Five Questions with Nikki Flores

Nikki Flores

With a powerfully emotive voice, the ability to stand out with little or no accompaniment, the power to craft lyrics that touch people across the spectrum and an amazing touch on the piano, Nikki is able to separate herself from the majority of today’s artists.

She possesses the musical prowess associated with true musicians, and the drive, passion and vision of an independent artist to back it up; a combination that makes her formidable force in today’s music climate.

Nikki Collaborated with artist/producer Blake Lee (Lana Del Rey, Keyshia Cole), and Stockholm based writing and production team The Family on her debut solo project that was released in December 2016. XII-XV the EP reached #20 on the iTunes pop charts upon its release. She enlisted the help of music director Danny “Topshelf Junior” Williams (Jhene Aiko, HitBoy) for videos Canary and How To Love Her which were premiered by popcrush.com.

The vibe of her diary-like penned EP, revolved around the phases of getting through a broken heart. With influences that range from Frank Ocean and Mariah Carey to Aaliyah and Kanye West, expect dreamy melodies over 808s, and a raw confession that relentlessly tugs at broken heart strings. The EP both lyrically and sonically takes you through a chronological journey of her own healing process.


Q: How do you decide whether you are writing a song for you, or to pitch to someone else?

It’s rare that I end up with a song that I want to keep for myself if I didn’t go in with the intention of writing it for me in the first place, but it has happened by surprise a time or two. My formula this year has been honing in on a couple of artists projects that really inspire me where the artist themselves are actually in the room and involved in the entire writing process, I’m there to help pull the intention out of them and shape it into a great song.

I think personal connection and honesty is so important and sometimes lacking in mainstream music these days, so that’s definitely one of my goals when writing with or for other artists. At that point, it becomes their story and I’m just helping to facilitate it. It’s getting into their head and helping them tell their truth the best way I can. On the other hand, when I get the itch to write a project for myself, I really like to set aside a month or two and zone out on my own. It’s a completely different head space for me to be in that’s a bit more self-indulgent and less conscious of “what’s working” at radio. Once I get a few solid ideas I go in with one or two producers to help figure out the sonic landscape. I like to be a lot more hands on.

Q: How important is collaboration, versus writing on your own?

I think they’re equally important! Writing alone helps you to really explore your own personal style and tendencies, and for me it allows me to take liberties and take my time with a lyric or melody without another writer or producer in my head the whole time. Sometimes bouncing ideas back and forth doesn’t allow you to really tailor and complete a whole thought before the room is on to the next one.

However, collaboration is SO helpful and important if it’s with the right people. Haha! I mean, writing with someone new for the first time as you’ll hear many writers say is like a first date, you’re kind of forced to analyze each other’s strengths and weaknesses, establish a rhythm together and make a musical baby in a matter of a day, which can either feel like magic or be completely draining and unproductive if it’s one-sided or you’re just not on the same wavelength. I’ve had some of the most incredible songs, friendships and creative chemistries come from collaborating, and also sessions where I left wanting to bang my head against a wall. Haha but my golden rule on this subject has been to always try and surround myself with people better or more experienced than me. I never want to feel like I’m in a room where I’m not learning or absorbing new energy, I always want to be able to leave feeling like a better writer or artist than I was when I arrived. Sometimes being in those types of rooms can make me a little nervous and maybe even wonder wtf why am I here, lol but once I’m able to relax, hold my own and contribute to something great, its those moments of affirmation and little confidence boosters that keep me growing and stretching out.

How does technology help your process? And what kind of skills does someone need to use technology to their benefit?

Technology is EVERYTHING! Haha from something simple like keeping my lyrics typed out and organized, to being able to produce at least a demo idea in Logic or produce vocals in Pro Tools at home and in sessions is life-saving. I would suggest to everyone to at least have a basic understanding of at least one of the major production and recording programs and to spend as much time learning your way around it as you can. Beyond it being a huge asset to you as a writer or producer, it also becomes a second language you can use when communicating with engineers and collaborators to get the exact sound you’re looking for.

How many songs do you typically write in a year, and how many get placed?

I guess it depends on what you’re focused on for that year. When I first signed with my publisher, they were sending me out on a lot of writing sessions with a lot of new collaborators looking to pitch songs to mainstream artists. I was doing 5-8 sessions per week and I quickly learned that this would burn me out way too early in the year with not much success. I probably wrote 300 songs that year and placed maybe 20 of them, half being international. When I started being able to actually get into the studio with the artists and their managers/labels themselves I realized it cut so much of the grey area and really expedited the whole pitching process. Having personal relationships with the people actually making the final decisions on what songs make it on to the albums is how I started finding success in placing songs. Not reading a casting sheet and shooting in the dark. This year I’ve placed almost every song I’ve written because it has been directly with the artists, and I’ve written way less than I did the first year I signed my deal. Quality over quantity always!

How do you handle rejection when someone doesn’t like a song you’ve written?

It depends on who the rejection comes from. Haha! Obviously, if I have a target to hit from a label or manager for their artist and we send back something they aren’t into, it’s a little disheartening, but when it happens I first try to see if we can approach it from a different angle or improve something about it. A lot of times rejection is tough to translate because it could be that the melody is awesome but the lyrics or production aren’t, or vise versa, or maybe the verses are great but the chorus needs work. So I think it’s important to take an ear break for a week or so after writing something and then go back and tweak it some more when you can hear where it should naturally change before sending it in for approval.

Now if you go in and spend a lot more time on it until there is no more room for improvement, and they still don’t get it, maybe its just not for them. I heard that Kanye said that once, he was playing tracks for someone and they weren’t feeling any of them, so he closed his laptop and said “It’s not for you.” and walked out. I always thought that was hilarious but so true. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal opinion. What one person hates another might love, that’s what is so awesome about music. There’s room for everyone.

Bonus Question:

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a new songwriter?

Be unique!!!!! All day every day. Don’t get stuck in the pattern of chasing whats cool on the radio today. It’s been done already, and everyone wants that next new fresh thing that hasn’t happened yet. Not many succeed trying to sound like someone else, so don’t ever be afraid of going left when people go right, find a niche that works for you and become the best at it. Also, grow spherically as a writer, expand your assets by learning instruments and programs, and live enough life to have something to talk about 😉