nina cobham

For 23-year-old Nina Cobham, songwriting is inextricably linked to her identity. Having channelled her emotions into lyrics from the tender age of seven, journaling and creating music have always gone hand-in-hand for the singer: she expresses herself in two languages, allowing each track to become a snapshot of an upbringing spread across the UK and Spain. Now, with two EPs under her belt – 2023’s ‘Middle Of Nowhere’ and its follow-up ‘Antes’ — the Manchester artist is turning heads with her minimalist approach to soul-pop.

The sense of honesty in Nina’s songwriting is palatable, and the finished result is strong enough to stir up emotion even in hardened souls. From ‘Just To Feel Something’ — which tackles how bad decisions can be intentionally made to distract us from reality — to ‘Interested’s hard-hitting reminder that even the most beautiful relationships can fall apart, her lyrics are tender and emotional yet comforting, too. There is a dreamy sense of escapism to Cobham’s sound, as she combines the haunting vocal style of Billie Eilish with the retro, daydream-like charm of Laufey.

Speaking to NME ahead of her recent support slot for JP Saxe at Electric Brixton in south London, Cobham explains what it has been like to see her music resonate with bigger crowds, and lays out her big plans for the rest of 2024.

You emerged with breakout single ‘Te Extraño, Pero’ in 2019, but your songwriting experience extends a lot further back… 

“I remember writing my first song when I was seven! But I only began performing when I was 14. I wrote a lot of songs around that time, started releasing on Soundcloud when I was around 16, and then kind of stumbled from there.

“My dad was always big on music. He dropped out of college when he was 17 and performed on little tours around Europe. Then I grew up in Spain and there was a big influence there from the Church, so my upbringing was all very musical.  There was the Spanish influence from being there too, plus my dad had such eclectic taste with what music he’d play in the car when I was a kid, so I grew up on genuinely everything.

“Really though, it started for me when my dad tried to start teaching me guitar. He taught me four chords just as something we could do together’, but then I really began to run with it!”

How did you know from such an early age that this was your calling? 

“I didn’t have a Plan B… at all! And I think my parents were very worried for a bit. I just didn’t have passion for anything else. My mental health wasn’t great through my teen years and this was the only thing that I ever felt passionate about. There wasn’t anything else that I wanted to do that could even come close to how much I wanted this.

“I remember feeling so inspired after listening to a lot of Corinne Bailey Rae, Amy Winehouse, Frank Sinatra and Etta James, Adele… and Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers [laughs]. I was so exposed to it all, and my parents were very encouraging of it, so it felt right. All those artists are so expressive in their vocals, and that was important to me. Their lyrics are important to me, and as I began writing I realised that songwriting became like part of my identity.

“I think that’s the artist’s voice, so my lyrics have become a massive part of my songwriting, almost more than the actual music itself. For me, it’s all about the message and the story.  I love songwriting so much that this path just felt like it made sense. I’m definitely doing what I’ve always wanted to do.”

“Above all else, I want people to take comfort in my music”

Why did you decide to start singing in both English and Spanish? 

“I went to primary school for a few years in Spain and I didn’t speak any Spanish, I was just thrown into this massive public school and had to learn pretty quick. It’s part of who I am now and it’s so weird being bilingual in that way, rather than being bilingual as someone who’s learnt a language as a skill.

“I moved back to the UK, started releasing songs, and I went back all my friends – which feel like family – were like ‘Oh, you make music for your English family and not for us.’ They were joking, but it did hit me that I didn’t want to exclude the people who are supporting me. These people are there for me regardless of what language I sing in, but I want to include them in my journey by delivering my lyrics in Spanish too.

“Then, it switched something in my brain and I realised it all made sense. Some lyrics felt more passionate when I said them in Spanish, or more intense. It made it easier to find the right syllables if a phrase didn’t sound right when I sang it in English, and it was also therapeutic to write lyrics in both languages because I journal in both languages. It became easier for me to channel my thoughts.

“Plus, another reason was because some of the stuff I was saying, I didn’t want certain people to understand! If the lyrics were about someone in particular, I was like, ‘They’re not going to understand it if I sing it in Spanish!’”

Nina Cobham, image by Isaac Oliver Robinson
Credit: Isaac Oliver Robinson

Has it been difficult to channel your innermost thoughts into your music?

“I’m not that person who will write to fit an algorithm. I think I must drive my label mad because I’m someone who makes music for me, but I’m proud of the songs because of that.  I’ve made pop songs already without having to sit there and be like, ‘I need to make this in a way so people will listen. Instead, I’m just like, ‘I’ll do my part and it will reach the right people’.

“Songwriting is a way for me to be vulnerable, and I think people are always going to connect with vulnerability. So I try to leave the meanings quite open-ended. I don’t explicitly say what I’m singing about so it means that people can resonate with it more and feel like they can relate. I love music like that, and it’s amazing because I get paragraphs from people in my DMs that are like, ‘I have this situation and this song really resonated’ and I think ‘Wow, that’s so different to the situation I was in while I was writing it… and yet it still resonates with you!’

“There’s also loads of people who have told me that one of my songs brought me together with their partner and stuff. It’s that connection that’s more important to me. That’s what I do this for. I’d still be so happy if I didn’t have any songs in the charts, as long as I had that.”

What’s in the pipeline for the rest of 2024?

“I’ve noticed my music is becoming a lot happier. I’m in a better place mentally, so what I’m working on is more upbeat than before, but it still sounds like me though. Everything I do ends up being an amalgamation of everything that I feel, so all the music will always be connected in that way. In my head it’s all just part of the same universe and the result of what I’ve just picked up along the way.

“Plus it feels like the music’s evolved with me, as well. ‘Te Extraño, Pero’ came out when I was like 17, and anything that I’m working on will likely come out when I’m 23, so to me it’s all just signposting different stages of me growing up.

“When I’m writing, I’m trying to be as honest as possible. My sound is probably going to change with future releases because it’s already evolved since my first release. Above all else, I want people to take comfort in the music and have fun to it as well. I’m never gonna come across as perfect, but I just want to come across as authentic.

“As musicians, we’re in a position where we can think about how we can connect, too. I think there’s a lot of music that centres on 30 seconds that stays in your head, but for me personally that could feel like sharing it for the sake of it. I don’t want any of my music to be a filler, I want it to be like ‘This was my life’.”

Nina Cobham’s ‘Antes’ EP is out now via AWAL

The post Nina Cobham: the bilingual singer shaking up Manchester’s pop scene appeared first on NME.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


 © amin abedi 



Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?