Music has always been a calling for Nikki Paige. Though she hasn’t always wanted to answer it. It might seem strange that the up-and-coming pop star with golden pipes and a glowing yellow hairdo once rejected the life she’d been preparing for since she was a kid. It’s even less likely that after walking away from the business in her late teens that she’d come back even sharper and more fearless than ever. But the goal for the Los Alamitos-bred singer/songwriter was always less about finding fame and more about finding herself.
“I’m tired of making the same music that the industry expects us to hear just because it’s a formula and it works,” Paige says, fresh off of a four-month US tour on the strength of her current single “Ring Ring.” Hitting up as many radio stations as she could with her current manager William Engram Jr. (aka “PoonDaddy”), is all a part of showing the gatekeepers that her unique, homegrown style deserves mainstream attention. “You can have your foot in the door with a formula and still try to be creative,” Paige says.
That creativity shows itself in the volume of work Paige has turned out in recent months. With a handful of singles and videos released and more on the way, including a new single “Happy I Am” and a new EP at the end summer, Paige’s edgy pop alternative vocals show her spirit and newfound identity in spite of the pitfalls she’s faced since signing her first publishing deal at the ripe old age of 11.
Paige was groomed as a child popstar and signed to Warner Chapel and later New Deal. Under the mentorship of former manager Barbara Orbison at age 12, she travelled the world working with celebrities like Ringo Starr and became a sought after young talent in a fickle pre-teen market that saw her as a country crooner one minute and a pop singer the next.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing and [I was] letting everyone run my projects because I was little kid,” Paige recalls. “After years of that, around 17 or 18 years old, I decided to quit. I was like ‘This isn’t going anywhere, this is everybody else’s idea—one minute I’m country, the next minute I’m pop,’ I couldn’t decide what direction I wanted to go,” she says.
At the time, being famous felt more like a chore than a blessing. Leaving her early brush with success behind, Paige began partying non-stop while doing her best to find her own identity. Though she tried not to take music seriously, it was a calling that she could never fully ignore. Taking various stabs at a new singing career with failed label deals made it even tougher when she decided to return to music in her early 20s. But one thing Paige always new was that she didn’t want to sound like a manufactured product, opting to be real above all else on her next time around. For her, that meant finding her sound and style while in Orange County and enlisting the help of her friends to help her get her dream off the ground.
“I realized I can’t rely on other people to make my career for me I have to do that myself so it helped me understand what being an independent artist means,” Paige says. “I do have help from a team but I really wanted to get it off of the ground first. The thing I didn’t realize was that you can do that with a talented group of friends that really believe in you.”
So far, her strategy is working, evidenced by her growing Instagram following and top-tier artistically sharp music videos for songs like “Ring Ring” and “Get It Over.” She found a great mentor in OC-based producer Mitch Mannao in Anaheim, where she’s recorded the bulk of her new songs. After years of writing songs in multiple genres, Paige’s extensive musical vocabulary shines in the character of her voice and the way she writes, sometimes even opting to freestyle her verses in the recording booth on the spot.
“I told Mitch Mannao one day ‘Hey let’s just get a microphone in here and not think about it like we’re writing a song let’s just freestyle so we started freestyling everything,’ she remembers. “My best music started coming about because I wasn’t thinking about it, just singing from my heart.”
Performing with heart in the vocal booth and on stage comes naturally for Paige. During live performances, she’s known for her energetic stage presence, never missing an opportunity to jump off speakers, pose for the crowd, and climb anything within reach to entertain cheering, wide-eyed fans. It’s become a part of her identity which many of her friends and fans describe as “Nikki Paige in a Rage”–which also happens to be the title of one of her upcoming singles.
“The name wasn’t just made up,” she says. “But if you were to think about me, my music is a little kinda everywhere because I was never focused on one thing but at the end of the day it’s built for an entertaining ride for people to watch.”
Now that she’s learning how to organize her thoughts and her career is being properly guided, all that fun she’s having while answering her calling is finally starting to pay off.
“I’m not gonna say I know exactly what to do but I do know what to do in my situation every time that I go for it,” Paige says. “So I’m excited to add everything that I’ve learned into my next project and see where it goes.”