In 2017, I discovered Nicole Joslin. My grandma was going to visit me and my family here in Chicago, so I grabbed that very special opportunity to buy myself some indie records (CDs, vinyl, and all that good crap) for her to bring here – that way I’m not spending for the overly expensive international shipping costs.
I was incessantly hunting for quality indie artists I’ve never heard of before. If I liked the music I’d buy the record; if I didn’t, screw them.
And then I discovered Nicole Joslin. The very first song I listened to was illusions and I had no doubt – I needed to grab a copy of her album Yes No Maybe.
I also got the chance to interview her and ask her about the independent musician experience.
How did you start writing music?
I started writing when I was seven. And a lot of people didn’t understand how I was able to write a song about things that were far beyond my age. I think it was because of my mom. When I was really young, like baby pa, she’d sing to me all the time. Most of the songs she’d sing were just on the spot “gawa-gawa” lang. And as I got older, we’d do that pa din, just sing a random song with random lyrics.
And then I started watching teleseryes. It was Bituing Walang Ningning. And then I really liked a song from the teleserye, it was in Filipino, and then I just took the message of the song and kind of twisted it into my own version – something that I could relate even more with.
So you’re fully independent, right?
Yes. Fully independent.
But before, I didn’t really think that I would make the cut for the indie scene. I was very intimidated. I didn’t find my identity yet as an artist. The thing kasi with being indie is that you really have to show who you are. Like in being indie, you are not pretending. You’re not trying to be marketable to the point na you’ll have to completely change who you are. You really get to express yourself.
Like when you’re under a label, they’ll turn you into whatever they want you to be. And then I kind of tried to get into that, kasi nga I was just like, ”I don’t really know what kind of musician I want to be. I just wanna let them [the label] do whatever so I can just sing my songs.”
But now, even when the opportunities are there, there’s this big part of me that says “why are you even considering singing on with a label?”
Kasi the indie scene talaga is, especially now na I’m more confident, it’s the place you should be in if you genuinely want to express yourself.
Would you ever consider signing with a label?
I think the only way I would is if they let me have complete control over the style of my music and my image. If they would tell me to change, do, or say something just to get more publicity – if it’s something I don’t wanna do, I wouldn’t sign.
What’s your biggest challenge as an indie artist?
My problem right now is how to actually get out there because I don’t really fully understand everything yet. But I have a lot of people who are helping me naman – guiding me and telling me what to do.
In the music industry, I’m kinda like a baby. I’m there already but I still need to do a lot of growing. And I want to grow. I really wanna stay in the industry. And honestly, it never really feels like work because it’s something that I love to do.
How do you hope to add to OPM music?
When you think of OPM kasi, what comes to mind are names like ABS-CBN, Daniel Padilla, Nasa’yo Na And Lahat. Haha. As much as [the mainstream] are more appealing to the masses, it’s cute and everything, but indie music is also a part of that genre. And I think that the best way to have indie as part of the OPM genre is for people to see it more.
Kasi like, with Pinoys, nice voice means “birit”, means My Heart Will Go On. Those kinda songs. And I think that it’s nice now that different kinds of music, different kinds of people are being introduced.
I think that to incorporate indie music with mass media is one of the ways we can make OPM broader.
How did you go about creating your debut album, Yes No Maybe?
Being a songwriter is not enough to make really good music. You need to have producer talents to know which instruments should be louder, softer, right ear or left ear; where should you add harmonies or certain sounds. It was all so new to me. Like, I had GarageBand and I had the instruments. But the technique to actually make your songs shine, I didn’t have that yet.
So when I went to the studio I was on a budget and a time limit because I had already booked the album launch place, the artists I wanted to perform, everything! I had a deadline.
So when I started recording, Aaron, the guy in the studio, was like “OK we can fit this all in a month; we really have to rush.”
In terms of time, we did pretty good. If we had more time, I could’ve done better.
I think that indie artists can still have producers naman who know all the instruments and all that stuff. But it’s more expensive and medyo risky if they don’t understand your style. Also, you could hire a producer, but it’s very expensive. And if you’re an indie artist who’s just starting off, you don’t have that much money yet. So it requires a lot effort talaga.
But, really, I just wanted to get the feel to have my music recorded professionally, even if it just sounds like I’m playing from my room, okay lang.
I also had to learn how to use Photoshop because I designed my own booklet. I also sewed the whole plastic cover thing.
So you personally sewed every plastic pocket/case for every CD?
Yeah! Every pocket was cut by me, sewed by me. Haha
So everything talaga, even the sticker on the CD, my mom and I put those together. Super independent!
So the album was, really, a huge passion project for you?
Yeah! It’s a passion project. Kasi I wanted it to be very personalized.
Do you have any info on any future projects?
Oh yeah! I’m so torn right now kasi I have two music styles. I have yung medyo “Taylor Swifty” style, holding the guitar and everything. At the same time I have a style where I’m just chill and experimenting with electro beats. Kind of like London Grammar and Oh Wonder. More electro-pop. Basta they’re two very different genres.
Like, right now, I produced a song with the producer of Oh Flamingo. And it’s amazing, like he helped me talaga with the beats and everything. It cost a lot, but super worth it.
Now I’m torn between the guitar and sundresses identity, and this laid-back, chill, activewear, jackets personality.
I’m like makeup. I come in different pallets. So my music has different themes.
Are you releasing a new album or EP?
Yes! I’m releasing an EP with the electro-pop songs na. I’m gonna see how that goes.
My first electro-pop song is called Carried Away!
Nicole Joslin’s new single, Carried Away, which features her electro-pop sound is now available on Spotify. Make sure to give it a listen!