Sydney, Australia native Nikita Karmen trekked more than 9,000 miles across the globe to plant roots in Music City, a move that has paid off in more ways than one. The rising singer-songwriter landed the gig as a background singer for Bobby Bones & The Raging Idiots’ tour in 2017, has signed a publishing deal with Black River Entertainment and is currently working with Walker Hayes on her upcoming debut album.
In this installment of Female Friday, Karmen offers insight into the album, the moment she knew her dreams were realized and why touring with Bobby Bones was like going to college.
What are some of the biggest lessons that you learned moving to Nashville?
One of the big things I learned was say yes to everything, because whenever I’ve said yes to things, it’s always ended up benefiting me. I remember being so miserable when I first moved to Nashville and I didn’t really know anybody and the time difference [in Australia] is terrible. I was actually reading through my old journal entries; I’m glad that I do that because then I can read back on entries I wrote where I was like ‘there’s no way I want to stay here, how am I ever going to feel better?’ And then you read it and you’re like ‘everything’s temporary. You’re not going to stay miserable forever.’
What have been some defining moments in your career that have shaped you as an artist?
When I officially moved to Nashville is when I went out to tour with Bobby Bones & The Raging Idiots, which I was kind of thrown into. Back at home, I’d only ever played pubs mainly. But then I went out on the road with Bobby and we’re playing good size theatres and he told me ‘you’re going to be singing back up and have one song prepared so you can come forward and sing that.’ I sang “Somewhere With You” by Kenny Chesney on guitar and then the next night he told the band to not start playing after I finished and to all stand back at the stage and see what I did. I looked back and I was like ‘no one’s doing anything’ so I played an acoustic version of “Jolene.” I felt like touring with Bobby was like going to college for me. I’m trying now to be on my toes, especially in a live scenario, which I feel like it’s important because you never know what’s going to happen.
Growing up with songwriting as your passion, what was it like to make that professional pivot as a full time songwriter?
That was a huge bucket list moment for me. Since I started writing songs, there was nothing else I was going to do – that was it. I’d always wanted to be a songwriter before I wanted to be an artist. That’s still my favorite part of being an artist. I wouldn’t want to cut outside songs because my favorite part of being a musician is writing my songs and writing songs in general. When you leave the country or you’re entering a new country and you have to fill in those incoming passenger cards and put down what your occupation is, I remember being like, ‘I cannot wait until I get to put songwriter and that’s my actual job.’ I can’t remember where I was flying to, but I got to put it in and I was like ‘I’ve done it.’
What has the process been like for you to write and record your debut album?
It’s been so fun and really different to when I’ve recorded in the past. I feel like in the past, I’ve been in big studios with all these amazing session musicians, which is incredible. That’s one of the wonderful things about being in Nashville and having all those things at your disposal. But I feel like this time, I really went back to the basics. The first song that I cut with Walker [Hayes], who’s producing the album, it’s about moving here and being miserable and then realizing that I’d built this life here. It was a song I wrote on the piano by myself and had this really janky work tape. I sent it to Walker and he built a track for it and then I went and cut the vocals, and I remember listening to it afterwards and being like, ‘this is what this project is going to be. It’s going to feel more reminiscent to how I started writing songs in the first place.’ It’s been super therapeutic and I feel so excited about it.
What message do you hope fans take away from your music and artistry?
I just want them to relate to me. I don’t really put on any sort of facade; I’m pretty much what you see is absolutely what you get and I want to do that in my music as well. I don’t want to water anything down because I’m worried if it gets released that someone’s going to know that it’s about them. I feel like the more specific I can be, the more people will believe me, and then they’ll feel more confident if they feel the same thing.