Houston is known for its attractive features, but most importantly, it's known for the stars that derive from this city- Solange and Beyonce Knowles, Mike Jones, and Lizzo. Shrouded and wrapped in memories that cascade in and out of assurance, Nicotine’s music stands as an un-recalled narrative for a new generation.
The misty singer made their musical debut in 2017, gaining attention from celebrities like Khelani and Zack Villere. In this nostalgic conversation, Nic lets us in on their mindset for 2019 and gives us insight into the world of An Open Letter.
Interviewer: First off, how are you doing? What state of mind are you in?
Nicotine: The last few months of my life have shifted me completely as a person. I’m glad to say that I am ever-changing for the better, and I am finally achieving that perfect balance of life.
Interview: Houston is one of the main places where prolific talents, such as yourself derive from. What was your childhood like?
Nicotine: For the first decade of my life, I was raised mainly around my mother’s side of the family. Time at my mother’s home consisted of a lot of family, food, and music. The majority of my childhood memories show reflections of ganging up with my siblings/cousins and doing things we were not supposed to be [doing.] We were always loud, scheming, and imagining that we were anywhere but there. Meanwhile, our parents are on the patio drinking, grilling, and playing Loteria. Sometimes, if I close my eyes and go back to that place, I can still feel those moments.
Interviewer: When did you realize you were queer? What did that time look like for you? Was there sobbing? Was there peace?
Nicotine: I’ve known since I was about five years old, actually. At first, I just really wanted to be friends with certain girls or I “looked up to” certain women, but as time started progressing, I started settling into my queerness more and more. It was always very hard for me, though. Although there are many queer relatives to my name, I witnessed how my family would treat them and it struck fear in my heart for a long time.
Interviewer: What moments from your adolescence were plucked from your memory and into An Open Letter?
Nicotine: I owe all of my creativity and artistic inclination to my parents. They noticed my fascination with all things art, music, and literature, and made sure that my world was filled with it. The time they both spend teaching me and encouraging me to expand my imagination was endless.
My mother spent many nights reading to me her favorite excerpts of her favorite poems. I was about four or five years old memorizing lines from Maya Angelou, Khalil Gibran, Anne Sexton, and many more phenomenal wordsmiths. She is my reason behind falling in love with poetry and I am forever indebted with her for that.
As for my father? What a genius. He always seemed to know everything about everything.
Interviewer: Which of those memories do you wish you could get back?
Nicotine: I would love to travel back to nights where my mom, myself, and my siblings would stay up watching movies, dancing in the living room, and painting little trinkets we would find on outings.
It's always been the smaller intimate moments that strike the most inspiration for me.
Interviewer: What has life been like for you, post “An Open Letter?”
Nicotine: My life, I feel, has showcased the typical ups and downs that anyone in this world could face. I hit one of my lowest points only a few months after the album was released, and there were many times where I didn't even feel like there was a point in continuing to pursue my dreams.
Since I've started this new chapter, so many blessings have fallen in my lap. I've achieved many things and come across so many beautiful people.
Which music artist helps ground you to reality?
Nicotine: The majority of the time you'll find me listening to artists whose careers began decades ago. Something about those ancestral patterns and frequencies they were pumping out, man; That's the type of shit I'm trying to create: music that's everlasting.
Sonically, how has Houston inspired your creative process?
Nicotine: I have a love/hate relationship with this place. Some of the most life-changing moments happened here. There's this underlying need to be here taking care of my family, but I know that if I stay, it will do nothing but destroy everything I've worked towards becoming. I often write about how it places me between a rock and a hard place.
The sounds of the city, the laughter of my niece and nephews, my Nana's humming while cleaning- these sounds ring throughout my mind and remind me of who I am and where I derive from. It's these sounds that I know I'll miss when I move again, but it's also those very sounds that motivate me to get out and better myself and my craft so that I can give back to those who have given and continue to give so much to me.