Daily Discovery: Nya Addresses Past Traumas with “Won’t Pick Up the Phone”

Photo by Irina Chernova

During the pandemic last year, Nya and her fiancé tucked away in the countryside of Uruguay. “It was here I was finally able to slow down and process unresolved trauma, something I had never taken the time for but desperately needed,” Nya says. 

“That time of quiet reflection changed me for the better, and I felt strong and whole enough (with proper guidance) to ween off an antidepressant I’d been taking since I was 18,” the singer-songwriter tells American Songwriter. “I’ll be honest, towards the end of the tapering process, the withdrawal symptoms were brutal, and it thrust me back into a period of depression.”

Nya’s new song “Won’t Pick Up the Phone,” co-written with Femke, serves as “my reminder during that time to power through while my body and mind adjusted. I had spent so much time afraid of my mind before this experience, and when the symptoms finally abated, I felt empowered in the realization I was strong enough to pull myself out of that dark place.

“I’d love people listening to take from this song that while being alive on this planet can be a beautiful thing, it also challenges us,” she continues. “The darkness and pain which come from those challenges are universally human. When we can see that commonality, instead of feeling self-hate, we empower ourselves to be able to face those painful feelings without the fear that they’ll swallow us whole.”

Pain got my number, wants to hold me tight / Heartbreak, she, haunts me on a lonely night, sings Nya over an Adele meets Amy Winehouse intensity, collecting up emotional fragments into a sharp, bright mosaic. They must’ve called me a million times / Give me strength / They’re no friends of mine.

In the accompanying visual, directed by Grant Spanier, Nya endures an almost out of body experience, as her physical form seems to levitate through the physical world without real awareness. Try bringing me to hell tonight, but I won’t budge / I’ve seen the darkness, and I prefer the sun, she reveals the darkest edges of her heart. You almost broke me, but it wasn’t enough / You underestimate what I’d do for love.

Originally from Tampa, Nya fell in love with the work of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Aretha Franklin at a very early age, before turning her attention to such contemporary predecessors as Amy Winehouse. “I would sing along and feel blissfully free, finally able to expel all these bottled-up feelings,” she reflects. “To this day, that’s what singing makes me feel.

“Music and songwriting have a healing power and an ability to show people they aren’t alone,” she adds, “whether that’s in their joy or suffering. It certainly has provided that kind of solace for me; it is my therapeutic diary. I’m constantly evolving, sonically, especially as I learn and grow. But one word I hope will always describe what I put out there is: sincere.”

Nya began releasing a string of singles in 2017, leading into an EP called Southland in 2018. More singles followed, as well as a follow-up EP, Hold On, in 2019. Throughout her burgeoning songwriting career so far, she has certainly picked up a few tricks of the trade. The biggest being “to be open, to learn, to collaborate, and to your own intuition,” she says, offering a bit of advice to newer songwriters. “When you allow your heart and mind to be open to people and ideas (that keep your health and safety in mind), you don’t limit yourself.”

“Won’t Pick Up the Phone” anchors a forthcoming EP, titled Requiem of Me, slated for release later this year. Meanwhile, Nya preps “some fun live performance content coming, and I’m back in the studio working on an album,” she teases. “With the world slowly opening up, I’m pumped to be out there working and collaborating again in real life.”

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