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Home > News > Jessica Nitties - Q&A with Aphra Mag
Jessica Nitties - Q&A with Aphra Mag

AIM Composition & Music Production student Jessica Nitties (aka Sparrows), recently sat down with Aphra Magazine & AIM News to have a chat about her recent musical creativity and achievements. You can read the full interview with Q&A Aphra Mag below.

Passionate about songwriting and music, Jessica says that studying at AIM has been the best thing she has ever done, attributing a great deal of her inspiration to AIM teachers Drew Crawford and Eric Chapus. "AIM has given me the freedom to work out who I am as an artist and what I want to do" says Jessica. Having previously worked with the Kyle & Jackie O Show, she is now pursuing her passion for music. A big advocate of using Ableton software to compose, Jessica describes her music as alternative pop. Her single 'On Your Own', originally written as a break up song, has recently been reviewed by Triple J. You can read that review here and have a listen below.

On Your Own - by Sparrow

Q&A with Aphra Mag - By Ben Mengel.

Despite being a relatively new presence on the Australian music scene, Sydney-based solo artist Sparrows has already carved out a compelling sound that is catchy, cohesive and refreshingly original. Her alternative approach to songwriting incorporates found sounds and warm vocals that intertwine seamlessly to form appetizing soundscapes. It’s one of the many reasons why we are excited by Sparrows - an artist to watch in 2016.

On the back of her impressive new single ‘On Your Own’ (a promising first taste of upcoming debut EP Bloom) we asked Sparrows about her unique recording process, the joys of musical collaborations and the importance of being authentic.

Producing music that combines a collage of sounds could, in the wrong hands, prove risky. Yet, you somehow manage to bring it all together in a way that feels completely effortless and incredibly focused. This is especially true of your new single ‘On Your Own’. Does it all usually come together quite naturally for you during the writing and recording process, or is there a lot of ‘trial and error’ involved?

Wow thanks! At one point I had a fear of making mistakes and was constantly judging every little thing I was doing during the creative process, however thanks to a bit of soul searching and an amazing mentor, composer and [Australian Institute of Music] teacher, Drew Crawford, I have now learnt to embrace the creative process and free myself of judgment. ‘Trial and error’ is exactly what has led me to my sound. The recording of sounds and ideas comes naturally to me however a lot of effort goes into piecing it together. It’s like a puzzle yet you have no idea what the end result will be, which is exciting!

You source and manipulate sounds within your music in unique and interesting ways. Is this the part of the songwriting process that usually takes priority for you, or are lyrics just as important?

I always start with an idea and then gather a bunch of field recordings that I think will harness that idea. Lyrics are definitely a priority but building a foundation for my idea is paramount. I had an idea of being the object of a peanut gallery, where people are often throwing peanuts at you in an attempt to put you off your game. So I went out with a bag of peanuts, and recorded as many sounds as I could get out of those peanuts. I smashed them with a hammer, threw them on a tin roof and even recorded my dog, Monkey, chewing them (only a few). From there I turned these recordings into beats and textures. For my live show, I’m hoping to urge the audience to throw peanuts at me while I’m singing this song, to embrace this idea. It’s not nice throwing peanuts at someone (i.e. cutting someone down), nor is it good to be on the receiving end, but I think it could be a cool way to experience this notion.

It is not uncommon for musicians to start out with a vague notion of the direction they wish to take their sound, only to end up in a very different place. Have you always had a firm idea of the direction your music should take, or is this something that has changed and evolved along the way?

I was playing in a folk band for over a year and loved it but I knew there was something else in store for me. I bought Ableton and a Rode i-XY microphone and have never looked back. I’m much more clear now on the direction of my music, and that is making use of real sounds from this world to complement my ideas. I’m sure it will keep evolving. I really like the idea of creating an interactive live show where I can engage people on a number levels, such as using visuals and even tickling their sense of smell ­– not sure yet how to go about that one! I once went to a talk by the talented producer Herbert and he is a massive proponent of pushing boundaries, not only with how he makes his music, but also by incorporating cool ideas into his live shows – I would like to explore this more with my music. I can definitely see myself evolving with this in the future.

How important do you feel it is to give the music you create its own distinct identity?

I think what is more important is being authentic because that is what helps create your own distinct identity. I’m often blown away by the amount of amazing music out there and at one point I was trying to make music like it – it just doesn’t work! It’s better I think to take elements that you like and then combine these with your own set of values and ideas.

Over the past few years it feels as though the tide has turned for the better for independent female artists trying to make a name for themselves within the Australian music scene. Have you found the scene—particularly in and around Sydney—to be a supportive and nurturing environment to be a part of?

As a female artist, I don’t know really know enough about the Australian music scene to comment as I’m about to dive into it head first. However all the people whom I have spoken with thus far have been nothing but supportive and nurturing. Studying at AIM has been great and I have formed some lifelong friendships with not only really decent people but also extremely talented musicians. We all support each other!

Are there any locally based artists you have looked to for guidance and/or inspiration when it comes to both their approach to music and the way in which they have taken charge of their own careers?

I performed in Karen O’s psycho-rock opera back in 2012 and met some really cool chicks that have been doing amazing things since then, such as Rainbow Chan, Moon Holiday and Billie Rose. I love how these girls are real go-getters and it’s been great to see them flourish with their music. I’ve also been keeping an eye on Sydney artist Lupa J, she is one extremely talented individual. I love her production style and her voice is killer!

How far ahead do you look when it comes to your own musical trajectory? Do you tend to focus well into the future, or feel it’s better to take cautious baby steps?

I love making music, it’s my thing! And yes, I very much intend on focusing well into the future, it’s what gets me up every day. Most recently I featured on Endorphin’s new track ‘Blow Me A Kiss’ released on CafĂ© Del Mar’s Dreams 8 compilation. He is such an amazing artist and I’m looking forward to more collaboration with fellow music-makers.

With that in mind – what is ahead for Sparrows in 2016?

Lots ahead! My debut EP Bloom will be out in January 2016 and in the meantime, I’m looking forward to finally getting out of my pyjamas from producing in my bedroom for god knows how long, to sharing it live with people. First cab off the rank is supporting With Fox at the World Bar on November 14.


‘On Your Own’ is the first single from forthcoming EP Bloom, set for release in January
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