We’re speaking in a Stoke Newington cafe, perched right next door to a studio space she’s made home ever since the industry took notice. The studio’s other inhabitants include alt-pop pioneer Gwilym Gold, and it’s decorated with framed Michael Jackson LPs. There’s also an arcade machine commissioned by The Beatles for “Yellow Submarine.” Being surrounded by this much musical history is enough to keep Nao grounded, and there are enough pillows to mimic the comfort of home.
In June, just a couple of weeks before her album completion deadline, Nao tweeted, “I think being an artist in any form can often bring you to the brink of insanity just gotta learn how to bring yourself back…” It was a rare moment of self-confession amongst ticket plugs and excitement about playing on Later… with Jools Holland. She remembers exactly where she was when she wrote those words.
“Maybe it was an amalgamation of a few things,” she says, admitting that it’s easy for pressure to build. “I had to make a lot of decisions. It was stressful. And every decision was about what other people would think. ‘What if I put this song on the album?’ ‘What are people going to think about me?’ Those sort of thoughts can make you stressed. It can make you lose your mind. If you worry about what other people think, you basically won’t do anything.”