Opening Hearts and Raising Fists With NIDALA

Nidala Barker (aka NIDALA) is an Indigenous singer-songwriter of mixed heritage (born to an Aboriginal father and Polish/French mother) who has traversed a diverse and inspiring life journey across her tender 26 years. Having travelled extensively in her formative years she undertook many varied forms of expression, from social justice law to organic farming.

Relocating to the Byron Bay area (Bundjalong country), ultimately she settled upon music as a means to fulfil and inspire, releasing her self made debut single, ‘Howl At The Moon’, in 2019. Described as making music “for open hearts and raised fists” she recently hooked up with a three piece band (Matthew Collins on lead guitar, Charity Turner on drums and bassist, Scott Finch), to record her moving new single ‘One Of Those Days’, an ode to giving yourself permission to slow down and rest. The track is the first taste of her upcoming debut EP, a carbon neutral project with an underlying message of reconciliation.

We recently chatted with NIDALA to learn more about her music and journey.

Congratulations on your soulful and moving new single, ‘One Of Those Days’. Did the song come to you easily or did it undergo more of an extended evolution? And was it a cathartic experience for you to come up with it based on its subject matter?

Thank you! The song in its basic ‘girl and guitar state’ came to me in less than an afternoon – I think I was in such need of hearing what the song had to say that the lyrics were in a way already written, and the tune just came to support that message. As for the catharsis side, I’d say it was more self-soothing, because at that time everything in the world was so intense, I just longed for gentle simplicity and permission to rest. And once that need was fulfilled, I opened the instrumentation up to collaboration with my amazing band, and it evolved into the track it is now.

The song is the first taste of your upcoming debut EP ‘Colours Of My People’. How is the EP coming along, and how do the other tracks on the EP compare stylistically and thematically to One Of Those Days?

All the tracks are recorded and finalised, and that feels pretty major to me! Stylistically there is a fair bit of variation throughout the EP. Being my debut EP, I wanted to play with different styles because I figured that offering variety in the songs would allow a variety of people to engage themselves in my music. Which leads us into the theme, that is reconciliation and connection! The first three songs on the EP are about deserving rest, and struggling in the dating world, and the frustration at your body not performing how you want it to – essentially they’re about the human experience, and my reminder that we have so much more in common than what we are being told. The last one is my love letter to Indigenous knowledge and an encouragement for all of us to heal the trauma in our history so that we can thrive in our communities, in our mental health and with our planet.

Has music always played an influential part in your life, and who are a few of your formative musical influences who have shaped your journey?

Music feels like an essential part of my life – and it’s always been that way. My father is a musician and much of our childhood was spent touring with him. When we went to places where we didn’t speak the language, music was our tool for connection and our way to understand the place and its people. As I grew up, music became a tool for me to understand my own feelings and sing them to others when I couldn’t quite speak them. Today music is my tool to change the world! And in terms of influences, it’s musicians who used their music in the same way – ranging from Billie Holiday to Thelma Plum, Lauryn Hill to Midnight oil, or even Bob Marley! What inspires me is seeing how regardless of genre or point in history, we are able to create a sense of unity and meaning by creating a shared experience through music.

You’ve led an adventurous and well-travelled life! What was it like moving around a lot and seeing so much of the world from a young age? And how has your mixed heritage upbringing and your various worldly adventures helped shape your outlook and creativity?

I think my childhood allowed me to understand early on how many different ways there are to be a person. This was simultaneously amazing and a little bit confusing because what was right in one place could be wrong in another. Meaning I had to actively decide who I wanted to be and create a sense of self within a world that was constantly changing, and sometimes that would feel scary. But I am so grateful for it, because in today’s world the same is being asked of all of us, and there is no better preparation than what my parents gave me. And this is precisely what I speak to through my music. Being a person can take many forms, and we are not the same as our neighbours or even as we were yesterday, and that’s the point! We do not need to be the same to have lived through similar experiences and felt similar things. In fact, the only reason we can thrive together is because we are different and we can create such wonderful things together!

How did it come to be that you’ve ended up settling in the Byron Bay region?

I’m not too sure, I came to work in some gardens and I suppose as I sowed seeds I also grew some roots, and now I can’t see myself anywhere else in the world.

Out of everything you’ve experienced and done (from social justice law to organic farming and more) why did you choose music as your way of expressing yourself and making a difference?

Because when I play music, I can create a moment where people come together, and in that space the rest of the world is irrelevant and we just get to practice what it feels like being a human next to another human in full shared simplicity – and that’s the best feeling in the world!

Where would you like to take things over the next 5 years, both musically and from the point of view of making a difference to your people and community?

The way I’ve set up my music means that as it grows so do the benefits to my community. In terms of this EP, 20% of royalties go towards planting trees and a further 20% goes towards funding Indigenous run initiatives focusing on mental health and community building. So my hope is that my music will have grown enough to create some really tangible changes both within the landscape and in the projects we’ll have helped fund.

I hope that in 5 years I will have reached people all over the country and overseas, been invited to play in people’s backyards and schools and community halls, and I hope to have released a bunch more music. I hope that my understanding of who ‘my community’ is will have grown to a scale I can’t yet see because my songs will have found their way to people I don’t yet know. I hope I become a better musician and that I can keep doing what I love, to help create the type of world I know we can have. And I hope it comes true because that’s what I‘m working like hell towards!

NIDALA’s moving and soulful new single, ‘One Of Those Days’ is out now via Bandcamp and Spotify.

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