Edward Burnett chats to Warsaw-born singer Nina Anto about her time in England, the meaning behind her lyrics and her favourite pasta
RnRR: Hi Nina, would you introduce yourself and what type of music you make to our readers?
NA: Hi! I’m Nina Anto. I was born and raised in Warsaw, Poland. In 2016 I moved to London to study vocals at British and Irish Modern Music Institute. I would label our latest release as indie-pop but usually, it’s hard for me to be stuck with one genre. I love experimenting, especially developing unique ideas together with my bandmates. We come from 4 different countries, which brings diversity to our music!
RnRR: So when did you first realise your love for music? What were your earliest musical memories and influences?
NA: It's a pretty funny story, my first memory when I realised that music is the most magical thing on this planet was December 2000 when I was 3 years old. My parents wanted to make me happy, so they decorated the Christmas tree with musical lights which were playing Christmas carols. The quality of the sound was super bad, but it made me realise that music is just something I connect the most with. I remember sitting on the stairs in front of this Christmas tree and listening to these musical lights. There was even a possibility of swapping songs! This is how the story started, later my parents bought me a keyboard, which I carried everywhere, and whenever they were taking me on a trip I was singing in the car all the way. When it comes to influences, hmm, my first musical inspiration was probably a Polish comedy group from the 50s and 60s called Elderly Gentlemen's Cabaret.
RnRR: A unique introduction to the musical world indeed then. So between these early musical memories and you moving to the British and Irish Modern Music Institute, when did you realise you yourself possessed a talent for music? What encouraged you to take the leap towards making your own songs?
NA: I realised that when I was about 5 years old and my piano teacher told my parents that I definitely should apply to music school. I got in and I spent 10 years being trained to become a classical pianist. This training was the hardest of my life. It cost me a lot, but I became extremely good at it. But one day, I realised that I don't want to become a classical pianist as everyone expected from me - my biggest dream has always been to become a singer, and I wanted to play modern music. At that point, I quit this classical piano career and started following my dreams. It was a big change for me: I had to swap from being great at something to being a beginner again. I was working my head off to reach a certain level with my voice, but it was worth it! After those years of training, British and Irish Modern Music Institute offered me a place and I started studying vocals in London! One of my biggest dreams came true! When it comes to songwriting, I wrote my first song when I was about 7 years old. It was a very simple song. I have never presented it to anyone - this song was very precious and personal to me and I did not want to share it even with my parents. This small experience made me realise that songwriting is a great way of conveying emotions. This is also how I deal with my feelings today! For example, our latest release 'Jestem' was written because my neighbours pissed me off...
RnRR: So that’s the perfect segway into what we are here to talk about, your single ‘Jestem’. You’ve began to say there what the general idea of the song is but can I push you further to discuss ‘Jestem’ and it’s origins and meanings to you?
NA: ’Jestem’ is about the duality of emotions. Shyness vs rebellion. I’ve always allowed other people to be who they want to be, but it was not always working in the other way around: people wanted me to think differently, be different, sometimes I felt that some people wanted to take my freedom away (this is also what my neighbours were trying to do - they hated me practicing in my room, they were telling me that I was walking too loud, talking too loud, in their opinion I was doing everything wrongly). At first, I was always apologizing. I was always in this fear mode. But one day I decided I will stand for my rights and that I cannot allow other people to take my freedom away. So this song is for everyone who is not feeling free or accepted. I believe It’s important to be kind to other people but it’s also important to respect ourselves. This last year situation with my neighbours wasn’t easy to handle, It made me feel sad and furious many times, but on the other hand, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my boundaries. Today I'm grateful I had such annoying neighbours, I wouldn’t have written this song without their ”help”.
RnRR: An interesting story behind ‘Jestem’ then. The lyric I find most interesting from the song is “I won’t let you close my mouth, I won’t let you stop my soul”. Given all that is going on in the world in current events, these words you write are bound to provide positivity and an important message to others, don’t you think?
NA: I hope so! These words are about an internal rebellion. For everyone... We need those internal rebellions to realize who we truly are, what’s our real identity, to start believing that we are important and that our voice matter, but also we should do it in the best possible way and never be violent towards other people! I’m happy that this time our song is in Polish so everyone in my country can understand not only emotions but also the lyrics, I think these words are needed there at the moment...
I hope this emotional message will encourage listeners around the world to search for their truest identity and will give strength to those who do not feel welcomed or accepted by others. I hope one day the world will become more tolerant and peaceful.
RnRR: That’s a powerful stance to take and one that has to be welcomed in this day and age. So let’s move onto your actual experience and enjoy ability when pursuing your musical career. Which do you prefer, playing live or recording in the studio and what are the perks of each for you?
NA: I prefer playing live! I love performing, especially when I know that my friends are in the audience and we can hang out after a gig. Performing in front of people when they are singing and dancing along Is such a powerful experience to me! when my band and I can give the energy to the audience and they are giving it back, I just love this energy exchange! When it comes to studio work is usually much more stressful than performing to me as It’s not only about going with the flow but there are many decisions to make. But when a producer is chilled and open-minded this process is also joyful and I usually enjoy it a lot. When I feel comfortable during a studio session I start experimenting and developing new ideas that I did not expect to have on a track before.
RnRR: So with an eye towards the future, what are your musical plans regarding the second half of 2020? Do you have anything in concrete during this difficult and unpredictable time? New music? Small scale gigs?
NA: I'm planning to go back to London in September as right now I'm back in Poland windsurfing and kitesurfing at the Hel peninsula, spending beautiful holidays surrounded by friends and family. My musical plans are to make ’artistic’ use of this remaining time in Poland and do some collaborations with musicians from here before I leave for the UK. From October on I’m planning to start gigging around London if venues reopen. Also, I will be doing my final year at BIMM studying vocals. Because this time seems to be unpredictable when it comes to performing, my goal is to release one song every 1.5 months... Let’s see if that’s possible but I have some material ready or almost ready and I cannot wait to share it!
RnRR: That’s exciting news that you’re sharing with us of your new music. Can you give us any further details about this new material, pre-release?
NA: I can reveal that one of my coming songs is called Necrosis, I'm singing in English on this track and I'm showing my piano skills a bit, finally! I also incorporated some delicate electronic sounds in it. The song is quite intimate, very honest, sad but beautiful. It’s my brother’s favorite one... I hope people will enjoy it as much as he does. As soon as I will have a pre-release link/material I would love to share it with everyone here!
RnRR: What made you change to singing in English for your coming tracks? Is this to achieve a more accessible audience? Are you a lover of electronic sounds in songs yourself? Do you feel electronic adds something to music that is unachievable using any other modem?
NA: Some songs come to me in English, some come in Polish. I always try to follow my intuition. I want to create music for people and sometimes I feel that my country needs some words so I compose in Polish, sometimes I feel it might be useful to do a song for a bigger audience so I try to sing in English. When it comes to electronic music I feel that we live in the 21st century and these electronic sounds are part of our times,
so it would be a pity not to include them in my music as well! Recently, I also started recording sounds of nature (I have recordings of birds, waves, forest, even a sound of my own heartbeat). I put them into the Ableton program and I try to add filters on it, so I can create my own sounds from scratch. Also about a year ago I bought a Nord stage 3 and some vocal effects, I love using those machines because they allow me to create my own soundscape, which I can present to others and invite everyone interested to be a part of it!
RnRR: So you mention the proposed use of natural noises and that leads me to a question more in tune with your personality rather than your music. Are you more of a nature, countryside type of person or do you prefer the business of a city? Wish so you find a more helpful environment for writing your music?
NA: It's pretty funny that you're asking me this question today! It's because today's night I spent sleeping on a beach. I was watching stars with friends and then we fell asleep. I was woken up by a paraglider flying 2 meters above me... Last two weeks of my holidays I spent doing kitesurfing and windsurfing and I was living on camping in a tent or a caravan. I love this kind of life but probably only when on holidays. When it comes to regular life I need both - a city and countryside. Actually the lockdown time I spent at my parents' house in Warsaw. They live in the city but in the more green area (suburban area) in a beautiful house surrounded by a well-tended garden. This was probably the best environment for me when it comes to songwriting. I had plenty of space, lots of musical equipment and a calm atmosphere. When I needed a vibe of the city (and the city reopened...) I could cycle there or take a car and reach the Varsavian city center within 20 minutes. When it comes to my London life - that's also an interesting place to live, especially because the music scene is amazing there, parks are beautiful, many cool parties are happening (obviously not during COVID pandemic) and there are plenty of amazing art exhibitions. But even when I am living in London I need to visit parks often. I am unhappy when my life is separated from nature for too long. Nature is amazing, and it's probably one of the biggest sources of inspiration for me recently!
RnRR: If you could live anywhere in the world for free and write music, where would you choose and why?
NA: I think I would choose Italy, I would stay in a villa somewhere not too far from the city. It’s my favorite country, I love the Italian lifestyle, I think people there know how to enjoy life. I’ve been there 15 times already and each time I’m amazed by their culture, cuisine, attitude, art galleries, nature (especially mountains, I love skiing). there is all I need in Italy, and It’s not that far from my hometown - Warsaw!
RnRR: Wow, 15 times to Italy? Is it the pizza or the pasta that has a bigger pull on you returning?
NA: Yes 15 times, or even a bit more. probably pasta!
RnRR: What’s your favourite type of pasta? And while we are on the topic of food, what would your ideal three course meal consist of?
NA: Gnocchi is my favourite type of pasta! Hmm I love unique food, the best restaurants for me are the ones that create their own combination, they experiment with flavours and create their own new dishes..
It’s hard for me to answer this question... as I am recently used to student dishes or camping life, It’s hard to imagine extremely good dinner now but I can tell you what other types of food I like which include sushi, pad thai, pierogi!
RnRR: Finally, there’s the matter of our most important question. If you were going to a desert island, and you only could play one album ever again, what are you picking and why?
NA: Oh wow, that's a difficult one! I'm a big fan of Yussef Dayes recently. His music unites my body, mind and soul. It brings harmony back to my life. Whenever I feel anxious, his vibes help me finding inner peace. Also, listening to his music just simply makes some moments of my life more beautiful... so probably I would go for 'What Kinda Music' by Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes. I love this album, it's beautiful and it enhances my creativity as well. With this music on a desert island, I would feel calm and interested in finding cool sounds around me. Maybe I would come back from this desert island with instruments of my own creation or if I could bring a recorder there I would catch some interesting sounds of nature which later I would incorporate into my music.
RnRR: That’s a nice and beautiful album you have chosen and great reasoning behind said choice. We will be sure to update our social media pages when your new music comes out!
If you'd like to find out more about Nina or the latest news on her coming releases, you can find links to each of her socials below: