Former Army Band singer and songwriter Nisha Nandez continues evolving, putting out yet another refreshingly difficult-to-pin-down single that toys with a variety of styles; with a little help from Las Vegas DJ JackEL. “My Head” may be simple on the surface, with its universal themes of love and doubt, but it refuses to fall neatly into one category. As an avid music listener (and a producer in my own right) I appreciate her ability to jump so effortlessly between genres.
I had the opportunity to ask about her dynamic range in-person recently, as well as discuss her extensive military background, for this exclusive One West ‘Spotlight’ interview. Enjoy.
- I want to jump right into the new single, because there’s a lot to touch base on here—no pun intended—with your military background; but we’ll get to that in a moment… First-of-all, what inspired the August release of “My Head”?
(Laughs) Hi Ace, thanks for chatting with me. I actually wrote “My Head” a few years ago, but at the time, didn’t think it was ready to be recorded. Now that my music is more geared toward Dance/EDM, I wanted to get in the studio and finally get it recorded. It’s actually a love song, and with the help of JackEL, I feel I got a great new dance single that makes you move.
- I noticed there are a ton of different styles that you take on, from pop and R&B to ambient and ‘Electronic Dance Music.’ It really does make for a dark-yet-danceable track. Where does this eclectic approach come from?
That’s a great question. When I started writing, my music was a mix of rock and hip-hop. I was in a dark place and wanted to express myself through music. As I grew in the industry, I was contacted by (producer) Eddie Galan to write pop music. I got a lot of experience writing several catchy songs, although still rather dark. Over the years, I started listening to a lot of dance/EDM and at some point, I felt that in order to progress in the industry, I wanted to write more danceable music. I connected with JackEL, who started remixing my pop songs, and it has really seemed to work. We’ve worked together on several of my new singles.
- I also heard your version of “Killing Me Softy.” When did you initially have the idea to remake such a classic?
Hmm, I have been singing Lauryn Hill’s version of “Killing Me Softly” at karaoke for years. I actually won cash prizes for that rendition when I was still in the Army. The last time I sang it at a karaoke bar, I think it was 2018, the crowd was singing with me and I really enjoyed the interaction. It was at that point I started thinking about recording it. I’m no Lauryn Hill, so I decided to put it together with a bit of a dance vibe.
- Was Lauryn Hill one of your inspirations growing up?
Definitely! I’m a huge Lauryn Hill fan, from the Fugees to her role in Sister Act . When I was younger, I wanted my voice to be like hers. I now understand the importance of embracing my voice and developing my own style of delivery, regardless of the genre.
- I normally ask this later in the interview, but I’m just curious: Who would be your Top 5 favorite artists of all time?
Ooh, that’s a tough one, because there are so many artists I love! I would have to say Adele, Beyoncé, Eminem, Amy Lee (from Evanescence) and John Legend. Adele, Beyoncé, and Amy Lee have amazing voices and delivery. Evanescence was my favorite band when I was deployed to OIF-III (in Iraq) and I still love them. Eminem is a lyrical genius that I love to learn from. His creativity is untouchable! And John Legend… well… I love all his music, creativity, and style, too.
- Okay, now, I know that you graciously joined the Army after 9/11, but I was wondering if there were any other factors that led to your decision?
As you know, I wanted to give back to my country any way I could in the military, and did so initially through joining the Army Band. I considered the opportunity to take better care of my children with the health benefits the Army provides and ongoing support system for families. I was also paying pretty high insurance premiums as a civilian that I knew I wouldn’t have to pay for if I joined. The post-9/11 G.I. Bill was a huge incentive, too. I only had 30 hours of college credit when I joined. My enlistment in the Army paid for all four of my degrees and I am so grateful. Education is priceless. Lastly, I knew there was an opportunity to change MOSs (jobs) if qualified and of course, I wanted to travel (laughs).
- And what was it like putting your vocal skills to use for the good of the country, in the Army Band? Can you describe the different types of gigs and overall implications of that type of performance?
Ooh, back then, my vocal skills were extremely limited. I didn’t consider myself a singer, by any means. I played the flute in the Army Band. My experience singing for the troops in Iraq was inspiring. I was part of the “3ID” rock band, which was one of the reasons I chose rock when I started my singing career. During OIF-III, the Soldiers we sang for were so excited to see us perform. That was really encouraging! They didn’t care [that] we weren’t famous, but still made us feel that way! We traveled from camp-to-camp on Blackhawks, Chinooks, and even a C-130 to perform. The biggest show I was part of was opening for Toby Keith when he came to Baghdad in 2005. I actually sang a few country songs (laughs). I was still learning, but the experience was memorable and definitely irreplaceable.
- Well, thank you for your service, it’s amazing how diverse our military is. Do you still perform with a band or live instruments?
You’re welcome, thank you! Yes, the military is extremely diverse. You can literally work in almost any profession if you are qualified. Unfortunately, I haven’t performed with a band or played an instrument since I became an officer in 2007. I would love to get back to singing with a live band. The connection with other musicians is one I really miss.
- I also noticed you have quite an extensive back-catalog of music on Spotify. What motivates you to be so productive in the studio?
I have several songs I’ve written over the years. Every song I have written has been about a personal experience I’ve had. When my life was less happy, it was much easier to write about what I was going through. It is my form of therapy, so-to-speak. Most of the songs I used to write were either sad or angry, yet very relatable. Believe it or not, I am retraining myself to write about my happier experiences, like in my single “Summer Love,” which I released in 2018. I have had many great teachers and fellow musicians who’ve motivated and educated me to write about the “good stuff.”
- Do you have any plans for upcoming releases or shows that you’d be able to give One West readers an exclusive look at?
I am working on a few projects right now. I’m writing a new single that is more acoustic and happy. It’s a work in progress (laughs). I’m also proud to be part of an all-military veteran album with Ninja Punch Music. The album will be released soon!
- Awesome, and lastly, where can One West readers find you online &/or social media?
Thank you again for taking the time to chat with me and helping spread my story.