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Interview: Nicole McKinney Talks Up Her Debut EP, ‘The Process’

Indie folk artist, Nicole McKinney is on a roll at the moment with the release of her emotionally empowering debut EP, The Process. It’s received big love from some of Australia’s most trusted tastemakers. We were lucky enough to sit down with Nicole recently to find out more about the writing and recording behind the EP, her live show and more!

Nicole, we’ve been following your releases leading up to this debut EP and we have loved every moment of it. Congratulations on finally having it out into the world. Tell us, how has the process (no pun intended) been like for you leading up to now?

It’s been blood sweat and literal tears making this EP over the past year. It’s been both emotional and cathartic to bring these songs to life. I felt a lot of pressure to do the songs justice as they did so much for me. I feel like everything has come together and I’m so so proud. Hearing these songs how they are now has been even more emotional for me and makes me ugly-happy cry.

‘The Process’ is a really emotive and passionate set of tracks, what does the EP mean to you and what is it about?

‘The Process’ is based on a really dark time in my life where I lost a lot of people who were my safety net/support network. It was a huge shock to the system and I was grieving the loss of multiple people I’d been putting on a pedestal for years. It was a harsh reality check but was also very scary. The songs were written in order of events that occurred.  It’s my story of huge growth from the rubble and it’s really about staying strong and making good come from tragedy.

Recordings can sometimes lack feeling over a live performance, but that isn’t the case at all here. How did you go about capturing that raw emotion when you went to record your vocals? Do you have any tips?

In the studio I struggle to relax like I would singing in my room. It took a lot of practice and was a mental game for me. Luckily my producer Luke Woollett had a trick up his sleeve. He made me do star jumps until the nerves were gone and to get me out of my head. It strangely worked a treat.

I also found that thinking about the events that occurred really helped me channel the raw emotions best.

For anyone who hasn’t seen you live, do you think that your live performance comes off differently from what we hear on the EP?

I think both live and studio performances are special in their own way. I’d like to think that in a live performance you can feel even more of the raw emotions and energy which is really cool.

What is your approach/ method when you are conceptualizing ideas for a song and then the artistic direction (artwork/ images/ music videos) around the release?

I love collaborating with Brisbane artists, there are so many incredible creatives in the scene. I just followed instinct and chose what I thought was beautiful and connected to the songs. The music videos by Phoebe Faye and Johnathan Oldham were so fun to create and it was special that they connected with the songs which helped with conceptualizing the videos. The press shots by Laylarh Hutchins and visuals by Julian D’Arcy were quite spontaneous.  All I knew was that I wanted to capture the darkness that the songs came from and had fun with it. I’m so happy with how magical they turned out and feel that they represent this EP perfectly.

Art is never finished, right? Did you ever feel this way about your music or did you reach a clear point of completion? 

I wanted to channel the energy of when I first wrote the songs in my room and didn’t want to overdo it. My producer and I were pretty in sync with knowing when to add something and when to leave it. It’s a struggle but you’ve just got to trust your gut 🙂

Lastly, when can we see you play live again?

I’m playing with the full band at the Brisbane Indie ‘Winter’ Project on July 3rd at ‘The ZOO’ Brisbane. I’ll play all the songs on the EP plus some new ones x

Written by John Zebra