A singer, a composer, a songwriter: Nicki Wells has worn many different kinds of hats in her career in music. A true citizen of the world, Nicki came to recognition working with Nitin Sawhney (who also produced her debut album OCEAN, which she released under the pseudonym TURYA), appearing on everything from TEDx talks to Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage with him. Nicki’s blend of Indian classical music, Western classical, Folk and Jazz, along with a myriad of other influences have resulted in her music being truly one-of-a-kind.
It was rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands mucky with creativity
Ellipsis is Nicki Wells’ debut under her own name, and the freedom of creating it almost single-handedly during lockdown resulted in an album of self-reflection and self-empowerment. “I think in a way it's more genuine to who I am,” she tells me, “I gave birth to these songs by myself without any producer or other engineer.”
“It was intensely personal and I just needed to do it by myself. It’s an album of roaring into existence as an artist.” “It was spiritual work, the whole album: …It was rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands mucky with creativity.”
“I think the need to hear one’s own current is really important as an artist, and that’s what I was able to do, probably for the first time in my life, in 2020 when I moved out of London to my Mum’s. Because my life before that was always very very social, always on the move…. But it’s really important to sometimes just switch off the television and then hear what’s bubbling inside.”
There is something which is inherently feminine about this aspect of finding one’s voice, unapologetically and fearlessly
“It was definitely a powerful time for me creatively: I moved to my Mum’s; turned her office into a studio. It was in the middle of the woods… [so] every day I would go to the woods and walk the dog, and then have all this inspiration come to me from [this] nature that was very different to being in the London urban jungle. These twelve songs started a bit of a Niagara Falls…I ended up writing 180 songs over a 2 year period.”
“Because it was written in the thick of the lockdown, some of the songs [on Ellipsis] have this reassuring element. There was an element of me reassuring my own childlike self. [For example] You’re Alright Kid, which I literally wrote to my six-year-old self.”
“I felt really lost, and that song particularly, was a hug to myself, to my innocence, if you will.…And I think we all need that at whatever age.”
“I very much go with the flow of my intuition,” Nicki says when I ask about her creative process.
“There isn’t much logic in how I create: it can be quite chaotic. It definitely stems from me trying to find a feeling more than anything.” “[With the] collaborative process, you can have a lot of people chipping in on a song, and then suddenly [that] feeling is diluted: so I think with this album I tried to just stay true to the initial feeling and then enhance that.”
“It was the first time I [had] rolled up my sleeves and made a whole album by myself… without any help from engineers or any male figure. With this record, a lot of it was about me honing my own power and getting into a sort of warrior zone - there is something which is inherently feminine about this aspect of finding one’s voice, unapologetically and fearlessly.”
A track that perhaps exemplifies that aspect of the album is the aptly-named Warrior. “It's this idea of like licking the blade of blood from your enemy”, Nicki says of the track.
“[It’s like,] I’ve had enough with all negativity, and it's like I’m going to be my own warrior and hold my own sword, and you’d better run, because I’m freakin’ coming for you.”
She laughs at this, but Warrior's sense of discomfort in the modern world is a thread that runs through all of Nicki’s music on this album. “The world is actually not geared towards honesty in terms of self-expression. It’s all about filters on Instagram and looking a certain way, and living a certain lifestyle which is promoting a certain kind of affluence. A lot of it can be very misleading and illusional, and so a lot of this album is about [breaking] the illusion; and just… [embodying] that vulnerability, [embodying] that fearless strength.” “We need to shatter concepts and we need to shatter illusions; even within ourselves we need to shatter concepts and illusions. I think musically that’s what I try to explore.”
I’m not necessarily interested in myself as a form, but I'm more interested in deconstructing myself to be formless
“Now that this world is becoming more and more technology based, I want to be more and more a recluse. There’s an element of just wanting to have a simple life, a couple of chickens, have some animals, have some fruit trees, and try and live off the grid a little bit”, she says with a bit of a wistful smile. “But obviously we are part of this world where it’s all very necessary to be part of these social media apps and stuff. But as a creative it’s harder to hear what you need to say.”
One of the songs on the album which certainly has a clear vision of what needs to be said is Carry On, a track which Nicki wrote to offer comfort and support. “Sometimes it’s not easy being a young woman, and something that I really wanted to have with Carry On was this element of womanhood and sisterhood, and this coming together of feminine companionship and support, which is what Carry On was all about: it was about doing a female ritual of healing… It was almost like a ritual of worship of the feminine. It’s a difficult to be in [this] male-dominated world, so to have your own shakti, which means feminine power in Sanskrit, to have that fully embedded within yourself is very important.”
It is the silence that is the canvas of the sound, and that’s what gives it its structure; like space gives pottery its structure
Sanskrit is a language that Nicki incorporates into much of her music: Turya, the name under which she previously released music, is derived from the Sanskrit word for the silence after sound. With Ellipsis also having meanings of the space between the tangible elements, I asked Nicki what it was about this concept that drew her so much to it.
“I find that the silence between the sound, or the space between form, is as important as the form and sound, and I think that a lot of the time that is very much overlooked. Because as humans we’re always chasing the answer, this quick release, this quick fix.” “I think the process of something becoming what it is is much more interesting to me than the actual result.”
“It is the silence that is the canvas of the sound, and that’s what gives it its structure; like space gives pottery its structure. (Nicki also makes pots as her merch under the name TURYA) I’m very interested in the in-betweens, not just the black and white but the greys. That’s always the interplay of life: that we’re always living in the formless and form. An idea is initially formless until it becomes form. Whether it’s a pot or whether it’s a song, suddenly something is tangible. And I’m very interested in that interplay between formlessness and form; and I also would say that about ourselves: I’m not necessarily interested in myself as a form, but I'm more interested in deconstructing myself to be formless. That’s why I like to self-examine where I’m at, because we are all changing [and] morphing… at any given point, and so I really need to sometimes focus in on where I’m at, to see what can I give, what can I offer with where I am at now.”
“Just be fearlessly yourself, and do the self-work to find out who that is at any given point in time,” Nicki says when I ask what she would really like listeners to take from Ellipsis. “I think that’s the best work we can do, really: self transformation, self development; and being a beacon of light for yourself. Giving yourself to others, in the sense [of] your generosity, your full imagination, your heart: the vulnerability of it.
Just to be selfless in giving and fearless in exploring yourself.”
Ellipsis is released 18th of August. You can pre-order the album and listen to more of Nicki Wells' music here.
And if you want to read my review of Nicki Wells' single Holy Smoke you can find it here