Niina Soleil is a singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. Her music sounds like it’s been kissed by the sun, and that’s what she strives for. To find that “perfect bliss” she had as a child, surrounded by a family that loved music. Niina Soleil’s track ‘Make It Summer,’ released in 2022, does just that, and the world seemed to think so as well. Racking up over 100,000 streams on Spotify, Niina Soleil is just getting started.
Her newest track, ‘Happy Pills’ has a funky bassline, beautiful harmonies, and a striking guitar lick throughout the song. And, her silky vocals are as perfect as always. The visual is filled with trippy effects and vibrant colors, and the star of the show is the singer-songwriter herself.
We had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Niina Soleil to talk about everything from her origins, her love for songwriting, and her upcoming single, ‘Happy Pills.’ You can read our interview in full below!
What got you into music? Was it family, friends, school?
I have a very musical family. The majority of my dad’s five siblings are in the music business— singing, songwriting, A&R— so I grew up with music being deeply associated with family. My mom plays the piano and would play the Peanuts theme while my siblings and I danced around the living room. For me, home is where the music is. I’ve been singing and harmonizing for as long as I can remember. Even as a toddler, I would always sing to myself, my family, and my friends— actually, my folks have a whole archive of home videos that show me doing exactly that.
When did you dive into songwriting? What was your first song like and how has your process evolved?
I was about twelve when I discovered that I could write a tune out of thin air— thin air being the three chords I’d just picked up from my first guitar lesson with Mike Datz, our family friend, and my first songwriting partner. Since all I wanted to do was write music and never practiced my scales, I, unfortunately, can’t shred and blow your face off with an epic solo. But I learned so early that my calling was to tell stories with my words and melodies. Back then, I was just playing around, learning chords as I went along. My lyrics were angsty, inspired by my terrible middle school crushes, and informed by the kind of hopeless romanticism you only get from gorging yourself on a heavy diet of teen romance novels (faeries, vampires, you know the drill). If I’m being honest, my process is not that much different now.
Do you find that your songwriting is more like writing a story, or a therapeutic release, and how so?
I was trying to answer that the other day! I called it a cosmic puzzle, which feels almost right, but it’s so hard to explain. When I’m working with other writers, it’s like a game that we’re all trying to solve; how do we make this story both fabulous and sensical? But when I’m writing by myself, it sometimes feels like a benevolent form of haunting. Like I’ll get a piece of an idea—a scrap of melody or lyric— and it’ll just… haunt me until I finish it. An unfinished song is a bit like a beautiful spirit with unfinished business if that makes any sense at all— I just try to interpret what the song wants to be until I’m satisfied that I got it right.
What’s an artist that you grew up with that you always go back to? How do you find that artist has impacted the music you make?
I always go back to The Beatles. Every genre they explored they did well and made their own. In a decade of music-making, they created music that is timeless, profound, silly, and transcendental. I aspire to their flexibility, ingenuity, and reverential thievery.
What was it like growing up on the West Coast? And how did it differ from your time, in college, on the East Coast? What influences do either places bring to your music?
I like to tell people that my childhood was bathed in sunshine. In a lot of ways, my music is filled with yearning because I’m always looking for that perfect bliss I found in my childhood. I spent so much time outdoors! I can appreciate that now, having spent so much of my adult life indoors due to weather and work. I spent my time in our backyard drawing chalk figures on the concrete, picking orange blossoms and star jasmine, reading fantasy novels, and writing notes to fairies. As for the East Coast, it honed my mind, tested my resilience, and showed me the absolute miracle of spring. To a native Los Angelino, Spring is kind of bonkers.
Do you feel the change in areas affected your relationship with music? And if so, how so?
Music evolves as people do. Every place taught me something different and gave me new perspectives. I am who I am because of where I’ve been, who I’ve met, and what I’ve experienced. My music is a product of those elements.
Seasons, nature, and the passage of time seem to be prevalent themes in “Make it Summer.” What story are you trying to tell with these themes?
We become so many different people over the course of all our seasons, adding color and light and shadow to our stories— but we get to keep the memories of all those past selves. So become someone new for a day; make some wild memories; escape the mundane, even if you have to return to it, because it’s worth it. Every night you go to bed with yourself, right? So you ought to be interested in who you’re with.
Your upcoming track, ‘Happy Pills,’ is quite a bit darker than “Make it Summer.” Talk to us about the shift in tones and difference between these two tracks.
They’re definitely different, but they’re definitely linked thematically. If Make it Summer is a daydream, Happy Pills is the fever dream. Make it Summer is about longing; Happy Pills is about desperate need. I feel like they live on opposite sides of the same world.
The video for ‘Make it Summer’ is very gentle, and rather cinematic. And the video for “Happy Pills’ is very vibrant, bold colors, and has ‘trippy’ camera effects. How did this stark differentiation come about, and why was it important to you?
With two different (amazing, incredible, female) directors working on each video, there was bound to be a difference in style. But what I think made the biggest difference in the visual impact of each song is the music. I think the music dictated the direction we went with each video. I think the music of Make it Summer is dreamy and vast, whereas Happy Pills has a bolder, brasher sound.
‘Happy Pills’ is one of our favorites, and it discusses some pretty intense themes; what did you want people to take away from this song?
I want people to take away what they want from this song. I think all interpretations are correct; I meant them all. I think most people have a “happy pill” that they would be a wreck without— whether that’s a person, a drug, a habit, etc. So what happens chemically, emotionally, and physically when you don’t have that thing anymore?
You seem to fuse a few different genres on ‘Happy Pills.’ Your vocals are reminiscent of R&B, the lead guitar is structured a bit like a rock guitar solo, and a poppy bassline. What goes through your head when meshing genres?
I just love fusing genres, it’s so tasty. I think the best music comes from genre blending.
To you, what does your own success look like?
Success looks like making music with people I admire and writing songs that make people think and feel. In a sense, I already feel so lucky and successful. I just hope to share my music with a wider audience so I can connect with more people.
What can we expect from you for the remainder of 2023?
Stay tuned about a certain album by a certain artist about a certain warm season and all the vibes that season evokes…
Niina Soleil’s spiritual, truthful answers are all we could ask for and more. Her perspective was so incredibly enlightening, and we can’t wait to see what that certain album by that certain artist holds. Let us know what your favorite part of the interview was in the comments or by tweeting us @TheHoneyPop!
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