Jump Into The Crowd (single) 2006
Please Come Back (single) 2008
Don't Tell Me (I Have To Go) (single) 2009
I Need Girls (in my band) (single) 2010
(Please Come Back and I Need Girls can be downloaded on iTunes)
Hi Nabil, how are you?
I’m fine, thank you!
Which instruments do you play?
I play a little piano but I’m a singer in the first place.
What made you decide to be a solo artist and not want to be in a band?
It just happened like that. I tried to start a couple of different bands and it never worked out. So you could say I'm a solo artist out of necessity. Being a solo artist has pros and cons! It's great to decide everything on your own but that implies a lot of work which can be otherwise distributed between band members. I recently decided I wanted to find either a booking agency or a management office who could help me.
Do you work with the same musicians when recording as you do when performing live?
Until now I have only included my guitar player (Jan Blieck) on the recordings. To cut the costs, I use bass synths and drum loops, so I’ve never used real instruments for that. Now that my latest single “I Need Girls (in my band)” is out I start to believe that trying to be too economical about recordings is not always a good thing. On “I Need Girls” there is only one violin player who played the three strings parts. It was very hard for him because he had to play the parts perfectly otherwise you would hear “the squeaks”. I reckoned that if I would have hired a string quartet the sound would have been “fuller” and my poor friend violin player wouldn’t have suffered that much. One other thing: musicians are not equal. I’ve learnt that from my experience with “Please Come Back” The guitar parts on the single are played by my then producer (who did a great job) but I think my own guitar player would have added more “nabilness” (or wickedness) to the track.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?
I used to give my music all kind of names until I decided that I’m not objective enough to describe it myself. Nowadays I distilled the descriptions of other people and I came up with the following definition: “Madonna meets Depeche Mode in a hot tub”.
What can your fans look forward to in the next 12 months?
I have a couple of project but because I'm working with other people on those I cannot confirm anything. It will depend on budget, availabilities etc. So it's all “probablies”: two videos for “I Need Girls”, more gigs, a full album, television exposure in the UK, …
Did you always want to be in a musician/singer when younger?
As a kid I was absolutely not interested in music. My parents “forced” me to go to music school when I was 8. They asked the school what instrument to play. The school suggested the recorder (because it was the cheapest instrument) so both me and my brother played the recorder for one year. I got completely disgusted from music thanks to that music school. Not only was my theory teacher bloody boring but the whole school had to perform “We All Stand Together” (Paul Mc Cartney and The Wings) I hated that song so much! The next year it was even worse because the theory teacher bullied my brother. So I dropped music completely for a year or two. Everything changed when I was twelve. There was this cartoon on television called “Jem” which really inspired me and so I started to write my first songs. Then, when I was sixteen, I discovered ABBA’s music and I decided I want to learn to play either piano or guitar.
What is your current equipment?
I use the newest iMac, the Saffire Pro 40 soundcard, the newest version of Logic Pro and my synths: Virus A, Roland Groovebox and XP 50, Yamaha MO8. I’m glad that I have different brands of synths. Some musicians are completely into one single brand. I think that is a mistake: every synth has its own sound. But then again you should be careful in not buying too much. If you use your synths well, you can do a lot with them.
Are you self-taught or did you have lessons?
I’ve done both: I took classes of music theory, piano, singing and harmony but I’ve also learnt a lot on my own.
Would you sign with a major record company?
Why not? I don’t exclude anything. I don't mind making compromises but I don't like one way traffic. It's fine with me as long as they respect my musical views. I would like to work with a record company (independent or major) because I think they have means and skills that I lack. At the moment, I do a lot myself and I find that very tiring and ineffective sometimes.
Do you have any new recordings planned?
Not in the immediate future but probably in the next 12 months.
Do you try to capture your ‘live’ sound on recordings or do you think that the ‘live’ sound and recorded sound should be different experiences for your fans?
Ideally, they should be different. At this point, I don’t bother too much because I’m not well-known so most people who see me on stage don’t know my music. In the future, if people will know me better I’ll play live versions that will be different from the recorded versions.
Photograph by Louise Bossut
Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
I find it very difficult. It takes a lot of time and you need discipline to start working on them. And unfortunately, I'm not very disciplined. What I find even more difficult is writing lyrics. I’m quite fluent in English but writing lyrics is another matter. What makes it hard for non-native English speakers is that you don't know enough expressions so you come up with clumsy and complicated rhymes. Dictionaries are therefore a great help. Nowadays I use rhyming, synonym, idioms and translating dictionaries. It helps you to avoid boring rhymes and it broadens your vocabulary.
Is there anyone who you would like to collaborate with on writing songs or performing?
I think it could be fun to record a track with Phil Oackey from the Human League. I have been compared to him so many times in the past that it would be interesting (both as a practical joke and musically) For years I have hoped to work with William Orbit but over time I started to wonder if it is such a good idea. I fear that, like in relationships, people who are alike don’t work well together. But maybe I'm wrong. I've often noticed that if you really like someone it is usually Wait and see is probably the answer.
Who are your favourite songwriters?
Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.
Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
The US and the UK. I think the reason why my music is not working well in Belgium (where I live) is that my music is too “Anglo-Saxon” And it seems I’m right because, when checking the statistics on Myspace and Number One Music, I found out that most of my fans come from the UK and the US. So I guess it would be logical to tour in those countries.
How do you promote your music and get your music out to new fans?
My singles “Please Come Back” and “I Need Girls (in my band) have been promoted by a Belgian “plugger”. He managed to get the two tracks on a couple of local Belgian radios. I’ve recently subscribed to the online service “musicSUBMIT” and I’m also member of Deuce Management and Promotion. Every month I try to send a newsletter to the subscribers. A friend of mine, who is a graphical designer, made flyers for me and at the moment I’m trying to figure out where I could distribute them.
Do you use any websites like ‘Reverbnation’ or ‘Soundclick’?
At first, I believed that only one website was enough but now I have a page on different websites. I’m not sure if that’s the good approach because you have to keep all this pages up to date and that means a lot of work. But anyway, I hope it will help to make myself known.
Do you think such sites and the internet are good tools for independent and unsigned artists?
They could be good tools but you have to be careful! My advice is: don’t expect too much. When The Arctic Monkey’s and Kate Nash got launched because of the internet everybody wanted to copy them because they thought they were going to be famous too. There are no miracles! Those two artists made it because they are good and because they were the first to have an original idea. I think the internet is overhyped! Networking in the real world and being well-surrounded is much more important than having tons of internet connections. I think the internet is just ONE of the tools for independent artists.
With all the various websites out there for independent and unsigned artists, is there still something that is missing from them that you think would benefit the lesser-known artists?
What is missing on most of those sites is a repertory of the e-mail addresses of your fans. I recently discovered “Number One Music” and I love that site! In one week alone I collected the e-mail addresses of 84 new fans and 1694 plays. It took me a year to have that amount of plays on Myspace. I also have the impression that N1M manages to bring artists and fans together which other sites usually don’t achieve.
How do you relax?
I take a warm bath.
What's your best/worst experience at a gig?
My best gig was in April 2010. The gig was planned at 10 pm but there was nobody in the café at that time. So we waited another hour and still: nobody. I started to despair. The organiser told me to go ahead anyway. So I started and gradually people flooded the café. At the end of the gig, the place was packed! It was an amazing experience because the crowd was going wild. When I finished my set they kept asking for more songs. I had to sing for an extra 30 minutes. After the gig I received compliments from everybody.
Do you get nervous before a gig- how do you calm down?
I used to get very nervous before a gig! So nervous that I completely blocked and couldn't get a note out of my throat. Taking singing classes, rehearsing and regular performing made me more confident. It's all in your head! A friend of mine told me once: “Before you go on stage, tell yourself: 'Here I am!'” And it is true: believing in yourself makes you more relaxed. And being completely relaxed is extremely important for a good vocal performance.
What else do you do apart from being a singer/songwriter?
I’m teaching Dutch to adults.