nstasia is the pharrell-approved singer making country "hood" jams
After writing songs for Beyoncé and Usher and receiving a seal of approval from Pharrell, the high-falsetto singer is releasing her first EP.
If you're looking for an alternative R&B singer who cites Rae Sremmurd and The Beatles as musical influences, then Nstasia is your girl. The North Carolina-raised chanteuse blends country-tinged melodies with what she describes as "hood lyrics" to create a distinctly black southern sound. "I'll do a spilt on it/ keep it ghetto… walk to the corner store," the songwriter sings in a high falsetto on "Hell of a Time," a radio-ready love song produced by Ryan M. Tedder (Arianna Grande). Having written tracks for artists including Beyoncé, Usher, and Macy Gray, Nstasia is ready for her moment. Her upcoming EP New Religion, due November 17, has such a polished, self-assured sound, it's hard to believe it's her first one.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Nstasia (whose full name is Nastasia Griffin) is her versatility. For New Religion, she created sonic gumbo by working with diverse producers like Skrillex — adding a dash of "trap" to each song, of course. In an exclusive premiere, Nstasia shares the first visual from New Religion, "Trap or Die," with i-D. The clip can best be described as an ode to merciless slayage. Harkening to simpler times, Nstasia stands in front of a wood cabin and turns an axe into a formidably fierce prop. "This is coming out on my birthday, so it's extra special to me," she tells us.
What was the vision behind this video?
It's basically a mix of everything I am. It gives you a country vibe, but you also have things that give you hood vibes. It's kind of like a hood romance. You have everything in one. I put hood lyrics to country melodies. And my musical inspirations are artists like Rae Sremmurd.
What artists and genres do you look to for inspiration?
Rae Sremmurd, The Beatles (which is why you hear some oohs and ahhs in my backgrounds), The Beach Boys. I'm all over the place! The story-telling of my songwriting is influenced by country music. I'm a relationship girl, and all the relationships I've experienced have been with men that live that bad boy lifestyle. So that's where my reference of love comes from.
Who are some of the country artists you admire?
Oh my god, Shania Twain! I love all the legendary country artists. I could hear something and not know who it's by, but love the melody and lyrics. That's always the thing I remember. Like I love this song called "Butterflies Kisses" but I can't even remember who sings it right now. Just know that I'm a daddy's girl when you listen to it!
What's your creative process?
My songwriting always starts off with a freestyle. I begin with the bare minimum — give me something with just a guitar and no drums and I'll go into the booth. So all these songs are in the moment how I was feeling.
Were you nervous about recording your first EP?
Oh no. I'm just going to be me and freestyle what I feel in that moment. I try not to go in feeling like, "Oh no this song needs to be a number one hit on the radio." But I do feel like the song does need to be about how I truly feel. That's what I pressure myself to give.
You come from a first-generation Haitian background, your father is a live musician who has worked with people like Betty Wright and Eugene Wilde. What was it like growing up in that musical environment?
It was great! When my dad went to the studio, I would always go with him. All I've known is music, there's nothing else I've thought of being. Like, if I became a lawyer, it would have also been while being a singer. At seven, I was like "I'll be Diana Ross, then go into the courtroom, then go back to the stage!" Anything I've ever wanted to be has always been paired with wanting to be a singer.
You've received a cosign from one of the most respected producers out there, Pharrell. How did that happen?
One of my A&R guys who used to work at Sony said [Pharrell] heard my voice and thought I was there in the studio. He went to the room and there Pharrell was working on the music around my vocals. The guy shouted, "Oh, that's Nstasia! Is she here?" and Pharrell answered, "No, she's not. But whoever she is this girl is is sick!" So he was working on my song but I wasn't even there. We've never properly worked together, but I know we will one day.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
I feel like this applies to everyone: you create the reality you want. As long as you have faith in yourself and you know for sure that you want this to happen, it will happen. I always say, anyone who has kept trying has never not made it. So I believe if you never give up you will 100% get exactly what you want. It sounds cliché, but it really is true.