Spotlight – Meets Nikita Skogen (23rd November 2020)

Nikita Skogen just released her debut single, Break Your Heart. Nonetheless, the Norwegian country music artist already has gained comparably quite some reputation, especially in the United Kingdom. Nikita is a very interesting person, who also created her own international country music promotion agency, The Wood Music. Enjoy my chat with her in the latest edition of my Spotlight interview series. Meets Nikita Skogen

FLYC: Hi Nikita, thanks for joining me for an interview. I read about you that you were singing already as a young child. When did you finally feel that you should pursue a career in music?

Nikita: I sang all through my childhood and my teens. When I was 13 years old I went to a vocal coach. She told me that she thought I had a beautiful voice, and that made me believe that this was something I was good at. But kids are mean, and I got bullied a lot because of the fact that I wanted to sing and be a “popstar”. But when I was in my room singing, I got all of the emotions out. I felt safe, I felt home, and I felt like myself. That’s when I knew that my life wouldn’t be complete without music. I went to auditions from I was 13 to 19. X Factor, Idol, Norway’s got Talent etc. But it never went my way. They said I was good, but not ready. But I never gave up. I also recorded some singles, that were never released anywhere. I just knew that this was something I was meant to do.

FLYC: Was it always country music or did you initially feel for another genre?
Nikita: It all started out with pop music. The typical Britney Spears, Spice Girls etc. But when I got in my teens I heard Remember When by Alan Jackson. And it just turned my world around. The lyrics, the story behind and the emotions I got out of it. It’s a real grown up song, but as a teenager going through a lot of stuff, and entering the adult world, the song really hit me. I then started to listen to other country artists, like Brad Paisley. And when Carrie Underwood won American Idol, she really made the way for girls like me.

FLYC: Have there been artists which especially influenced and inspired you?
Nikita: Like I said before, Carrie Underwood really made the way for girls like me. To go for my dreams. Kellie Pickler also became a huge inspiration. She wrote songs that I felt a connection to in different ways. And I felt that her songs fit my voice perfectly. She became my way into singing country music.

FLYC: I read an interesting thing about you: you are writing your own lyrics, but you do not play an instrument. How does that influence your process of songwriting?
Nikita: I have written songs my whole life. I write the lyrics, I think of what I want the song to be like, emotions, melody, theme. And then I sit down and work on it. When I have some lyrics, I sit down with my producer and co-writer. They play the instruments so they help me bring the lyrics and melody into life. It’s all about teamwork!

FLYC: Are you planning on working on instrumental skills or are you feeling comfortable as a “singer only”?
Nikita: I have a Morgan acoustic guitar. Have had it for 15 years. But never learned how to play. Just a few chords. So of course I would love to learn how to play the guitar. Would make a lot of things easier. But as of now, I am comfortable as a “singer only”.

FLYC: Before you released own songs, you posted a bunch of covers on your YouTube account. What is your favorite one?
Nikita: Yes I did. I posted them on Instagram first, and then on YouTube. My favorite one has to be Somebody to love me by Kellie Pickler. That song is really close to my heart, and I think I managed to do it pretty well.

FLYC: We got into contact as I had your debut single Break Your Heart in my New Country Hits playlist. What is the story behind the song?
Nikita: We did! And thank you for that! Break Your Heart is a classic country love story I would say. With a little hint of soft rock some places. The story is inspired from my own life. When you are in a relationship and you love that person so deeply, but you keep riding the same rollercoaster. Ups and downs, and sometimes it is so hard that you just feel like leaving. But you can’t. You always find those little things and moments that are worth fighting for. You can still see a future with the person. So I guess it’s all about having that true love that can make it through anything. No matter how hard the path is, you will always make it in the end. And that kind of love can truly Break Your Heart if you ever do loose it.

FLYC: You wrote the song with Davis Branch from Nashville. How did the collaboration work out, especially with the pandemic limitations this year?
Nikita: I did. It went really well actually. This was my first time ever co-writing and recording in this way. But Davis is such an amazing producer and has been so patient and helpful through it all. We sat down over a Facetime call. We went over the lyrics together and he sat with his guitar and came up with the melody. So it wasn’t that hard to pull through despite the pandemic. Actually kind of a fun way to make music. Me sitting in Norway, and him all the way down in Nashville. Amazing what technology can do!

FLYC: If Covid-19 is not limiting your travel opportunities, you are comuniting between Norway and Nashville. How do you manage to do it?
Nikita: It is like I said in the last question. Everything is done over Facetime. And I have my own home studio. So I just recorded my vocals here and sent them to Davis in Nashville. He made the music and production part from there. The real magic. The hard part is the time difference. So of course Things take a little longer to do when he is asleep when I am awake etc. But we have managed!

FLYC: What was the most exciting event about the process of writing, recording and releasing Break Your Heart?
Nikita: The most exciting part of this journey has to be the making of the melody. To watch the song go from just some words in a book, to a real song. And how fast Davis did it, and how he got me and what my style was like. That was amazing. And of course when the song was done and I heard the product I was stunned. It was a dream come true and I really couldn’t believe it was me and my own original song that the world was about to hear.

FLYC: You are living South of Oslo, you already gained some popularity in the UK and have a certain base in Nashville as well. Was the feedback about the track different by location?
Nikita: That’s right! 2 hours away from Oslo by car. The feedback has been really different by location. The UK has blown my mind! All the support and attention I am getting over there is just unreal to me. I have gotten some great friends over in the UK through all of this and I appreciate each and everyone of them. The UK seems to love the song and I couldn’t be more happy about it. I have gotten some great feedback in the States as well! But of course the market of country music is a lot bigger there, and harder to be a part of. Specially as a new artist showing up from nowhere. But there as been plenty of good feedback. I received messages from a lot of artists from Nashville that wants to do some work together and that is amazing!
In Norway the country scene is not that big. And getting into the music business in Norway is not simple. It takes a lot of hard work. We have gotten the song out to a few radio stations, working on more! But Norway are streaming the song on Spotify as crazy, and that’s a good thing!

FLYC: You are not only following a career as an artist, but you are also driving a country music promotion agency, The Wood Music. When – and why – did you decide to roll it out?
Nikita: Yes! The Wood Music! I am so grateful that I have that on the side. It is a free promotion agency for country artists around the world. I have gotten some of my now closest contacts and friends in the music industry through The Wood Music. I started TWM early 2020. It was because of the pandemic. But also because of my personal life. I have ME/CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). So I spend most of my time at home. Need a lot of sleep and relaxation. My love for music was hidden behind all of this and I needed to be able to do what I love, without spending too much of my energy on it. So I started TWM. I realized it was also a great way to help out artists that might struggle to get their music out now that they can’t perform anywhere. That became my main focus.

FLYC: The Facebook account states “We work for the artist, to spread the music and be a helpful hand. Free of charge”. How is that kind of business working out?
Nikita: It is working out great. But it takes some time and effort. But I do it out of my love for country music. And I know it pays back. ‘Cause I have gotten some great friends who in return have helped me out when it comes to my music. There is no money in it for me at all. I do it out of the kindness of my heart. These days the artists are loosing more money then they are gaining , so I don’t wanna charge them just to promote their music. I think it is something we all could do more of. Just helping each other out, just to be kind.

FLYC: What are the key things you can help artists with at The Wood Music?
Nikita: First of all we add the artists’ music to Our Spotify playlist. Then we add them to our website and Instagram. The website is not so active, it is mostly Instagram. The promotion is mainly sharing the artists’ music, both new and old. Sharing events they are having, new posts and news. We have also introduced some artists to each other, and they have ended up working together. So that is pretty cool.

FLYC: I read in an interview that you much rather prefer to be an independent artist compared to being bound to a record deal. What are the key reasons why you feel like it?
Nikita: Of course I don’t know what I would’ve said if I ever got an offer from a label. If it were the right one, then maybe. But right now, as I am in the beginning of my career, I don’t want to be tied up to a label. It feels pretty good to be doing everything the way I want to. Release what I want, when I want. And work with whoever I want. Making my own decisions. And with a fiance and two kids at home, I think that is a pretty great way of doing things.

FLYC: I guess that staying independent is much easier nowadays as you can spread and promote your music via social media, Spotify and other internet channels. Is staying independent something you would generally recommend to artists on the rise?
Nikita: Of course it is much easier thanks to the social media. But it is hard work as well. I do everything on my own. No label, no management, no promotion agency. Nothing. If you are willing to put in the effort to do all of those Things, and you have a team of people you trust, like a producer, co-writers and stuff. And want to do things your way, I would recommend it. But if you are looking for a quick rise, being famous over night and maybe a hit song. Then a label is what you need. You can be lucky as an independent artist as well, many have been. But it takes hard work and a lot more time I think.

FLYC: Going back to your career: what are your next steps? Any new music planned soon? Any kind of touring?
Nikita: I am working on my second single as we speak. The plan is to have it released in early 2021. I take it a day at a time, and a song at a time. So we’ll see where it takes me. As of touring I don’t have any plans. For now I am a recording artist , and that’s all. But who knows what the future will bring. But because of my illness, and family life that comes first, touring is not the first thing on my agenda. Then it would be some small events close by.

FLYC: With being a travel website as well, I just have to ask you two travel related questions as well: what is your favorite place in Nashville?
Nikita: Of course! You know what, I have never actually been in Nashville. But it is first on my list! So I can only say places I would love to visit once I get there. The Bluebird Cafe is a must see! And then the Opry! Classic I know, but yeah. And of course I would love to meet all the friends I have gotten through this.

FLYC: You are living in the Telemark region – so if someone is in that area, which places would you say are absolute must-visits there?
Nikita: Langesund, a little town where I live is a must see! There is an event there called Wrightegaarden. They have artists from all over the world there every summer. Great music and lots of people!

FLYC: A question about country music in Norway: what are the key differences to other European country music markets, e.g. the UK?
Nikita: In Norway I feel like the country music scene is a little hidden. You have to search for the events and artists. And the Norwegian country music is so far from the UK and US country music. I would say the Norwegian is more of a folk music thing, I think that’s what it’s called. It is hard to showcase your music here if you are a country artist. In the UK it seems like the market it more open to country artists. It is a lot of support and about getting each other up and forward. The UK country scene is a real good place to be as an up and coming artist. In the US the country scene is a little more competitive, but also a lot of support for each other. But it’s a real big market and hard to shine as an up an coming artist, it is possible, it just takes a lot of hard work and time.

FLYC: My final question: the seasonal holidays are coming soon. What are you looking forward to most about Christmas 2020?
Nikita: You know what! Me and my family has already decorated the whole house! Christmas tree and everything! We needed some Christmas spirit in these special times. I love Christmas so it is just a bonus for me to decorate before December. I can’t wait for Christmas movies, the food, and of course all of the new country Christmas songs that’s gonna be released from a lot of great artists! and Norway

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