By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Southern California-based artist Nikki Chantal has perfected her storytelling craft since the release of her sophomore EP ‘Checkmate’ and the music video for its namesake single.
Always with a pen in hand in search of her next musical inspiration, Chantal has stayed consistent with a leg up on the industry, as she completed her first EP at age 14.
If anything, ‘Checkmate’ cements her status as someone to look out for, as she sets out to redefine just what can limi the chill-pop genre.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Chantal about ‘Checkmate’ and more.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Nikki Chantal – Since I can’t speak for all musicians, I would say for me personally, social media definitely has helped me a ton! I am constantly trying to find new ways to publicize myself and promote myself, whether that be on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.. I feel like sometimes, social media can be daunting and overwhelming in the sense of not knowing how to go about it, but I’ve found out that you just kind of have to “dive in” and over time, you’ll get the hang of it! I love posting updates on my own music, as well as covers of songs I’ve recorded or performed, just so I can keep creating and posting content.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Southern California to someone who has never been there before?
Nikki Chantal – Southern California is a sunny, vibrant place that is filled with beautiful beaches, amazing food and tons of artistic opportunities. I have been grateful to live in Southern California for my entire life and the weather, nature, environment, people and the vibes make it such an incredible place to be in.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Nikki Chantal – Honestly, this EP wasn’t hard to write in the sense of lyrics, but it was difficult to write because at the time, I was healing from a very tough breakup. I had so much creative inspiration from my past relationship and the rawness of it, which made it super easy to write. However, even though the lyrics came easily and were able to seamlessly flow out of me, the hurt that was inspiring my songs was extremely tough to go through.
Music Bugle – What else did you experience while putting together your ‘Checkmate’ EP?
Nikki Chantal – It was the most fulfilling and rewarding experience! During quarantine last year, I was going through a really bad breakup and music and writing lyrics was my main way of coping and healing from the pain. I had so much creative inspiration just flowing out of me, because everything was so raw during that time. It felt good to just release my emotions through lyrics and music because with each song, I started to find myself again. Also, in this process, I developed some life-long friendships through songwriting and having a team of amazing talented individuals who helped me not only create this EP, but helped me get through the heartbreak that I was feeling at the time. ‘Checkmate’ is an album about remembering who you are and not letting anyone walk all over you. I went through a really hard time involving an unhealthy relationship. However, I was able to turn something negative into something positive. ‘Checkmate’ is a constant reminder to myself and everyone else that you are worthy, powerful and a force to be reckoned with.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Nikki Chantal – I, along with everyone, have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way. I felt like for quite a while, my mental health was going downhill because of being in quarantine and going through a tough breakup, while at the same time, navigating how to heal from being in a toxic relationship. It was definitely hard to not be able to see friends and family, as well as move out of my apartment on campus and do all my college classes on Zoom. It felt very isolating and hard to comprehend, because the pandemic was something that was so new to all of us. There were a lot of days where I would just cry and be very emotional with everything going on in the world. However, despite all that, creating music and songwriting helped me get through it. The past year has really reminded me of all the things to be grateful for. I am so thankful for my parents and my close friends who supported and continue to support me in everything I do and are always there for me.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Nikki Chantal – Right now, I am really obsessed with Olivia Rodrigo, because I absolutely love her writing style, as well as her voice! I think she is incredibly talented and her music really resonates with me, because we are similar in that we both love to tell stories through our music.
Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?
Nikki Chantal – I love to either go to the park and just play some basketball and shoot some hoops, or I love to just sit on top of this hill near my house and write songs.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Nikki Chantal – “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” by Marc Anthony.
Music Bugle – Away from music, what’s something that people might be surprised to know about you?
Nikki Chantal – Well, something that people might be surprised to know about me is that I have been learning Mandarin Chinese ever since sixth grade. I absolutely fell in love with the characters and I realized a while back that Chinese would be a great language for networking and business. I am now officially a Chinese minor in university and hope to one day become fluent!
Music Bugle – What has been your biggest challenge lately?
Nikki Chantal – I would say my biggest challenge that I am currently facing would be promoting myself and my music. I am trying to get out there in any way and every way I can to give myself the most exposure! At the end of the day, if just one person connects or relates to my music and lyrics and they are able to be whisked away from whatever they are dealing with, then it is all worth it.