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First Look Friday: Naadei Interview
First Look Friday: Naadei Interview
Photo of Naadei taken by Celia Spenard-Ko for Okayplayer.

First Look Friday: Enter The Jungle Of Naadei Liones' Viciously Dope Sounds

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: Celia Spenard-Ko for Okayplayer.

Forget Toronto, mates, as Montreal is the undisputed place to go if you want to see beautiful women and hear awesome music. Despite it being deep Céline Dion territory, the streets belong to Naadei, a singer who inspires awe and awesomeness from the moment she blesses up with her signature sound. Known around the way as Naadei Liones, this ethereal French-Quebecer singer-songwriter has collaborated with the likes of Wyclef Jean2 Chainz and Lil' Jon to name a few.

We discovered her by digging through the Soundcloud crates and were impressed by her amazing blending of soul, jazz, floaty vocals and rap-inspired verses. Rooted in the real, while going after the fantastic, Naadei isn't your everyday, average jill-of-all-trades. She is official, an ambitious artist able to stunt on your favorite without mincing melodies for some run-of-the-mill, cookie cutter sound. Instead, the woman who was a fan of Céline Dion's rap song, has elevated herself into a new tax bracket of dopeness.

From her debut EP, I'm Fine, to her work with producer High Klassified — Naadei Liones is a lioness of a performer who deserves your time and attention. With that in mind, we are proud to introduce this Montreal musician to you and her special, exclusive acoustic performance of "Jimmy," featuring Elle Ray (guitar) and shot by Perrick Dufrenoy and JP Charlebois. You can watch all of that goodness below! This week's First Look Friday is golden in everything she does, so we talk to her about her innate passion for music, how her creative outlet can help others in need and listen intently as she expresses what the overall message in her sound means to audiophiles. Enjoy the sounds and the story below!

Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact. What is it that those in music game are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?

Naadei: To be honest, when I make songs, all I care about is that my 15 friends think I’m cool and they wanna play it the car. After that, if other people like it too, I'm just thankful that the music somehow made its way to them. Every time I look at my soundcloud and there’s a play from like, Hungary or something, I’m mind-blowned that my voice went places my body has never been [laughs].

OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?

N: I have too many to list. They also tend to vary depending on where I’m at in my life and what I’m going through. But there’s been a few staples who stand the test of time. Sade, Nirvana, Getz & Gilberto, Sublime and Pennywise. I wouldn’t know where to stop really. I’m not completely immune to trends, but [I] rely a lot on a few classics.

OKP: Can you talk about how your life was while developing as an artist? How did you react to your first bits of press?

N: I got put on the fast track when I started making music. I was working with an artist who was well established in France, so I began getting coverage earlier than most artists usually do. I was about 16 at the time and I remember feeling halfway between excited and overwhelmed. At the time I hadn’t had a chance to really develop as an artist and earn my stripes. It took a few years to distance myself from that and create a sound that was truly mine. Nowadays I appreciate acknowledgment, knowing that it’s based on the work I put in. But when it comes to press, I feel like the recognition that truly matters is the one generated from the ground up. When someone has to write about you because their listeners really fuck with you.

OKP: With incidents involving people of color, police and racist occurring almost on a daily basis around the globe — how can your music (and/or others) help to relieve the trauma that is being experienced by the masses?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: Celia Spenard-Ko for Okayplayer.

N: Everybody needs a creative outlet, mine just happens to be music. I make songs when my brain is too full. It helps me empty it out and remain sane. The beauty about art is that the piece itself doesn’t have to speak about the struggle to make an effective change. For one “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke made hundreds of love songs. For one “What’s Going On” by Marvin [Gaye] — he made hundreds of feel good songs as songs that make you happy can be just as relieving as a politically engaged one. Black, white, brown, blue—everybody goes through shit—I think whatever it is that helps someone exteriorize that and get through the day plays a huge part in making the world a better place.

OKP: What have been the most definitive obstacles that you’ve overcome in your career thus far?

N: I would say accepting the fact that creativity works at its own pace—it is 2017 and nobody has time. I eat fast, I text and I get bored fast. People listen to music for a week [and] then want new songs. The process of creating music remains unchanged and sometimes it can take years to hit the right result. I had to accept that and be like, 'Fuck it, it'll be ready when it's ready.' I don't listen to anybody who uses the word "momentum".

OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene as how you’ve experienced it? How do you see it evolving in the next five years?

N: I would be the worst person to [try and] predict that. I am a total anti-social. Most people think I don't want to talk to them because I am socially awkward and always wait for others to say hi first to avoid embarrassment in case they secretly hate me. When it comes to the "scene," I am just lucky people fuck with me. I am not sure how it happened to be honest, but I am glad I get to be a part of it. From my own perspective the Montreal music scene seems pretty healthy. Whenever I am out of town I hear about Montreal and Canadian artists a lot, so I would assume it is a good sign for what the future holds.

OKP: What are some things that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?

N: I have a pretty deplorable self-esteem [laughs].

OKP: What were some moments from your recent travels that will forever stick with you? Why?

N: In Japan, I learned that black culture is embraced and celebrated in the most magnificent way. In Iceland, I learned how small a human can feel when completely surrounded by nature. In the United States, I learned that nobody cares. You're on your own, so find a way to make it work. In Nigeria, I learned you have the responsibility, as an entertainer, to make people forget about their struggle and bring happiness if they land you a stage. In France, I learned that some of the most beautiful cities aren't as magical for the people who live in them.

OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it has come to symbolize since you’ve entered into the professional life?

N: It would be completely impossible to remember that [laughs]. I would have been about seven-years-old and it probably would have been titled, "Sadness of the Sun," or something way too depressing for a kid my age.

OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?

N: I don't have the pretension to be able to do that. I personally consume music at the speed of light, too. I assume people will do the same with mine. It is just the era we live in. Once in a while I stumble upon an artist who gets added to my "forever" list, and they get some play for years. If I do my job right, in a few albums, I might get added to some people's forever list, too. For now, I am just doing my best.

OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with this year going into the next and why?

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. Photo Credit: Celia Spenard-Ko for Okayplayer.

N: Working with other people is the one thing I enjoy the most out of making music. Looking at what your ideas become when they merge with somebody else's is the most trippy thing I've ever experienced. I tend to appreciate collabos more when they bring unlikely pairing together. So, King Krule, Haim and Gary Clark Jr. would be some of my dream picks.

OKP: What is the overall message that Naadei is trying to present in her music?

N: It depends on the mood really. I don't go in thinking: let me make this statement or trying to push a message on people. I just try to translate whatever's in my brain into words. My first EP was about having to act like everything is fine when it's not. The new project deals with what happened when I finally said I wasn't feeling well, which was basically being given a lot of pills. Pills to sleep, pills to eat, pills to be happy, pills to counter the effects of the other pills. Most of the songs were written while I was trying to figure this out, so in that sense I guess the recurring message would be: here's what I'm going through if you feel the same then here is a song for you to listen to.

OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind a song that you created but never put out?

N: There is an actual song cemetery on my hard drive where unfinished songs go to die. It is a very dark place [laughs]. There are all sorts of different ideas in there but most of the ones who end up in it are the songs where I couldn't find a clear direction. I don't deal well with mess and since my songs are somewhat of a catharsis for the mess I go through, if they turn out messy it is just a really big fail.

OKP: How do you see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?

N: Something I came to realize is that you can't effectively change anything but yourself. So, I go about it the same way I go about life. I try not to settle and I do the best I can. If everybody does the same as a musician and as a human there will be good shit on the radio and world peace.

OKP: How do you get over any anxiety before hitting the stage to perform live? What are some lessons or tips that you’ve learned from others about doing a stage show?

N: [Laughs] Well, it turns out that there is a pill for that too, but I wouldn't recommend it to be honest. A little stress makes it more real and when you master it you become so much better. There are some notes I can barely hit in the studio that I'll nail every time live because of the adrenaline. I use to suck so bad live. I've done it all from forgetting lyrics to losing my voice. One of the first shows I played ever was the Cruïlla festival in Barcelona in front of like 30,000 people. I was so freaked out I had to throw-up when I walked off stage. There's no secret to it: the more shows you do, the better you get.

OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with Naadei — what would it be?

N: That my songs tell more about me than my interviews do [laughs].

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for more from Naadei (and us!) by following him on Twitter @NaadeiLiones.