follow the same underlying theme but it wasn't until I viewed the whole project as if it were a TV show series (probably from my new obsession of binge-watching shows on Netflix and Hulu) that the order really fell into place.

I released "Horizon" first because it's about embarking on a new adventure. Even when we don't know what's to happen during the journey, we have to be brave and optimistic enough to take the chance. I chose "Bury Me in Orchids" to be released last because there comes a point where you have less fear and you can break free from the things that once held you down. "Bury Me in Orchids" is reflective and appreciative of the journey life brings us. When I chose the order of the songs to follow a story line, the title of the project became apparent that it should be the "Year of the Escape". Each song connects to an experience of escaping to, escaping from, or escaping with.

Q: A fair amount of your lyrics take a deep, personal turn at points. "Metamorphosis" in particular stands out to me in this regard -- what was the inspiration behind this specific track? 

A: Yes, "Metamorphosis" is deep and personal. I have always relied on my songwriting as a type of therapy. Lately, I find myself writing about my feelings in an introspective way, especially by reflecting on what kind of person I am in this world and the way my faith shapes me.

"Metamorphosis" was inspired by my own experience of God's (constant) work in my heart. Change within us is inevitable and often comes with struggle, but we have to continuously choose to become a better version of ourselves so that the hard parts of life don't ruin us, like a butterfly that gains the strength and beauty of its wings after the struggle of working itself out of the cocoon.

Q: How did you become involved in music -- did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a musician? 

A: I started writing songs at a young age. I remember singing to myself and making up songs on the swing set at school was my favorite thing to do when I was 5. I wasn't penning down lyrics until I was around the age of 8. Growing up, I could never keep up with a diary but I would constantly write songs about my thoughts and feelings.

I really began involving myself in music when I was 10 years old and had the opportunity to learn flute in the 5th-grade band. I loved to sing in chorus class but band was an extracurricular choice and the first time I was able to commit myself to something outside of homework.

My passion for music really developed that year since I was always making music by performing or songwriting. It's funny because even from a younger age I imagined myself being a pop-star when I grew up (who doesn't?) but the more I experienced the impression music left on me, the more I knew that music was what I'd be pursuing the rest of my life.

Q: Who are your favorite musicians, both of all time, and currently? 

A: My favorite musicians of all time have to be The Spinners, Phil Whickham, and Francesca Battistelli. Currently, I listen to Imagine Dragons and Twenty One Pilots on repeat, but I also listen to a lot of everything!

Q: What message would you like for listeners to take away from Year of the Escape?

A: Year of the Escape connects with different seasons of life but all of the songs have the influence of courage and hope. What I would love for listeners to take away from Year of the Escape is a new perspective. These songs represent some experiences that may be uncomfortable or unfamiliar to us but they are a part of our story. I hope listeners will view these experiences with new eyes and appreciate them for how they shape us. Finding a place of courage and hope when it's easy to allow fear of the unknown keep us down - THAT is the Escape.

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