Nicole Bus can sing her ass off. Hailing all the way from Amsterdam and finding her new home in the heart of Hollywood, the singer, songwriter, musician, and producer describes her sound as “pure, natural, raw, unapologetic, and original” — as evidenced in her breakout record “You.” Read more…
Whenever you’re having a bad day, she promises to be “the sunlight through your speakers,” creating music we can all enjoy and appreciate. Now, the multi-instrumentalist celebrates a new deal with Roc Nation in partnership with Capitol Records, ready to break into the US market in true Dutch fashion.
Not a lot of people come from Amsterdam to the States, talk about that.
Amsterdam is the dopest city in the world, one of them at least. It’s very small but cozy and cultural, where you can travel to different countries. There are so many cultures. If you want to have Jamaican, African, Chinese, Indonesian, we’ve got it all. It’s very nice to live there.
How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
LA is the right place for any artist to start off because it’s the melting pot for creatives. Of course, the right connections, the right players to put forth the work are located over here. If you want to reach the world, you come to LA.
What’s your favorite part about the West Coast?
The weather and healthy lifestyle. That really connected with me, how the people are really conscious both spiritually and physically.
At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
I was brought up in church. When I got introduced to the gospel aspect, I fell in love with music. When I turned 11, I was already playing keyboard and piano. I knew I really wanted to do this for a living. I wanted to see what’s possible and kept growing. Started playing different instruments and never stopped since then.
What was your inspiration in keeping your real name?
I’m just me. I don’t feel like I should wear a mask to inspire people to like me, follow me, or be like “oh maybe I connect to that name.” If you like the music, you like Nicole Bus. Because the music is me.
“You” is at 1.8M on Youtube. Did you foresee it blowing up like this?
No, not that fast. I did think that maybe there’d be a sub-niche group that’d really appreciate the Wu-Tang throwback and be like “omg, hip-hop is back!” A bit of that vibe, but definitely no. This reaction is no better.
Talk about your mindstate in creating this one.
We had this beautiful writing season in Atlanta with a group of people. Everything, the whole album was recorded in one studio, one producer. We were talking about society right now: social aspects, political aspects, etc. We came upon the cultural aspect and how black music is influencing everything. One guy said “the thing is, maybe the music’s perceived positive but the people themselves are always being portrayed so negative in the news.” Even in our own music, we portray ourselves as very negative.
I just stopped it and said “but why not create something positive?” Because there are so many positive aspects of our culture. What the media portrays is not our truth, so why not write something encouraging? But at the same time, a universal law of love for all races. We’re like “let’s do this!”
I love that the song samples Wu-Tang. What’s your love for hip-hop?
It started at a very young age. In high school, my Dutch metrics introduced me to Lauryn Hill. She was like “I don’t know why, but there’s a connection between this music and you.” I was like “okay.” She gave me MTV Unplugged and I fell in love with it. I was 12 years old. She said “now that you heard it, I want you to perform a song in front of the entire school.”
I didn’t want to do it but she forced me. “No, it’s for a grade!” I did it and since that moment, I was like “wow I want to hear more. Understand where this music is coming from, why I resonate with it that much.” Then Fugees came, Arrested Development came, and so forth. [laughs] That’s how hip-hop entered my life.
The visual is so cinematic, talk about shooting the music video.
I wrote a whole deck and pitched it. The label’s like “that’s cool, but it’s about $500K to produce it.” I had a lot of Indiana Jones elements. The camera, they were like “we have someone who shoots in that atmosphere with the vintage cameras.” They brought me in contact with Daniel Iglesias, a really dope director. I told him my idea, the vibe I wanted to pass along the audience, then he came up with this infinity loop. Every time you go into the TV, you enter a room again but it’s a different setting. That’s genius.
You’re signed Roc Nation who has a partnership with Capitol, talk about that journey.
4 years ago, I met with Grammy-winning producer Needlz. I remember him saying “hey I want to do a partnership with you.” I was like “heck yeah!” He said “next to making music, what would you like to reach?” We were sitting in the car and it was a red light in Atlanta. I said to him “Roc Nation is going to sign me. I want that, it’s going to happen.” He’s like “okay well let’s start making music. Let’s begin there.”
4 years later, I remember him calling me “hey, Roc Nation just reached out through my Instagram.” Because we posted snippets of all the content we’re making. They’re like “yo I don’t know who this lady is, but would she be willing to come over to Atlanta and have a showcase?” I was like “I’ve been waiting 4 years for this!” A week later, I entered the studio with 20 men sitting in a room like this [Capitol conference room] with the studio desk. They’re like “what you got?” Played the music, played a song for them on the acoustic guitar. They were blown away.
What is your take on the music industry?
It’s an interesting industry. It’s an industry with a lot of possibilities. It’s an industry that requires you learn to be a seasoned person. If you want to stand and endure for a long time, you should definitely educate yourself. It’s a people’s industry as well. If you have the right people who have love for the project and see the vision you have, the sky’s not the limit. You can go beyond.
How’s your fan base here compared to back home?
Different. Because it’s Amsterdam, it’s more European culture. Of course, there’s a lot of American influence but the music I make is still pretty niche. Back in the Netherlands, the people who love it LOVE it and support it but here in America, people go hard. Dutch people are known for sober and normal. Even if Beyonce steps in the room, they’ll be like “oh hi, what’s your name again?” That’s the culture with the majority of people. Here, people hear it one time on the radio and they’re like “I’m here for life!” [laughs] It’s like “okay hey, I don’t know you yet.” They spam me.
Can you talk about teaching music conservatory back home?
First of all, love teaching. I did it for 8 years. It definitely formed my personality because kids and teenagers are the most honest beings here on planet earth. Back home, I’ve worked for the music industry for 10 years so everything that was released, I got the most honest feedback on it.
It formed me in the sense of how I look towards criticism and feedback. I’m totally different now because of how they groomed me for 8 years. “I don’t like that. That was ugly what you did, or that was really pretty.” They were so transparent and honest, it definitely formed me. Conservatory was a beautiful experience. It was a dream as a kid. I actually thought it wasn’t possible to do it so when 15 years later I got accepted and got the Bachelor, I was like “wow, I achieved something that felt impossible.” Beautiful.
What can we expect from your forthcoming album?
You can expect timing. Every song brings you into a time. Music-wise, it’s one cohesive story. It’s a clock ticking: 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, etc. It brings you into this journey where the whole time musically, you’ll be triggered. Even when you’re alone, it goes deeper than just the beat and lyrics. That what I hope and believe it should do.
Is there a name?
There is, but I have to keep that a secret for now.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
I would love to win a Grammy. It’s a beautiful achievement.
How important is social media for your career?
I was brought up in the era of MSN Messenger. Back then, I wanted to be busy with it the whole time. I know it’s important, but now I actually want to enjoy the trees and people around me. I don’t want to be connected to a machine. I want to be connected with you right here. It takes that away.
On the other side, because of the industry and the music, you are almost forced to be busy with it the whole time. I’d rather have a personal connection instead of with a machine.
Who’s your favorite person to follow on IG?
Michelle Obama, because she’s inspiring when it comes to every aspect of her life that we know about. When you see her as a mom, you can see the influence and affection on her daughters. Something that I look up to. The moment I become a mom, that I may have that same influence on my kids. You look at the influence with her and her husband, who’s still the President of the United States back in Europe. He was epic when he came on! It was like “whoa, that’s so cool.”
Back home it’s Obama and Michelle. No one’s perfect, but the perfect way how you approach a relationship — especially the story of how he started off working somewhere. He started as an assistant or intern and how the tables turned. How together they worked and built their empire. Those are goals.
What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
I’m boring. I like to be at home. I like to play Nintendo Switch, I love Mario. I need to buy a skateboard again. Back at home, I loved to go skateboard and have music in my ear. Read a book, sometimes watch a very nice Marvel movie. I love Marvel. Back at home, I’ll paint. I don’t like to go to the club. I like to be with people or friends, do creative things and make the best out of life. And cooking!
3 things you need in the studio?
Oh my Neumann U 87, it’s a microphone. I’m pretty hooked on my MPC Live, that’s the thing. The vintage drum computer. All the old big hip-hop albums are almost made with the old-school MPC. Now you have MPC Live, the new version. And Logic.
You produce all your own stuff?
I produce stuff, but this album I didn’t. Co-produced, but not produced.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
I’d be a cook or chef. I’d be somewhere in Japan or Indonesia getting those recipes from the native people.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
The best ones I get are the reactions on Instagram, because I didn’t tour here yet. There was one message that stuck with me. She explained she really had a really bad period in her life. Sometimes you get a lot of those messages, but you can feel when one’s true or not. She’s like “the moment I heard your song on the radio,” everything she was experiencing went away. She kept listening to it, that was beautiful.
Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
Right now, Gregory Porter. He’s a jazz artist, you’re gonna love him. He’s amazing. Him and Laura Mvula. Let me know what you think. In the evening with a glass of wine, just listen to him.
Is there anything you want to let us know?
Thank you to all the supporters. I definitely want to say something because it’s not just a given. It’s a beautiful thing that people who don’t know you support you. I give love and lots of hugs to everyone supporting me out there.