Nina Gala is an experimental folk singer-songwriter, blossoming onto the Baltimore scene with a one-of-a-kind voice and grounded lyrics. She performed at the Lab last Friday, for WJHU’s February 24th event.
Gala, now 24, was born and raised in and around the Baltimore area. She self-released her first EP, “gala.” in January, instantly setting herself apart with a tonal quality that demands attention, balanced out with a striped-down sound.
“gala.” is a four track debut that comes on the heels of home recorded demos in 2015 and ’16. Her sound is a welcome addition to the Baltimore scene; the release, though small, presents raw creativity from an independent artist. The pure length of each of the tracks is a testament to her own confidence in her songwriting (they average out to about 6 ½ minutes each). As a new artist, long melodies and a short track list could prove a gamble, but Gala manages to keep you wrapped up in her yawning, high voice.
“I looked like Joan of Arc in a turtle neck and overalls,” sings Gala on her opening song, “Born Wet.” Her lofty vocals waiver and add emotion through each chord- she is unfailingly charming and youthful across the EP.
WJHU spoke to Gala about her new release and what kind of fighter is behind that sweet sound:
WJHU: Tell us a little about your new EP “gala.” Is it your first? What projects have you worked on before this? How did you get started?
Gala: i self released my EP "gala." in january of this year, thanks to my good friend and neighbor, Jon Birkholz. he was kind enough to record the tracks for me. while most of the material on "gala." was written within the last year, in some ways the ep feels more like a reflection of the last three years, which i've spent working on honing my craft and getting to know myself as an artist.
growing up i loved music and was particularly drawn to singing, but when i went off to to earn a degree, i was doing very little artistically. during that time i felt really lost, but there was always this voice in the back of my mind that was telling me that music was what i truly was supposed to be doing. at some point i just decided to listen.
i went out, i walked into a second hand guitar shop and picked out my first guitar. i could hardly strum a note, but there was something so powerful about taking that tiny first step that encouraged me to keep going. i moved to baltimore shortly after, eventually adopted the name nina gala, and spent the next three years challenging myself to become a better songwriter and performer.
WJHU: Which your personal favorite song off of the EP? Where did you draw the inspiration for the tracks?
Gala: as a whole, "gala." is very much autobiographical. i often refer to it as a memoir. i sing a lot about my early life on this record, which was a very turbulent time for me. as i got older, i started to realize that my experience was not as common as i thought, and all of a sudden i had a lot of questions and ideas about what it meant to experience certain hardships and traumas, and there just never seemed to be an appropriate outlet for that. songwriting finally allowed me to begin to tell my story without feeling the need to dance around or crop out the ugly parts.
WJHU: I especially love the line, “I looked like Joan of Arc, in a turtle neck and overalls” from “Born Wet.” Can you talk about this line, or what your song writing process looks like?
Gala: it really touches me when people take the time to read or listen to the lyrics. “born wet” is a song about human perseverance, about being able to push through difficult situations and see bravery and beauty in yourself, even when others can't see or won't recognize it.
that particular line asks the listener to see the essence of someone as glorified and celebrated as joan of arc in another everyday person- to recognize that we are all at some point in our lives a warrior in plain clothes and we need to celebrate that.
WJHU: Where do you usually perform in Baltimore? Where can people find you in the future?
Gala: i perform regularly in and around baltimore and plan to tour this summer. folks can like me on facebook for upcoming dates: facebook.com/iamninagala
In love yet? You can listen and buy Gala's EP here.
By Jessica Moog on March 2, 2017, 8 p.m.