’It’s Time To Get Chatty’
One look at Nikki Cleary reveals a normal teenage girl with a bright smile who loves to chat about boys, clothes, cool hairstyles and her favorite movie stars. But what’s not typical about this just-turned fifteen year-old is the powerful sound of her anything-but-childlike voice and the lightning speed at which her career has accelerated over the past year.
Nikki's international success came following the release of her techno chatty tune ’I.M. Me’, the world's first song about instant messaging. Disappointed with song selections in Nashville, Nikki decided to sing songs more tailored to her interests: What was her main interest? Chatting with her friends online!
When ’I.M. Me’ was posted on her website, www.nikkicleary.com
, the online community was quick to latch on to the song's catchy chorus. Kids began e-mailing MP3s of the tune back and forth to each other. Websites around the world began posting stories on the song and provided personal interviews with Nikki so their readers could learn more about her.
Speaking with Nikki myself on a bright, sunny Albany, New York morning, I first paid mention to the fact that she had been quoted as a ’normal teenager,’ and yet has just released her debut album! So, just how ‘normal’ is she? ”I’m pretty normal,” she laughs. ”I just get done with what I need to do for music and then I come home and I hang out with my friends, you know what I mean. I make my business my business, and my friends my friends,” she says very matter-of-factly.
Have you always been this clear of mind? ”Yeah, I’ve always been clear that I wanted to be in front of people whether it was doing acting or doing singing or doing whatever.”
And it all started for you at the local karaoke bar? ”Yeah, it did,” she laughs. ”It was at my Nanny’s cousin’s Italian restaurant and we used to sing karaoke and that’s where everything really got started.”
Do you remember what you used to sing back then? ”Actually, it was always ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ from ‘Grease,’” she giggles once again.
So, how did this AOL IM hook-up all come about? ”Well, they kinda just picked up on it by accident. When that song really got started I was 11 or 12 and everyone was saying, ‘You can’t sing about love’! So, my Dad was like, ‘OK, then she’ll sing about something that she knows and loves’ and IM at that time was everything that my life was full of!”
So, do you have an IM name that you use these days? ”Yeah,” she admits sheepishly. ”But, I’ve had two or three of them.”
Can your fans hunt you down on IM these days because of one of those names?! ”Yeah, the people that can find me!” she laughs.
So, with 26 million IM users suddenly finding out who you are, do you feel you have seen an overnight change of exposure or is it still gradual to you? ”For me, it would probably be gradual because it’s happened over the last three years, but for somebody that’s been working on it for the past ten years of their life and trying to get a record deal and to do all this, it’s probably more like an overnight thing!”
What’s the biggest change in your life these days due to your career taking off? ”Probably not going to school,” she laughs. ”Not going to school and not seeing my friends every day, you know what I’m saying.”
Are you home-schooled? ”Yes, I am. I’m going into tenth grade and it started two or three months after eighth grade.”
With you debut CD out in the stores now, I’m wondering how much control you have over the aspects that go together to create a first-time disc in the music industry today? ”A good amount, I guess you’d say for this being my first album. They ask me if I like the songs and wouldn’t let me sing anything that I really, really hated. They would only make me sing a song that they believed in enough themselves.”
Did you write any of the songs on this CD? ”I actually wrote one song on the album and it’s called ‘Summertime Guys’ which actually made the soundtrack to Kim Possible. So that’s really exciting.”
So, five years from now, when you’re a huge pop star, do you think you’ll do the Britney Spears kinda thing where you’ll look back at your debut CD sleeve photos and cringe!?! ”Oh sure. I’ll look back a month from now and probably say that I hate that!”, she laughs again.
Is there any stability in your life these days? ”Probably not, no. I’m just like I gotta get up and move kinda person. I gotta get things done, kinda person, ‘cause I’m not gonna sit back and let it all happen in front of me, you know what I mean.”
What do you think you miss most about not being that aforementioned ‘normal’ teenager? ”Probably going to school, but on the other hand if I were going to school I’d probably get sick of it after like three days and want to be home-schooled!”, she laughs.
What do you think separates you from the huge pool of pop-star wannabes that continually flood the music scene these days? ”Well, my voice is very pop, but it’s also very country so I think that’s what makes it interestingly different.”
And that was obviously created when you spent some time back there in Nashville, TN ”Oh yeah, definitely. I started out in country and it kinda evolved into pop and everybody just liked the mix of everything so I kept it,” she again laughs.
What’s the most interesting thing to know about you? ”I love doing hair! So, if I wasn’t a singer or a performer or anything like this I’d probably go to hair school. Or, be a Lawyer as I like law,” she giggles. ”Well, my mom’s parents are hairdressers and my dad tells me everyday that I should become a Lawyer.”
Do you have a boyfriend right now? ”Yes, I do. I’ve been with him eleven months. His name is Bernie.”
Man, that sounds like a dog’s name! [Laughing, she turns her head around to reiterate my statement to her mother – faking my British accent at the same time.] ”That sounds like a dog’s name!” And, as usual, she follows it with a huge giggle. ”Actually,” she then admits, ”the person that lives behind us their dog’s name is Bernie!”
Have you ever sung into your hairbrush into the mirror?! ”Oh yeah, definitely, but I never gave myself any rock star stage name,” she laughs.
So, is Nikki Cleary your real name then?! ”No, Brittney,” she laughs again. ”I swear to God. Well, since I’m on the same label as Britney and I have the same management, they thought that it would be better business-wise to change my name so that I wasn’t put so much in her category. So, they pitched me the name Nikki and I liked it so I went for that.”
Wow, ‘cause most people go for their middle name first! ”Yeah, well, my middle name is Rose and I think it sounds very old-fashioned! I gave them a bunch of names, like I liked the names Madison and Cleo and stuff like that, but they said they wanted me to appeal to people in Ohio and places like that! So, Nikki stuck!”
Is there a day in your life right now where it’s not go-go-go everyday?! ”Well, whenever I have a day off I usually sleep in until two, but even when I have my days off I’m usually at the gym at five in the morning!”, she says so matter-of-factly!
The gym at five in the morning?! Why? ”Well, yeah, it’s pretty bad, but I have to though because my trainer has other things she has to do. So it’s either six in the morning till seven or four o’clock in the afternoon. And I’d rather have my afternoon’s when I’m off.”
Why the gym in the first place at 15 years-old?! ”To get in shape for my concerts and stuff, not so much to lose weight and anything like that. But, when you’re on stage you have to have the endurance and all that kind of stuff. So, we just do some running, or we lift weights and sometimes we swim.”
What would you like your fans to know about you? ”That I’m just the girl next door and that I’m just a normal kid. I don’t have any goals to get somewhere in life, but I have a goal to be successful and do what I’m doing right now.”
Describe yourself in three words ”Happy, erm …”. [Right about now, she pulls the phone away from her ear and asks her mother to aid her in the last two words.] ”Bubbly and sweet,” she gently ends and laughs for the very final time.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
To win a Brand New copy of Nikki's new CD, Nikki Cleary just tell me which 1978 movie her cover of 'You're The One That I Want' comes from? Then, just send an e:mail to me with the subject title 'NIKKI' and the answer in the text to:
FYI - Two lucky winners will ALSO receive either a signed Nikki Cleary CD OR a signed 8X10 photo by Nikki herself!
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