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July 11, 2024
Culture

Meet Nyassa: Adelaide’s current pop princess

CityMag met Adelaide pop star Nyassa to chat all things music, dreams and ending up on a Europe/UK tour with one of Australia's biggest bands.

  • Words: Claudia Dichiera
  • Pictures: supplied

We see Nyassa Arabatzis sitting on her lonesome inside Exchange, though she doesn’t belong in the Adelaide East End café. She wears an oversized black, grey blazer, black sheer stockings and Prada loafers — items she’s thrifted or had made by her mum (aside from the loafers of course). She belongs in the streets of New York.

But when we walk up to her and opt for a handshake, she, instead, gives CityMag a hug. She greets us with a bubbly, friendly voice (not to be confused with her dominant powerhouse singing voice). This sets the scene for the rest of the interview.

Nyassa tells us she had always envisioned a life in the music industry.

“I’ve always said my parents must have known that I wanted to be a famous singer because they’ve given me this unique name,” Nyassa says as she goes by her first name in the music world.

Nyassa’s dad George played a vital role in her music career as he was an artist, musician and songwriter. He was her initial inspiration for her career choice.

“I was pretty much born into the music world,” she says.

“Before I could walk, my mum says I was in the studio with him making his music and I was like, on the floor, rolling around, loving the music.

“And then I think my first memory of singing [was when] I had heard Alicia Keys on Video Hits – remember Video Hits? ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ that song was like the song. If you wanted to show that you could sing, that was the song.

“I sang to my parents and they were like ‘oh shit, she can actually sing’.”

Nyassa

 

Nyassa puts down her early confidence to her uplifting parents.

“When I look back at videos now, I really wasn’t that good of a singer [when I was young],” she says.

“But I seriously was so confident in myself, and I think that came from my parents being so nurturing and encouraging.

“In primary school, I would sing to people at recess and lunch… I would be performing everywhere. I would learn songs and sing them at family events.

“I really was so confident in like, that’s what I’m going to do, and it’s possible because my dad was doing it before I was born. He was such a big believer of you can do anything so I only listened to him.”

It wasn’t until Nyassa went to high school that she began to take music seriously. She recalls her teacher’s hesitation and push to choose a more realistic career, which made her rethink her environment.

“I couldn’t believe that people just couldn’t think the same way that I was at the time. When I came home, I told my dad and he was like ‘you’re not going back there. You’re gonna go to a music school’,” Nyassa says.

“He’s like ‘you don’t want to be around shit like that. If you want to do this, do it’.”

 

Nyassa dropped out of school and enrolled into a TAFE music course where she spent years writing music and working with her dad. 

She then eventually met her now partner, who’s also a musician and videographer. They began to make music together, sending it to “everyone and anyone that could possibly hear it”.

“He starts sending a demo around, which got into the hands of my team – who I’m working with now – who manage Hilltop Hoods,” Nyassa says.

“I’m on this one section of all these songs, and they’re like ‘who’s that girl?’

“I guess they heard something in my tone or whatever. At that same time, Hilltop Hoods were writing their album [The Great Expanse] and needed a female vocalist.

“Everything really was perfect timing and just meant to be, right? Because I technically didn’t even try to do that, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”

Nyassa recorded two songs with Hilltop Hoods — ‘Be Yourself’ and ‘Here Without You’ — which jump-started her career. This led her to attend four different tours with the band, travelling through Australia, Europe and the UK. 

“I think just them having me on the album says what type of people they are. Because they could have really got someone with a big name,” Nyassa says.

“I hadn’t put out any music at that point and I wasn’t really anyone – still not – but for them to want to support me or put me on the album just because they thought I was a good singer shows what type of people they are.

“They’re really just down to earth – the best people I know – they’re not big-headed.”

 

Despite the confidence and the experience beyond her years, Nyassa says it wasn’t until she wrote ‘Electric Woman”, which was released last month but written two years ago, that she felt she found her sound.

“I was trying to explain to [my producer] what my sound was, that’s hard to do when you don’t have music out of your own, and so the best way to do it is like reference songs,” she explains.

“The songs that I’ve put on this playlist it’s like, who do I think I am? I had Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ which was a massive song, Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, Whitney Houston. I just had these big pop anthems.

“And I was like ‘yeah I just want to do something like this’.”

The words ‘electric woman’ were written down in Nyassa’s notes app. All she knew was that she wanted to use that phrase and write a pop anthem.

“I knew I wanted it to be a song to empower other women and just make it something like all those reference songs that I had liked, something that made me feel that way that those songs did,” Nyassa tells CityMag.

“I envisioned it for other women when I was writing it. But when it was finished, I realised I was writing it for myself as well, but I didn’t know that I was doing that.

“And because I believe that, you know, words manifest, I really feel like that song gave me the confidence that I needed.”

Nyassa’s new single ‘Electric Woman’ is available to stream now.

Connect with Nyassa on Instagram for more.

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