By: Jacqueline Michael Whatley
Copenhagen based vocalist Nanna B. is the co-founder of Chicken Grease Soul Club, one of few live performance hubs on Denmark’s quietly kept soul scene. Like similarly storied Danish peers Quadron, Nanna’s music found a second home on the Los Angeles underground.
Nanna was formally introduced to music while attending an alternative school for children in Aarhus. “My parents [who do not sing or play instruments] put me in a school that taught West African music and rhythms. I had hippie parents. I started making up my own chants to the music and that’s where it all started”.
She grew up in a suburban two-parent household that regularly featured Black music. While Nanna absorbed the sounds of Sly & The Family Stone, George Clinton and Prince, her signature sound would take form after discovering D’Angelo and late 90s movement, the Soulquarians.
She heard “Brown Sugar” blaring from a boom box while riding the school bus. The music would permanently impact Nanna. “When I was like around thirteen or fourteen, I started listening to hip-hop and r&b. I discovered Erykah Badu, D’Angelo and all of this neo-soul coming out of the states and it blew my mind. It was a big discovery for me”.
In subsequent years, Nanna continued to sing and write songs. In 2007, she formed the Chicken Grease Soul Club with like-minded creatives and acquired local buzz as a graffiti artist. Upon suggestion of then boyfriend, she applied and was accepted to Copenhagen’s Funan Art Academy.
Upon completing the five- year visual art program last summer, she visited Peru for four months of much needed reflection. “At that time, I realized that this music is really something to my life. That time in the jungle was good for me. It made me release a lot of fear. I got more courageous. Ayahuasca helped me to see these things”.
Nanna returned to Copenhagen, found immediate work as a waitress and connected with Danish producer Damp. Their musical marriage resulted in an experimental brew that Nanna describes as “Future Nordic Soul”. “We vibed like crazy…we were on the same planet”.
After compiling and independently releasing her well -received debut Vita Phone last October, Nanna planned her first Los Angeles excursion. Nothing could have prepared her for the serendipitous events that followed. She explains, “I worked hard, saved up for 3 months and I went to LA and things just kind of fell into place for me. It was crazy”.
Prior to her first LA visit, Nanna connected with Grammy Award winning producer, Shafiq Husayn. “Shafiq hit me up the day I wrote to him on Soundcloud. He said yeah ‘I love your stuff send me some more. Hit me up when you get here and let’s dream’”.
Shortly after her February arrival, Nanna met Shafiq in person . They recorded and she was immediately offered a spot in his band, the Dove Society. Working with Shafiq proved to be a full circle moment for the singer, as Shafiq has worked with many of Nanna’s musical influences (i.e.-Erykah Badu).
During her stay, she developed a propensity toward Koreatown taco trucks, life in Highland Park, and the bounty of stellar live music events that the city offers. She gushed, “I got to see Yaasin Bey (formerly Mos Def) at The Mayan. It was so amazing”.
After engagements at such cherished indie haunts as NOLA’S, Del Monte Speakeasy and Silver Lake Lounge, Nanna’s music was embraced by artists and producers from salient Los Angeles indie labels like BrainFeeder, Plug Research, Stonesthrow and Delcious Vinyl. The offers to collaborate started to roll in, but with impending visa expiration and hardly any cash left, Nanna had to return to Denmark.
She flew home in April to work, record and save up for her necessary Los Angeles return. She explains, “Soul is not a big sound here…it doesn’t sell. My stuff has never been played on radio stations in Denmark, but in LA my stuff has been played on KCRW and accepted”.
In July, Nanna flew back to Los Angeles. Apart from the indie radio and live show rounds, she recorded more material with Shafiq Husayn and Dove Society. She is set to appear on his long-awaited 2014 follow up project, Loop.
Nanna is currently collaborating with Brain Feeder’s Jeremiah Jae and a host of other Los Angeles artists on an upcoming 2014 project. Over Skype video chat, the chanteuse (now back home in Copenhagen) explains her untiring attitude toward shuffling back and fourth between the two cities to pursue her dreams.
“Right now I have about 25 new songs. My plan is to put out a full length in 2014. A long time ago, I kind of got used to the idea that if I wanted to live a life that was rich in art and music, I would have to work my ass off”.