Nik West has recently seen her music career skyrocket. She’s leaped from her beginnings as a guest bassist and background singer to a center stage entertainer. With a vibrant personality, masterful dedication and unlimited aspirations, West has made a name for herself in a very competitive industry. She’s going on an international tour in a couple months. She’s played with musical artists like Prince and Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics. West is a whole collection of interesting stories. She recently spoke with First Amendment Media to share some of them with us.
Nik Meets her Inspiration-Prince
Nik amazingly became good friends with the prolific (and somewhat reclusive) pop star Prince. While this would be a big deal for anyone, it was especially significant for Nik. That’s because a big part of her musical growth was learning about Prince’s earlier work. After church performances inspired her to learn the bass, she says, “I started really, really learning about folk, which, you know, people would say, ‘Oh you should check out Rhonda Smith,’ who plays for Prince.” Before then, West had been aware of “Diamonds and Pearls,” but she began listening to “Purple Rain” and other deep cuts. “That’s when I really became influenced by his music.”
While Nik had been recording some of her own work and was featured with other small acts before, her big break came a few years ago. That’s when David Stewart, front man of The Eurhythmics, asked if she wanted to join him on tour. He’d been impressed with her writing, vocals and bass playing, and from there Nik has impressed many more artists.
Why Nik Never Says She’s Made it
Despite this, she remains humble; “People now will say, ‘Oh my Gosh, you’ve made it. I mean, Prince knows about you… all these amazing people they love you. Steven Tyler, like Oh my God, he’s going crazy about you,” West explains, “And for me it’s still kind of like, ‘No I haven’t made it yet.’ I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve made it, because I’m such like an overachiever. So I feel like if I say ‘Oh I’ll have made it if I can buy three mansions.’ Then I’ll be like ‘Ok I’ve bought three mansions, but I haven’t made it yet because I need to buy more, or I need to be able to feed an African country or something like that.’”
It’s not hard to see why Nik West has accomplished so much so quickly. Beyond her obvious talent, she gives off an energy that goes hand in hand with her eagerness to take on challenges. Last year when she went on tour, it presented a very different preparation process. “We gotta get the choreographers together and we have to make sure that I’m the one really entertaining the crowd. [The audience] paid to come and see me and [for me to] give them a great show, so the burden is definitely on more on me, and I actually love the challenge. It’s amazing.”
Family Support, Musical Home Training was Key
Nik musical training started at home with her father and his thirteen siblings who would often congregate to “sing and just pick up a harmony part, or pick up an instrument and just play it. We’d have these amazing musical gatherings. And then, as kids our dad would buy us instruments and on the weekends we’d just practice as a family.”
This wasn’t the only encouragement West got from her family. She recalls a time when she was juggling a few different jobs like tutoring math and modeling on the runway. “My sister, she kind of made me mad one day because she said, ‘You are like the Jack of all trades, and you’re good at everything that you do. If someone told you to scrape dirt, you’d be good at scraping dirt.’” West describes how her sister urged her to pick one thing to stick to for a career. “And I thought, ‘Well I love playing the bass. I’m gonna do that because I guess anybody with long legs, that’s tall’ that knows how to walk well down the runway—who has good genetics—I guess they can model. But not everyone can pick up a bass and sing and do that well and make a career out of it.”
From Her Family’s Support to Supporting Others
The supportive attitude from West’s family shows up in more than just her encouraging songs like “Black Beauty,” “Do What You Gotta Do”, and “Be Okay”, where she sings “I can’t promise you that things will be easy, but I can promise you’ll be fine. Girl, don’t cry, baby keep your head up high. You will be alright.” It also comes out in her actions, like founding the organization to help female bassists get greater exposure in the industry.
“I created something called the Queen of Strings so that a lot of girls and women would kind of just participate and pretty much just show us where you guys are, show us what you guys are doing, and I decided to turn this sort of thing into a competition because we knew if we made a competition and offered really great prizes that people would bring their A-game.” Among other notable women, one of the judges for Queen of Strings is Bibi McGill, the lead guitarist and musical director for Beyoncé’s backing band The Suga Mamas..
Striving to Learn the Music Industry
Now that she’s had a taste of fame herself, West wants to remain focused on improving her craft by learning how to better navigate the industry as a whole, like “how to construct the tour, how the finances go, like how to do the taxes, how to do the business side of it,” Nik said, “because I’m doing it indie by choice, which is great because I get to do it the way I’d like to do it.”
A Trick for Dealing with Fame
And when it comes to more people recognizing her the more famous she gets, she has a clever approach to that. She dons her signature huge, colorful mohawks when she’s performing. “It’s one of those things where I can just put it on and then when I get off the stage or go down to the elevator nobody knows that it was me that was on stage.” She admits that attaching the piece “is an art now for me.” Now it takes her less than half an hour.
Learning to Get it Done Right and Quickly
Getting things done quickly and artistically was a big part of recording “Just in the Nik of Time.” Among the treasure trove of West’s stories, she shared how once when she was recording in Arizona “the air conditioning for some reason on the whole block just went off. Like we’re in the middle of summer,” Nik recalls, “I was sweating recording some of these songs. And I’m like, we gotta get out of here, we gotta record this. I already paid for this session. We gotta get this done. So I was rushing like I gotta get the best take… let me just put everything into it right away.”
This led to learning a lesson though. Not only is she more committed to recording as soon as she gets a song idea, but to improvise and “record it as if it’s the actual take, rather than just doing a scratch vocal.”
Using Multiple Talents to Succeed
Nik West proves that it’s best to have more than one thing going for you. She’s a collection of different characteristics and talents. Her creations are just as catchy and complex. Even the covers that she posts on YouTube have often become hits. In “Wait a Minute,” the opening to “Just in the Nik of Time,” West sings “Don’t just simplify my qualities, there’s so much more to me,” and she certainly proves that, whether it’s while she’s singing and banging on her bass, or inspiring people and making them laugh off stage. We’re excited to see where West’s talents take her next.