Danish singer-songwriter Nanna.B shares 10 key records from her musical journey thus far
We love Nanna.B : the striking Scandi babe who pens such beautiful yet relatable songs, and has been steadily collaborating with some of L.A.s finest musicians right now. Over a fresh beat from the likes of Mndsgn or Anderson Paak, her honeyed voice effortlessly links up spiritual concepts with modern day afflictions.
On last year’s self-produced “Where Is the $$$?” for instance, quips about the pressure to build a substantial pension and the refrain “God send me a dollar sign” root the song’s wider theme of karmic principles, intention and result, into modern society and everyday existence. And of the Anderson Paak-produced track “Golden,” featuring Odd Future’s Hodgy, Nanna describes it as “a reminder to all the women out there, including myself, to protect their power, their womb, their gold. You’re divine, be aware who you share your energy and body with but also allow yourself to open up when you do meet that king that sees you. Navigating that is the main theme of this song. There’s layers to this song really, but let’s just say that this guy I recently rejected hit me back with a “you must think the pussy is golden or something” text, so as of now this song is for him.”
Nanna.B’s ability as a songwriter to touch on lofty ideas while maintaining a sense of humour, honesty, and humility in her expression is itself golden, with the power to stir up untapped wisdom within her listeners. I feel like if I had daughter one day I might leave a Nanna.B record outside her bedroom door.
Hailing from Aarhus in Denmark, Nanna grew up surrounded by her craft. Attending a school that specialised in music, with an emphasis on West African music, samba, and funk, she began to sing and play both keys and percussion at the tender age of six. She started creating her own music too at an early age, “writing little songs when I was around seven about ducks and shit.” But her songwriting “for real” began when she was 16: “I would get melody ideas and then find the chords on the Rhodes for it. [That’s] still one of my processes.”
Nanna is now based in L.A., after first visiting and connecting with like-minded artists back in 2013. “The only person I knew out here was Teebs who I had met in Copenhagen on tour. I had contacted Shafiq Husayn and he invited me to the studio and later into his band [Dove Society.] That’s pretty much how I met everyone.” Finding appreciation for her work and her musical tribe as it were on the West Coast, she adds: “the family here is still growing.”
Last month saw the release of her EP Golden—an ode to the changing shades and seasons of love. She explains: “It’s inspired by different relationships but could pretty much describe one from the meeting and establishment of common grounds on “Golden” to the all-consuming passion on “Apocalyptic Love,” the ‘now I need my space and I got shit to do’ vibes on “Steady Line,” to the call for universal love energy on “Antidote.””
We asked Nanna to select 10 records that have played a role in her journal thus far to find out more about her musical inspirations and influences …
I first heard this album on a school bus when I was maybe 12 and I instantly fell in love. I had never heard anyone that sounded like that and D’s voice just mesmerized me. His smooth silky voice over those grooves, the way he arranges and stacks his harmonies, the space he allows in between his crooning, all of those things inspire me to this day. Throughout high school I was pretty depressed and I used to wake up to Voodoo and fall asleep to Bjork’s Vespertine as my medicine.
(Paisley Park/Warner Bros.) 1992
I grew up listening to a lot of Prince. It’s hard for me to pick one album, but this was on repeat through some very defining years and some of my favorites of his are on there, like “The Morning Papers.” He touches so many genres on here and his melodies and lyrics are always inspiring, and him and New Power Generation just sounds amazing.
I was late on Joni, but when I finally got on it, it was like opening a door into a strangely familiar world. To me Joni is the personification of free flow and when I listen to it I feel like she’s leading me down paths of imagination with her stories. It’s always a very visual experience for me. Hejira speaks to my restless nature and my search and growth as a woman and artist, and is my favorite of hers. Her lyrical universe, her chords, those blue notes she hits and her ways of using her voice are a constant inspiration to me as a artist and a human being. Joni makes me more brave.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Growing up in Denmark I couldn’t really reflect myself in the female artists that were being exposed to me through the mainstream media like Britney Spears and the Spice Girls, it was fun but I wasn’t feeling it. So when I found Lauryn, and also Erykah and India and Bjork, I found the role models I was in need of, and they became my therapists, my healers. The vulnerability and strength and honesty they shared through their artistry inspired me and really gave me a home when I was in that awkward space in life where you go from being a girl to a woman and you got all these emotions you don’t know what the fuck to do with. This album in particular showed me how powerful being a woman is.
I remember hearing this in a car after gospel rehearsals and it gave me chills, still does to this day. I had to go get it and was completely absorbed in it for days, just glued to my speakers. The way the band grooves, the way he sings live, oh my god! It’s just so brilliant and it touches me deeply every time I listen. Gives me a warm sensation of love and hope and his version of “Jealous Guy” is one of the best things that happened in the history of mankind. He’s always amazing but I don’t feel him with the same intensity and presence on his studio recordings.
Fulfillingness’ First Finale
This was the first Stevie Winder album I ever owned and my piano teacher Maria got it for me. She would teach me a lot of Stevie songs and generally at my school he was the most loved and played. I think “Please Don’t Go” was one of the first tunes I could play. From the first to the last song, this album is just so good, and “Creepin’” and “Bird Of Beauty” are some of my favourite songs. His musicality and genius continuously inspires me. He’s in my DNA. Doesn’t hurt that the Jackson 5, Deniece Williams and Minnie Riperton are on backing vocals here.
(One Little Indian) 2001
This sonic landscape is so intimate, raw and hauntingly beautiful that it still brings me to tears. One of my best friends introduced me to this album when it came out and it’s been with me ever since. It feels like a brush of a feather, a mother’s lullaby, an iced lake about to crack and that prickling sensation in your every cell when you’re in love. It sounds ancient and comforting to me and I think that’s why I used to listen to it as I would fall asleep, as it brought me peace and release. The use of field recordings, the celestial strings and harps and the vocal layerings are so divine.
The Love Below
To me this is one of the best albums of all times! It just feels so free and playful and honest, like a necessary explosion of creativity. It inspires me to let go when I hear an artist really digging deep and letting it all out without limitations. Heart expression without fear. Listening to it feels like entering his world and vision and it’s a strange and beautiful and colorful trip through all his different styles and experiments. Timeless really.
Snoop Doggy Dogg
(Death Row/Interscope) 1993
My first hip-hop love was this album and Snoop. I was super young so my English was still very new and understanding the codes of LBC slang was a challenge, but didn’t stop me from rapping along in my broken language. “Gz & Hustlas” was the hardest thing I had ever heard and I remember we used to jam it on the piano in between classes, that bass line! Wasn’t ’til years later that I heard “Haboglabotribin’” and made that connection, but I grew up with funk so G-funk naturally just felt good, Bernie Worrell’s synth lines making it feel like home, and the combination of Dre’s beats and Snoop’s flow (and voice) and Ricky Harris’ hilarious interludes had me hooked. This album allowed for me to connect with my more savage side and it gave me a sense of confidence that I hadn’t felt before. My parents weren’t particularly crazy about me walking around saying fuck and bitch and me putting Snoop’s face on the outside of my door, but they let me do my thing. “Ain’t No Fun” is one the most misogynist songs in the world, but it’s so hard to not sing along to that shit.
Sly and the Family Stone
There’s a Riot Goin’ On
This is another one of those albums where I feel like you get to step into the world of the artist, an uncompromisable one, and it’s painful, it’s beautiful, it’s haunting, and it’s honest and raw. This is just one of the best sounding records ever made, I mean just listen to “Family Affair”! The way Sly layered everything and mixed it just sends me into a psychedelic underwater space every time I listen. I feel it’s a deeply personal and political album, and I vibe with the more introvert sound he’s exploring on this project.
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