Nija Charles, Producer Turned Grammy Award-Winning Songwriter
By Sydney Vann
A producer turned songwriter. Even if you don't know her, you've definitely heard her lyrics. From Cardi B, to SZA, to Ty Dolla $ign, to Kehlani, Nija Charles has probably worked with several of your favorite artists, and she's not even 21 yet. SVGE teamed up with Sydney Vann of All Def Digital to talk to Nija about the development of her career as a songwriter.
When’d you decide that you wanted to make songwriting your career? And how’d you realize you had that special gift?
I decided that I wanted to make songwriting my career around August of 2016, when I was 18. I realized that this was my passion when a lot of producers who were already established started reaching out, asking if I can topline to their production & I didn’t see it as work—it was more of a hobby that eventually led to a career.
Being from North Jersey, how do you bring your culture into the studio and the work you create?
Being from North Jersey, we share some of the same culture as NYC because we’re so close. Growing up, I was exposed to a lot of different cultures, music, and also being more open-minded compared to different places in the States. So when I’m in the studio, there’s a lot of inspiration to draw from to develop new ideas.
Where do you find inspiration for songwriting?
I find my inspiration from every single song that I’ve listened to. You subconsciously pick up things from the music you like. I also get inspired by regular conversations I’ve had with people & just everyday life. Majority of the time, it’s also the feeling that the production gives me.
What’s the biggest obstacle you find in the writing process, and how do you overcome it?
I would say the biggest obstacle I find in the writing process is deciding how far do I want to cross boundaries. I love to say things that people think but probably wouldn’t say, but I also have to be mindful that artists aren’t always willing to take that risk, so I have to dial it back sometimes.
What’s your favorite song you’ve written, and why?
My favorite song written changes every couple of weeks because I get tired of listening to one thing so I always need something new to listen to. But, the songs that I can always go back to every once in a while & still love it haven’t been taken yet. The day that an artist puts one of those songs out is when I’ll be the happiest woman alive.
What advice would you give to writers who are just starting out?
My advice to writers just starting out is to know your worth, and always make songs that you’d personally listen to, and most importantly—be realistic.
How do you remain authentic to yourself and your writing, your art, in an industry that is so molded off popular trends and social media hype?
I think that has a lot to do with where I come from. People from the tri-state area can usually just see through the nonsense. There’s no real technique, I think it’s just built in me. Never listen to the hype.
How does it feel having 2 of your songs for Cardi B in the top 30 on Billboard before 21? Describe how that creative process felt when you were in the studio working on the records.
It feels great to have 2 songs in the top 30. To not even be 21 yet is just a plus. The creative process for both records were just organic and instant. Whatever came to my mind first when I got in the booth was what I said on the mic. Both songs developed pretty quickly, and most of the time those are the best songs of mine because I don’t think too hard about it. It’s just a feeling.
Describe your past year in one word.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see myself being a legend. I wanna be one of the greats—somewhere in the conversation when people mention The Dream, James Fauntleroy, Ester Dean, Babyface, and many more.