… Currently, I am greatly inspired by a book I just finished reading titled “To Speak for the Trees” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. She is a remarkable advocate for forests, and a botanist and herbalist. In her book, she proposes a simple yet powerful idea: if every person on Earth planted one tree annually for six years, we could halt global warming in its tracks. This concept astounded me because it emphasizes individual action over a relatively short period.
I sincerely believe that by igniting a global tree-planting movement, we can safeguard not just countless species but also the future of the human race. It’s not merely about saving the planet — because Earth will endure — it’s about ensuring a harmonious, sustainable life for ourselves through a renewed bond with nature. Initiating a practice of planting new trees yearly isn’t a monumental task, yet it could have a profound impact. It emphasizes living more cohesively with our environment…
I had the pleasure to talk to Nina de Vitry. Nina, the gifted singer-songwriter rooted in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and now based in Nashville, Tennessee, invites listeners to a deep, reflective journey in her much-anticipated debut full-length album, “What You Feel Is Real,” released on August 25, 2023. With a rich background immersed in bluegrass jams and Django jazz influences, coupled with her classical training in violin and piano, Nina stands as a multi-talented force in the music industry.
The album offers a fresh, radiant, and dynamic repertoire that combines Americana and soul influences with a touch of smooth jazz elements, presenting a collection of tracks that carry a unique charm. Drawing inspiration from personal experiences, it beautifully captures deep and intricate emotions, promoting mental health awareness and personal empowerment through the prism of vulnerability and openness.
De Vitry’s sound, often likened to acclaimed artists such as Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, and Lianne La Havas, explores untrodden paths, venturing into topics seldom touched by past musicians. Songs like “Being with Myself” and “History” not only encourage self-discovery and self-love but also embolden listeners to shape their world, making it an anthem of triumphant struggle and self-love. The lyrical depth and rich soundscapes in tracks such as “Open” and “Wrong Thing” embody a fusion of Americana and soul influences, showcasing her narrative prowess and the ability to foster a deeper connection with oneself and the surroundings.
Produced independently by de Vitry herself alongside industry veterans Shani Gandhi, Sam Leslie, Mike Newman, and Alan Silverman, the album integrates Nina’s rich musical upbringing to create a cohesive and uplifting sound that resonates with a wide array of audiences. It invites listeners to a space of reflection and empowerment, holding a mirror to both the sorrows and joys of existence through a journey that encourages vulnerability and openness.
In anticipation of the album’s release, Nina shared singles accompanied by captivating videos, receiving praises and accolades from platforms including V13, The Bluegrass Situation, and Americana Highways. The journey of the album unravels progressively, nurturing a pathway of self-love and celebrating unique individuals through a series of love songs dedicated to different facets of Nina’s life.
As Nina prepares to bring her album to life through a supporting tour, which includes stops in cities like Lancaster, Philadelphia, and New York, her music continues to be a beacon of authenticity, encouraging self-trust and deep connection with oneself and the world around. It is an enriching voyage through the vivid palette of human emotions, served through captivating melodies and a blend of neo-soul and vocal jazz that feels both modern and timeless.
Fans can immerse themselves into Nina de Vitry’s narrative and melodic world, staying updated on her journey through her website. This project stands as a testimony to the power of authenticity, promising a bright future in the music landscape with a rich auditory landscape that navigates the complex tapestry of human emotions through a soul-stirring pathway.
Yitzi: Nina, it’s a delight to meet you. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn about your personal origin story. Can you share the story of your childhood and how you grew up?
Nina: Absolutely, I grew up as the youngest of four siblings in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I was fortunate to have a very musical family; all of my siblings and both of my parents played instruments. Growing up, music was a substantial part of my childhood. We attended old-time and bluegrass festivals, and my dad was part of a bluegrass and gypsy jazz band. Those experiences considerably influence my music. I had a wonderful childhood filled with creative endeavors and a deep connection with nature.
Yitzi: Now that you’re a successful music artist, can you walk us back to when you first started? How did you create your music initially?
Nina: Yes, it’s a great question. I began writing songs fairly young, around the age of 10 or 11. I remember being in the sixth grade and writing quite a bit. However, I seriously started considering a career in music after my freshman year in college.
I took a gap year because I was unsure about my path at that time. I was fortunate to attend this wonderful music camp called “Miles of Music” in New Hampshire, which became a turning point for me. Sharing my music there and receiving positive feedback was very encouraging.
During that gap year, I invested a lot of time in songwriting and decided to record my first set of music, which resulted in my EP, “Trust a Dream.” I did return to college to complete my degree, but not in music. Despite that, I realized that I was indeed a songwriter and that creating music was a path I needed to pursue.
Yitzi: You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences, encounters, or memories. Can you share one or two stories with our readers that offer a glimpse into your life as a successful artist?
Nina: Absolutely. Memories that stand out are usually ones that involve meeting fantastic people while I’m on the road, traveling, playing shows, or attending events.
Just recently, at one of the last shows of the “What You Feel Is Real Tour” in Boston, a woman approached me after the performance. She told me that she was visiting friends in Boston and that she lived on the West Coast. The song I performed, “The Life You Could Be Living,” had struck a chord with her. It made her realize that she had been denying a part of herself, and it encouraged her to move to Boston to pursue a career in music seriously.
It was a profound moment for me because I wrote that song around the time I decided to move to Boston post-graduation from school in Philadelphia to follow my music passion. Hearing her story felt like a full-circle moment, showcasing the song’s power in inspiring others to chase their dreams. It’s always wonderful when music facilitates a connection with strangers, making it one of my favorite kinds of stories.
Yitzi: Did you go to Berklee?
Nina: No, I didn’t, but many of my friends did. I attended Temple University in Philadelphia, where I studied Spanish language and literature, along with some English and French courses. I have a deep affection for foreign languages; that was my focus during college. However, seeing my friends have great experiences at music schools, I sometimes felt I missed out on that. So, eventually, I moved closer to them to soak in the music environment through them, which felt like the next best thing.
Yitzi: It’s been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Do you have a story about a humorous mistake that you made when you were first starting, and the lesson you learned from it?
Nina: Absolutely, I have certainly made my share of mistakes, though not all of them are funny. However, one incident that makes me laugh when I recall it was a significant performance mistake during my college days. After returning from my gap year, I started singing in the jazz band at Temple University. Although I had been an instrumentalist for most of my life, singing was relatively new to me.
During one performance, I completely messed up a key change at the end of a song. It was a change written into the arrangement, and sadly, I hadn’t practiced it enough. This performance was recorded and might still be lingering somewhere deep in YouTube…
Interestingly, my friend Micah, who is now a member of my band, was there and, to this day, teases me about that moment, recalling how bad it sounded during that end-of-year concert. It was a moment of realization for me, as I was still grappling with learning jazz and couldn’t manage the change on the spot.
From that experience, I learned the importance of being overly prepared for performances to avoid such embarrassments. While everyone makes minor mistakes, they are more noticeable when you are the lead singer. It was a lesson in diligence and the necessity to always be ready to give your best performance.
Yitzi: Is there a person who has made a profound impact on your life?
Nina: Absolutely, my dad has been a significant influence in my life. He has a genuine passion for music and has the ability to play numerous instruments by ear, which always amazed me. Being exposed to his natural talent definitely guided me towards choosing a path in music. I feel like deep down he might have pursued a music career himself if he wasn’t so focused on finding a job that would reliably pay the bills, leading him to become an architect.
When I was around three or four years old, I expressed a desire to play the violin so I could “fiddle around the campfire” with my dad. That sentiment is one of my earliest memories that highlights his influence on my musical journey.
Aside from my dad, there have been many educators who have left a lasting impact on me. One that stands out is my violin teacher growing up, Carol Talif. She was extremely strict, which at times felt a bit too much, but in the end, she instilled in me a discipline and a serious approach to music. Carol had a knack for knowing when I hadn’t practiced enough and would not let me get away with cutting corners. Her guidance certainly shaped me to become a better musician.
Yitzi: That’s great. Let’s pretend for a moment that you are the queen in charge of the biggest music studios, the queen of the industry. What positive changes have you noticed over the past five years, and as this industry leader, what would you change moving forward?
Nina: Imagining myself as the queen of the industry is quite exciting! In recent times, I have noticed and appreciated the efforts of different festivals, musical endeavors, and camps working towards diversity, not only in terms of performers but also the educators at these camps. I think we are gradually seeing more representation, be it more women on the bills at festivals or including BIPOC individuals in various capacities. However, there’s still a considerable way to go, even though it’s somewhat better now than when I was a young girl.
For instance, when I see bands like the Molly Tuttle band where three out of the five musicians on stage are women, and they are absolutely dominating, it makes me happy. Growing up, it was rare to see women in roles like bass players or exhibiting exceptional skill in flat-picking a guitar. Observing more of such representation brings joy to my heart.
Moving forward, if I had the power, I would enforce equality and adequate representation through regulations in the industry. It’s vital to continue progressing in this direction as we still have a long road ahead of us.
Another pressing issue is the compensation for musicians, which frankly is not enough considering the amount of effort and resources that go into creating music. For example, despite having thousands of streams worldwide, which is incredible, the financial return is disappointingly low, often amounting to a mere $100 or so for about 50,000 streams. It’s disheartening to see such a disparity in the distribution of wealth where the upper echelon makes a significant amount, while the artists and others involved in putting on shows don’t see a fair share. There needs to be a more equitable distribution of resources for everyone involved, not just the musicians. It’s something that desperately needs to change to support the thriving ecosystem of the music industry.
Yitzi: Yeah, what you’re describing reminds me of the actor’s strike.
Nina: Absolutely, I was just discussing this with one of my friends last night. He pointed out what is happening in Hollywood and wondered why similar conversations are not happening in our industry. It’s alarming to hear that our friend, who is incredibly talented and constantly booked for big festivals, is still struggling financially despite her success and the love people have for her music. It clearly indicates that there is a significant problem with how art is valued in this country, and in many other places too.
Yitzi: Nina, you have amassed an impressive body of work. Can you share with our readers any exciting projects you are currently engaged in or planning to launch soon? Also, could you talk about what you aim to focus on in the near future?
Nina: Sure. While it has already passed, I feel it’s worth mentioning that I recently released an album on August 25th. This project has been my baby for the last two years; I poured my heart and soul into producing all 11 songs, arranging the instruments, and coordinating the backing vocals. I’m thrilled that it’s now out there for everyone to experience. It is accessible and I’d love for people to listen to it.
Looking ahead, I plan to release a single in the wintertime, so keep an eye out for that. Currently, I’m gradually reentering my creative cycle, immersing myself in daily practices and writing more, essentially laying the groundwork for fresh material, although it’s still under wraps.
Moreover, I’ve been entertaining this idea for a while now — I am eager to record and eventually release a small collection of my favorite jazz standards. While it hasn’t taken off yet, it might be one of my upcoming endeavors.
Yitzi: Yeah, exciting. If you could encapsulate all your songs into one overarching theme, what would that be? What message are you consistently conveying through your music?
Nina: The central theme in my music tends to be about trusting oneself and honoring one’s intuition. For instance, my first EP was titled “Trust a Dream,” and it primarily encourages listeners to trust their instincts and pursue what they envision for themselves in life.
Delving a bit deeper, my most recent album, “What You Feel Is Real,” explores somewhat tougher subjects including toxic relationships, emphasizing the significance of following your instincts in those situations too. It’s not just about chasing your dreams, but also fostering a holistic trust in yourself. So, trusting oneself would be the recurrent theme in my music.
Yitzi: That’s great, beautiful. This is our signature question that we ask in all of our interviews. You’ve enjoyed quite a bit of success now, but looking back to when you started, can you share five things you wish somebody had told you when you first embarked on your career in the music industry?
Nina: Sure, I actually prepared a bit after you gave me a heads-up about this question, so I’ve noted down some points to ensure I don’t miss out on anything important.
- First off, I really wish someone had emphasized that it’s completely fine to evolve as an artist at my own pace. This is something I have come to realize only recently, especially as I’ve become aware of the cyclical nature of my creative process — something I hinted at when answering one of your previous questions. In the past, I used to be quite hard on myself, feeling this constant pressure to keep up, thinking I should immediately be working on the next album right after releasing one. But I’ve learned that it’s essential to have a balance and to embrace the pace that suits me. While some people might be able to maintain a relentless rhythm, it doesn’t work for everyone. Personally, I prefer to take it step by step: writing, then recording, releasing, and after that taking time to live and gather new experiences to fuel my next creative cycle. Understanding and accepting my pace has been liberating, and I wish I had grasped this earlier to avoid the undue pressure I placed on myself.
- The second point that comes to mind is the understanding that in creative endeavors, and probably in many aspects of life, it is completely normal not to have a clear picture of what the final product will look like from the onset — and that’s absolutely fine. It’s kind of a variation on the old saying, “it’s about the journey, not the destination.” It speaks to embracing the process fully and trusting your instincts and your ideas along the way. For instance, when I was in the initial stages of working on both my EP and my album, I had a bunch of songs but was unsure about many decisions, like which instruments to use. However, looking back after the completion of the project, I realize that I couldn’t possibly have anticipated exactly how everything turned out. If I had stuck rigidly to an initial vision, it might have limited the growth and evolution of the project. So, it’s indeed beneficial to leave space for the process to naturally unfold, leading to outcomes that you couldn’t have planned but turn out to be just right.
- Moving on to my third point, I would say it is perfectly okay to change your mind. Particularly over the last few years while creating this album and experiencing the process of forming a band and the likes, I’ve come to this realization. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist and tend to be hard on myself if I feel the need to reverse a decision I’ve previously made. I’ve now grasped that this is just a natural part of life; trying out things and having to switch gears when something doesn’t pan out as expected is not unusual. I admit that I’ve tried too hard to please others at times, but now I’m absorbing the vital lesson that it’s acceptable to encounter false starts and make errors. There have been moments where I hired someone and after working with them for a bit, understood that it wasn’t the correct fit, leading to a change in course. Similarly, I’ve opted not to use contributions made by individuals to a song because it didn’t match the vision I had in mind. While I made sure to compensate them, I used to feel incredibly guilty, wondering if I should inform them that their input wasn’t utilized. Thankfully, I have come to terms with the fact that I have the autonomy over my music, and I am not obliged to provide an explanation if I choose not to incorporate someone’s part. It’s an impersonal decision, and is a routine part of the job. It’s important to respect the process and maintain the integrity of the creative vision.
- All right, moving on to my fourth point — be mindful of where you put your money. After working on this last album, I invested a substantial amount because I was determined to do everything just right. I wanted to fairly compensate everyone involved, and I absolutely do not regret that. However, what I came to realize is that money can run out quickly, especially in the process of producing an album. There are so many little details that are easy to overlook when you’re setting a budget. While I think I managed it well, looking back, I see there were opportunities to save that I didn’t take advantage of initially. Sometimes in the early stages of a project, there is this impulse to be overly generous, which can lead to overspending. Later on, when you tally up the expenses, it can be somewhat shocking to see the total amount spent. So, it’s a beneficial reminder for everyone to be cautious and diligent with budget planning.
- For my fifth and final point, it is crucial to allocate a lot of time to do everything. I wish someone had emphasized this to me earlier on — for instance, when you are planning the PR for your album, you need to initiate reaching out to people at least six months before you intend to release your project. The reason being that you will face rejections and it takes time to find the right person who will then need to start pitching several months in advance. In essence, it’s a lengthy process to get everything in line and prepare all the necessary materials. Being aware of this from the onset prevents you from feeling rushed as you approach the release date. About halfway through the release of this project, someone did advise me to take my time, mentioning that it wasn’t feasible to secure PR assistance promptly. This insight was invaluable, yet it came after I had chosen a release date just a few months away. It ended up being almost a year later. I realized it is better to manage the expectations of your audience and avoid prematurely sharing announcements to prevent them from enduring a long wait post the announcement. Continuing on that note, the same principle applies to gigs. In the past, I often did not allot myself ample time, resulting in a rushed setup where I even sometimes forgot necessary steps like parking the car or grabbing something to eat, let alone having a proper warm-up. I’ve learned to give myself a few hours of buffer to ensure a smooth process, without having to sacrifice any essential pre-show preparations.
Yitzi: Those are some amazing lessons, thank you for sharing them. Alright, let’s dive into our aspirational question now. Considering the significant platform you have built and your influence, many people respect and value your opinion. If you could foster an idea or initiate a movement that would benefit the greatest number of people, what would that be? It’s fascinating to think about the potential ripple effect of a single inspiring idea.
Nina: Absolutely, I appreciate you saying that. Currently, I am greatly inspired by a book I just finished reading titled “To Speak for the Trees” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. She is a remarkable advocate for forests, and a botanist and herbalist. In her book, she proposes a simple yet powerful idea: if every person on Earth planted one tree annually for six years, we could halt global warming in its tracks. This concept astounded me because it emphasizes individual action over a relatively short period.
Now, I am not sure if this includes newborns; perhaps some of us would need to plant a few extra trees to cover for those who can’t. What resonates with me deeply is the advocacy for the environment, especially the conservation of our forests and the venerable old-growth trees. I dream of fostering a deeper connection between people and the natural world, encouraging them to nurture it more attentively.
I sincerely believe that by igniting a global tree-planting movement, we can safeguard not just countless species but also the future of the human race. It’s not merely about saving the planet — because Earth will endure — it’s about ensuring a harmonious, sustainable life for ourselves through a renewed bond with nature. Initiating a practice of planting new trees yearly isn’t a monumental task, yet it could have a profound impact. It emphasizes living more cohesively with our environment.
Yitzi: It’s such a beautiful message, one that’s both simple and optimistic. It illustrates that the situation doesn’t have to be so catastrophic.
Nina: You’re right, optimism is vital. It’s a prominent element in my music; I aim to infuse it with an uplifting and optimistic vibe. That’s also what I admired about the author; she remains optimistic, refusing to succumb to doomsday prophecies. She emphasizes that conceding to a belief that nothing can be done will indeed lead to nothing being done. We must harbor the belief that we can make a change and then take steps to achieve it.
Yitzi: Before we wrap up the interview, I have one more question, which we like to refer to as our “matchmaker question.” It sometimes fosters fascinating connections. Is there someone in the world, a person you’d like to collaborate with, have a parallel conversation with, or simply enjoy a coffee with? We could potentially tag them and try to facilitate a connection for you.
Nina: Without a hesitation, it would be Norah Jones. I’ve admired her for a long time — not only as a writer and singer but also as a pianist. Her music still resonates with me, just as it did when I first heard it as a child. It would be absolutely dreamy to collaborate with her one day. Some people even say my voice reminds them of hers, which is such a compliment. The mere opportunity to talk with her at some point in my life would be astonishing, even if it were just a casual coffee chat. I play the piano too, so discussing her approach to jazz piano, learning about her influences, and hearing about her journey firsthand would be incredibly enriching.
Yitzi: How can our readers continue to follow your work online? How can they purchase your music or your EP to support what you’re doing?
Nina: Thank you for asking. The best place to find and buy my music is on my website, which is www.ninadevitry.com. I’ve also got some exciting new merchandise available there, designed by my friend Madeline Bechtel from MCCB Design, and I’m really proud of how it all turned out. For updates, you can follow my Instagram, my handle is nina.dv. As for streaming, while you can find my music on various platforms, I’ve heard that Tidal tends to pay artists a bit more per stream compared to Spotify. So, that might be a good option if you’re looking to listen and support at the same time. I believe that covers most of it!
Yitzi: It has been delightful to meet you, Nina. I wish you a beautiful week ahead.
Nina: Thank you so much, Yitzi. I truly enjoyed our time together. It was great meeting you and I appreciate you taking the time. Have a wonderful week too!
Rising Music Star Nina de Vitry On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Music Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.