As we heard on his latest release “Passport 2 Paradise Revoked”, Nyjo infuses hints of home into his carefully crafted pieces. Nyjo (pronounced Nyyo) hails from the sunny paradise of The Bahamas. Nyjo uses the songwriting process learned from growing up in this paradise and paints descriptive lyrical soundscapes through storytelling within his songs. His music is a reflection of his experiences living in different locations, all playing a major role in shaping his sound. The Bahama's gave him the ability to create vivid imagery, LA is where he received his 'chill' and West Palm is were Nyjo gained confidence and edge in his music. Listening to a large amount of '70s funk and R&B music has greatly shaped the sound we hear today on "Passport 2 Paradise Revoked" but his greater musical motivation comes from family bonds.
Nyjo's Godfather, Raphael ‘Ray’ Munnings, was the lead singer of the 70s funk band, The Beginning of the End. His family has a rich tapestry of musicians coursing through it. The most popular being his world-renowned 2nd Great Uncle, Joseph Spence. Greg Brennen, Nyjo’s father and a musician as well, later toured internationally and domestically playing in his godfather’s band. Growing up around such talented and renowned artists has rubbed off on Nyjo and his ability to produce ear-catching melodies while defining his own sound is a testament to his originality and inventiveness. Discover “Passport 2 Paradise Revoked” here.
Welcome to BuzzMusic Nyjo Brennen! We enjoyed the vintage energy of this song! Can you describe the message behind the lyrics for “Passport 2 Paradise?”
Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! There are a few. In Verse 1 the deeper message is about having an epiphany to end an opportunistic relationship. You realize it’s actually a shallow pairing. They’re takers. The only thing you shared was an attraction for one another’s bodies. That’s it! Those never last. Verse 2 shows the subtle, deceptive ways people try to show their ownership of you. Just like a ‘marked man’ it’s ‘Take my car today’ so you can be seen driving it. Getting juvenile and leaving hickeys to ward off potential admirers. You finally realize the games and revoke access to your paradise. I’m spiritual so I understand your body is your temple. It’s your paradise. Guard it. Stylistically, the song is a late 1970s groove. I have a line ‘You want to leave your marks on me to show the world/ That you already conquered thee.’ Diana Ross has a song she recorded in 1979 ‘Upside Down.’ She used ‘Thee’ a lot. I thought it elevated the song and showed so much dignity and class while conversing during a breakup. The great Nile Rodgers wrote it so go figure. He’s a class act.
Can you tell us how you draw musical inspiration through the three places you call home: The Bahamas, West Palm Beach, and Los Angeles?
My inspiration from The Bahamas is definitely in the way I set the scene and paint a vivid picture when I write songs. Bahamians are the best at storytelling. I find us so animated, sarcastic, and pay a lot of attention to detail. It’s an art form. Growing up, my mother’s side of the family always told us the best stories. Ghost stories as a child then relationship and family whisper when you’re older. They always mesmerized you. Bahamian songs are known for being memorable and descriptive. The day they finally play one of my songs on their radio, I may shed a tear. Only because I know if they love it, it will exist on the island for decades. Regardless if they do, no matter where I go in the world, I’m there’s.
West Palm Beach is where I came of age and wrote a huge portion of my songs. Ride around long enough and I see all my memories, mistakes, wins, and losses everywhere. It takes me exactly to the moment I wrote about and I remember which song. My hunger for singing and the musical journey started there also. In South Florida, you better have a hunger for something or it will eat you alive. I get my confidence and grit from there. If I come off braggadocious in a tune, it’s the WPB in me. Los Angeles is the exact opposite. It slows me down so much. You really enjoy life more on the west coast. 9 years in LA and I inherited their chill. It inspires me not to rush, let a song breathe, revisit, and rework it. I’m not a manic writing machine like I was in FL, it was insane how much I wrote. I must have thought that I had an expiration date to my creativity or something? I still write. I’m going to look into pitching a lot of them to other artists. It’s impossible for me to record all 300 myself.
Can you elaborate on your unwavering dedication to songwriting, and how you wrote over 300 songs in 10 years?
I always loved the art of songwriting. It takes patience. I remember the first song I wrote at age 13. It was so embarrassing but the chorus had potential. I put it at the bottom of my journal and went on to live my life. At 17, after more experiences, unrequited and fruitful, I found it. I revisited it and wrote my 1st complete song. Oddly, I was listening to Brandy’s Full Moon around then. It was like it manifested a 360 moment for me. I locked myself in my room and just purged feelings. My motto was: I allow myself to feel a person for inspiration. But once I write and complete a song arc about you (beginning, middle, and end) then that’s our end. Get over them and move on. I still recognize that formula in myself. But that one week I wrote 13 songs. It was like a dam broke. After that, I had a strict unrealistic quota to write 30 songs a year and I always held myself accountable! My songs followed me through high school, college, grad school, and work. I have songs originally transcribed on IHOP waiter napkins, the back of Sears receipts, the Evernote app while being a Flight Attendant and scripts/call sheets. I humbly paid my dues but also made writing my job. A pianist practices, a singer should sing something daily so I wrote. I knew I wanted to become a busy multi-threat in my adult years but didn’t want to wait on inspiration when it was time to record. The bet paid off. I really don’t have to anymore. My last single was the 2nd song I ever wrote on AT 17. I released it in my early 30s. The timelessness of songwriting, when done correctly, is a gift.
Can you describe the genres that inspire you when you create your music?
Great question. It varies. It reflects what I’m listening to at the time, the experience I want to establish. With over 300 songs that’s too many to list. I can say my past 4 singles I wanted to give a snippet of that though. They were Pop, Alternative R&B, and Funk. I took on a more guitar and instrument-based sound because since 2007 I was listening to a lot of Folk/Indie Pop acts. I also found out then that my 2nd Great Grand Uncle was Bahamian Folk Legend Joseph Spence. It suddenly made sense why I was attracted to that style of music. It was in my DNA. The thing about genres is I look at it like doing a tribute performance to your favorite entertainer. You don’t try to mimic them. That’s annoying and unoriginal. You just do it your way. I love Al Green and Joss Stone but my voice isn’t naturally soulful like theirs. It’s passionate though. I can emit an intensity to do soulful records I wrote. Same with my Christmas songs, I wasn’t trying to BE Nat King Cole. But I want to channel that cozy feeling, he’s one of my all-time favorite Baritones. I love to challenge myself. I have plans to translate one of my songs to Spanish and record it eventually. Growing up I learned to sing songs in other languages like French, Swahili, and Spanish. Practicing ‘Yo Le Canto Todo El Dia’ with my sister. I never wanted to be predictable. People used to expect black artists to just do HipHop/R&B and island artists to do Reggae. I love those genres. I wrote bops like that but didn’t want to be pigeonholed straight out the gate. I’ll get around to them soon God’s willing, just not while everyone is doing them. What can we expect to see next from you throughout 2020?
2020 is the year that all expectations literally got ripped up because of the COVID outbreak. It’s actually sad but liberating. It offers silver linings of optimism. It challenges us, artists, to rethink the model and get creative. My new music video as you can see demonstrates what we’re all doing, ‘Staying At Home and Social Distancing.’ It was so timely. I normally wait years between singles. This one comes only 9 months after my last! It’s a first for me. I never had a music video like this either. I’m a Taurus, Earth sign. I’m always outside filming in nature or by the water for my subtle Bahamas ties. But this is the new normal for now, I respect that. No one has heard my songs live so I want to make that happen. Maybe figure out a cool, safe way even using IG Live or TikTok. I’m getting a consistent following on there since I went viral in February. If Quarantine is lifted, I want to film music video #5 and #6. The songs are ready and maybe release one. I just relocated to The Bay Area and I’m feening to film in it! The Bay Area has so much sauce that I have to find some producers and start recording again. They have to be well-versed. I’m ready for a departure sonically, some more urban songs finally. I really want to record one of my Christmas songs so it can be out in Wintertime. I want to sing one to my new nephew coming soon. All this is tentative because of the pandemic. If none comes into fruition but all my loved ones are safe and healthy, I’ll survive. 2020 still got ‘Passport 2 Paradise Revoked’ from me and I’ll just do virtual Quarantine Concerts from my room. I’ll even throw in the multi-colored flying feathers from the video.