Indie pop singer-songwriter Nicole Han is making waves with her lyric-forward immersive soundscapes. A storyteller at heart, 21-year-old Han aims to express her innermost emotions with every new release. Following the release of her debut EP “so it goes…” Han has been experimenting with sound alongside her producer and collaborator Mike Matta, uncovering that unique ‘Nicole Han sound.’ What is that sound, you may ask? Echoing vocals, candid lyricism, gentle guitar, and soul-shaking bass resonate in every one of her captivating tracks. Creating music to heal, cry, and dance to, Nicole Han caught up with us to talk all things production, heartbreak, and pop star visuals.
How would you define your sound? Especially because it just draws from so many different places.
I am a singer-songwriter; I would say a pop singer-songwriter. I draw from a lot of personal experience but mix it with my imagination and love for storytelling. The lyrics mean a lot to me. I am super inspired by songs with a lot of ambiance. Songs that take you somewhere production-wise.
You've always been a very lyric-forward artist. But I think your music recently has taken a different shape in terms of the production and building soundscapes. How has it been transitioning from a stripped-back sound to creating these really immersive soundscapes?
It's funny you say that because a lot of the music that I'm working on right now is especially leaning into the bigger production sound. But I think for me, when it comes to the way I write, it's all the same. At the core, it's a singer-songwriter song that I can easily play stripped at the piano and guitar. And then it's all in the production. I think it's just where I draw my inspiration and think about the end product a little bit more.
What does the process of taking a track from "stripped-down singer-songwriter" to an immersive pop track look like?
It goes either two ways. One, when I've already written the song, the sounds fall into place. And then I'll reference different artists' sounds. I’m really obsessed with Troye Sivan’s new album. So, I’ll reference different sounds, and it all comes into a mixture for the song's final product. Or with the producers that I work with, Mike, we start with a bass that he's already made, and then we write lyrics on top of it. But I think we normally start with me having written a song.
What has it been like growing with your production team? Because you've been working with Mike the entire time, right?
That's a serious relationship right there! You're committed.
No literally! It has been honestly amazing. I didn't realize how important it was, at least for me in the way I like to write, for somebody to fully understand your sound. As we've worked together for the past two years, he really understands my sound. And my sound has definitely evolved. So when I would bring in new things, I think now that we know each other so well, it really clicks, and we move a lot faster than we did two years ago for sure.
Because you start from such a personal songwriting background, what about music coaxes that emotion out of you?
For me, it's always been a bit difficult to express my emotions through talking. I feel like a lot goes on in my brain, and I choke up on my words. Sometimes, especially growing up, it would be hard for me to express myself and communicate because I would be too shy to say it or just not know how to interpret it. So for me, music has been the perfect outlet to be able to take my time and really understand what I'm thinking and feeling and releasing it in music form.
And it must be especially nice now that you're working with Mike who knows you. I'm sure that that brings an extra vulnerability out of you.
Exactly. It's obviously so much fun to work with one off producers and try new things. But it's great to come back to somebody who knows me now personally and on the music side of things.
So you actually just released a full length project this year. So you released your first EP, “so it goes…” what was the experience of putting together a full length project together compared to the singles in the past?
That was so exciting for me. And it was a huge landmark. When I was creating that EP, I started it without realizing I was gonna make all the songs into an EP. It was just a compilation project. But when I was able to release them all in the world together, in a bow, it felt super satisfying. And there was a lot of buildup, and I was super excited for it to be out.
Was there a throughline for you despite it being a compilation project?
I love telling stories so I organized the songs in a very specific order. It starts off with blush, which is very happy and upbeat. And then it goes directly into breakup mode. And then it heals in the end, with a feeling of longing. So there's a minor story arc going through there. But I did definitely order it in the order of post breakup feelings.
Breakups are just so messy and raw and really are at your most vulnerable. What was it like to create that arc of complete heartbreak to healing in one neat package?
That's a great question. It is honestly super therapeutic as an artist and a writer to be able to grab from all these messy parts of my life and experiences that I've had and put it into like one song where I'm expressing something the way I felt. And then on top of that, combining it into a complete storyline is super satisfying, fulfilling and amazing especially to just have other people also relate to that.
Is it ever funny to look back on a song and be like, ‘Oh, wow, I do not feel like that at all anymore’?
No, definitely! I have definitely, 100%, healed and grown throughout this year, as cheesy as that sounds. When I look back at “how dare you?” for example. I feel like that song did a lot for me personally, but also for other people. Hearing how much people related and resonated with it makes me feel a lot more at peace even singing sad songs.
Moving on to your more recent releases. You've released three singles in the last couple of months. “somebody new,” “oh, my summer love” and “just like you.” What was something you learned from the EP process that you brought into these tracks?
After the EP came out, I took a minute to refresh and change aesthetics a little bit. I kept writing all throughout the summer, and so the three recent singles have a more acoustic singer-songwriter appeal. That was fun and exciting to put out and for me that was a little spring, summer moment. I'm moving in a different direction right now with the songs that I've been working on. Bigger, fuller sounds. And I'm super excited for the upcoming project.
What is the vision that you have going into this new era?
I want to say a pop star moment. More moving on getting over and really becoming confident in my own skin.
That's exciting! Speaking of moving toward all these big sounds in your music, what is the ‘Nicole Han sound?’
I'm actually the most indecisive person ever in everything. So when it comes to music, I know what I like and don't like. But I'm definitely still questioning which direction to go. It's always been a mesh of all my favorite things, and sometimes I feel like the singer-songwriter intimacy does not necessarily mesh with a big, full sound, but that's what I want to do. Blend both of them; I feel like that's my sound.
What have you got coming up?
I'm working on a lot more music. I am gearing up for a new project early next year with more cool sounds and really, really awesome visuals, so I'm super excited!
Are visuals something you've been wanting to dive into?
Yes! It's very hard as an independent artist, fully supporting the funds for everything. I would have loved to do a lot more video work in the past and I have but this coming year I'm excited because I'm working on a big music video right now. I'm super excited for that and just leaning into the visual side of things more.
Stream Nicole Han’s latest single “somebody new” here.