NIKI Interview: MOONCHILD Creative Process, Favourite Lyric & More

Indonesia’s R&B Queen, NIKI recently released her highly anticipated debut album MOONCHILD via the renowned 88 Rising imprint which has helped her and an array of now acclaimed artists such as Rich Brian, Joji, Higher Brothers build audiences around the globe. The project was no small undertaking, taking a full two years to reach completion, and the end result is nothing less than perfection. The ambitious concept album traces NIKI’s own journey of self-discovery while also tackling universal themes of identity and empowerment across 10 defining and interwoven songs.

The ten-song album sees NIKI as the sole performer, however it was by no means a solo effort. It features acclaimed collaborators such as producer/writer Jacob Ray, the producer collective Bekon & the Donuts (Kendrick Lamar, SZA), and Montreal producer Pomo (Anderson .Paak, Mac Miller). 

MOONCHILD illuminates the linear path of youthful exploration through three lunar phases: crescent moon (innocence, curiosity, embarking), half-moon/eclipse (loss of hope, disillusionment) and full moon (self-discovery, strength). The album itself offers an exploration, infusing its triptych song structure with eclectic styles – R&B, pop, urban, punk, country – from stripped-down piano ballads to lushly orchestrated anthems. So we got the chance to chat with the Indonesian star to hear a little back story behind the creation.

“Believe it or not, Lose almost didn’t make the album”

It’s such a cohesive piece of work and it really tells a story from start to finish. What was the creative process behind the album selection? 
The creative process was an emotional rollercoaster. The mental gymnastics I put myself through in order to land at 10 songs–that effortlessly blend into one another– was truly spectacular. I probably scrapped about 20-30 ideas to land at these 10! I think Selene took the longest to complete only because we wanted to get in with Pomo when he was in town, and I also had Jacob change the bass sound probably like, five times. Believe it or not, Lose almost didn’t make the album because it didn’t start out as a piano ballad, and I thought that it didn’t really make sense! Once we made it a piano ballad, it immediately fit into the universe. Imagine “MOONCHILD” without Lose– what a loss that would be!

The word “Moonchild” came to me when I was going through a phase of staying up at ungodly hours of the night strictly to write music,” explained NIKI when speaking on MOONCHILD. “I realized how much more energized and stimulated I felt at night compared to the day, and I referred to myself as a “child of the moon” because of it. I began imagining an entire, fictional universe in my head. I let go of any and all preconceived notions, rules and limitations I felt bound to and let my creativity take the wheel in any direction. You wouldn’t believe the mental gymnastics I put myself through to get this album to where it is now.” 

Speaking on her past projects, NIKI said, “My prior works were about love and youth, this album is very much rooted in self. It’s essentially a musical parable about growth, which is fitting because that’s exactly what happened to me whilst making it. It was without a doubt the most challenging project I’ve ever worked on, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world!

Moonchild demonstrates your incredible versatility in a whole new way, from songwriting to sounds used. Which track do you feel was the most experimental? 
I think all of them are quite experimental in their own way, although I would say Wide Open was probably the most cinematic. When I first wrote it, I thought it belonged on a movie trailer somewhere. So I would say that one!

What’s your favourite lyric on the album? 
Impossible to choose a “favourite”, but I would say if this album were a storybook, the lyric I would choose as a blurb would be “Children of the moon, may we grow oh may we bloom, and don’t look back the future looks like you and me”

You’re an inspiration to many Indonesians and your success is paving the way for more to cross the waters to international acclaim. Could you tell us a few other Indonesian artists the world should be paying attention to? 
Yes! Rich Brian, Anggun, Stephanie Poetri, Nadin Amizah, GAC.

Lastly, as you consider yourself a creature of the night, what’s your favourite midnight snack? 
Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. That or, any chocolate bar, really.