Nina Sky

Date of Interview: 10/02/2008

© 2008 Clayton Perry

In 2004, at the height of the reggaeton movement, Nina Sky stormed up Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart—peaking at #4 with the international smash “Move Ya Body.”  Although fame, fortune and success came quickly, the sisters spent the past four years out of the spotlight, so that they could craft an album that would fully express their diverse, genre-defying style.  In 2009, the duo will invite the world to enjoy The Musical: Nicole and Natalie Albino—raw and uncensored.

In many ways, The Musical serves as a fresh start for Nina Sky.  Since their departure from Universal Records, the two have found a home at J Records.  In the wake of The Musical’s release, Nicole and Natalie Albino managed to squeeze some time out of their busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on Madonna, sisterhood and the reggaeton movement.

Clayton Perry: On your debut album, the very first track was entitled “Nina Sky is…” Four years later, how would you complete that sentence?

Nicole Albino: Nina Sky is two girls from Queens, New York, who make hot music that all you guys love! [laughing] In the past four years, we’ve grown so much. When we first came out, we were 18 years old. We were fresh out of high school and, at the time, we hadn’t experienced much in our lives.  Our new album, The Musical, shows our evolution and growth over the years.

Clayton Perry: As a dynamic duo, how often do you have people come up to you and say, “Which one of you is Nina Sky, because there are two of you?”

Nicole Albino: Quite a bit [laughing], but it was intentional. We named ourselves Nina Sky, because we wanted everyone to think that it was one person, and then surprise them with the fact that we’re two people, and then surprise them with the fact that we’re identical twins. So that’s why we named ourselves Nina Sky.

Natalie Albino: The first name combines pieces of our first names: “Ni” from Nicole and “Na” from Natalie.  And the last name is “Sky,” because we believe that the sky is the limit.

Clayton Perry: When artists are presented as a duo, sometimes it’s hard for your individual personalities to shine through. Nicole, how would you describe Natalie?

Nicole Albino: Natalie is the s**t.

Clayton Perry: Okay. Natalie, how would you complete, “Nicole is…?”

Natalie Albino: Nicole is – I can’t say what she said – Nicole is my favorite. That’s how I’d finish it.

Nicole Albino: She’s sweet.

Natalie Albino: That’s how I’d finish it [laughing].

Clayton Perry: I see… [laughing].  So, Nicole, how would you fill in the blank: “I am the ____ of Nina Sky?”

Natalie Albino: “I am the energy of Nina Sky.” I answered for her.

Nicole Albino: Natalie is the voice of Nina Sky.

Clayton Perry: In the years following your 2004 debut, the musical landscape has changed quite a bit. How have you spent these past few years?

Natalie Albino: Besides working on The Musical, we’ve been touring, traveling and sleeping [laughing].

Nicole Albino: Natalie has also been designing clothes. So we’ve been really busy. We’ve always been on our grind, and there hasn’t really been any down time for us.

Clayton Perry: Your style of R&B is known for its eclectic mix – a little bit of hip-hop, a little bit of reggae, a little bit of rock. What do you think you bring to the genre that it really needs?

Nicole Albino: We just make music that we love. We grew up listening to everything, from rock to hip-hop to pop to reggae, like you said. Our music is heavily-influenced by all that stuff.

Natalie Albino: There’s no real formula to what we do.  We bring real music.

Nicole Albino: It’s not traditional. Most people go into the studio and they have an idea of what their album is going to sound like – like they want to recreate an old Marvin Gaye ditty, or they want to recreate a ’60s sound, or they want to recreate something that was hot in the ’80s. When we go into the studio, we’re just like, “Let’s make an album that we love and we hope everyone else will love.” In that way, Nina Sky is non-conventional.

Clayton Perry: There are a few Latino artists that have been accepted (or played) on mainstream radio. Do you ever feel the burden of being labeled as a role model for that community?

Nicole Albino: At the end of the day, we want to be successful and we want any young girl to look up to us and say, “If two girls from Queens who grew up with their brothers and sisters in a regular apartment and didn’t come from money can do it, then I can do it, too.” That’s cool, but our goal is not to be a role model. Of course, it’s dope if you can inspire people to be positive and to achieve things, to feel like they want to do things and they can achieve things.

Clayton Perry: All of the tracks on The Musical were written by you two.  How has your sisterhood shaped or influenced the content?

Nicole Albino: The album is influenced by our experiences, whether it’s about Natalie’s friend that is in love, my friend is in love, what’s going on in Natalie’s life or what’s going on in my life. We don’t really focus on our sisterly bond, but our music is based on our experiences in our lives.

Clayton Perry: In life, it is often said that blood is thicker than water. Do you ever find it hard to get along?

Natalie Albino: Not at all.

Nicole Albino: We get along pretty good. We grew up together. We got our first apartment together. We ended up working together. Don’t get me wrong, we get tired of each other sometimes, so we take separate vacations. But for the most part, we get along really well. We’re from a really close-knit family.

Clayton Perry: In what specific ways did the recording process for The Musical differ from your debut album, Nina Sky?

Nicole Albino: This time around, we worked with a lot of producers. On our last album, we were limited to our in-house production team. When you work with different people, they bring out different sides of you. You sing different melodies, and you’re singing in keys you didn’t even know you could sing in, high and low. Creatively, we learned at lot about real production and watched the way different people work.

Clayton Perry: How did that experience influence the title The Musical?

Nicole Albino: Well, the reason we titled the album The Musical is because we felt like our first album was the first chapter in a bigger production. When you put together a musical, you want the right writers, the right actors, the right musical score, the right content, and that’s how we felt, too. We wanted to make sure that everything was perfect – from the producers to the writers to what we’re writing about, the lyrics. That’s why we titled the album The Musical.

Clayton Perry: Going into this project, what were some of your personal and professional goals?  When you left Universal and signed with J Records, you were afforded a fresh beginning.

Nicole Albino: It was important for us to be involved in everything, on the business side and the music side. We’ve always been involved on the music side. We wrote our entire first album. This time around, it was more important for us to be more involved on the business side of everything that was going on. On The Musical, we were co-executive producers, so we were very much involved in everything that went on, which is dope.

Clayton Perry: In the time between your first and second album, is there a particular lesson that you learned the hard way, as you tried to take on all these tasks?

Nicole Albino: We were just super-excited when we first got signed to Universal and we let everything happen so quickly. We didn’t really have any idea of what all was going on. We really didn’t understand it. So, I think what we learned this time is to be more hands-on and to really understand what’s going on. We’re four years older now, and this is a point for us to just know what’s going on and understand the business more.

Clayton Perry: You credit Bryan Leach as having an understanding of your artistic vision. How did you meet Bryan and how did you make that move?

Nicole Albino: When we got out of our deal with Universal, we just wanted to sign with a label that we felt really understood who Nina Sky was. We sat with Bryan Leach. We had dinner and just talked and it just seemed like he had a good grasp of who Nina Sky was and the type of music that we’re trying to record. It wasn’t about us being Latina; it was about our music and the music we’re recording. When we were signed at Universal, it just seemed like they wanted to really capitalize on the whole reggaeton movement. When we met with Bryan, it seemed like a perfect match.

Clayton Perry: Speaking of the whole reggaeton movement, “Move Ya Body” was a crazy hit. What do you consider the pros and the cons of following up such a big hit like that?

Nicole Albino: I don’t think there are any cons. Our fans have set a really high bar for us and we’re just trying to top ourselves. “Curtain Call” is the first single off The Musical. It’s a different sound, but we feel confident with that song because it represents who we are at this point in our lives.

Clayton Perry: Is there a particular track that holds a special place in your heart?

Nicole Albino: One of the songs that I really, really like on this album is a song that we just recently recorded called “One Night.” It brings out our voices in the way that I’ve never heard before, so that’s why I really like it.

Clayton Perry: Going forward in the future, what lasting impact do you wish to have?

Nicole Albino: We don’t want people to say, “Remember when they came out? Look at them now. You can’t even approach them.” We want to be those approachable girls. We want to be the girls next door that, even though they’re famous, even though they have music, even though they have albums, they still feel like we’re relatable. We want to be those girls.

Clayton Perry: Well, your fans are definitely a dedicated bunch. Who are you fans of?

Nicole Albino: We’re fans of lots of people. We listen to everything, from Robin Thicke to The Police.

Natalie Albino: Madonna, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, even Metallica!  [laughing]

Clayton Perry: What is it about Madonna that you really admire?

Nicole Albino: Well, Madonna’s been able to reinvent herself so many times.

Natalie Albino: Yes. She stayed relevant.

Nicole Albino: She always stayed true to herself and that’s something that we want to do, too. She’s not afraid to be different and neither are we.

For more information on Nina Sky, visit their MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/ninasky

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