Slidin’ Thru: NEILÀ

September 26, 2018

Read the full interview on YoungCalifornia.com!

NEILÀ is not your average R&B singer. In fact, she’s not of this earth. Nicknamed (or named) the Alien Princess for her standout, neon bright hair, the model, actress, and songstress is anything but conventional. What she offers is a sweet, sassy, savvy, personality with an undeniable charm. Read more…

Hailing from Florida but based in Atlanta, she’ll tell you she’s not from either. Sonically, she is not bound by any genre and makes it a point to use her words and lyrics for a purpose. As evidenced on her most recent EP, Sage, NEILÀ sees music as an outlet to cover all the emotions that come with life and romance.

For those who don’t know, who is NEILÀ?
Neila is spelled N-E-I-L-A, and it’s ALIEN spelled backwards. Do you want to know about my human-self first or my alien-self first?

I love that. Give me both.
Okay, so human. I was born in Broward County, Florida, which is south Florida. It’s this little town called Parkland, Florida. My dad is from Jamaica and my mom is from Barbados.

Is that where XXXTentacion got shot?
That’s where X is from from, both places. That’s where I grew up. I’ve been in music and doing music my whole life. I moved to Atlanta 3 years ago today. That’s where I really got submerged into the music industry. The actual industry — not just as a singer, but as an actual recording artist.

Why did you choose Atlanta?
I had a music opportunity there, with some really big people with big names. My parents moved me out there.

How does being from Florida play into your life and career?
I come from a really diverse area. South Florida is super diverse. Everybody comes from another country, so I have a lot of different backgrounds around me. I’m first generation American, so maybe that has something to do with it, but I’m well-cultured as far as different types of music. Not just R&B because I’m an R&B singer, but different types and different walks of life. I pull inspiration from a lot of different things.

Where do you fit in the realm of R&B and hip-hop?
I’m definitely pop,soul, and R&B. I like different sounds that may sound a little “pop-y,” but it always comes back to the base of R&B. I’m inspired by artists like Frank Ocean, The Beatles, James Fauntleroy, Jimi Hendrix, Aaliyah. It’s such a broad spectrum. I grew up on Caribbean music too. I kind of just pull inspiration from everything.

How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
I feel like it’s really important. There’s a lot out here. As an artist in general moving around and trying to broaden your playing field, it’s really important. Where you’re from is important, but also spreading. Because ultimately, depending on what your idea of success is — like I want to be worldwide, I want to be international — you have to move and work all the different pieces with a solid team in order to get that calibur of a level.

Tell me about your alien side. When’d you pick up the nickname, Alien Princess?
It wasn’t really a “pick up,” that’s what I am. I’m 111 years old. I’m from a planet called Sirius B, which is the brightest star in the earth’s sky. I don’t know if you can look at it in Los Angeles because of the pollution, but if you look it up, it’s basically the brightest star. That’s where I’m from.

I was watching your “Ready” music video. Is this your mans?
I had a moment. I think I was watching a lot of Dexter, [laughs] and a lot of different things. We did a series where we had one video that led into the other one. “Ready” was the beginning of the whole “Oh my god, I killed my boyfriend” type thing, and that led into another video that went more into that whole story line. I wanted to do something different that related to my personality and my darker side, but I still have a story being told. That’s how the idea for “Ready” came about.

You dropped your SAGE EP. What is it you want fans to get from your story?
The story for SAGE, I was in an abusive relationship. Around this time last year, it got really, really, really bad. I was actually here in LA when the situation happened. I got out of the relationship and went to Florida for a couple weeks, back home to my family and just regrouped. And then came back to Atlanta and started my project. Through the project, I was able to get rid of all the negativity, all of the bullshit. I stripped myself completely of that person and everything that was going on with that person. That’s why I named it SAGE, because it was just a body, mind, and soul cleanse of all the fuckery. I just want people to know no matter what you go through, there’s always a solution. There’s never not a solution. You never have to choose a permanent solution. You can always get through anything. That project — me writing it, me working on it, the creative process — helped me through a REALLY rough time.

What is your take on the music industry?
I feel like anything else that’s been around for a while, it grows and it changes. But I feel like as women now, thankfully, we’re starting to gain more respect. It’s really hard for women in this industry. A lot of times, we’re either put in the backburner, or put to the side, or mistreated, or having to do more things, or work way harder than the men, or prove ourselves to the men. Now, it’s like women are becoming more of a forefront and more of a staple in the industry. Which we always were, but always just in the background. That’s one thing I’m happy is happening. It’s happening very slowly, but it’s happening.

How important is social media for your career?
I can talk about this all day too. [laughs] I feel like especially right now in the industry, social media is literally your portfolio. You do all your rollouts on social media. Now that everything is on a phone, like Spotify, Apple Music, literally everything. It’s all visuals. It’s so important. I have to get reminded to go on freaking Instagram Live. And now it’s Twitter and Instagram TV, there’s so many things. There’s vertical videos. It’s really important. Our team and as artists, we have to keep up, because everything moves so fast on social media.

Talk about working with brands like Nike.
That was really fun. I worked with Nike for the first time the beginning of last year. What’s crazy is I came out here to do a Fresh Empire shoot, a non-smoking company. Then I came back to Atlanta and a week later, they were like, “Now you’re doing Nike.” I was like, “Okay, oh shit!” It was a really fun time. I love working with Nike. I’ve done two campaigns with them so far (international campaigns). They’re awesome. The last time I worked with them, I worked with Tyler Mitchell, the photographer Beyonce hired for Vogue. It was fun. When you’re on set with them, they become a little family. They have certain models they use for everything, so we became super close friends. I really do enjoy working with Nike.

How would you describe your personal style?
I like color. Really colorful. I like pattern. I like mix-and-matching color and pattern. My hair is bright, but that doesn’t stop me from doing color. Honestly, exactly how I feel. I try to always be positive. I feel like when you wear bright colors. Like my hair. Every morning, I wake up and see green hair. You can not be mad when you see that bright ass green hair.

How long has it been green?
A little over 3 years, so almost 4 years.

Would you ever switch it to another color?
No, that’s my brand. That’s how I got Nike. They’re like, “We love your hair.” It was in bigger braids then. Every time I shot with them, they’re like “We need the braids!” I remember the second time, they actually pushed my fitting back because I was getting my hair dyed. They wanted to make sure it was all dyed and green, and perfect. They were like, “We’ll push it back, no problem.” It’s literally how I got Nike and Fresh Empire. This is my brand.

What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
I wake up, I write my affirmations, I meditate.

Every day?
Every day. I read them. I have a book. I used to every morning wake up and just empty out my brain, and write two pages. But I haven’t done that in a while, so I can’t say I do that every day. But affirmations and meditation — I suffer from anxiety, so that really helps. I like meditating. Usually between my manager and my publicist, I usually have a full day of stuff. I try to go to the studio at least 3 to 4 times a week. Work on a project, rehearsal, interviews, a lot of planning. Once in a blue moon, I‘ll have a day where I get to chill. Most of the time, I’m in a super grind stage. I’m one of those people that can’t sit down for too long at all. Usually, it’s very busy. Sometimes you miss meals. The day goes from morning all the way to night.

3 things you need in the studio?
Water. I don’t like there being a lot of people in the studio. I like emptiness. I don’t need people, at all. It’s distracting. It has to literally just be either my manager or my PR, maybe both of them at most. And the producer and engineer. I’m not really too picky. Definitely water, and I just need good vibes. The energy has to be good. I’m not crazy when it comes to lighting candles or anything. I also don’t like working in big studios. They’re cold and big. I prefer home studios or smaller intimate settings.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
I have no idea. It’s so crazy because when I’m exhausted or having a bad day, and I’m just like “Oh my God, I wish there was something I could do,” there’s literally nothing. Whenever I get sad or say that to my mom, she reminds me when I was 7 or 8, I told her, “If I can’t be a singer, I want the whole world to end.” I was like, “if I can’t be a singer, we all got to go.” Because I was just so serious about it at such a young age. It’s funny now because when you go in my room at my parents’ house — literally from 7, 11, 12 — I was doing affirmations and didn’t even know it. It’s crazy going back and showing people. People hear me talk now, but I’ve been subconsciously doing affirmations since I was a little girl. There’s honestly nothing else that I remotely like. I don’t have hobbies. Everything else that I do goes exactly back to this. Everything.

Favorite song to perform in a set?
“Can’t Stand Your Friends.”

Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Can I look? It’s definitely between Frank Ocean and Beyonce.

The Carters or Beyonce?
Right now, it’s The Carters. The EVERYTHING IS LOVE album. But everything. If I like something, I play it over and over and over and over again. I definitely listen to a lot of Frank Ocean. I can always go back to Frank Ocean and not be upset. I can always go back to Beyonce and not be annoyed.

Dream collab?
Actually, Kendrick Lamar, J.Cole, Frank Ocean. Of course, Beyonce would be cool, awesome, amazing. Probably some other ones that I’m missing, but Kendrick for sure.

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