Nicole Ariana, Queen of east coast urban music, wooed us with her Four Seasons EP a year ago. Since then, she’s gone to Toronto for two mentorships at the Feldman Agency and Rock Paper Management. She came back to Nova Scotia for a few months to play shows, write songs and catch up with people. Ariana performs at Nova Scotia Music Week as part of the Gordie Sampson Songwriter’s Circle Friday night in her on-again, off-again home of Truro, N.S.
So you’re not back in Nova Scotia for good?
I’m still on a lease in Toronto until the end of March so I’m going back in January. Laura Roy is subletting from me right now. She’s doing a songwriting mentorship right now. I’ll finish up my lease then I have no clue what I’ll do. I’m planning on going down to SXSW in March just to take it in.
Do you think you’ll come back to Halifax?
It’s hard to say. At this point I have no clue. I’m working on my second release and I would definitely like to make the most of that and follow that wherever I need to be when that comes. I feel like Toronto is a better spot for urban music opportunities but at the same time things seem to be changing and hip hop seems to be becoming more appreciated on the east coast, so who knows. I definitely love it here. I’d say I’m probably going to float around for the next couple of years.
What kind of things make you feel like urban music is becoming more appreciated out east?
When I first started doing hip hop in Halifax, I felt it had a very distinct east coast sound, which could be a good thing, but you share it enough and it gets pigeonholed. People are getting extremely technical and commercial with their hip hop where before it was a lot of people doing hip hop but not on a breakthrough level. Now people are exposed and connected worldwide. Like Ryan Hemsworth, he became famous through exposure and influences on the Internet. People are just taking it to another level.
You said when you were leaving Halifax that you were reluctant to leave. But I’m wondering now that you’ve spent time in Toronto have you found more opportunity there?
Honestly I feel if your music is good and you have that exposure online you can do it anywhere to an extent before it gets to the point where you have to tour. It’s a different type of opportunity in Toronto, you can meet people who are more connected or have more years of experience in urban music particularly. But in Halifax it’s easier in a sense because you have that foundation where a friend might give you a beat. It’s less expensive to create music out here but I don’t know if the reach is as great. I definitely made some contacts there and when I go back it’ll slowly build into the same type of community.
What was your experience like in Toronto with your music?
Yogi and Kayo moved out to Toronto four months ago so he and I did a lot of recording and it was nice to have him there since he did my EP. It would have been difficult to find a producer who knew me and I was so comfortable with. I didn’t have to go out and prove myself to someone because he knew me. And I did definitely meet some producers, but honestly it’s mostly over the Internet for me.
Whenever I would see you in Halifax you were usually the only woman on the bill.
I know. I love it!
I like it. Of course I want to see more females to succeed in hip hop and R&B in Halifax. I also enjoy being the only girl. It makes me feel special, like I’m doing something different.
Are you the only hip hop musician who goes to Gordie Sampson Songcamp?
I’d look around some days and be like “wow my stuff is very different from the other stuff being shared today”. There’s Kyle Mischiek who is a rapper, Elijah Wohlmuth is another, and then Laura Roy. I’m definitely the most edgy.
And what’s that like?
It was nerve-wracking at first for sure. Now I’ve written about four songs with Gordie. I’ve written country songs, pop songs. I felt I found my footing really quickly which was good because I normally write alone. I’ll be singing a song from my album at the circle (at NSMW).
What is the biggest thing you learned at songcamp?
It really opened my eyes to songwriting as a career. That can open up a whole new revenue stream. As I work toward being an artist I could write a pop tune and it could get picked up in Nashville and it could help fund my endeavours. It taught me that is a huge part of the industry.
I have quite a few singles already recorded. I’m not sure what I want to do with them because my sound has been changing since I released my EP in October of 2013. I feel like I know myself a lot better. More like great production, super vibe-y and laid-back. I want to kind of bank them up and pick from the best. I’m also waiting on some potential funding. if that comes through that’ll open up a lot of opportunities.