Whether through coincidence or fate, Nina Yasmineh recently received the inspiration she needed to record her latest Seven Years EP in her Bushwick apartment.
Her subtle and often authoritative vocals, coupled with carefully constructed piano, synth lines and guitar riffs, have set this young singer-songwriter on a path all her own.
Yamineh and I met up at the Agne Noire Café, located at 247 Varet St., near her apartment in Bushwick to discuss the new EP.
You have an interesting name. Where are you from originally?
I am originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, but my grandpa is from Jordan. He moved to Minnesota to go to medical school when he was younger.
What kind of music was being played in your household growing up?
Because my grandpa was the only one of his family in Minnesota, I haven’t really been exposed to that culture that much. I can’t say that it’s had a huge influence on me musically or anything.
What kind of stuff did you listen to when you were younger?
We’ll, because it’s Minnesota, a lot of Bob Dylan. My mom’s a big Bob Dylan fan. That kind of stuff, singer-songwriter.
So is it kind of like the New Jersey thing, where you have to listen to Bruce Springsteen?
Yeah, it’s that kind of thing. Prince is the other one.
Had you always been interested in performing?
Yeah, I just always, always loved to sing.
Where did you first take that interest of loving to sing into playing in front of people?
Well, I remember in like fifth grade, there was a talent show and I made one of my friends sing a Jewel song with me. I think that was my first. I really wanted to do it, but I didn’t want to do it by myself.
When did you first come to New York?
I came back in 2009, when I went to NYU.
What did you study?
European Studies. I didn’t want to study music because I didn’t want to get bogged down with all the technicalities and I didn’t want to get cynical from learning too much about it. Also, there just wasn’t a specific type of area that I was interested in pursuing. You could do business or production I guess, or you could study like classical piano or a classical instrument, but none of those things were what I really wanted to do.
Did you think it was kind of dangerous to pursue a degree in performance or art?
I did. The European Studies thing was sort of a backup plan, but I never really wanted to do anything besides music. I never really intended to have to fall back on it.
Did you ever take lessons?
Yeah, I took piano lessons for 10 years and I took guitar lessons for a little while. My mom was also a musician and she taught me some basic chords when I was younger. I took some piano and guitar lessons at NYU also.
What style of piano and guitar?
Mostly jazz and pop, but it definitely helped me fill in the blanks from what I learned before. It definitely helped with my songwriting too, and gave me ideas on how to combine chord progressions.
When did you first start writing your own songs? What made you want to do that?
I started doing that when I was maybe 12. My mom writes songs also, so that might have had something to do with it. She encouraged me to do that. When I was younger, I just wanted to be a singer and writing songs and that kind of thing seemed like a hassle. I also did writing so I sort of just started trying it out and it came pretty naturally.
When did you first start recording music and trying to seriously get into the music world?
I recorded my first EP when I was 17. That was like six songs. That was sort of the first big step.
How have things changed since you first started recording?
This new EP, I did all myself. It’s a different sound. That other stuff was just more singer songwriter and pop rock kind of stuff. That stuff was way more produced.
What made you want to record this new EP?
Basically, all last year, my senior year of college, I knew I wanted to put out some new material and I was thinking I would try to find a new producer to work with. The person I worked with before did all the pop rock stuff, but I didn’t really want to do any of that and so I kind of never found the person I wanted to work with. So I just said screw it, and I just wanted to see if I could do it myself and I had never done anything like that before. So, in June I did it.
Where did you record?
In my apartment with Garage Band by a laptop, but it was a very satisfying experience. It turned out the way I wanted it to sound.
Where did you come up with the name, Seven Years, for the new EP?
There was this one time, and for me it was kind of a prophecy kind of thing. A couple years ago now, I guess it was my junior or sophomore year of college, and I was in the Union Square Starbucks with my friend. We were waiting on line and the guy in front of us on line looked like a normal businessman. He was sort of looking at us and then all of a sudden he says to me, in a super thick accent, “Oh are you an artist?” I was like, “yeah,” and then he said he could tell by my hands. I didn’t know what that meant.
He was like, “When is your birthday?” So, I told him my birthday and then he did some math in his head and he said, “Well, in six to seven years, you’re going to do something artistic that the world will consider great. And then he just walked away. The cashier said she should get my autograph now or something (laughs). It was just a really weird experience. Maybe to anyone else that would mean nothing, but I used it for inspiration.
How did you choose these songs for the album?
Well, I wrote these songs specifically for the EP. I wrote them in a span of like two weeks at the most. Then I recorded them. The whole thing was a pretty quick process. I wanted this to really sound like one cohesive process.
Do you have any ideas for future recordings?
I’m working on new material right now and I’m hoping to have a follow up EP, like Seven Years Part II, coming up in late February maybe. I’ve decided that I am going to just do it all myself again.
Any plans for an LP?
Eventually. Right now it’s just more appealing to me to put out smaller releases.
Why is that?
To give people an entire album of like 10 songs, especially if people don’t know who you are, it’s hard to get people through an entire album all the way through. Also, since I’m doing this on my own, it’s a lot easier for me to wrap my head around four songs instead of 10.
Check out Nina Yasmineh’s new Seven Years EP and catch her at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 8, at Rockwood Music Hall, located at 196 Allen St. in Manhattan.