Nectar Woode

Nectar Woode

Jelani Pomell

From the joyful musical roots of her Ghanaian heritage, to the raw storytelling of singers like Lauryn Hill that first piqued her interest as a teen, to the supportive South London community that she’s found a home in more recent years, there’s one thing that connects the musical jigsaw of 24-year-old Nectar Woode: honesty.

“I like things where, when you strip it down, someone is genuinely trying to convey an emotion with their music. With West African music, you can hear that so clearly with the rhythm and the songwriting, and then I do like my indie side – with Joni Mitchell that quality is so obvious too,” she explains. “I remember so vividly the moment I wanted to be a songwriter as my profession. I was 15 and there was a video on YouTube of Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged, and it’s just her with an acoustic guitar, chatting. I just watched it and cried.”

Though seemingly disparate on the surface, Nectar’s influences speak of an artist who has spent her life so far nurturing the things that truly make her tick. Growing up in Milton Keynes, she jokes of her hometown as “a very beige place”, but her household as a “creative bubble” within it. Her Ghanaian amateur saxophone-player father would fill the house with jazz and Highlife music, while her English mother worked as an artist and fashion pattern cutter; exposed to a creative way of life and a wide variety of sounds, both mainstream and niche, it opened Nectar’s ears to a world of sonic possibility.

She credits the early 2010’s wave of London singers (Winehouse, Duffy) for making her want to move to the capital, but it was the people she met when she arrived that truly steered Nectar towards the warm, jazz-infused sound that she inhabits today: one where a collaborative, experimental approach and an earwormy, more commercial ear combine. “I grew up with Erykah Badu and D’Angelo, but uni was when I dived really deep into it; listening to their albums, studying it,” she says. “I had friends who loved the same music so we made bands who would cover that music and then write our own stuff inspired by it, and from there it developed.

“I loved how free all that music was,” she continues. “It wasn’t your traditional three-minute song; they’re six-minute bodies of work that take you through a journey. They’ll switch up the vibe all of a sudden and take you in a different direction and I love that. Seeing that you could do that felt really freeing; it really shaped the way I viewed songwriting.”

Having released a few songs independently over the past couple of years, the real introduction to Nectar Woode begins with forthcoming debut EP ‘Nothing To Lose’. Merging the improvisational ethos of the jam sessions that she cut her teeth playing in, with the more streamlined pop nouse of co-writers and producers Bad Sounds (Arlo Parks, Rose Gray) and Tobie Tripp (Tom Misch, Dave), the EP is a testament to letting go and kicking down her own barriers even further; allowing new collaborators in and fully embodying the sentiment of its title. The rich patchwork of influences at the heart of Nectar’s writing are still there for all to hear, but they’re also riddled with hooks that you’ll be left humming for days after.

The enveloping harmonies and loose swing of first track ‘Waiting’, she explains, was a natural, almost meta choice to lead the project; a song she’s been wanting to release for two years, written about the difficulties of learning to be patient. “The lyrics were born from frustration, after finishing uni and wanting to be an artist but wondering how you do that with all these obstacles that you need to overcome,” she explains. “It says that it’s tough but you just need to wait for your time. The song gives me independence.” That spirit of independence is also a perfect primer for ‘Nothing To Lose’ as a whole. Crack the surface of its warm sonic embrace and you’ll find an EP full of determined affirmations.

“I wanted the EP to be positive and self-motivating. I don’t think you often get a project that’s like that,” Nectar explains. “My favourite artists write from quite an individual place where they’re talking about themselves, but I’ve not really seen many songs where you’re talking to your friend and trying to help them through tough times and just being there for them’ – that’s the concept behind [some of these tracks]. They’re about following your instincts and being like, ‘OK, I trust myself, let’s move through this’. That’s the message.”

Current single ‘Good Vibrations’ is four minutes of pure positivity, born from a classic Nectar jam session and sung with an audible smile. “Coming up with that [music] made us talk about positivity for once because musicians never write about good vibes! Everyone always writes about heartache or sadness or love so we thought, fuck it! Let’s flip the script a bit,” she laughs. Harking back simultaneously to a nostalgic, old school type of feel-good soul, it also brings to mind modern women of the genre such as Joy Crookes and Olivia Dean, whereas on the more unexpected rhythmic patterns of ‘God Talks Back’ (about “trusting your instinct”) you can hear the more experimental side of Nectar’s tastes.

Elsewhere on the EP, there are moments of “London, grungy dark rhythms and bass” on the title track and, conversely, one of her sweetest songs yet on ‘Safe House’ – a song about “being in love with someone where you both know that; the honeymoon stage”. But whether she’s lyrically channelling her soft side or something more rousing, and no matter how she decides to draw on the wealth of influences at her disposal, at the core is always fundamentally Nectar, completely and honestly.

“I want people to feel warm in the best way possible – the way I felt when I listened to Lauryn Hill, when you feel fulfilled in the message and it speaks to you,” she says of ‘Nothing To Lose’. “I want people to smile and feel good about themselves, and if you can do that with music then you’re winning.”