Ten years after ‘The Voice’, singer Nakia talks activism and upcoming projects

This month, it has been ten years since beary talented singer, actor, music composer and activist Nakia made his first appearance on The Voice. But long before Nakia was a semifinalist on CeeLo Green’s team, he was a beloved member of the Austin music community, fronting bands, performing solo, and working with some music’s biggest names.  

As the whirlwind of reality television started to wind down, Nakia placed his focus on writing songs for his 6 song EP, “Drown In The Crimson Tide” and the tour that followed. Four years later he recorded and released his acclaimed album, “Blues Grifter”. 

As an artist, Nakia is always working to bring his audience something new. He is still an active member of the Austin music community, and is an outspoken advocate for numerous organizations there. I recently had a chat with Nakia to talk about his recent activism, his new single, his dive into acting, and what you can expect from the multi-talented bear this year. 

Kyle Jackson: Hi Nakia! Can you speak a little bit about the Austin Texas Musicians organization that you are a part of? What is your role, and what do you do?

Nakia: Hey Kyle! Well, I am actually co-founder and President of Austin Texas Musicians. We seek to empower musicians to show up and speak up for themselves because musicians are Austin’s greatest natural resource. We work with community and city leaders to ensure musicians have a seat at any table where live and commercial music is being discussed. Musicians help bring in billions of dollars to Austin, and the soundtrack we provide has been creating the magical signal that attracts so many folks here. 

My role has mostly been bringing folks together, working with our Executive Director to guide our programs and partnerships, and interfacing with other advocacy organizations around the country. So, some days that means I’m in meetings with music venue owners and musicians, speaking at City Council meetings and working with our Musicians Advisory Panel (MAP) to to identify issues and work on solutions. As ATXM continues to grow my current plan is to identify and cultivate new leaders in our community as I shift my focus to fundraising and bigger picture/long-term plans for our organization. 

During the pandemic we helped advocate for and champion several efforts to help our Austin music community, including over $1.5m in relief funds for musicians and $10m in historic music venue preservation funding for shuttered music venues. In October, Matthew McConaughey surprised me with a Zoom call where he and Wild Turkey recognized my work with a free trip and named me one of 4 “local legends” in the US. 

KJ: Can you discuss how your most recent single “It’s Never Too Late” came to be? What was the inspiration behind it and what made you passionate about choosing the SIMS foundation to donate to? 

N: I started writing this song after seeing a Facebook post from my friend Savannah Welch about her son Charlie telling her ‘it’s never too late for things to get better for anyone. I was immediately inspired by the simplicity of it, the melody came quick and the lyrics flowed. Once I was about halfway done with the song I sent it to Savannah and asked Charlie to help me finish the bridge. It was totally a magical experience and I am so honored to have shared it with Charlie.

Charlie and I chose The SIMS Foundation, which has been providing access to mental health and addiction recovery services to Austin musicians and their families for over 20 years. 

The main thing I want to reiterate is the importance of empathy: It’s so important that folks move forward in the world with empathy first. We must embrace love, kindness, and community and reject hate, cynicism, and selfishness. 

KJ: Artists and musicians had a rough time in 2020. How did you keep things together during lockdown, and what is your hope for 2021?

N: During the lockdown I have kept busy by writing and recording new music, finding new ways to connect with my fans, and spending lots of time with my Robert, my husband of 19 years, and our Bouvier des Flandres puppy, Baker. I also leaned into self care like meditation and therapy.

This time last year I was in NYC taking an acting class from Betty Buckley where I learned so much about myself and the craft of acting and performing, but also a lot About meditation. Betty has been teaching for many years and has so much to offer. She’s been a true gift in my life. Her performance at the Carlyle Hotel in March 2020 was the last live concert I attended before the lockdown and she was so inspiring. 

Nakia taking acting classes in NYC with Betty Buckley. Photo courtesy of Nakia.
KJ: I also read that this month is the tenth anniversary of your appearance on The Voice. Can you talk a little about that? 

N: Yes, this is the 10 year anniversary of the first season The Voice, and season 20 just started airing. The Voice made a huge impact in my life and I love our fandom so much. I’ve been having a blast watching the new singers join The Voice family, chatting with fans online ,and reconnecting with some of the singers and crew from my season. 

In France they are celebrating their 10 year anniversary with a new All-Stars season where there will be 5 coaches for 5 individual seats on the team. It’d be rad to go back and compete in that setting for a chance to win it this time.

KJ: You also spoke about some new projects coming up in 2021. Can you tell us what we have to look forward to this year? 

For the last few years I’ve become involved with Joshua R. Pangborn’s, SideKick Productions. I create and/or supervise almost all things audio for shows like Skeleton Crew and Demon Doctor, which I also act in, and Ashley Monique Menard’s new The Art Of Blowing It

In October, I composed the music and did sound design for Joshua’s first short horror film, Wasted On The Young, and he and I have co-written a musical episode of Skeleton Crew that will premier during season 5 later this year. I love working with my SideKick family so much. Everything we put out is always body positive and lgbtq+ friendly, and Joshua has created an entire universe where these shows can intersect, with deep storylines, characters relatable and the actors and crew put so much heart and sweat into it all. 

Together he and I co-host the SideKick PowerHour every Monday at 8pm ET where we watch the shows with fans, talk about what went into making them, and laugh at ourselves with the special guest we bring on. Aside from the cast recording of the musical, I’ll be announcing some other SideKick related music, and probably a few more singles along the way too. 

I’ve also recently gotten really into hosting conversations on the new Spaces audio feature on Twitter. It’s in public beta now and I’m talking with folks in what I’m calling #SnugSpaces – where we keep the stage cozy and welcoming to everyone and get just a bit more intimate. Sometimes we do mental health check-ins, other times I might sing a song on the piano, or just see where the conversation flows. 

Definitely follow @Nakia on Twitter if you’re looking to speak with me!

Kyle Jackson

Kyle Jackson (He/Him) is Senior Staff Writer at Gray Jones Media, and additionally works as a writer, editor and theatre artist/actor. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, he studied at Dillard University, received a BA in Theatre from Morgan State University, an MS in Arts Administration from Drexel University, and completed the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford Programme in 2017. Having lived in Baltimore, the Washington, DC area, Philadelphia and New York City, he now resides and works in London, United Kingdom.