Nieve Ella is dreaming of her ‘Big House’

From 'Young & Naïve' to her just dropped 'Big House', Nieve Ella might still be coming to terms with her own stellar potential, but with a genuine sense of connection, it's only a matter of time.

From ‘Young & Naïve’ to her just dropped ‘Big House’, Nieve Ella might still be coming to terms with her own stellar potential, but with a genuine sense of connection, it’s only a matter of time. Read our latest Hype playlist cover feature now.

Words: Ali Shutler.
Photos: Frank Fieber.

Nieve Ella flickers between well-deserved self-confidence and waiting for her music career to be revealed as an elaborate prank. “I am the best at faking it ’til you make it,” she explains, encompassing both moods at once. “Even now, I’m just pretending to know what I’m talking about.”

See, Nieve has never been one to shy away from telling the truth or making things up as she goes along. Her debut EP proudly labelled her ‘Young & Naïve’ as she figured out how to write songs after picking up her dad’s old guitar during lockdown, while the vulnerable lyrics were written after a coming-of-age crisis.

“A boy I liked didn’t like me back. Then I realised I was about to turn 19 and hadn’t ever been in love,” she explains. “I wasn’t going to festivals; I wasn’t going out clubbing.” She felt like there was a lot she was missing out on. “I wanted that record to come across as fun, though. I didn’t want it to sound too sad.”

The EP was released in January, and despite downplaying her talents at every opportunity (“I’ve only been writing songs for three years,” she says at one point), it showcased a brilliant, confident and fearless musician. The reaction was “everything I wanted,” says Nieve before admitting she was “so unsure of how people would take it. Nobody’s ever heard of anything I’ve done before, so coming from nothing to having people embrace what I do in such a positive way just feels so rewarding.”

Her first and second-ever tours soon followed, with Nieve supporting rowdy rockers Inhaler around the UK before a stint with pop superstar Dylan in Europe. “I thought touring would be loads of boozing and getting crazy, but really, most of it is just sitting in a van,” says Nieve. “I loved it, though. I never had parents that understood the industry. None of my friends did either,” she adds. “I literally don’t know what I’m doing. Everything shocks me.”

Nieve certainly seems to be taking it all in her stride, though. She’s signed to AWAL (home of everyone from mxmtoon and Alfie Templeman to Little Simz), and speaking to Dork from their fancy central London headquarters, she proudly explains how banging new song ‘Big House’ sees her comfortably entering a new phase.

“It’s literally about how much I love my boyfriend, and I want to live in this big house with him,” she says. “It feels so confident.”

“I feel like I’m just entering the love era of Nieve,” she continues. “You’ve had the loser who wants to be loved, and now she is. The next era, she’ll probably be heartbroken, but for now, this is the love era,” she adds with a laugh.

While earlier songs were inspired by Billie Eilish, the past year has seen Nieve “obsessed” with Sam Fender. “Everything he writes just resonates with me so much. I wanted ‘Big House’ to feel like my version of a Sam Fender song. It’s what I would sound like if I played in a band.”

“I feel like I’m just entering the love era of Nieve”

Nieve Ella

“I want people to feel like I’m singing about their life,” she adds, hoping people to live out their own pop star dreams in front of their bedroom mirror. Nieve also adores Phoebe Bridgers. “Her writing is incredible. I can’t explain it any more than saying it’s just mind-blowing. To know that she can write like that, it makes me want to write better.”

While that debut five-track EP saw Nieve conjuring pretty, delicate and restrained songs, ‘Big House’ is a full-blown rock anthem. “I wanted to show people I could be loud. I wanted big drums; I wanted guitar solos. I can be messy,” she explains, with one eye now on causing chaos at live shows. “I can’t wait to see people getting smashed in the mosh pit at Reading & Leeds later this year.”

‘Young & Naïve’ might have seen Nieve working out what music she wanted to make, but she’s “still figuring things out now”.

“‘Big House’ feels like where I’m supposed to be going, though,” she continues. “These new songs I’m going to be releasing aren’t drastically different to what ‘Young & Naïve’ was; they’re just a bit more mature and a bit more certain. I’m definitely not as certain as I want to be, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

Nieve has always played around with writing songs, but when lockdown hit, she started getting reflective because “I genuinely thought the world was going to end.” She wrote about loss; she wrote about heartbreak. She chased catharsis. “It all felt incredibly natural,” she explains.

She started learning guitar at the same time in a bid to understand her dad, who played in bands when he was younger. “I grew up without him in my life, and I never got to see that part of him.” She didn’t have ambitions to be a pop megastar, though. “It was just a sweet little thing that I felt like I could do.”

The first proper song she finished was about a boy she liked when she was 14. “I thought it was sick, so I posted it on YouTube, and all my friends and family were hyping me up.”

“I deleted it a long time ago, but from that moment on, I had this mindset of, ‘If I can make these ten people believe in me, why can’t 100? Why can’t 1000?'” She describes it as a fake-it-til-you-make-it moment that’s worked out alright.
“I still don’t understand how this is a career. I know it is, but it doesn’t feel like it should be.” She grew up in a town in the West Midlands “where you either worked in the chip shop or the café or the hairdressers. That’s what my mum did, and I went to college to study beauty to kinda follow in her footsteps. The fact I’m now doing this, it feels like a joke.”

“But I want to do this forever,” she quickly adds. “Songwriting lets me talk about how I’m feeling and share that. Then playing onstage, having my words resonate with people’s lives, it’s amazing. Why wouldn’t I want to do that forever?”

She believes her music resonates with others because “I’m just a normal person. I feel like everybody has had that situation where somebody doesn’t like them back, or they’re madly in love.” Even deeply personal songs like ‘Glass House’, which was written about the death of Nieve’s dad, have a community power. “Growing up, I didn’t think it was that normal to have lost a parent, but it’s quite a common thing. I hope my music makes people a bit less alone.”

That vulnerability in her music comes from Nieve being a “vulnerable, honest person. It’s so important to say how you feel and not just put a brave face on something. I just want people to be as honest as possible.”

“I want people to feel like I’m singing about their life”

Nieve Ella

Nieve says that ‘Big House’ is part of a bigger project but was released so soon after ‘Young & Naïve’ because she was just so excited by it. “It was only written a couple of months ago, so it’s super fresh. I don’t want to stop releasing; I just want to keep going.”

She’s currently sitting on one other finished track “that doesn’t even have a name yet. It’s a lot more gritty, but still pop,” she explains, while another three are in various stages of finish. “I feel like I haven’t said what I’ve wanted to say yet. I feel like people need to know more about me,” she adds.

As for her ambitions, Nieve “doesn’t know what the next step is.” Ahead of a gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire last month, she really didn’t understand why everyone was so excited for her until she walked out onstage and “got it.”

“I don’t want to be Lady Gaga,” she continues. “I don’t want to be the biggest person in pop, rock or whatever. I just want the most people to resonate with what I’m saying. I just want the most out of it. I don’t know what that is, I don’t know how it happens, but it’s what I want.”

She sometimes confides in her manager that she’d love to play a certain venue or support a certain artist and has to be told, ‘Nieve, you can do that, y’know?’ “I’m still at the stage where I feel like this is all a joke. I really don’t understand it,” she continues.

“But I obviously have dreams. I have dreams of playing Glastonbury; I have dreams of supporting Sam Fender. Maybe one day I will achieve all these dreams I’ve got; maybe I won’t. I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen, but it’s nice to think it might.”

“I need to stop worrying about it all, though. I have to keep telling myself, ‘Nieve, you know what you’re doing. Nieve, you know why you’re here’, because I do.” Nieve Ella’s single ‘Big House’ is out now. ■

Nieve Ella’s new single ‘Big House’ is streaming now. Follow Dork’s Hype Spotify playlist here.

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