One of the year’s first perfect pop songs was No Hard Feelings, a breath of fresh post-breakup air & a moment of clarity from the NZ pop siren NAVVY.
Nine months later, she finds herself putting together The Final Pieces, a third EP in an uncertain trilogy of exploring her post-breakup brain and one that she initially thought would be a full circle dive into new love, but turned out to be something even bigger.
To unpack the year of creation & uncertainty that’s made NAVVY’s discography so wonderful, Nic Kelly is in bold, NAVVY is in not-bold, and the chat’s been edited and condensed for the purposes of making more sense.
How the hell are you?
I’m good. Actually, I’m just kind of getting used to this weird new life, always in and out of lockdown. I’m just following instructions. I’m quite good at following instructions, actually. So I think I’m getting quite good at this.
You’re good at following instructions from Auntie Cindy.
We love her. It’s easy to follow instructions from someone that you love.
What a dream world, where you actually like the leader of your country! Tell me how it feels in your brain to be at this point, with the conclusion of a linked trilogy of EPs.
I think to start with, I just wasn’t ready for an album. But I had so much to say about this one topic that from the outset, it was pretty clear that it was going to be more than just one EP. I wanted to be able to cut it into little chunks that I could chew without having too much of a mouthful. So we started with The Breakup and then I thought it was going to be lots of The Breakup. Like, I thought it was going to be The Breakup three times. I thought I was never going to feel okay again. But when it came time to write EP two, I was like, “whoa, I kind of feel alright!” I didn’t feel great, but I realised I wasn’t actually angry anymore. And then this EP has been like, a whole other experience. Then, I kind of thought EP three would be about me falling in love. But alas, I have not. So it’s been about exploring other topics, which has actually also kind of been the dream! I think everything has been happening for a reason, in terms of that space of writing music for me, because I never just wanted to write about “a boy broke my heart and I’m so sad.” But at the time, that’s all I was feeling! So it was like, the only thing that I could write about. But I think EP three gave me space to write about grief and like, friendship love, that’s become something special for me to write about.
You do an incredible job talking about grief at the start of the EP on I Learnt To Lose A Friend So Young. I didn’t expect to hear you write about this subject. Is this new territory for you writing like this, or have you always kind of written like this and kept it to yourself at the time?
My writing’s always been really personal. But I think grief is just, a whole other thing. Writing personally about a loss of love kind of seems easier because I can still reach out to that person and they’re still there, they’re just not really like my person anymore. But losing someone in a very final way has been something I didn’t anticipate going through and definitely when it happened, I wrote about it a lot, but I was like, “no one’s gonna hear this,” like it was so deeply personal. It kind of almost felt disrespectful in a way. But I’m really proud of the way that we were able to write that song in a way that addresses that, but it’s not going into detail about what happened or how it happened. I don’t think it needs to and I don’t think anyone needs to know. I’m just really proud of the way that we went really deep, without like, exposing everyone in my life. I don’t think that that’s necessary. I love that song, but I don’t know if people are ready for it, because I don’t think it’s what they’ll expect from me, but I’m glad the title kind of tells you what it is. So if you’re not in the space to be able to hear something like that, I think you know straight away that you probably should skip it!
I like the you’re open to the idea of people doing it in their own time.
I think they’ll get there eventually but I can totally see how some people are like, “today’s not the day for that one”. It’s like Soon You’ll Get Better by Taylor Swift. Some days I’m like, I’m ready. And some days I’m like, just listening to it hurts too much.
Was it a conscious decision to write this deeply personal stuff about different subjects for this record?
It was so natural. Usually when I go into a room, I will have at least a concept and maybe a title or something, that I want to write about. This one, we were really just hanging out. I wrote it with two of my best friends. And we’d all kind of been through the same thing in different ways. We just started playing around on the piano and I was like, “I wrote these things down on my Notes app.” It was the opening lyric. “I learned to swim when I was two, but I’m drowning in the wake of you.” I’d kind of written a couple of those couplets. And they were like, “that’s cool, let’s kind of try and write about it.” We had no pressure. We thought “if we try and it’s horrible, then let’s just stop, we’re not going to push this one.” Sometimes I’m like, “let’s push it, because I think the idea is cool,” but with this one I was like not today, this one needs to just happen. I thought that everyone would be like, “you can’t release that, that’s outrageous to sing about that.” But everyone said it was delicately written enough… I don’t know. I think it’s nice there’s space for songs like that. And I think people need songs like that, as well as songs that are about heartbreak and love and loss.
She’s got range. What do you reckon this new subject matter opens up for you now?
it really excites me to write about other stuff, especially friendship. I think friendships are so complex, and they’re the best thing in the world but they can be really difficult. And I think people kind of try to make it seem like them and their friends always have the best time and everything’s always perfect. And like, the person that I wrote Somebody Else, which is the new single, about, we’re best friends now. But at the time, I was just like, “you’re annoying me, go and find help somewhere else, because I can’t be there for you right now.” I think there’s so many facets of friendship that are really interesting. And I hope to write more about that. And even like I wrote a song recently about familial love and family and what that means because that’s also something that is really deep, but for some reason, we all just write about boys and girls. That’s cool too and I also have more of that in me but I’m hoping to spread it out a little bit over different topics. Hopefully. We’ll see.
So wonderful. I know Pieces is about being okay with being okay again. As you can tell, I’m reading this directly from the press release, which says it’s about being okay to be okay again after being broken from a relationship. I like that it’s last on the record, because that really kind of ties together that feeling of finality after a relationship, that allows you to open up those other things. Is that kind of why it’s at the end of the EP?
Yeah, I think about stuff like that more than I should. Even like, I wanted people to be able to listen to track one of The Breakup, all the way through to track fourteen of The Final Pieces and it just tells a story from beginning to end. And I really love that. Even to the point where the last lyric of the breakout EP ties into the first lyric of the No Hard Feelings EP, stuff like that. I mean, I’m like a Taylor Swift stan, so it would be rude not to really. I’ve learned a lot from her in terms of what I like as a fan. So I try and give that as much as I can. Pieces had to be last. I mean, I Learnt To Lose A Friend… could not be last, so that had to go first!
No pressure, because you have been delivering a lot of music this year. But what comes next now that you’ve opened this wider world up?
I’m also really excited to find out! I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I’m not ready for an album. I can’t just throw eleven songs together and be like, “here’s an album…” Like, I love albums like that, but my favourite albums in the world are conceptual and there is a reason why all those songs are together. I’m still trying to figure out what that is. I’m guessing that I’ve got some more EPs in me. And, you know, people are really split on that. Some people say do EP’s forever because it’s less of a commitment from the listener, because it’s only four songs rather than fourteen. But also people are like, “when’s the album?” And I don’t know. And I would love to tell you and I will let you know as soon as I know. But for now, I really love EPs, I love what they can do and be like snippets of time rather than a long amount of time. It just feels like a huge commitment. So we’ll see!