13th November 2021
The Australian-born, Manchester-based vocalist and songwriter speaks to us about her personal new record Friends With Monsters, cross-media collaboration and her love of storytellers.
Singer Nishla Smith creates vivid, enigmatic stories through sound, her voice stretching from melancholic sweetness through to dark intimacy. Her debut album 'Friends with Monsters' confirms Smith as a major new vocal talent and sees the vocalist's affinity for inventive narratives extended over the span of a full album.
The Australian performer travelled via Berlin to eventually settle in Manchester and is joined here by some of the city's most talented improvisers. Richard Jones and Johnny Hunter cover piano and drums respectively, whilst bassist Joshua Cavanagh-Brierley and trumpeter Aaron Wood add graceful touches to complete the quintet's intimate feel. Smith's depictions of night-time have an enigmatic quality, inviting listeners on an atmospheric journey but all the while pointing to something greater.
Smith's work moves swiftly through genres, driven by her unique artistry. A City Music Foundation artist, she has received commissions from Manchester Collective and Opera North, as well as Manchester Jazz Festival and Jazz North. As co-creator of theatre company Ulita, she also creates collaborative pieces that blend theatre, music and visual arts. 'Friends with Monsters' continues that theatrical drive - "I'm a very natural storyteller, I just love to tell stories. I find myself weaving everyday events into tales that are very narratively pleasing."
Set over the course of a single evening, 'Friends with Monsters' explores changing states of insomnia, informed by Smith's own sleepless nights. It's realised in four distinct sections; each is introduced by a scene-setting interlude. Delving deeper into the dreamy world of Smith's storyland rewards greatly.