A real voice and a real story never go out of style. At just 17-years-old, New York singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Nina Lee possesses both. With a jaw-dropping voice, enchanting tone, powerhouse delivery, and the ability to tell an enthralling tale, she immediately captivates. Be sure to check out her “Snapshots” EP, embedded below, that was just released November 10th.
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SunCity Paradise: Kicking it off with New York City, what really stands out and makes it special to you? Where would you send a first-time visitor to get a real sense of the surrounding area?
Nina Lee: New York has many great things to see and do. It’s my home and the place I have always felt comfortable. I’m very lucky to have grown up with such a diverse culture around me, because New York really has so many different types of people and places. When someone from out of town comes, they usually will hit many tourist attractions which is good, but for me whenever I go somewhere I’ve never been before I prefer to go to more unknown places. I like to fit in with the locals instead of just being like every other tourist.
My recommendation for first-time New Yorkers is to find a place with quality food. My favorite restaurant in the city is Rao’s in East Harlem. Coming from Italian roots (on my dad’s side), my family always appreciates quality Italian cuisine. For me, Rao’s is like a sliver of Italy but not so far away. A first-time visitor wouldn’t be able to just walk in and get a table, but you could stop by for a drink, take a picture and get a sense of the nostalgia. Little Italy also has several great restaurants that visitors could get into, which also offer and authentic, old-school experience. There all kind of underground places people can go for unique New York experiences! I also would go to find some music, because the amount of talented people in the city is unlimited. I’m so lucky to grow up in a place where every opportunity is presented to me, and I feel like being in New York gives me more opportunities to further myself.
© Anthony Quintano
SCP: What was your first real exposure to music? How did you get inspired to create your own and eventually pursue it as a career? Did your family play a role?
NL: My dad has always been very musical and I was exposed to music my whole life. From day one, my dad would play the guitar next to my crib as I feel asleep. Before I could talk and walk, I would hum and make up little tunes. My parents have always continuously supported me and encouraged me to pursue what I love: music. I was never forced to do anything with music, it was something I really wanted. I had never felt anything so strong in my life that I had no second thoughts about. Music has always been my calling and I am so lucky to have such an incredibly strong family to support me. I would not be the person that I am today if I didn’t have the unconditional love from them.
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SCP: To create music, and traveling to promote it, must be such a feeling. What’s the most impactful and meaningful part you cherish about it? Does the travel help inspirationally?
NL: Wherever I am able to travel and sing gives me new insight and inspiration into my craft. Different settings definitely helps me to find new inspiration and explore different levels of creativity. Being able to perform has always been my passion so whether I am able to do that makes me happy. I love to learn about new cultures and experience other places, so to incorporate that into music is an incredible thing. In the future, I look forward to continuously spreading my music to all people of all different backgrounds.
SCP: You just released your EP “Snapshots” November 10th. Describe how family helped factored into your motivation for this release? How has it been received by your fans since it dropped?
NL: I view “Snapshots” as a work of art and I am incredibly proud of it. I could not have done it without the constant support and love of my family. And, the songs themselves take inspiration from different family members, going back generations. “Airborne” was inspired by my paternal great-grandparents – he was a paratrooper and war hero in the 101st Airborne, “Screaming Eagles,” division in World War II, and she was just as much of a hero at home, inspiring him to survive and make it home, and then supporting him once he did that. It’s a story that I’m sure many veterans and military families can relate to.
“Golden Years” is another story from the next generation – the story of my grandparents on my mom’s side and how they met and made it to their “golden” 50th anniversary. It’s a love story that I hope many people can identify with, either out of hopes to make it that far or as a way of remembering the legacy of their own grandparents or other loved ones. Taking so much time to create something and then finally revealing it to the world is such a gratifying feeling. I have received great feedback from some many people who have listened to it, which makes me so thankful. It’s like putting all your vulnerability into a bowl and then showing that vulnerability to everybody. I’m so lucky to have such an amazing support system and so much love and encouragement. Without all this support and love from my family, I would not be releasing something that meant so much to me like “Snapshots”.
SCP: What’s one stark difference between traveling as a band versus personal traveling?
NL: Putting on a show with a band is more involved. When it’s just me performing, all I do is get up and sing. I’ve never really traveled without one part of the band which is my dad, Andy, who plays the guitar. Whenever we go on any vacations my family usually comes with me, so we are always together. That really gives me such an advantage, because I’m able to throw so many ideas at him during the trips and come up with really great music.
© Ivan Serra
SCP: When searching for a personal getaway, are you looking for a serene beach or after a more active, adventurous getaway? Why?
NL: I love the ocean. It’s always been one of the places that I am most at peace. I have always from a young age loved the beach, but I don’t go into the sun a lot because instead of tanning my skin just burns. I’m one of those people who comes out fully covered in sunblock with a hat and sunglasses, and a swim shirt. Unless I’m in the water I usually stay under the umbrella. I do love adventure, but when I’m on vacation I like to be on the beach and do a few activities instead of a full-exploring trip. One of my favorite activities is to jet skiing. Whenever we go on vacation that’s my go-to activity. I love to feel the ocean water spraying against my face and waves that I leave behind me.
SCP: One of our core objectives at SCP is to bring people together while traveling, not only to influence people to see and appreciate our beautiful world, but to also minimize cross-cultural divides. What effect does traveling, specifically surrounding music, have on humans in this regard? How has it broadened your perspective of the world?
NL: It’s always good in my opinion to gain perspective and learn as much as possible from other cultures and other places. Being able to take what you can from other musicians and maybe incorporate some of those techniques into your own music is only a positive thing. No matter what I will always try to experience other cultures and music. When I was in Italy this last summer I was a watching man sing in front of the Duomo. Even though I could not understand the words he was singing in Italian, the feeling was conveyed through the music. I felt what he was singing about and I was able to do that through just listening to him. I approached him and we sang a duet, right there in the plaza.
Also, a few years ago, I traveled to Israel with my family. We had a busy itinerary there and got to experience so many aspects of different cultures that have been around for thousands of years. Music can be a really powerful tool in many different aspects there. It can heal and be a really amazing thing, which is why learning as much as you can from other types of music can only benefit you.
© Bass N’ Roll
SCP: Everyone has a list of places that they still have to hit. What are three destinations, either work or pleasure, that you need to see? Why?
NL: I would definitely love to go to Spain. The detail and precision of the work there is immaculate. I would love to experience that culture and spend time understanding the traditions that were born there. I also would love to see Africa. From what I know it seems like an amazing place. I would love to get involved with organizations helping children and adults who are in need. To do anything I can to help is a real goal of mine. Lastly, I would love to go to Greece. The architecture is something I have always admired, and the beaches look incredible. To experience that would be really mind-opening. Any place that I could explore and potentially help would be a place I would like to go!
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SCP: When you’re relaxing on a beach or just have some downtime are you constantly listening to music? If so, what?
NL: I don’t like headphones, so when I’m listening to music I prefer to have it over a speaker. That way I feel like I can appreciate it more and hear each and every part of it. My parents usually bring a speaker, and no matter what it’s always playing when we are on the beach, in the car or at home. We have songs that we play on repeat and never get tired of. We can Listen to Ed Sheeran and Billy Joel on repeat for a five-hour car ride. We never get tired of that music and it’s usually our go-to. When we travel, we usually bring at least a guitar and a baritone ukulele (which is sort of a mini-four-stringed guitar), so my dad and I are always playing and singing. It [could be] roaming around Venice strumming and singing, or doing the same thing under an umbrella by the water in Atlantic Beach on Long Island.
SCP: Lastly, what do the next couple of months have in store for you?
NL: The next couple of months I’ll continuously be making more music and performing as much as possible. In the next few months, I also am going to graduate from high school! I’m really excited about that. Being a singer has always been my dream, and I’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish every aspect of it in the best way I know how.
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For more on Nina Lee visit her website: