Nikki Yanofsky Talks Solid Gold And Singing To Beyonce
Nikki Yanofsky is a rising star who's a soulful pop and jazz artist who's been featured in everything from NY Times, Billboard, People, New York Mag, Who What Wear, The New Yorker, CNN, InStyle, Yahoo Music, Huffington Post and so much more.
The 23 year-old has already had a pretty insane career, and has worked with music legends like Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder. Most recently Yanofsky sang in front of Beyonce! So, naturally that's how we kicked off our interview.
If You Can Dream It Do It: Tell me about meeting Beyonce, and singing in front of her! How did this happen?
Nikki Yanofsky: "It was kind of insane. So, I'll walk you through sort of what happened. I had no idea she was going to be there (NBA All Star Game in New Orleans), I don't think anyone did. I knew John Legend was going to be there, and Chrissy Teigen because I follow her on Snapchat, and I saw she was in New Orleans, so I was sort of expecting them. I was standing on the court, two minutes before I was called up to sing. I was taking in the whole scene, looking next to me to my right and locked eyes with LeBron James and he gave me a nod like don't worry. Then I was just scanning the front row, and I see Ansel Elgort and his girlfriend, I see John Legend, and Chrissy Teigen, Then I see Jay Z, then I thought, 'oh my gosh that's Jay Z!' Then I keep going to the right and I saw Blue, and I'm like 'oh my gosh, she's so cute!' Then I see Beyonce, and then I was just freaking out, and I had no time to process it. There was no one next to me, who could be like, 'Oh my gosh, that's Beyonce!'
So, I just had to keep calm and keep my composure. Then, I was like alright, if I didn't have an incentive before, now I really have to nail it!
I was right in front of her, she was literally 5 feet in front of me, I could literally reach out and touch her if I wanted to. I made eye contact with her the entire time I was singing. I would stand around and looked back and forth to the cameras, but always came back to looking at her, I don't know why. She just had a calming energy. I found it comforting in a way that she was there. She was listening and attentive.
Once I finished, she gave me a nod and a smile.
The craziest is after the game, where I was sitting, I was sitting on the court as well, and people had to pass me to get off the court.
When she was leaving, I didn't want to go up to her, because she gets that all the time. So, I was just standing there, and she came up to me! She said, 'you sounded so beautiful!'
If You Can Dream It Do It: What did that mean to have Beyonce say that about your voice?
Nikki Yanofsky: "It meant a lot! She didn't have to say anything. The fact that she went out of her way to, was really sweet. She's one of my heroes!"
"To get her approval in a way, meant a lot. I think everyone is their own harshest critic. Even I felt really good, but then after the performance, I felt, 'I hope I did okay.'"
If You Can Dream It Do It: You started in music really young, what do you think has been some of the benefits and challenges?
Nikki Yanofsky: "The benefits are it's very hard to be taken seriously when you're young, except in music. I think if you have the ability then you are automatically taken seriously, which is a very big positive thing about it."
"Ability is greater than age in this industry."
"I think a challenge, growing up in the public eye in a way, not in a personal life, but musically. People kind of hold you to what you did when you were 12 years old. I'm not the same person or singer I was at 12."
"I think people now understand though, that I'm not 12 anymore, I'm 23."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Speaking of being 12 years old, you made history when you headlined the Montreal Jazz Festival. How did that experience prepare you for where you are today?
Nikki Yanofsky: "I think it prepared me for more ways than I realized at the time, because in a way I was sort of oblivious to the situation. Being 12 years old, I looked down at the crowd," and I saw this mass of people, I think there were 125,000 people. I said to my mom, 'wow look at the crowd!' She had no idea how I would react, because this was my first real experience, and I said, 'awesome let's go!'"
"I think there is a fearless-ness that you can only have at that age."
"Kids just have a confidence. You see it all the time, kids are just walking around, singing out loud, and they don't care what people think."
"Seeing how I was able to perform, and have a great time with that mindset, it just showed me as I get older I can still have that same mindset of not being nervous, enjoying myself, and being care free."
If You Can Dream It Do It: Can you talk about singing with Stevie Wonder, how that came about, and what that was like?
Nikki Yanofsky: "To this day that is still the highlight of my life, let alone my career. That was one of the best days of my entire life."
"I could talk about Stevie forever, he's one of the biggest musical influences."
"It came about because it was Quincy Jones and Michael Caine's 80th birthday. They have the same birthday, and they were celebrating in Vegas. It was for a charity."
"When I was performing with him, it was so overwhelming! I was okay during the actual performance, but as soon as walked out during soundcheck, that was my first time ever seeing him in person. He was standing right next to me, and he took out his harmonica and started playing 'Overjoyed,' and at that point I had to hold back tears, because I was just so in awe. One of my biggest idols playing that a step away from me."
If You Can Dream It Do It: What did you learn from performing with Stevie Wonder?
Nikki Yanofsky: "I just saw how he was in soundcheck. He was cracking jokes, he was so warm, so nice to everyone, and so positive."
"I felt comfortable up there, and I thought this is something I need to keep with me, because it was such a good, positive vibe to perform in."
If You Can Dream It Do It: For your EP, how did you come up with Solid Gold?
Nikki Yanofsky: "So, the title for the EP came from one of the songs, which is one of the most personal songs I've ever written. It's called "Me, Myself, and I."
"That song was the first song I wrote for the whole album, and a cornerstone of what I could build on, while I was working on this EP.
The line, 'solid gold,' comes in the second verse, 'in a lot of ways you're solid gold, love like a flower, give it time and it'll grow.'
Meaning, the person I was writing it about has always been my kind of rock, has always been a constant for me, and has been really patient for me in my struggle and my fear of being alone. So, that's what the song is all about kind of overcoming that."
"So, that song is really the epitome of who the EP is about."
"I had a rule I wouldn't write about anything I haven't really been through. I've been with the same guy now for almost 7 years, and obviously since I was 16. You grow up a lot from 16 to 23, and it's kind of about growing together."
"It was a long love letter to him. Each song is really personal, vulnerable, and it's definitely the most honest I've been in my writing."
If You Can Dream It Do It: What advice would you give to someone who wants to make music their full time career?
Nikki Yanofsky: "I would say make sure you can't imagine yourself doing anything else. It's an uphill battle for sure. I think the universe is constantly trying to test you."
"It's always darkest before the dawn, and if you can overcome that, and let the passion for music drive you, you're going to break it."
Make sure it's really the only thing you can imagine yourself doing. It's a really grueling industry. It's tough, it's really tough. I'm not going to sugar coat that, it's tough. So, you have to make sure your passion and love for it, is number one."
If You Can Dream It Do It: "Was there ever a time where you wanted to give up though?"
Nikki Yanofsky: "I think the answer is music is the choice. I can't imagine doing anything else. It's always been my dream."
"I've been really lucky to have a great family, and a great group of friends who really give me room to live out that dream."
"There have been moments were you get discouraged, but you have to take everything in stride. What's a really big deal right now, won't be a huge deal in a few weeks or months. I think opportunity is always met with tons of hard work."
If You Can Dream It Do It: What's the best advice you've been given about following your dreams?
Nikki Yanofsky: "One tid bit Quincy Jones told me that's alway stuck with me is, 'Your music can never be more or less of who you are as a person.' I've always remembered that. I think it's important to always treat people with respect, no matter if they can do something for you or not. As long as your a nice person, good things happen to good people. It's important to remember that."