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by Catherine Powell




on her discovery story + telling stories with her songs


on kiss me, kate + her very broadway year


on their new ep, muses + their career-changing hit, “bad for me”

on her history as a gymnast + the encouraging women in her life

on releasing music she believes in + her massive touring year ahead

on her debut ep, junk + how youtube has influenced her life



on finding her passion with bayou with love + social media


on her new album, good at falling + working with george daniel


on the emotional story behind “strong” + his new single, “rewind”


on her new song, “hypocrite” + her radio show, let the girls play


publisher, editor, photographer, designer, writer













writer writer




francesca reale Words by IAN HAYS Photos by CATHERINE POWELL Hair by COREY TUTTLE Make-Up by JUAN ANTONIO

BORN AND RAISED IN LOS Angeles, the industry lurked on every street corner for Francesca. And in the beginning, the glitz caught her eye. She wanted to walk the red carpets. You can hear her eyes shimmer recalling that innocent adoration. But when her father explained the hard work and dedication it took to reach that point, like most children, she quickly turned her focus elsewhere. “I was a competitive gymnast for about 13 years. I was an artistic gymnast, like Simone Bilesalthough I was never as good as her,” she quips. “My favorite events were the balance beam and the floor. And I did that until I had a back injury that forced me to stop. But its okay, I’m all good,” she says, with the lighthearted reassurance only someone who has to endlessly recount a trauma can embody. To understand Francesca, just listen to how she speaks of gymnastics after all these years. It wasn’t about her doing the routine, but the routine itself- putting your soul into your work only for it still to be separate from you. “It made you feel strong and

powerful and present- which are such important things for young girls to feel,” she emphasizes. The unbridled dedication she learned as a gymnast was applied to her acting career, building it up one step at a time. In gymnastics, you’re on a team, but perform individually. Francesca was taught that you build up, not tear down, your competition. It surprises no one that Hollywood can be as petty as they come. But Francesca didn’t have this mindset. And she’s been able to surround herself with friends happily living this same ethos. While her focus was on gymnastics, as Francesca reached her teens, she began slowly incorporating in acting. “In middle school, if you didn’t want to take PE, you had to take dance. So, I took that. PE was outside and its hot a lot of the time in L.A.,” she says, laughing at her own explanation. “It’s brutal!” The dance teacher was friends with the drama teacher and a symbiotic relationship began. For eighth grade dance class, it was coupled with drama for the school musical. Francesca’s first roles? An orphan in Annie and a

caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland. And while its easy to laugh at the shenanigans of someone besting the system to get out of PE, performance art found another way into her heart and took root. It was in high school that life forced a change of plans. With her back injury, going to college for gymnastics was now out of the question. “It was then my mom kind of peer pressured me – and I mean this in the best way – but she pressured me to do the musical, A Chorus Line. She told me how it was the best musical and dance oriented and that I would love it. She may say it happened differently,” Francesca laughs. “But she definitely encouraged me.” Unsure of the future after graduation, she took classes for a year at a local community college. It was in an acting class she was told to pursue being in front of the camera, not behind it. While she remains humble about her talents, the fact remains she was quickly accepted into NYU for acting. Francesca found herself being drawn to film even though her start was live productions. NKDMAG.COM


“My family is spread out. And now that we’re older, we’re all spread out even more. There’s something about getting to share my work with them no matter where they are. There’s something special about knowing my grandma can watch Stranger Things from her living room and she won’t feel like she’s missing out. It gives access to everyone.” She graduated a semester early with an agent who was ready to bring the world to Francesca. She was told to gear up for pilot season. On a budget and with her wardrobe set, she took the pilot plunge. She landed a role as a dead body on Blue Bloods (“my best performance to date”). A few auditions later and she landed a main role on Netflix’s, Haters Back Off. This was her big break. A frightening prospect for anyone in pursuit of a dream. She had to travel to Vancouver alone, enduring a prankster customs agent and the labyrinth that is work visa applications. And she did all this alone and as a first timer. It wasn’t until after wrapping the first season that she was able to reflect. In the blink of an eye she was on a set in Vancouver for a Netflix comedy, the new kid on the block. But, Francesca found a mentor and friend with castmate Angela Kinsey (The Office). “We would go on these walks in Vancouver for exercise and I would pick her brain. And she would give me advice on how to handle auditions, financials, travel, relationships, family. She was just an entire body of advice that I took advantage of. To this day, I still call her for advice. She’s one of the smartest, most wonderful 06

people I’ve ever worked with and I’m so lucky to have her in my life,” Francesca says. Its this kind of network of support that validates the hard work Francesca and others like her have put in. This encouragement led to the confidence for more auditions – like for Stranger Things. Francesca was convinced it was prank when she found out she landed the role of Heather. Even with filming wrapped and premiering July 4th, its still surreal to her that any of it even happened. In just a few short years she landed a main role on a show that ignited the world of streaming. Any nerves she had being the new one on set quickly vanished when she was welcomed and listened to with open arms. She confidently proclaims, “There are few sets like the Stranger Things set.” For example, when she first learned she got the role, the first person Francesca called was Natalia Dyer. She figured while she was told to keep it under wraps, her friend and now castmate was an acceptable exception. Natalia was ecstatic. A running theme through Francesca’s life of is the encouragement she’s received, specifically from the women in her life. This wonderful network of support shaped Francesca and continues to inspire her with each new role she lands. It’s a brave new world and there are those in the industry that cower at the change this kind of strength can bring. Her humbleness doesn’t come from not being the best, but knowing there’s always more work to be done. NKD




THE ROAD TO COUNTRYstardom hasn’t been easy for Hailey Whitters; she summarizes her struggle with transitioning from a small town in Iowa to Nashville best in her recent single “Ten Year Town”. In less than three minutes, Hailey precisely spells out the intense longing and hopefulness that comes with put08

ting your all into a goal and falling short. “No matter what your profession is, it’s really hard to see yourself putting in so much time and getting passed up by people who haven’t been there as long as you,” Hailey admits, but by focusing on herself and focusing on her work, she was able to push past it. After 12 years of living in

Nashville and with an album already under her name, Hailey began to feel her music was going astray. “I felt like I was watering myself down to fit into what I thought people wanted from me,” she explains. She wasn’t making music that she believed in, so she scratched her project, which proved to be an expensive lesson. She

then holed up in a studio with her boyfriend to write music she was proud of and came out with what will be her next album. On June 21st, Hailey released her latest single “Red Wine & Blue”. She wrote it with Brandy Clark and Jessie Joe Dillon – her “girl gang,” while they shared a bottle of wine. “It’s kind of

a dreamy, sad girl, drunk in the bathtub song,” Hailey says. The inspiration for it came one scorching Fourth of July while Hailey was sitting in her backyard. Even though it was hot, she wanted to drink red wine, so she put ice cubes in it, “which was classy,” she laughs. Hailey has a massive year coming. She’s scheduled to open for Maren Morris, Lori McKenna and Brent Cobb on tour; she can’t wait to watch her heroes perform every night and to warm up the stage for them. “These words aren’t doing it justice,” Hailey says as she struggles to find a way to accurately describe how she feels about it all. “I’m really excited about it and it’s a dream line up for me. I couldn’t have picked better artists to open for. They’re some of my top favorites, so I’m honored.” She’s excited to see Portland and Seattle and to travel and visit new concert venues, most notably The Greek Theatre and Radio City Music Hall. “I’m such a country bumpkin that I’ve honestly never been to New York or Los Angeles, so this will be my first time hitting both,” she says. “I feel so spoiled because the first time I’m going there, I’m playing these legendary venues, but I’m really stoked about them.” It’s been a few years since Hailey has been on the road. “I still get a little jittery

before I’m going on,” she admits, “But the minute I step out and break into that first song, everything feels right.” The last thing she does before beginning her performance is take a shot of tequila, so that always helps, too. Twelve years into her career, Hailey doesn’t feel like she’s “made it” yet, but she makes sure to take in the moments as they pass. One such noteworthy moment was in 2016, while on tour with Martina McBride. “I remember walking to the bus after the show and I looked up and said to myself, ‘if this is as good as it ever gets, stop right now, breathe, and soak this all up,’” Hailey remembers. It wasn’t a negative thought, but it was a way to appreciate how far she’d come and recognize the magnitude of her accomplishments. Hailey’s 12-song album, The Dream, is coming soon. “When I was 21 and had just come to Nashville, starry eyed about the business, I would have said the dream is a tour bus, playing stadiums, thousands of fans,” Hailey says, “But now that I’ve been here for 12 years, the fact that I get to do this every day, simple as it is, wake up and write songs for people, that is the dream to me and that’s what makes it worth it.” That’s the entire record’s concept, and Hailey can’t wait to share her new songs with the world. NKD NKDMAG.COM


carlie hanson Words by OLEVA BERARD Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

When Justin Bieber was discovered via YouTube in 2008, everyone recognized the shift that would occur in the music industry. Teens everywhere began uploading videos of themselves singing, hoping to also be chosen to pursue their dreams. Years later in a small town called Onalaska, Wisconsin, 14-year0old Carlie Hanson, inspired by Justin, would follow suit and begin posting her own covers of songs on YouTube. “When I was young, I remember watching videos thinking, ‘So, that’s all you have to do?’” Carlie recalls, “Obviously, that’s not how it works but I really did get lucky by posting that video and it’s so strange that that video on my Instagram is the reason I’m even here doing this interview right now.” The video in question is a 15-second clip of Carlie at 16 singing to Zayn Malik’s “Pillowtalk” that her friend encouraged her to post in the hopes of meeting the pop star who had recently made his debut as a solo artist, through a contest sponsored by iHeartRadio. She didn’t win, but the platform’s Instagram account shared her post, causing her to go semi-viral. Shortly after, Carlie was invited out to Canada by a talent agent, where she would write and record her first songs that would help form her sound. From there, she would head to Los Angeles where she would begin to re12

lease infectiously catchy singles that would quickly gain traction after being selected for inclusion on Taylor Swift’s personally curated playlists. “The first time, I didn’t believe it at all,” says Carlie. “But then she did it again and I was like ‘Okay, she has to be listening, she has to know who I am!’ It’s so weird to think that she’s heard my voice.” At just 19, Carlie has expertly orchestrated herself into a successful career in pop music, signing a deal with Warner Records earlier this year. In early June, she would release Junk, her debut EP filled with songs that originated as lyric ideas jotted down in her journals and guitar melodies recorded through voice memos on her phone. “I had a lot of these ideas already written down.” Carlie says, “But I think ‘Hazel’ was definitely the one I struggled with. Just talking to these writers about something so personal.” The track chronicles the real story of one of Carlie’s friends falling into partying and drugs, behaviors that were out of character for her. “I had that song – not the whole thing but most of it – written in my notebook,” Carlie says. “I had the melody and everything already so that one kind of came about by itself. It was also probably one of the hardest to write just because of how vulnerable I had to be writing it.” Playing the song for the real

person resulted in an emotional experience for Carlie and her friend, an experience Carlie hopes to give fans with every track she releases. Carlie also reflects on her own journey through a track called “WYA.” Written as a letter to her future self, “WYA” captures the fear that comes with making the leap to chase your dream while leaving behind the life you knew previously. After spending her whole life living with her parents and two sisters in a small town, Carlie moved to a studio apartment in Los Angeles at just 17-years-old, determined to make it in the music industry. She remains close to her family, citing their influence on her music taste growing up. Her parents plugged her into rock at an early age, hand er influences of alternative and hard rock shine through immediately on tracks like “WYA” and “Back in My Arms,” while her pop-sensible lyricism draws fans from any genre. “Disturbed was my first concert, we were always listening to them,” Says Carlie as she rattles off a list of artists who helped shaped her music taste. “I was always listening to a bunch of different stuff, but then as I got older and could go on YouTube, I discovered lots, lots, lots more pop music.” Her blend of smartly written pop with a rock edge has been well received, in the




last year she has joined artists like Yungblud and Troye Sivan as an opener and will soon accompany Lauv on tour in Australia. “Opening up for Troye on his tour was very, very eye opening,” says Carlie. “Just everything about it from having my own green room, having like a bus that we were driving everywhere and walking out on stage in front of like thousands of people in these theaters. That tour really was like me realizing this isn’t a joke anymore.” While she’s loved having the opportunity to reach new potential fans as a supporting act for artists, Carlie has her eye on headlining her own shows in the near future. Reflecting on her impressive ascent in the music industry in the last year, it’s easy to consider the parallel of her story to the rise of Justin Bieber a decade ago. “I have lately, but I didn’t really think about it back then. It’s so strange that I was obsessed with Justin Bieber and like had this idea that I was going to get famous,” she reflects That idea certainly worked out as Carlie has successfully carved a space for herself in the current state of pop. With Carlie Hanson’s Junk out in the world, she can give herself time to unpack everything she’s accomplished in the last year. Her future plans include a full-length album and headlining shows but for now, she is returning to the pages of her notebooks and working on new music. NKD NKDMAG.COM


rachel wammack



“FEATURING RACHEL Wammack.” Being featured on a Spotify playlist is often a huge feat for many artists, especially those in the early stages of their musical career. For Alabama born and Nashville living country goddess Rachel Wammack, those three words take you to playlists full of legends. Rachel is featured on Spotify’s top playlists, alongside Dolly Parton and Kacey Musgraves on the “Women of Country” playlist, and Thomas Rhett and Chris Young on the “Wild Country” playlist. The young country singer-songwriter hails from the small, tight-knit music lovin’ town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The riverfront town in the northwest corner of Alabama became home to some of the hottest recording studios of the 1970s - including FAME studios - where legends like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded. “To say the least, I feel like I carry the soul music with me,” says Rachel. Growing up in Muscle Shoals, Rachel was surrounded by talent no matter where

she looked. Her hometown was where she got her start, and consequently where she was later discovered by Sony Nashville’s Jim Catino. “I’ve been writing song since I was in middle school. My ‘discovery’ I guess you’d say is different than most people’s. I was actually discovered in my hometown in Muscle Shoals. I had started playing out at different restaurants when I was a junior in high school, so I would play piano and sing. I’d do my original songs and then I would do some covers. One night, actually, senior year of high school, when I was performing at this restaurant that was basically my regular spot. This guy comes up to me and says ‘Hey, my name is Jim Catino at Sony Music in Nashivlle. I really loved your original stuff.’ Being a little 17-year-old girl, I was thinking this man is about to kidnap me,” Rachel laughs. She would later go on to sign with Sony’s RCA in 2018. Going back to the start of Jim’s and Rachel’s professional relationship, “he gave me his card and my dad and I actually went up to Nashville to meet him and kind of talk

about what it would be like to move to Nashville and pursue my career as a songwriter there, which was kind of farfetched in my mind because when you’re 17, you really don’t know what you want to do with your life,” Rachel says. Before pursuing music, Rachel enrolled in undergrad classes at the University of North Alabama as a Professional Writing major. “I wanted to have a degree because that’s something nobody can take away from me,” she said. Juggling classes and music, Rachel spent her nights and weekends around Muscle Shoals continuing to perform, saying “writing and performing out every weekend just kind of became the foundation of who I am today as a performer and songwriter. I just grew a lot during those years.” During her college years, Rachel merely dreamed of having the success she has now. “No, absolutely [did] not [expect to be here]. That sounds horrible because I hear Keith Urban tell his story and he’s all ‘I knew I was made for this’ and I honestly



thought I would always do music on the side and that I would be an English professor or freelance writer or something,” she says, “I’m honored that I get to do this as a job; it’s definitely a big dream come true.” After graduating college in June 2016, she prepared to make the move north to Music City, USA - Nashville, Tennessee. Having stayed in touch with Jim Catino throughout the years, he invited her to perform for the Sony A&R team during CMA fest - a huge deal for an upcoming songwriter like Rachel. “[Being invited] was really wild to me because that’s like a really big deal to be invited to play for [the A&R team]. I played like four songs for them and they convinced me I needed to move to Nashville and did not offer a deal. Initially, I was like ‘I’m not moving without a deal,’ then I did. The only other guy I knew in town was a bartender and he got me hired on with him,” she says. Her tenure as a bartender lasted right up until she signed her record deal with Sony, however her memories


and inspiration from the parttime gig didn’t end there. Rachel’s song “Damage,” which recently surpassed 1 million streams on Spotify, tells the story of her time as a bartender in Nashville. “That song is one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written. It’s one of my most poetic songs, I think, and it’s a very true story. So, for over a million people to hear it, that’s just crazy. I’m really thankful,” Rachel says. Much like the inspiration for “Damage, Rachel draws inspiration from drama she goes through and grows through. “I’ve been through a lot of heartbreak and spent a lot of time being miserable in order to get a lot of really great, relatable songs for people. I’ve also been really, really happy and those moments make you appreciate how good love can really be. On the other side of [“Damage”], love can do some damage but can also just change your life in the best way,” she reflects, “We as writers get our ideas from the back end of what everyone is saying, that’s why I love talking to people. I love

hearing, you know, what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever been through? You never know when you might get a hilarious Hank Jr.-esque song, or you get something sad and you also get a Hank Jr. song.” This fall, Rachel will be taking her experiences and songs across the Atlantic to Europe as a part of the CMA: Introducing Nashville tour. The ten-day tour of Europe and the United Kingdom has Rachel alongside Danielle Bradbery, Chris Lane and others, taking the sound of Nashville abroad to perform traditional, country-inspired tunes. For Rachel, her Alabama pride shines through and she plans to take that to Europe. “I’ve always been drawn to all types of people in the world, different walks of life. So, the fact that I’m getting to go outside the USA and meet people that have grown up differently and see the world in a different way, I’m excited for them to see the way I see the world too,” she says, “I think my view, you know, is really special too. I just think it’s really beautiful when different kind of perspectives collide.” NKD

stephanie styles Words by ANNIE CONDODINA Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

“IT’S SO BROADWAY” SHOULD be the official catchphrase of 27-year-old Stephanieanie Styles, a Houston native who is finally making her Broadway debut with the Roundabout Theatre Company. As the revival of Cole Porter’s 1948 classic musical Kiss Me, Kate closes out its limited run at Studio 54, Stephanie finally has a chance to breathe and reflect on the past few months with this company. And, as she says, it’s all been very Broadway. “I couldn’t imagine a more perfect Broadway debut. It truly blows my mind, and it makes me realize that my path was meant for this to happen in this exact way,” she says. “I mean, ‘Another Op’nin’, Another Show’? Come on, it doesn’t get better than that.” Stephanie is referencing the opening number of the iconic Kiss Me, Kate, the first show to ever win the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949. To her, this is all a dream come true. This revival gave Stephanie the chance to work with Broadway legend Kelli O’Hara, who plays the lead role of Lilli Vanessi. Kelli also portrays Katharine in the play within the play, a take on Shakespeare’s The Taming

of the Shrew. Recall all your 10 Things I Hate About You knowledge from 1999 for reference. Stephanie’s partner in the show is played by Corbin Bleu, who takes on the roles of Bill Calhoun and Lucentio, pining on and off stage for the hearts of Stephanie’s characters, Lois Lane and Bianca. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve been told by several people that it’s not always like this,” says Stephanie of her Broadway debut materializing next to such household names. “They’re incredible, incredible people. Kelli is an absolute gem. And I’ve never had such an incredible partner in a show as I’ve had in Corbin.” Stephanie feels grateful for getting to play Lois Lane, a treasured Broadway character. “Lois is so iconic,” Stephanie confirms. “The thing I love about her is that she’s just living her dream, living her best life, she’s very comfortable with her sexuality. And I get to live that joy of her as a person.” It’s true. While everyone else in the show is dealing with the trials and tribulations of any classic musical, Lois floats along unfazed, enjoying her first experience in a show and catching the immediate attention of every man in her

wake. If you thought this debut couldn’t get any more perfect, think again. Kiss Me, Kate was nominated for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Choreography at the 2019 Tony Awards, meaning Stephanie appeared on TVs across the country in James Corden’s opening number in early June. “I had the most Broadway 48 hours of my life,” she says of the experience. This year’s Tonys came almost a year to the exact day that she auditioned for Lois Lane in 2018. Stephanie booked a red eye from Los Angeles, attended the 2018 Tony awards on Sunday, went to the audition on Monday, and knew by Wednesday that she had gotten the part. “It was the quickest audition process of my life,” she says, still seeming breathless over the experience. “After I found out that I was in, I walked past Studio 54 and was like, ‘Oh, you’re going to be my new home.’” It sounds glamorous, but this success has been a long time coming. Long before Kiss Me, Kate began to take shape, Stephanie was cast in two shows that were supposed to be on Broadway but never came to fruition. It seems as NKDMAG.COM


though the third time’s the charm, and Stephanie’s patience has paid off. “This is the one thing that I’ve always gotten close to, and now it’s happening. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason,” Stephanie says. Playing Lois means she gets to put her own spin on Broadway classics like “Always True to You in My Fashion”, a long-celebrated number. “I want to approach every show, even a revival, with a new vision and perspective. I’m so grateful that it’s happening this way and that I get to do my own version of this song,” she says. Aside from Broadway, Stephanie is also making waves in TV and film, appearing in the new Netflix Original Series Bonding and Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart. Stephanie admits that Bonding is a bit of a departure from her typical projects, especially coming from a Disney background (portraying Katherine Plumber in the national tour of Newsies was her first job after graduating with a BFA from the University of Michigan) but she was drawn to it nonetheless. “Bonding is such a great show because it is very raunchy, but it’s so tender-hearted and heartwarming and it’s also, visually, a technicolor dreamland,” she says. “Don’t judge other people and just let people do them. That message of the show is so important.” Stephanie’s character, Kate, 22

deals with a sexual harassment moment in the show. “I compare it to the moment in Legally Blonde when Elle is hit on by Professor Callahan. But the thing is, in a movie in the early 2000s, Vivian didn’t believe Elle. What I love about our version is that it’s a very similar moment, but immediately Tiff believes Kate despite them being enemies. She believes the woman.” No matter what she’s doing, Stephanie always makes time for fans, citing that she herself was just a fan not too long ago. Any Broadway enthusiast knows that you can line up outside the stage door after a show to meet and have your Playbill signed by your favorite stars. “I wasn’t really a part of stage door culture when I was growing up as a fan but it’s amazing that you can meet these people after the show. I try and take my time with everyone, and I always do stage door unless I have a press obligation right after the show, or I’m sick. But it’s something I really cherish and I’ve loved getting to stay in touch with them and see them grow up into incredible people, especially the young women,” she says. Now that Kiss Me, Kate has closed, Stephanie is heading back to the West Coast. “I know I am most excited about taking a vacation,” she laughs. She can’t reveal all the projects that are in the works, we’ll keep our fingers crossed to see more of her star power soon. NKD





26-YEAR-OLD TWIN SISTERS Megan Mace and Liz Mace – also known as Megan and Liz – began their music careers nearly 12 years ago, but they were singing as a duo even earlier than that. In 2007, they uploaded their first video on YouTube, an original song called “This Note.” The video, which shows the teenage siblings wearing matching black turtles and singing as Megan plays a keyboard, gives a glimpse at how YouTube used to look, before the days of high quality videos, easily accessible editing programs, and asking viewers to “subscribe below” for more content. “Megan is the mastermind behind everything,” Liz says. “She saw some girls posting videos of like themselves singing on YouTube in 2007, which is archaic. And she said, ‘We should do it.’” And that’s exactly what they did. After “This Note,” Megan and Liz posted a plethora of covers from artists that they admired, putting their own spins on tracks from former Disney Channel stars like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. While they occasionally covered songs from male artists, Megan and Liz recently realized that they didn’t “idolize” or “fangirl” over boy bands like the Jonas Brothers. “I think we just wanted to be these women so badly that we were obsessed with that more than wanting to date the Jonas Brothers,” Liz says. “We just admired these women, because we were like, ‘How did they get there? How did they do 26

that?’ And that’s why we were obsessed with them,” Megan adds. Even today the duo gravitates toward female artists like FLETCHER (“I think she’s a nice break in pop music right now where she’s just telling raw lyrics and everybody’s relating to it,” Megan says), Lizzo (who Liz says is “so fresh and so bold”), and Tove Lo. “The women who are really pushing it, I feel like are really cool…” Liz says. “…and thriving right now,” Megan adds, finishing her thought. According to Liz, their early videos “got no views for a very long time,” but slowly, they started garnering fans – many of whom have continued supporting their music and the recent release of their Muses EP. Arriving at Muses, which came out in May 2019, was a long journey for Megan and Liz. The sisters were born and raised in Michigan and got a tour offer during their senior year of high school. Deciding to pursue music, they completed their last semester online, moved to Nashville, and toured. “We decided on Nashville because L.A. is really big and scary,” Liz says. Their manager at the time also recommended that they relocate to Tennessee because being there would improve their songwriting skills. “Nashville truly does teach you how to be a songwriter, in a way that I don’t think any other city offers,” Liz continues. “I know that’s a bold thing to say. But I really, really believe that, no matter what genre you’re in. They did eventually move to

LA for a year because it felt like “that next jump,” but Nashville was their “new home,” and they went back. For the past few years, Megan and Liz have remained in Tennessee. Many people became familiar with Megan and Liz through their single “Bad For Me”, which was released in 2012. The pop song was seemingly everywhere, playing on radio stations and appearing in Macy’s commercials. The duo also won Macy’s iHeart Radio Rising Star competition, got to perform at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, and meet Taylor Swift. “I think ‘Bad for Me’ was really that moment in our career, the one that kind of validated all the hard work that we’d been doing, and continues to validate us today,” Megan says. “I don’t feel ever like I failed at anything. I feel successful because of that song.” “The moment that it had will forever be one of the most special times in my life because it was the first, and it was the first time I really understood what the music industry was actually like, how people treat you, [how they] can treat you differently when you start having success,” she adds. “It was a wild time.” Megan and Liz followed “Bad for Me” with songs like “All Alright” and “Release You.” They were supposed to release their highly-anticipated debut studio album, Look What You Started, in 2014, but hit an unexpected roadblock that made them consider quitting music altogether. Megan and Liz were told that their record label, Collective Souls, would be closing and the album that they worked on for



years wouldn’t be released. It’s a setback that the siblings were brutally honest about in a video that they shared on their YouTube channel in 2017. Without a label, management, and the album, Megan and Liz weren’t sure if they wanted to continue their career. “We’ve been burned so badly by labels and this industry in general, just because we’ve been doing it so long,” Liz says. “We truly did almost quit. We were like, ‘I don’t think it’s worth it anymore. Why do we even do this? What’s the point?’” It also didn’t help that they were also told that “nothing will ever be as big as ‘Bad for Me.’” “We really let that get to us,” Liz adds. “And we were just like, ‘Well, they’re right. I don’t understand why we would keep doing this if it’s hurt us so much.’” Megan and Liz chose to continue, and they released a Simple Life EP in 2014 followed by their DEUX EP in 2016. Muses, comprised of five tracks, came about while they were in a studio writing and had a breakthrough. “We were like, ‘Wait, this is exactly what we want to do. This is the kind of music that we want to make. We feel inspired. We feel alive,’” Liz recalls. “We were like, ‘Holy crap, this is why we do it.’” While putting together Muses, Megan and Liz “rewrote, reproduced, and rearranged” all the songs in order to ensure that they were the best that they could be. “In every other project that we’ve ever done, it was always, ‘OK, we wrote the song in a couple hours,’ then we produced it and we put it out,” Liz says. “There 28

was no lyric revision, there was no, ‘Oh, maybe we can try and make that chorus better.’ For this project, every single song has like, six different versions. We were so scared of that before.” Their lead single, “Take Me”, features honest lyrics about being hesitant to pick up their “broken pieces.” “[It] was kind of exploring why we stopped for a while and why we came back,” Megan says. “And we also had fun writing. We would hear stories about people, like crazy girlfriends, and that’s where ‘Good’ came from. We kind of just really immersed ourselves in listening to people and drawing inspiration from stories and TV shows.” “Sex and the City is a constant muse for us always,” she adds. Megan and Liz also credit their producers to helping them navigate this new era of their career. “I don’t think if we wouldn’t have met them, we would have been excited to put music out again, because they were the ones that came in with these tracks that we would never have been brave enough to put out before,” Liz says. “And they pushed us out of our comfort zone, which we really needed,” Megan adds. In June, the sisters announced three shows that they’re going to have at small, intimate venues in Nashville (August 23), NYC (September 6), and Chicago (September 12). “We decided to do these because we haven’t toured in six years,” Liz says. “And this music made us excited to get out and do it again. So we were like, ‘Let’s just

try it in some of our big markets.’ If it does well, we’ll add some more, but there’s no pressure if it doesn’t.” Fans attending the mini tour can expect it to be “a production” filled with their new tracks and throwbacks. “It’s going to be more than us just standing on the stage and singing the songs,” Liz says. “We want to make this an experience for all of the people that have been there with us since ‘Bad

for Me’ and who are still with us through Muses.” For the remainder of 2019, Megan and Liz want to focus on touring and play more shows. “It would be amazing to play at least five more shows this year, wherever they may end up being,” Liz says. “I think that’s a big goal for us, to say that these shows went so well that we’re able to add more. That would just be incredible.” Megan and Liz hope that when

people listen to their music, whether they’re new fans or old followers, they see how the sisters have evolved and how genuine their music is. “I want people to know us, because our music truly is us,” Liz says. “And you can really see us. If you dig deep, you can literally see us completely grow up through it, and it’s really cool to see the past 10 years of our lives be documented that way. I think that if you’re willing to dig through it,

and to listen to it all the way, I think that’s a really cool experience overall and I’m really proud of that.” “I personally have always wanted people who listen to our music to feel good,” Megan says. “That’s the reason I listen to music, is because it makes me feel something that I can’t really explain. And that’s the music that resonates with me the most. That’s kind of what I want them to feel, is that unexplainable feeling of joy.” NKD NKDMAG.COM



savannah keyes Words by SAMANTHA BAMBINO Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

WHEN I GET ONE THE PHONE with country artist Savannah Keyes, she had yet to get her hands on a morning cup of coffee. On a normal day, this wouldn’t fly for the self-admitted caffeine lover. But this was no normal day. Savannah was still on “cloud nine” after attending the Radio Disney Music Awards the night before, where she was interviewed alongside industry giants like the Jonas Brothers about her single “Hypocrite”, which reached No. 3 on the station’s country charts. For the 22-year-old, being able to share her artistry with the world is a dream come true. It’s something she caught the bug for in an unorthodox way while growing up in San Diego, California. “It was this small town that my grandparents lived in called Borrego Springs and there was a little karaoke bar called Carlee’s. Even though I wasn’t of age, because it was 21 and up and I was 6, they would let me come by and sing karaoke until 9 p.m.,” Savannah says. It was these unforgettable evenings at Carlee’s that sparked an unshakable passion for performing. “I was doing any play, any pizza shop, opening in the corner where I had to bring my own karaoke machine and sing. Literally anything I could think of,” she says. By 13, Savannah’s family had relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah. To keep her San Diego relatives

updated on her musical journey, she posted videos of herself singing on YouTube. Though she now describes them as “terrible Broadway covers”, the talent exuded caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who invited Savannah to perform on her show. The opportunity provided by Ellen catapulted Savannah’s career, which saw a permanent move to Nashville and publishing deal by 16. Once settled in her new home, Savannah wrote “incessantly” as she attempted to figure out who she was as an artist. Simultaneously, she got involved with Radio Disney. “I got to interview artists at the Houston Rodeo, which was so cool because it was everybody from The Band Perry to Jason Derulo,” she says. “I was like, ‘What is happening? What is my life?’ I fell in love with it.” Since then, Savannah has not only continued to chat with country artists at music festivals and award shows, she and fellow country artist Katie Shorr launched the segment “Let the Girls Play” in December 2018. “We made this concept where we play some of our favorite female artists all day, every day on the Radio Disney App, and we have our own little show where we get to highlight different girls that are doing cool things in Nashville that you might not hear about on other radio stations,” she says.

Though she won’t be the first to brag about it, Savannah is one such artist to watch out for. Drawing influences from Walker Hayes, Dolly Parton, Ryan Tedder and Pat Monahan, her style is a perfect blend of modern and old school. “It’s throwing the country lyric in with the pop melody,” she says. “It’s been a fun project to put my fingerprint on.” To date, Savannah has released three tracks - “Ghost”, “Good Day” and “Hypocrite” which she said is the favorite of the trio because of its relatability. “I had just entered my 20s and everyone was like, ‘You’re going to learn so many things’ and I was like, ‘OK I’m ready.’ But the only thing I learned was that I was the world’s biggest hypocrite and I never practiced what I preached. I would get on stage every night and tell these girls, ‘Love yourself. Be confident. Do all these things.’ Then I would go home and pick myself apart in the mirror,” she says. As Savannah continues to ride the high of what her life is quickly becoming, she plans to release a music video and a few singles this year before working on an EP. “I want to take my time with it because you can only release the songs once. I want to make sure that it’s the right pile of songs,” she says. “Other than that, my idea is to get a cup of coffee in me and see how the rest of the week goes.” NKD NKDMAG.COM



IN 31 YEARS, NIKKI REED has worn a lot of hats. First, as a teenager screenwriter – and then as an actress, shortly after. She’s been a director, and a musician. She’s a wife and a mother. And most recently, she’s become the owner of a company where some days she takes on the responsibilities of a designer, some days as an accountant and some days as a photographer. Maybe the best word to describe Nikki is simply “artist”. A rare breed in her own right, Nikki is a Los Angeles native – mostly spending her childhood bouncing around the West side. She grew up near the beach and following her parents’ divorce lived with her mom and brother, though her dad was still around. She found a love for writing at an early age and when she was 13-years-old she wrote a film that “changed the course of my life, for lack of a more eloquent way of putting it,” she says. The film – which is semi-autobiographical – was titled Thirteen and was directed by Catherine Hardwicke. The film – which received critical acclaim – follows teenagers Tracy and Evie as they experiment with drugs and sexuality, before Tracy’s mom (played by Holly Hunter) steps in to stop her daughter’s destructive lifestyle. Originally, Nikki had no intention of actually being in the film, but everything sort of fell into place. “When I go back to what that moment was like and that whole process of 34

casting the film, I was brought in to read with the other girls who were auditioning for the project with no intention of me being in the film,” she admits. She was brought in as a casting associate of sorts to make the girls auditioning feel more comfortable, because the material was difficult and it felt more natural for them to be reading with someone their age. Nikki had no training as an actress, but found herself loving the process of casting the film and seeing these girls relate to the material in a very raw, honest way – but she still had no intention of being in Thirteen herself. Shortly before the film started shooting, she was pitched the idea of playing Evie – the best friend of Tracy, whom Nikki based on herself and would be played by Evan Rachel Wood. All of a sudden, Nikki was “catapulted into a world that I was definitely unprepared for.” She felt very in over her head, and in addition to accidentally kickstarting a career as an actress, she was also looked at as an expert on troubled teens. “When Holly Hunter was nominated for an Oscar, and Catherine and I were nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards, things started picking up really quickly,” she says, “I was sort of thrust into this position that I didn’t feel comfortable being in.” She would be asked questions about how parents should be communicating with their children about the heavy topics touched upon in the film, and she was still a child herself.

“Now I have the ability to say, ‘I don’t know the answer to that question.’ That’s me as an adult. But as a child, I was just kind of scrambling for answers and never really knew how to feel comfortable being in a position of authority, in that sense,” she says, “I was a child in an adult world.” Despite the film’s success and subsequently Nikki’s, she stayed in school but eventually took an unconventional route by graduating early and moving out of her mom’s house very young. “I thought I knew all the things about life that you don’t realize you didn’t know until you’re older and you look back,” she recalls. She kept acting – working on films such as Lords of Dogtown and shows like The O.C. – before booking a roll in the first Twilight movie, and subsequently the four sequels that followed. The Twilight Saga defined pop-culture from 2008-2012, when all five movies were released in yearly intervals. At the same time, social media and its presence in daily life was on a steady incline. Gone were the days of running home from school to update your MySpace page – Twitter and Instagram were living in your pocket. And as a result, so was unguarded access to celebrities. “[The Twilight cast] were sort of the guinea pigs. The Twilight series was happening as the transition from no social media to social media happened, and I think about what has happened to the entire world during this shift,” she reflects,


“We’ve seen humanity change. We’ve seen the way that we live our lives, and conduct our lives – whether you’re famous or not – we’ve seen an immediate shift in the way that we all live our lives.” In relation to fame, Nikki believes technology has made everyone in the world have to think about what it feels like to have your privacy exposed. “Whether you’re famous or not, you have to think about – on a daily basis – having your own privacy,” she says, “Privacy is going to be the greatest, most desired form of currency in the next decade. We’ve all put ourselves out there so willingly.” By “we” she means people in general, because as much as Nikki is a part of this cultural shift, she is still very hesitant about what she puts out into the world via social media. “I was told for a long time that you can’t build a brand or a career without this selfie culture and allowing people to come into your home and your life,” she recalls, “And I fought that. I’ve never agreed with that and I somehow have built a company and a brand.” Nikki believes that the generation that is currently coming up is going to recognize that the most valuable thing in their life is going to be privacy. It’s because of this outlook that Nikki and her husband, actor Ian Somerhalder, have kept their 2-year-old daughter Bodhi’s face off their feeds. “Everyone knows what’s best for their family and I don’t believe in telling people what

to do – that’s not the position I come from. I only know what works for us, and we just believe for our family, that our daughter might grow up and decide that she doesn’t want to have social media or want photos of her face everywhere, and I don’t feel like I should make that decision for her,” Nikki says, “She also might be 11-years-old and going, ‘Where’s my iPhone? I want to have an Instagram!’ and then we’re going to have to address that, too, but that’s a conversation that I think she should be a part of.” While pregnant with Bodhi, Nikki was doing a lot of Googling. Like, a lot. She was hyper aware of what she was putting into and on her body and wanted to be making the healthiest choices possible while carrying her daughter. “One of the things I learned from being pregnant was that there was so much interest and exploration into healthy, conscious choices as pregnant women that we are looking for, and I wish I could have told my pre-pregnant self to be looking for those things, too.” Nikki reflects. Nikki found herself Googling exactly what was in things like her toothpaste, deodorant and lipstick, or if she should be spraying hairspray in her hair. She knew organic eating was a “no-brainer”, but then started considering not just what was going in her body, but on it. “I was Googling weird shit, like organic, chemical free under-

wear,” she laughs, “While I was in that deep-dive quest for extra holistic living, I started realizing that there were a lot of things I couldn’t find, and if I couldn’t find them, other people must be looking for them and probably can’t find them.” Nikki doesn’t do well sitting still, and is a self-proclaimed multi-tasker with a lot of drive and energy. While pregnant and taking a break from acting, Nikki started making the things she was looking for herself. “I looked at [Ian] and said, ‘In twelve months I’m going to launch a company.’ And he was like, ‘Oh, man.’ Because he knows when I say something, it’s happening,” she laughs. And so, BaYou with Love was formed and Nikki is involved in – if not spearheading – absolutely every aspect of her business. “Those growing pains and that knowledge is what builds a strong foundation because you have to understand and know it all,” she says of her level of involvement. BaYou with Love was launched in the beauty and apparel world first, because while pregnant, those were the products Nikki was looking for. All of BaYou’s products are made with recycled and upcycled textiles, and chemical free, sustainable, organic and cruelty free materials. In the course of BaYou’s original launch, Nikki got a phone call from tech giant Dell saying they were interested in working with her and BaYou, because they felt she was an outspoken voice on NKDMAG.COM


a topic they were very interested in, which was how to make sustainability cool and translate it to a global audience. Dell is the most sustainable tech company in the world, and Nikki was thrilled to partner with them. Dell has been working for years to get their products out of landfills and repurpose the parts. Computer motherboards have tiny chips of gold in them, and coming from a family of jewelry designers, Nikki was inspired to recycle the gold into jewelry, and immediately fell in love with every part of that process. BaYou is now primarily a jewelry company and their first collection with Dell sold out in less than 24 hours. “Sustainable products, for a long time, have kind of had this stigma surrounding them that they would make you compromise in luxury,” Nikki says. With BaYou, there is no compromise. People can buy pieces that are both beautiful and luxurious, and sustainable. “The overarching message of BaYou is that there are plenty of ways to get creative with what we already have on this earth,” Nikki says. Since making a push into engagement rings in the last few months, BaYou has been using mined stones in their collections – but Nikki is extremely mindful of where they are sourcing them from. The main goal is to give people options in the way of sustainable goods, and the more options there are, the more conscious decisions people are making to support 40

sustainable brands. “It’s a domino effect. One thing leads to the other. Once you know, you can’t unknow,” Nikki says, “So yeah, it might just be jewelry. Are we saving the planet by making jewelry? I mean, we’re making jewelry. But what we are doing is opening up a conversation.” Moving forward with BaYou, Nikki is having the best time working with couples on custom engagement rings – and that was a result of customer interest and not necessarily something she had planned on focusing on. “So many people felt like if they were going to wear something for the rest of their lives they wanted it to be meaningful and their story of love, but also meaningful in its – the ring’s – story,” Nikki says, “I’m attached to every single piece.” In addition, BaYou is gearing up to launch a line that uses recycled ink supplied by Dell combined with an enamel to create a black resin. “We’re literally putting pollution into jewelry,” Nikki says. BaYou is Nikki’s full focus right now, and as much as she loves the craft of acting, running BaYou has reconnected Nikki with art in a way she hasn’t felt in a long time. “I feel like I get to really focus on creating and I don’t want to say I’ll never step in front of a camera again, because I don’t know the answer to that, but I love [BaYou] so much and I think you really need to honor where your heart is being pulled,” she says, “I’m loving this chapter. I feel like an artist again.” NKD



the japanese house Words by HILARY MAGLIN Photos by CATHERINE POWELL

THE YEAR 2019 HAS BEEN A whirlwind for electronic dream pop artist The Japanese House, and it shows no signs of slowing down by the turn of the decade. After debuting a full-length album titled Good at Falling in March, the one-woman act hailing from Buckinghamshire wrapped up a tour across the United Kingdom, embarked on a 28-city trek through North America, and released a music video for her song, “Maybe You’re the Reason”. By the end of the year, The Japanese House will kick off a string of European and Indonesian festival performances at France’s Pointu Festival in July, before jetting off for the musician’s first tour through Asia. It may sound like a pretty full schedule, but it’s nothing Amber Bain, the 23-year-old vocalist and multi-instrumentalist at the heart of The Japanese House, can’t handle. After all, she has friends like George Daniel -- who co-produced Good at Falling -- and his band The 1975 to lean on if she needs it. Not that she needs it. Between her busy days spent performing, traveling the world, and

hanging with her pup, Calvin, Amber chatted about her success since her first EP, 2015’s Pools to Bathe In, and what she has in store next for her global fanbase.

it and I went absolutely insane. It almost feels like I’m cheating if I ask people to do things for me. Eventually I Googled all of these albums and found a common thread between them was this NKD: WHAT DOES “THE JAPANESE HOUSE” producer called BJ Burton, who’s MEAN, AND WHY IS THAT THE NAME YOU brilliant. We ended up doing two CHOSE FOR YOUR IDENTITY AS A months in Wisconsin, a month in MUSICIAN? Brussels, then the last bit in Oxford AB: When I was about 6 or 7, I with The 1975. I rarely get to hang went on holiday to Devon, England out with them, so having that couwith my parents, and [the place we ple of weeks was really nice again stayed] was called The Japanese because we are close. I have done House. The name always stuck with a couple of tours with them and me. I didn’t want to release music they are lovely people to tour with. by my actual name, so I ended up The shows are always great, as they being called The Japanese House. have a really amazing fan base.



collaborator right from the first EP. Originally, I was going to try and produce the album by myself because George was too busy, and I didn’t know whether I wanted tentional to use the theme so much another producer because that rela- over the EPs, but I guess it was subtionship had been so special. I tried liminal. There was a lot of metaphor NKDMAG.COM


in the lyrics on the first songs I was writing, but I think by the album the lyrics become much more direct and honest about my personal life.


plan in my head about how I want my music to sound. It’s definitely been an evolution, but the core of what I was doing in my bedroom at 15 is still there. Just hopefully better!


duced everything so far. Sometimes I feel like I have to do every part of it myself. During the process of the album I realized that it is definitely good and freeing to have some input from others. I found a great combination of working with just myself, some with BJ Burton, and working with George to finish everything off.


NKD: WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEXT YEAR OF YOUR LIFE? WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR YOUR CAREER AS A WHOLE? AB : I am just focusing on new music. I have a lot of new songs I am very proud of and can’t wait for people to hear them. NKD 44



christian paul Words by VANESSA SALLES Photos by CATHERINE POWELL


IF CHRISTIAN PAUL ISN’T already on your radar, it’s time to change that. The rising singer, whose sound is best described as pop-leaning R&B/Soul, has proven with each release that he’s a force to be reckoned with. “I’ve had a passion for music for as long as I can remember,” he says. “I grew up playing instruments and played my first show at City Hall in my hometown when I was 12-years-old. I remember seeing that the local paper had advertised the show and I remember being so anxious to see who would actually show up. I ended up having around 300 people come to watch the show and it was in that moment that I knew this could be something that I could pursue as a career.” Flash forward to today, the 19-year-old Florida native has secured quite the loyal fan base and rewards their support with constant new music. ‘Strong,’ which serves as an introductory track from his recent signing to 12 Tone Music Group, is as emotional as it is authentic. “The inspiration for the chorus came from a phone call that I had with my mom where she broke the news to me that my step-dad had been diagnosed with cancer,” he recalls. “Her voice was shaking and I could tell that she was trying to hold it together, emotionally. In that moment, I told her that she had

been strong for me my entire life and then it was now my turn to be strong for her. I wanted her to know that if there was anyone that she felt like she could break down in front of, it was me. In a broader sense, the song is about carrying another person’s burdens, out of love, regardless of how heavy or unfavorable their circumstances or past may be.” Having shared such a vulnerable experience, Christian’s been able to connect with his fans on a whole new level. “It’s been really amazing to see how fans of the music have been interpreting the song and relating it to their own lives,” he says. “It’s really encouraging for me. As a songwriter, my ultimate goal is to write songs about specific, personal life events in a way where it resonates with and relates to everyone.” With new music always in the works, the singer assures fans that a new single and music video can be expected on a monthly basis. In fact, his most recent single, ‘Rewind,’ is a repeat-worthy track that deserves a top spot on any playlist. “’Rewind’ is definitely a lighter track on the project,” he says. “This one wasn’t really inspired by anything specific. It actually came about in a writing/recording session while an engineer was comping vocals on another song. I ended up finishing

‘Rewind’ in roughly 30 minutes with Evan Rogers.” Recalling his time in the studio, Christian describes the recording of ‘Rewind’ as quite the memorable and special time. “The songwriting/recording process for me usually varies but it’s remarkable how quick and easily this one came together,” he says. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget it! I remember the guitar part that plays throughout the song being the very first thing I played when I picked up the guitar. In fact, I even remember the first verse coming right away, too. It’s pretty crazy to look back on but it was such a fun time for all of us.” A natural born musician, the singer/songwriter has always had a soulful sparkle inside of him. With that soul, raw and honest lyrics are bound to flow through every release. “I rarely ever have second thoughts about vulnerability in songwriting,” he explains. “As a creative who creates with purpose, I think it’s my duty to be vulnerable in my work; to tell stories and express feelings in a way that the masses can relate to. I would say that great art has the ability to unify, and it does; but I really think it’s the vulnerability in that art that’s responsible for bringing that unity. I’m happy that I get to do that with my music and I can’t wait to see what kind of future will come of it.” NKD NKDMAG.COM



Profile for NKD Mag

NKD Mag - Issue #97 (July 2019)  

Featuring: Nikki Reed, Megan & Liz, Carlie Hanson, Francesca Reale, Stephanie Styles, The Japanese House, Hailey Whitters, Rachel Wammack, S...

NKD Mag - Issue #97 (July 2019)  

Featuring: Nikki Reed, Megan & Liz, Carlie Hanson, Francesca Reale, Stephanie Styles, The Japanese House, Hailey Whitters, Rachel Wammack, S...

Profile for nakedmag