Over a spotty Skype call and a 12-hour time difference, I had the pleasure of speaking to Niki Colet, a singer-songwriter based in Manila. We talked about her journey from attending classical voice lessons to writing and performing her own songs, and the thriving music scene in Manila. Her new single “You Still Show Up in My Dreams” is out on Spotify and Soundcloud now!
By Xana Pierone
Rare Candy: When did you start singing?
Niki Colet: I started singing when I was eleven, but from the ages of eleven to fifteen, I didn’t really take it seriously. I wrote songs, and because there was no one else around to sing them, I sang them myself. When I was fourteen, I took classical voice lessons. I had a very old school voice teacher who made me sing Broadway songs and classical music at ranges I couldn’t really handle, so the techniques I learned weren’t really applicable to the songs I wrote, but these lessons did kick start this desire to improve my singing.
RC: It sounds like you’ve been on quite the musical journey! Do you remember the first song you wrote?
NC: Yeah, I do actually! It was called, “Fairytale World” and I wrote it when I was ten. I even remember how it sounded.
RC: That’s so cute! Do you ever sing cover songs at gigs?
NC: I usually do more originals, but I do a few covers here and there. Something that I used to cover a lot was “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty. I also covered a few Sky Ferreira songs. Now, my soundcheck song is “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes.
RC: How would you describe your music?
NC: I used to identify as a folk-songwriter, and it was useful because it helped inform the kind of songs I was writing—I guess even my image, like the clothing I would wear at gigs—but as time passed, I wanted to explore different things and felt that I was limiting myself by only describing myself as a folk-songwriter. Now, I guess my songs lean towards folk, kind of indie. I do write more pop-sounding songs now, as far as chord progression goes. I even have one bluesy rock song called “Shadow Man.”
RC: Were you born in Manila?
NC: Yes, I was born and raised here. I studied in a traditional, all-girls’ Catholic school until fourth grade. Then, I moved to an international middle school. I attended college here as well.
RC: What is the music scene in Manila like?
NC: The music scene in Manila is interesting, because it’s made up of a lot of sounds, but looking at it overall, there are two separate worlds: the first being the mainstream pop artists, but I'm not too familiar with the mainstream scene.
On the other hand, there are the independent artists. The indie music scene is one I am more familiar with and it has multiple facets. In most places, a venue asks artists to play and sets up the gigs, but here in the Philippines, a production group contacts the venue for a specific night and books the venue. Then, the production group contacts various artists to build their lineup.
RC: So a production group is almost like a label?
NC: They’re not really a label. It’s a group of people like show managers, photographers, and producers who are in charge of putting shows together. They are similar to labels in the sense that a particular artist might be affiliated with a production group and they do a lot of gigs with them.
RC: So the production groups are separate from the venues?
NC: Yes. Honestly, I’m fairly new to this game, so I may not have all the details right of how the music scene works here.
RC: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
NC: Growing up, I wasn’t really cool. I didn’t know the cool new music. I listened to the Lizzie McGuire Movie soundtrack.
RC: Yes! In ninth grade, the only CD my bus driver had was the Lizzie McGuire soundtrack, so I listened to it every day and I LOVED it.
NC: Wow, you had the best bus driver. I listened to that and the Hercules soundtrack. I also really liked Avril Lavigne, like a lot. I listened to My Chemical Romance, of course. Just basic early 2000s shit.
RC: We were the same! Everything you mentioned was a big part of my life.
NC: Honestly, Avril Lavigne had such an influence on me. She was one of the first artists to inspire me to write songs. It was her and this show, I don’t know if you watched it, it was called Unfabulous.
RC: Ummm, of course. Unfabulous with Emma Roberts. I loved that show. Do you remember the episode when she went on a date to the movies and wore hoop earrings to give him an excuse to untangle her hair from them?
NC: Yes!! I actually bought hoop earrings, so I could be like her. I remember I once bought a floral mini skirt that was just like hers. It was so unflattering, but I wore it all the time. I loved how she was a loser and had this very ordinary life and writing songs was her outlet. That inspired me, because, as a kid, I wasn’t particularly cool. Whenever something would happen, I would write a song about it and channel Emma Roberts from Unfabulous.
RC: So you listened to a lot of Disney music and Avril Lavigne, anything else?
NC: A lot of cheesy music like The Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox Twenty and Lifehouse. I listened to that music in middle school/early high school. When the Juno and 500 Days of Summer soundtracks came out, I listened to them a lot—they were my gateway into better music. When I got older, I listened to Belle and Sebastian and Regina Spektor. I worshipped Regina Spektor in high school.
RC: What are you listening to now?
NC: The past few weeks, I’ve been listening to a lot of pop music. The most recent Fifth Harmony album was really good. Melodrama by Lorde has been on repeat ever since it came out.
Check out Niki on Soundcloud
Photography by our good pal Emma Noelle!
See more photos on her site: https://www.emmanoelle.com/