The young woman behind some of the music industry's biggest hits is ready to make a name for herself as an artist. Nija is a three time GRAMMY award winning songwriter, having worked with artists such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Megan Thee stallion, and more. With success coming at only 20 years old she had written a score of Billboards Hot 100 hits, Rolling Stone called her “one of music’s most sought after songwriters”. Now at 24 with a humongous list of credits, she’s finally releasing her own music. Her debut solo project Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You, an R&B record where she conveys the self-assurance and power to freely express herself in her music. Her solo project (at no surprise) debuted in the Top 10 on Apple Music and has been covered by MTV, People, Vibe, and The Fader.
I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Nija about her early success, incredible career so far and what's to come.
The leap to start her solo career I could only imagine is a massive decision, so was there a distinct moment Nija knew it was time for her step into the spotlight, or was it an itch that began to grow as her career progressed?
She walked us through that journey: "It was both, started out as an itch because I was in Paris working with Jay-z and Beyoncé on The Carters album, and I was actually playing her the demo to Heard About Us and she was like “You have the most beautiful tone in the world.” and that was the first moment that it kind of validated it for me, or gave me the courage because if Beyoncé says that then you know I don't care what anyone else thinks [laughs] like yes let's do it! Then it if I needed any more validation, she featured me on My Power the following year, and that happened organically she asked me if I could stay on it and I was like yeah lets do it! So I'm a big believer in signs and how everything happens for a reason so I was like alright it was meant to be and just like with all my success happening so quickly I felt like I did a lot of things that I sought out to do and I was just like okay what's the next level? So it was like right timing, all the signs were there so it was an itch growing each year but it was also because of that itch I did have definitive moments where I was like okay yeah lets do it and you definitely don’t tell Beyoncé no [laughing]."
The long list of Stars she's worked with, what's something she learned working with them time after time?
"The biggest thing I've learned working with other artists is it's okay to not come through, it's okay to have a bad day. Because I felt that I had to bring it every day, I'm working with artists every day right in the beginning of my career, and I have to deliver a hit every day. That's just not realistic, I had to be okay with that. I can't be this hit-making machine every day. All I can do is come, show up and do the best that I can do. Sometimes that creative genius will pop up and sometimes the creative thing will leave, that's just how life works and I had to be okay with that. So that was one of the biggest things I learned working with bigger artists."
Since receiving recording academy recognition, winning the GRAMMY, how has it effected the young artist/writers career? "It definitely kinda puts me in another light, it's like when a movie star gets nominated or earns an Oscar, even more roles come because you have that attached to your name so for me it definitely took me to another level for sure and that was on my first year so yeah."
With Nija's level of success in a male-dominated industry I was wondering if she had any advice for young women wanting to go into the industry? "Yes, okay so boom. Number one: stand your ground, stand your ground! Be confident, and what I realized getting into the industry was I felt like I had to- which is something you're just gonna have to do is prove yourself. You are going to have to prove yourself to everybody, every time you walk into the room. You shouldn't let that weigh on you, and just show up and show out. But definitely stand your ground, and don't let anyone make you feel otherwise, remember you’re strong and remember your morals for sure because people will definitely try to take advantage of you, and because you are a woman they will try to use that as to their advantage to what they think that is, just remember you are strong and remember to be confident."
Who are some women in the music industry that inspire her? Nija responded: "Number 1 Beyoncé, especially because I got to see another side of her, and seeing how hard she works and her work ethic, how she thinks, I feel like that was very inspirational for me. So Beyoncé for sure, another woman that really inspires me is Amber Grimes seeing how hard she works as well, women who are able to juggle so many things and be good at it, good at everything that they do that really inspires me as well. Another woman that inspires me creatively is Annemarie, I love her music. I grew up on her music, and just her voice, the lyrics that she uses and her production choices inspire me so much. And Ester Dean the way that Ester is able to flow through so many different genres and create so many songs of my lifetime that I was personally so intertwined with growing up, seeing her jump genres like that definitely like what inspired me to do what i've done, she was one of the only Black women that I saw do that so effortlessly. So I'd say those are some of the top women that inspire me in the music business."
With having success from such a young age, I can't imagine being thrown into so much change all at once. What is something that you wish you knew then that you know now? "hmm yeah, something I wish I knew then, how to do taxes [laughs] because when you’re getting success that early I definitely wish I learned how to do that in school. I wish these things were taught in school! Something that I had to learn by falling, you know learning with growing pains, I wish there was a course or something to teach me about life and how to pay bills and the stuff I have to do early on, eventually I learned. I wish on day one I had a booklet or somebody had something to let me know an instruction manual of how to go about life as an adult."
Nija went on to talk about the challenges she faces as a Black woman in the industry "Being a Black woman in the music industry is… challenging. And I will say that because there's two parts of it, I've noticed things. There's two sides to the music industry there's a Pop side then there's the Urban side. Where it's Rap and R&B music. And when I say R&B music the problems I’m seeing when I’m going in with rappers- actually this just happened the other day. One of the main things of being a Black woman is if someone doesn't know your face they automatically assume that you belong to somebody… or that you're just there for the vibes, so they won't even acknowledge you. That's one of the issues that's so common that I've seen on the urban side. Then being a Black woman on the Pop side is just like when you walk into a pop room everybody wants to do a song for Summer Walker, everybody wants to do a song for Sza, ya'll weren't making songs for Sza or Summer yesterday?? Why do ya'll wanna do that now? So that's definitely some of the issues I've seen as a Black woman, and those are hurdles I have to jump through everyday. Everyday. But i'm just glad that I was able to prevail in those situations, that's why 2020 was such a big year for me because I got
2 pop number ones and then I got the maroon five song (Nobody’s Love) so it was just like working so hard to break through that stereotype. But yeah that's something so common, so that's what a daily life of being a Black Woman in the music industry is like."