Producer, singer-songwriter and DJ Nia Archives is the definition of self-made. Leeds-born and Manchester-raised, she taught herself to play piano aged eight and was experimenting on music making software Logic by the age of 12. Moving to Manchester on her own at 16 kickstarted her ambitions to become more than just a raver and she now releases her debut EP ‘Headz Gone West’, the lo-fi jungle project that’ll have you itching to get back on the dance floor. Fusing the sounds of old skool jungle, gospel, soul and jazz, the 21-year-old is inspired by everyone from soul-singer Nina Simone to dubstep artist Burial. Here she talks about sexism in the D&B scene, her DIY bedroom studio setup and the positives of imposter syndrome.

What music influenced you growing up?

Old skool jungle is my passion. I’m from a big West Indian family and at every party my uncles would DJ and play reggae, lovers rock, rocksteady, dancehall and jungle. My nana used to play me all her soul and jazz tunes too, which is why I love to combine the melodies of soul with jungle beats in my own sound. My all-time favourite producer is Burial, but I also love Lemon D and Roni Size.

When did you start making music?

I taught myself how to play piano aged eight and the first time I used Logic was at 12 – my ex-stepdad was a musician, so I always messed round on his laptop. Family issues led me to move to Manchester on my own at 16 and I made friends by going to house parties. People would be rapping and I’d end up jumping on the mic and freestyling. I wrote songs as a kid but the first proper one was when I was 17, I downloaded a cracked version of Logic online because I didn’t have any money and I started making beats. They were awful but the more I practised, the better I got.

Have you always been confident performer?

I’ve always had a bit of social anxiety singing in front of people, whenever I freestyled at parties, I had a lot of liquid confidence. But it's something I'm working on. I love it and this is what I do, so I try to own it. I think having a bit of imposter syndrome can be a good thing, because it means I don’t have a huge ego like a lot of people in the industry. I sit in my room making tunes that I’d like to hear and it’s still mad to me other people care.

Images by @onagreenwoodart

Any advice for getting a manager?

Expect a lot of knockbacks. I sent ‘Sober Feels’, a single featured on my new EP, to so many big D&B labels and nobody cared. I was trying to get a seat at their table, then I realised I needed to make my own table and do my own thing. It's the law of attraction, as soon as I did that and stopped caring about getting the approval of huge labels, opportunities started coming to me. I got speaking to someone from Marathon Music Group and they introduced me to my current manager Tom. The advice I have is to keep doing you, because that's what makes you unique. Make sure that you like what you're making and just keep going with it.

You recently moved to London to study music, why didn’t you stay in Manchester?

The Manchester music scene is incredible and it’s where I really found my voice as an artist,but I really wanted to study music. I don’t have any A Levels, so my options for university were extremely limited, but I did my research and found Community Music, which has a music production and business course in partnership with the University of Westminster. All I needed was a portfolio of my beats and I got accepted the same day I had my interview.

Images by @onagreenwoodart

How do you support yourself financially?

My student loan covers my living costs for a warehouse in Hackney Wick, where the rent is cheap for London, and I work part-time in a Wetherspoons kitchen to pay for the rest. Furlough really saved me in the pandemic. I’ve lived on my own since I was 16, so I've just had to learn to support myself. Whatever happens, I know I've only got myself at the end of the day. Whatever life throws at me, I’ll come out swerving it. I never pay for studio fees because I have a DIY recording set up in my bedroom. I’ve got my laptop, MIDI keyboard, microphone, speakers and audio interface – it’s really basic, but it works.

Any advice for tackling creative block?

The best tactic for me is to not force it. If I’m struggling, I try to do something else that's creative, like make some videos or come up with new project concepts. If I’m having a block while producing,I give myself a 15 minute time limit to make beats for fun, I call them Mess About Beats and they take the pressure off by turning it into a game. It makes the process a lot more fun.

Tell us about the making of your debut EP ‘Headz Gone West’.

I like working quickly so I made it in about two weeks last August. I was going through a phase of not looking after myself and partying too much. I had nothing to do in lockdown so I spiralled a bit. Friends were telling me I need to calm down and I used this project to process my emotions about hating the idea of being sober.

How has the enforced isolation of the past year affected you?

I’m a completely different person now to who I was a year ago. I was a huge partier and though I still will be when things open up, I’ve embraced my introverted side. Lockdown was a huge shock to the system because I was so used to keeping myself busy at all times, it was suffocating to be alone with my thoughts but it forced me to process a lot of internal emotions.

Has your self-esteem been affected by becoming an artist?

When I first started at 17, I would compare myself to other people a lot, but now I really don't compare myself to anyone. It’s not an ego thing, I'm just not trying to prove myself to anyone. I'm making tunes that I like and that I want to hear, so that gives me peace. I'm not focused on getting validation from other people. Getting lots of streams is great, but it’s genuinely not my focus.

Images by @onagreenwoodart

Who have been your mentors in the industry?

My tutor Jason has supported me endlessly and he told me about the EQ50 mentorship scheme I now have a place on. EQ50 are a collective working towards fairer representation within D&B. Being around this community of womxn has been the most important thing for my development, it feels so good to be in a supportive environment where everyone works to elevate each other. It’s been especially incredible meeting other Black womxn in the industry, like DJ Flight and Elizabeth Troy, that I can like look up to.

Have been underestimated in the D&B scene because of your gender?

I love D&B, but it is extremely sexist and there’s a huge amount of testosterone in these spaces – it doesn’t always feel safe. The more women that DJ and produce will help change this. There needs to be more female energy in the scene so we aren’t made to feel so uncomfortable. Many people assume I'm just a vocalist and can’t believe I produce my own beats, just because I sing on them too. I’m constantly being referred to as a ‘female producer’ or a ‘female DJ’ which I find offensive, what does my gender have anything to do with it? My gender doesn't stop me from pressing buttons and no one would ever say, 'Oh, that’s sick male DJ’.

Have you experienced any racism in the scene?

I went to a socially distanced rave last December and a guy said to me, ‘You don't see Black girls in like places like this,’ implying that I didn’t belong. It’s such a strange view because if you watch any old school rave documentaries, you'll see the scene is full of Black people, the music is of Black origin. That’s why it’s so outrageous that Black women are being pushed down.

What’s next for you?

After the EP, I have some remixes coming out soon. I’m really excited to put solely my production skills on show. One long term goal is to produce for other Black women vocalists, I'd love to create a supportive community, there’s space for us all.


Three words that define your music.

  • Chill, sunshine, vibes

Three words you want your music to make people feel.

  • Nostalgic, positive, free.

What is the album you blast for max creativity?

  • Burial’s ‘Untrue’ is my all-time favourite album, it makes me emotional in the best way. I listen to that at night to get out my own head.

Who should we be following on Instagram?

  • My friend Louis (@louistm_) is definitely one-to-watch. He's a visual artist and photographer who’s recently collaborated with Dazed and Bimba y Lola.

What artists do you currently play on repeat?

  • Anz is an incredible producer and DJ from Manchester and I also love the MC Talia Beal,she’s from Tottenham and has such a strong visual identity.