Meet Nieve Ella, the indie powerhouse who doesn’t need to impress anyone

Meet Nieve Ella, the indie powerhouse who doesn’t need to impress anyone

In just two short years and with only a handful of EPs and singles, West Midlands singer-songwriter Nieve Ella has formed the sort of feverishly dedicated fanbase that could take some artists decades to establish. Since her first release in 2022, her presence has spread like wildfire – there’s clearly a huge appetite for her heartfelt, confessional music.

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A self-confessed child of the streaming era, Ella tells me she has a fairly agnostic approach to genre – a pop sensibility shapes indie-rock levels of thick guitar textures and emotional rawness. Drawing on the direct style of her heroes Sam Fender and Phoebe Bridgers, Ella’s songs paint emotionally-driven vignettes, sharing an intimate peek into a wider inner world – it’s the kind of music that seems to confide in just you as you listen, even if you happen to be in the front row of a packed venue.
She wears her influences on her sleeve – almost literally, as when I speak to her a small cardboard cutout of Phoebe Bridgers peeks over her shoulder. She’s unashamedly a part of the wave of great UK indie artists that’s been sweeping the country ever since live music made its post-COVID return. Her commitment to catchy guitar lines and singalong hooks has seen her support artists like Inhaler and Dylan, and headline her own UK tour.
I spoke to Ella about her relatively recent start on guitar, how she fell in love with playing live, and how posting acoustic covers on YouTube and TikTok led her to where she is today.

Where did music and guitar start for you?
It was lockdown – obviously I had nothing to do, just sat in my room, and I had this guitar that my dad had left me. I just picked it up, really, I’d been listening to Blackbird by the Beatles so I started playing that. It was like a week later I started writing my own music, and that came straight from that – before, I was never able to figure out how to write a song without something else, because I couldn’t play the piano or anything like that.
I mainly learnt by just looking through Ultimate Guitar – mostly just chord learning shapes – and that’s still how I think about things, really. I’m not sure I’d know what to do if someone said “play a B flat”!
Other than the Beatles, what else were you learning as you started out?
Quite a lot of pop music – I really got into watching people on YouTube over lockdown, obviously people were posting online a lot. I was getting into Harry Styles, and there was a band called Easy Life – they’re not called that anymore though! But yeah, it was artists that aren’t that guitary. But I really enjoyed making their songs into guitar songs – it was really cool to me that I could make that more electronic and poppy sound sound more acoustic.
So I learned some covers of a few things, stuff that was like, blowing up on TikTok, and I’d post those online – people would find me because the song was trending.
How did that turn into releasing your own EPs and singles through a label, rather than just posting covers online?
So I went over from YouTube to TikTok, and started doing the same thing there. Some people that I knew of who did music found me, and showed me to their manager – so I was asked, ‘do you have any original stuff?’ – and I was like yes, but it’s all just voice memos of me singing in my room. But that’s how it started! From there, it was just meeting new people, writing with them and so on – but it did just start through posting covers on social media.
I know a lot of artists have done that too, and I’m lucky enough to say I can also write my own music. When it comes to writing your own stuff after just playing covers, you can really worry that it’s not going to be good enough.
Nieve Ella. Image: Mollie McKay
What was it like to go from just performing covers in a bedroom to playing live in front of hundreds of people?
That was a journey, an absolute journey. The first time I ever played live was around 2021. I was in college and I played at the Albert’s Shed in Telford – I literally had no clue how to play, people in my college used to say to me that I used the guitar as a prop. And I kind of did, a bit – but I really wanted to learn.
So I played my first actual gig in 2022, and it was weird, so weird – it creates this whole different world, right? Especially playing guitar at the same time. It was so scary for me. But I’m so lucky to have the best band ever, they’re my best friends, and we’ve all learnt together. And it feels right now. But before? The scariest thing ever. My knees would shake so bad – I played the chords right, but my brain just spiralled. So it’s nice to feel so comfortable now – it’s just muscle memory at this point.
When did the band enter the picture?
So I started writing in 2020, and in 2021 I’d decided that it was actually what I really wanna do. It was around then I met Finn, my guitarist, through TikTok. He was also doing the same – he helped me write stuff and learn the guitar. And then I met Matty, my drummer in 2021 too – he was in the line at a Sam Fender gig, I knew his friend so we just hung out all night. That was right when gigs had come back from COVID and everyone was coming back on tour, it was so fun.
I met Fran, my bassist the year after, when I had moved to Brighton. I was just like, ‘…I need a bassist, can you play?’ and she’s one of the best people ever, so she’s stuck with us ever since! It’s very much a unit even though it’s, you know, me, the artist – I’m always thinking about their parts when I’m writing, it’s always very band-led.
How has your songwriting changed since you started out?
When I started writing, it would be more about what I had just actually gone through. I fancied a boy and he didn’t like me back, so I was like ‘oh my god I don’t know how to feel about this, I’m gonna write about it’. That’s all I used to do.
But now, I’m so much more into the actual process – last week I wrote a song, and the chords were a bit more weird and dark, so it made me want to sing a melody that was even more weird and dark, and lean into that. But before I wouldn’t even think about that, I would just feel like I needed to write a song about a person, and have it come across as exactly what it is. Now, I feel a lot freer with what I sound like, which makes me feel a lot more motivated to keep on exploring different sounds.

What genre would you call your music?
Having come from the world of streaming, there’s little distinction between genres – even on the radio, they really play all kinds of things. You can say it’s all ‘alternative’, and then it can be literally anything. And that’s why I kind of struggle to say what my music is, because I can kind of do anything. And I think that’s really cool! I’m so glad that I get to experience that because it just feels so free – I don’t feel like I have to impress anybody by playing rock or anything like that.
Are there challenges to starting out within that world? Streaming services as a whole have received some criticism for the pressures they put on artists.
When I started out, I didn’t feel any pressure, I felt like I could do and say whatever I wanted – but that was because I wasn’t that educated. I was very new to it all. But as time has gone on, I’ve met more people and learnt more about the industry and that’s when I start thinking like, ‘oh crap, are they going to like this?’ or ‘will this work on radio?’
When I started out, I didn’t want to even get signed – my plan was just to make it myself on Logic, and release it on SoundCloud, or release it on a CD and hand it to people. But I literally can’t, I don’t even know how to make a CD – I’m such an iPad baby in that world, because all I know is streaming and YouTube and TikTok and Instagram. And that makes me sad, because I would love to have experienced that world of CDs and stuff – obviously vinyl is a bit of a thing again, I guess. But when I grew up, I was buying CDs and that was so exciting – I’d dreamt of walking into a music shop in my town and seeing my CD, but, obviously that’s not how it works anymore.
But in terms of streaming, I guess I don’t worry about the numbers. Maybe I’d worry more if it was the number of CDs sold – that would definitely stress me out!
Let’s talk about guitars – I’ve seen that when you play live, you’ve got a triple stand. What are you playing at the moment?
I used to just play with my Jag, which I bought in 2022, and I would play that all the time because it was sparkly and I thought it was sick. But ever since going into the studio a lot more – I work a lot with a guy called Ian, and he has this really lovely Jag that has an almost baritone feel to it that I really, really loved. I think my love of that sound came from listening to a lot of Phoebe Bridgers – I love deep-sounding opening tunings, so I did a lot of writing on new songs with open tunings.
But playing with those live is very different, because occasionally I don’t feel like I can get the exact sound that I recorded. I’m still learning with pedals – we actually use HX Stomps live, as it’s a lot easier, but it’s not the same feeling – especially if you’re not in the right venue. So, I was struggling a little with getting the right sound – so I figured I needed to have three guitars, and get the right sound for each. And, because I use three different tunings and I’m very very scared of tuning on stage, I do need the three guitars!
So there’s also the Epiphone Crestwood, and for standard tuning, I’ve got this beautiful black Epiphone Emily Wolfe Sheraton – she’s a really cool guitarist, and it’s a very cool guitar, you can just feel it because it’s semi-hollow. But it really likes being in standard – when I used it in open D, it just didn’t feel the same.

What’s next for you? Is there an album or more touring in the works?
Right now I’m trying to figure out what the next thing is going to be. I’m writing a lot of stuff that I would love to play live. And that’s the thing I’m so obsessed with at the moment – I’m really enjoying writing for live. My dream for this year is just to play live as much as possible, and learn as much as I can from it. I kind of am already, sound-wise – Finn will do stuff live where it’s definitely not in the recorded song, and so it’s like ‘that’s fucking cool, put that in the next thing we record.’
So I just want to be as active as possible, really, and learn more about the guitar, too – because I am so new to it. So it’s good to be around people who have the same passion for the sound, for guitars, for writing.
I think the goal is to come out with something that sounds like a live record – that’s the dream, to just play in a room with the band, record it, and then be like: ‘this is it, this is the album.’
Nieve Ella’s latest single ‘Sugarcoated’ is out now.
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