Nina Nesbitt: I've gone in a much rockier direction
Ed Power finds that Nina Nesbitt is not just a pretty face
If she'd known about the photographer in the bushes, Nina Nesbitt would have worn a matching bikini. "To have a paparazzi take your picture while you are on holidays is strange and invasive," says the 19-year-old, her Edinburgh tones practically humming with disdain.
"I was on a private break – hadn't told anybody where I was going. Then, I turn on Twitter and everyone's saying, 'you're in the paper – in your bikini!' To say I was shocked is an understatement. I mean, my top and bottom weren't even the same colour!"
A friend and touring partner of ginger sexpot Ed Sheeran, Nesbitt knows a few things about tabloid celebrity, the ways it can turn your world upside down (inevitably she and Sheeran were 'romantically linked' after going on the road together).
"It was creepy," she says. "At least the photographer didn't disturb me. If he had asked, I don't think I would have been up for it, in all honesty. I was supposed to be having a holiday!"
As her run in with the mystery snapper last November attests, these are busy times for Nesbitt. There's the Ed Sheeran connection of course, a friendship that has introduced her to thousands of teenage fans. She's toured with chav faveExample, co-written with Snow Patrol BFF Iain Archer and on her forthcoming debut LP, Peroxide, duets with dewy eyed Dubliners Kodaline. Her record company suspects it may have stumbled on the next big talent in acoustic pop. It could well be right.
"I'm definitely ambitious," says Nesbitt. "I've supported Ed and Example and I would love to be at their level. I'm the sort who is never content. I constantly feel the need to do better – that's what drives me. I would love to tour the world, play to as many people as possible. You see that success up close and you crave some of it for yourself."
She hasn't spoken to Sheeran in a while but is grateful for having fallen into his orbit. Observing him interact with fans was hugely educational. A superstar who conducts himself like a normal human being, she regards Ed as evidence that you can achieve greatness without become a horrible tabloid caricature of yourself.
"We used to be compared a lot, which I can understand," she says. "I've moved on creatively. With my album I have taken on a different style. He's great. Ultimately, I've gone in a much rockier direction. I think I might surprise people who saw me in the early days. My album is very different."
You could easily form the impression that Nesbitt has enjoyed a charmed existence. She is talented, with a persuasively cathartic guitar style and a cracked, subtle voice and she has pop star looks. However, she doesn't see it that way at all. Growing up, Nesbitt was cripplingly shy – it took the support of those around her to convince her that she could make it in music.
"I was extremely introverted," she says. "Early on, when I went on stage I would be incredibly self conscious. Even now, I'm not so good at the whole giving speeches angle. Singing comes naturally – the rest, I have to work at."
Her self confidence has not been helped by the fusillade of Twitter hate coming her way. Most of her online interaction is entirely positive. Still, there are a lot of bitter souls out there and the negativity can get to you if you let it.
"There are cyber-bullies and all that," she says. "If you use it correctly, social media can be great in terms of helping you reach people, let them know what is going on with your music. There is the occasional individual, however ... I mean, I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion. Sometimes, they are quite rude. I don't like that. "I used to get worked up by it. Now I am like 'whatever' I get to do what I love. Not everyone is going to like it. I accept that. It's fine."
She was born in 1994 to a Scottish father and Swedish mother and grew up in Bellsquarry, a small town outside Edinburgh. Aged 15 she started modelling. Elements of the business appealed to her – a self confessed girly-girl she loves to dress up. The strict regime, with its quasi military overtones, did not.
"I did catwalk stuff, photoshoots, what have you," she says. "It was a lot of fun – ultimately not for me. I didn't like the pressure about being a certain size, of not being able to dye your hair, all of that. While I've had to do photoshoots since getting into music, it's totally different. You are not putting on an image. You get to be yourself. There's no pressure."
Springloaded with tunes, Peroxide seem certain to storm the charts next month. Nesbitt is excited about the prospect of a hit, even if wary about the attention it will surely bring.
"I try not to focus on the fame side," she says. "I concentrate on the music. We're all normal human beings. It's what surrounds certain individuals that causes them to be perceived as different. Opening the paper and seeing pictures of myself is unreal. I'm sure I would find it scary if I had people chasing me, the way they chase One Direction. I wouldn't like that at all."
- Peroxide is released February 14.
SHE'S IN FASHION
Nina Nesbitt's first taste of showbusiness was as a 15-year-old catwalk model. Here are some other pop stars who started in the fashion biz
These soon to be massive, New York-based indie rockers are fronted by male model Matthew Hitt. The unassuming Welshman stumbled into fashion on a working holiday in New York. Hanging outside the (now closed) Virgin Megastore on Times Square he was approached by a talent scout and, several weeks later, was summoning his best 'Blue Steel' look at NY Fashion Week.
These New Puritans
Fashion designer Hedi Slimane was an early champion of this uncompromising avant-garde outfit. His attentions offered a gateway into his industry and soon the group's guitarist George Barnett was making a living as a model, though it is fair to say he doesn't rate this among his greatest accomplishments. "Essentially I take the money and run. I invest all the cash in the music. We were able to pay for a video with my earnings. I dislike a lot in the industry. To be honest, [I find it] completely vacuous."
By no means a conventional catwalk dame, Cat Power (stage name) broke into modelling late in her career, having been invited to participate in a campaign by Marc Jacobs. She went on to model for Gucci, at the instigation of Karl Lagerfeld.
Jack White's ex started modelling aged 16 and began her first band in 2004. She released her debut LP three years ago and in 2012, toured the US with singer-songwriter Neko Case.