She might have grown up several hundred miles away from Music City, but Garden State native Nikki Briar‘s heart and soul found their home country music. Now with the Grand Ole Opry planting its feet right in the heart of the Big Apple, Briar has come full circle as she was recently announced as a featured performer at the newly opened Opry City Stage.
We caught up with the singer/songwriter leading into her first public show at Opry City Stage to talk about her journey, new music and motherhood. Check out our Q&A below:
CN: Firstly, we would like to take a moment to thank your husband for his service in the U.S. Army, and for your service as a military wife. For our readers who may not be familiar with you, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
NB: Thank you so much! I am a touring CMA country recording artist from NJ. I play 3 instruments, have 4 radio singles currently out and have my 5thEP releasing next month. I enjoy touring nationally with my amazing band, the SweetBriar Band, we have been together for 7 years and have lots of fun memories and stories from touring and being on the road. I am a new mother to a 9month old amazing baby boy Angelo Joseph Jr. and am an army wife as you mentioned before. I am proud to be part of the military community that dedicates their lives to our beautiful country.
CN: Born and raised in New Jersey, how did you become a fan of country music? When did you realize you wanted to be involved in music?
NB: Music was just always music to me growing up, genres and labels were never a thing. My father was a touring jazz/Motown drummer, my uncle a jazz guitarist and my mom a classical piano player, so I grew up on everything! I found country music on my own when Shania Twain and LeAnn Rimes first hit the scene and just loved their songs and style. I began playing guitar in middle school along with drums and piano and I had my uncle teach me Garth Brooks songs. I never labeled it as country music just as really amazing music with powerful lyrics. Once meeting my husband and getting involved with the military, I was singing the national anthem professionally and touring all over the tri-state area doing various events and everyone kept saying I had a country sound and style, that just was my thing that developed. I got an offer to meet up with songwriters in Nashville and so during my husband’s deployment to Iraq, I kept myself busy songwriting and preparing for my first EP entitled A SOLDIER’S PRINCESS. Once that song debuted on country radio in Tennessee and being back home in New Jersey, I knew this was my calling.
CN: Which artists – country or not – have you looked up to? Are there any current country artists that you are inspired by?
NB: Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, I admire Kenny Chesney and how hard working he is. I grew up on Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey as well, that’s where my pop influences come from.
CN: Songwriters tend to choose either the guitar or piano as their instrument of choice when writing. Since you play both, do you have a preference?
NB: Guitar I use more often although I can play piano and even taught piano to children during college and after school hours when I was a school teacher. I just always loved the guitar and find it easier, musical theory was always tough for me when it came to piano so guitar and drum music was more natural.
CN: You’re about to release your 5th EP. Can you tell us a little bit about it? How does it differ from your previous releases?
NB: Yes! I am very excited about I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING NOW. It is different than the other 4 which were modern country pop/rock songs, this one has more of a traditional/modern twist on country music and is very folky, a lot of banjo, mandolin and fiddle! We are now performing the first single live at our concerts and shows and will have a few teasers and sound bits releasing in the next few weeks as well to prepare for the release.
CN: One of your dreams is to someday perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage, so how does it feel to be selected as a featured performer for the new Opry City Stage in Times Square?
NB: Incredible! I feel a little bit closer to my dream coming true! It’s funny, we were in Nashville 2 months ago recording and performing and of course had to see a show at the Opry. We got to see Rascal Flatts, Marshall Tucker and Lorrie Morgan, amazing show as always. I loved hearing Lorrie Morgan, her new songs and telling her amazing stories from over the years of being a huge contributor to the history of country music. Upon returning home to NJ I got a call that Lorrie would be in NJ and if I would open for her and I was just floored! I have had the honor of opening for so many amazing artists, from Tim McGraw to Chris Janson, but after seeing her just weeks after the Opry in Nashville and being asked to open for her was a feeling of fate, just another boost of certainty that this is what I was meant to do. She was amazing and we spoke about her life experiences at the Opry and it was awesome to sit with her while she told me stories, I could just picture everything perfectly in her illustrations. I just imagined myself there and shortly after we got the call for Times Square Opry City Stage. It is an amazing honor that I am taking every second in and feel so blessed to have the love and support of friends, family and fans.
CN: First show is on Wednesday, December 6th. How are you feeling about it? Is there any added pressure not only because it is an Opry property, but you will be in front of a fairly local crowd? Or does that take off some of the edge?
NB: Being on stage is as natural to me as breathing! I never get nervous, just excited and energized by the crowd and my bandmates. We did the Opry City industry night opening last week and it was amazing so it definitely helped take some edge off. The crew and staff are incredibly amazing, professional and the food is OMG great! We have gotten such a huge response to our Wednesday night show that we are doing Saturday night as well!
CN: Congratulations on being a new mom! Has your pursuit of your career changed at all with motherhood? How do you balance both?
NB: Thank you so much! He is an absolute blessing! I sing differently since becoming a mom, more passion than ever in all I do, it definitely changes you in the most indescribable, incredible way. My son loves music as I performed up to my 8th month of pregnancy with him so he was ALWAYS around music lol. He loves when I sing to him and play guitar and he now claps his hands when he comes to shows. I am only able to balance both thanks to my amazing parents and in laws and my loving husband who has supported me on this musical journey since day one.
CN: Has motherhood provided inspiration for new songs?
NB: Absolutely! I have a few songs in the works dedicated to my son and I constantly change the words to nursery rhymes and add my own lyrics and his name, he laughs and loves it. I was 5 months pregnant in my last music video so it will be really cool to show him when he gets older how he literally was part of every musical process.
CN: Do you have a dream collaboration in mind?
NB: YES! Kenny Chesney and Michael Bublé! Both are so different and unique and just brilliant!
CN: If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be and why?
NB: Passionate…… I love to love and feel! I hug, laugh and talk A LOT and just love people and animals, I just love life and thank God for letting me have another day to enjoy it to the fullest.
CN: Ok, so since you’re a fellow Jersey girl, I have to ask: Taylor Ham or Pork Roll?
NB: Lol neither! I am a vegetarian! So for me, pizza!!!!
CN: You’re ending 2017 on quite a busy note. What’s on the horizon for you in 2018?
NB: We are pretty booked solid and still working on tour dates and concerts with national acts, radio shows and more recordings, it becomes a cycle but a fun and exciting one. I am thrilled to have done this for so long and just love gaining more fans. I am working on performing overseas for deployed troops and I have a benefit concert in January raising money and awareness for animals abandoned during hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. My mind never stops, I am always looking for something more to do and I look forward to influencing my son to be all he can as well.
Be sure to catch Nikki Briar Wednesday, December 6th at 8:00pm at Opry City Stage in NYC.
For more information on Nikki, visit her official website: www.nikkibriar.com