By Danielle Matta, Under the Arch Editor
I’ve been following Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt since I was fourteen and used to send my music recs to my friends over email; in a list including songs from Passenger, Gabrielle Aplin, and an excessive amount of emoticons, I suggested Nesbitt’s “Noserings and Shoestrings” to my middle school friend over an AOL address, to which she responded: “I’ve already listened to it over and over, countless times.”
Over the past six years, my friend’s sentiment has perfectly summed up my relationship with Nesbitt’s music. Much of my access to it was limited, as only a few EP’s and singles have been readily available to US audiences, but I never grew tired of Nesbitt’s youthful sound and clever lyrics, especially as they began to grow alongside me. Her mostly bouncy, guitar-based songs about outcasts and young love evolved into hard-hitting pop anthems about relationship power dynamics and “chewing gum until the flavor’s gone.” And although much of her content wasn’t released traditionally in the US, my friends and I kept up with her new projects through her Twitter and Instagram accounts, where her humor and down-to-earth internet presence always made her distinct from the other artists I followed.
That’s why when I received a text from a friend about her Lower East Side concert last week, I immediately jumped on tickets to see Nesbitt—for the very first time—at the Mercury Lounge the day before Halloween. I expected to hear a lot of new music, or at least new to me, seeing as I was only familiar with a handful of songs from various EP’s released in the past two years, but I felt confident I wouldn’t be disappointed with Nesbitt’s performance—and I certainly wasn’t.
The smallness of the venue and the unabashed realness of Nesbitt’s stage presence made the concert feel intimate and personable. Most of the set-list was made up of yet-to-be-released songs from Nesbitt’s upcoming album, and she prefaced each with a short anecdote about her writing process or inspiration. It was clear that Nesbitt’s style has certainly changed since her 2013 hits, but has maintained much of the singer-songwriter quality which I’ve always loved most. Her lyrics are still thoughtful, witty, and perfectly capture intricate emotion, and her vocals are dynamic, even while backed with a repetitive pop beat. Even so, much of her performance was without a background track, which only added to the intimate nature of the show.
Nesbitt’s voice is gorgeously distinct, effortlessly slipping in and out of tender falsetto and a rich, lower vibrato. I was not at all surprised these qualities came across during her live performance, having watched short clips of covers and new music on Nesbitt’s social media through the years, but it was no less incredible to experience it first-hand. Combined with her humble stage-presence and simple performance style, every song felt genuinely from the heart; it was a performance which highlighted the relatability and lyrical and vocal intricacy of pop music, and for a gal like me who’s love for pop music has always gone beyond catchy beats and accompanying dance routines, I adored every minute.
Nesbitt concluded the concert with a few of her hits from the beginning of her career. “All the industry people can leave now,” Nesbitt announced before launching into an acoustic version of “The Apple Tree” off her 2012 EP, but much of the audience, like me, had fallen in love with Nina’s music long before there were “industry people” to send away. As Nesbitt stepped away from the mic to move closer to the audience, just a guitar in her hands, we all sang together the songs which still occupied a little place in our middle school hearts.