Interview: 3X Stellar Award Nominee Nyasia Monroe Discusses Transition From Gospel & New Single
Updated: Apr 22, 2020
There has been a revival in female R&B artists as well as pop. For the first time in years record companies are prioritizing signing women looking for the next H.E.R., Summer Walker or Billie Eilish. Nyasia Monroe is in prime position to break out as the next star. Though, she’s very clear on not wanting to be in anyone’s box.
The 21-year-old singer isn’t a rookie to the music industry; in fact, she’s well-established. Monroe began singing professionally at 12 — releasing three albums and receiving three Stellar Award nominations in the gospel music genre.
When you hear the Virginia native sing you can tell she’s been vocally trained but she also evokes emotion through her voice. I first discovered Nyasia singing Whitney Houston’s “I Love The Lord,” it was masterful. Houston is such a difficult task to cover but Monroe nailed it.
The American Musical Dramatic Academy graduate has a current single called “Moment” out now. She also has more content on her YouTube channel, which features a short film of her covering Beyoncé’s “Spirit.”
During an exclusive interview with Label Type Different, Nyasia explained why she went outside of gospel music to grow, her musical influences, how she’s staying connected during the COVID-19 pandemic and what we can expect from her in the future.
Label Type Different: What was the first moment that you knew that you wanted to sing for a living? I know you've been singing pretty much forever, but when was that first moment when you knew “This is what I want to do?"
Nyasia Monroe: I was about nine years old. I started doing talent competitions, and I’d been singing since I was three years old with my parents. My mom is in the choir, and she sings as well. My family has a church, and they used to put me on the flyer, and I would be singing songs at three. So, I have kind of been singing my entire life.
But knowing that it was a passion was when I was around nine. I think that's when everyone around me and my family started to realize, “Okay, wow. Like, she can actually sing. Let's push her, let's support her and try to get her to do more in that field.”
So, I started doing some talent competitions. When I got on stage, I felt nervous to be on there, but I was like “This is what I want to do. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” I entertained people because I felt good doing it. So, I started at nine years old, and then I recorded my first single and album when I was 12, and I've been going ever since.
Label Type Different: You've done several musicals as well. How were those experiences, and do you ever plan on acting?
Nyasia Monroe: Yeah, I've actually been a gospel singer since I was 12 years old. I have at least three albums that all went on to be Stellar Award nominated. I was kind of known for just doing gospel music. But once I got to college, I decided to go to The American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York.
That's how I ended up in New York for musical theater. I wanted to go there and learn more about dancing, about acting as well, and train in other styles of music. I just graduated at the end of 2018 with my musical theatre degree. So, I'm very happy about that.
I was in Hairspray, the musical, after that. I kind of dabbled in all those things. I still act. I've been in a couple of short films, a couple of commercials that you can view online on YouTube or anywhere. But my main thing would be performing my own music, making my own music, and being known as Nyasia.
Label Type Different: Yes, I saw that you’ve been nominated for three Stellar Awards. That’s amazing. It's something that artists can work for their entire careers and not get. Being so successful in gospel, what made you come to a point where you felt like, “I want to venture more into pop?” And not necessarily leave or turn your back on gospel but wanting to try something else. What inspired you to do that?
Nyasia Monroe: I'm definitely not turning my back on gospel music. That's my first love. That's my upbringing, that's who I am. But I want to make my own music and my own style into just inspirational music that can touch everyone. I don't want to be labeled into one genre, or into one box. I want to check off all boxes so I can touch as many people as I can with my music, that's really why I decided [to expand my genre].
I love R&B music. I grew up listening to R&B, pop, jazz, pretty much everything. I come from a musical family, so I love all genres. But for me, I have more stories to tell now, you know. I've been in relationships since then. I've gotten my heart broken. I’ve broken hearts. I want to tell all those stories because I know other girls can relate to them as well.
Label Type Different: Well said.
Nyasia Monroe: You know, sometimes it's hard for people to see gospel artists branch out and try to do other types of music, but I'm young, I'm 21 years old. I have a lot of stories to tell for my age, for this generation. We don't want to be put in one box. I think that my generation has shown repeatedly that we're not in one box. We have something to say as well. I want to be the voice for that.
Label Type Different: Whitney Houston was similar, she touched on everything. She came from a gospel background, very spiritual, but she talked about love, she talked about everything. I discovered you covering Whitney and it was like, first of all, it's very hard to cover Whitney because her voice was so unique. You did it so well. It takes courage to cover a Whitney song, what gave you the courage to do that?
Nyasia Monroe: I love Whitney. That's my idol. She's definitely my biggest music inspiration. I grew up listening to Whitney Houston, trying to sound like her and all those things. I made my own version of “I Love the Lord,” which is the video I have that’s going viral. I think it's at 80,000 views right now. That video blew up out of nowhere, but I realized it was just because I felt it. I love that song, [it’s] my favorite song from her. I love Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Etta James, Beyoncé … those are some of the people that I grew up idolizing. You could hear me singing their songs a lot.
Label Type Different: That's a really good well-rounded list. I could definitely feel the emotion, but you were also formally trained. You have such great control of your voice. I know you went to Berkeley School of Music as well, right? Did that help with cultivating your voice?
Nyasia Monroe: I went to a summer program there, where you stay for five weeks and you live in a dorm there and you go to classes just like you were in college. I went there when I was like 15 years old. That was my dream school at the time. I really wanted to go to Berkeley. So, I signed up for that summer program.
I got accepted and I took classes every day for five weeks, all day, just like I was at college. I learned so much from being there. YouTube, voice lessons and you learn how to write songs there. You learn how to scat, you learn jazz, you learn everything in that summer program. So that really helped a lot by being there. Being in an environment where I was around other musicians, other like-minded people and kids that could relate to me, which is something I really didn't have growing up.
Label Type Different: That’s a whole word. I also saw your cover of Beyoncé’s “Spirit,” another great cover. What was the inspiration behind that?
Nyasia Monroe: I've been working with a new team, a new producer and his name is MusicMan Ty. He's the one of the head producers for Swizz Beatz. We were singing in a band together and he said he really loved my sound and my music and he really wanted to help me. So, I started working with him and his team. Once they started to get to know me, they wanted to know who my influences were. And of course, I said Beyoncé. She had just released “Spirit” from The Lion King and I just loved that whole soundtrack. And since it's an inspirational song, which is what my message is, I just felt it near and dear to my heart. I was singing it for them and they said, “let's record it.”
So, I started recording it and I realize, “Oh, I can put a visual behind this, you know, get my name out there and get more people to hear me and hear this beautiful song.” Not something that we thought about too hard. But I'm so happy about the turnout because it ended up being way more than what I expected.
Label Type Different: So out of all these experiences, what do you think is your greatest accomplishment thus far?
Nyasia Monroe: Well, this might not be the answer that everyone wants to hear, but for me, I don't think that I've even reached a greatest accomplishment yet, because I know that there's much more that I can do and that I need to do. I'm happy, I'm blessed and I'm grateful for the experiences I've had.
Just people buying, hearing my music, listening to it, and feeling like I've connected to them in some way is my accomplishment. That's all that I want from it instead of the glitz and glam of being a celebrity or a star. For me, it’s really more so about touching people through what I'm saying.
Label Type Different: How you answered that question really says a lot about you because you see the music that lasts is the music that touches people. Everything else kind of fades and has its moment in time. But the music that last really touches people in a certain way. Have you released any new music?
Nyasia Monroe: I have a new single that I released on the Bronx news, called “Moment,” which people can find on YouTube and on my social media as well. I wrote “Moment” when I was 15 years old, it just came to me. I brought it to MusicMan Ty. And he was like, “you have to make this song right now.”
I'm just talking about my insecurities. Being a teenage girl and feeling insecure, of other people, of myself, or not feeling as confident. I had to realize that this is my moment, this is my time, I am who I am and nothing or no one can change that. That was my way of letting other girls know this is your moment, this is your time to shine and that's what we're going to do. I post quotes on Instagram all the time trying to keep it positive. Because we can't have anything holding us down. Not anymore.
Label Type Different: That's real. Congrats on your single. You mentioned you feel like you haven’t scratched the surface. Where do you see yourself in five years? Or when will you feel “this is where I want to be?
Nyasia Monroe: Well in five years, hopefully I've won some Grammy’s or some awards by then. [Hopefully] I'm traveling across the country, or across the world, just happy with what I'm doing, wealthy and able to support my family. That's where I would like to be, maybe a few albums under my belt, at least one or two albums by then and being a household name from five to 10 years from now.
Label Type Different: Are you currently signed yet or are you independent?
Nyasia Monroe: Independent artist, and I have my own label called “Inspiring Dreams,” which my dad started for me when I was 12 and I started making albums. If a label comes and they have a great deal from me, then we can work something out. But for now, I'm going to be an independent artist and make what I want on my own terms.
Label Type Different: During the coronavirus pandemic what are other ways people can support you besides streaming your music?
Nyasia Monroe: Definitely just reach out to me anytime, “like” my work, share it, stream the music and keep me in their prayers. I'm posting as much as I can, there's not much that we can do at these times besides try to connect with people. I'll probably do some Instagram lives and have some concerts on there. But yeah, stream the music, support me, keep me up lifted and I'll do the same for them.
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