I have talked a little in past posts about the "secret pop music industry" that exists in Nashville. If you are new to Lashville, then this might be news to you. But, yes, there's more to Nashville then country music, and artists like Meghan Trainor and Taylor Swift (in her recent years) are products of this industry's existence. Although there is little awareness of the pop music industry here, many in the industry believe Nashville will become the next pop music hub alongside the already established one's in LA and New York. My latest music obsession is a product of this "secret pop world."
Photos by Bellhop.suite
Ni/Co is a pop-duo based right here in Music City. Colton Jones and Dani Brillhart met while studying music at Belmont University. Colton says he first saw Dani while at a party and knew immediately that he wanted to date her. They found common ground over their love for pop and R&B music.
Dani grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, as the eldest of her four sisters and brother. She started singing in elementary and middle school for talent shows, but it wasn't until she joined a dance troupe and started performing in musicals in inner city Atlanta that she developed a love for R&B music.
"I was introduced to Usher and Chris Brown, and they changed my life," Dani says.
She was a hardworking gymnast with a desire to go professional, but after facing the decision of gymnastics or singing the choice was simple.
"It wasn't even a question," she says.
Colton grew up traveling the country with his mother who worked as a journalist. He first developed a love for music and singing in church.
"Music was a constant while we moved around," Colton says.
While living in Ohio, he joined his high school a cappella group, 11th Hour. The group was invited to sing for NBC's popular show "The Sing-off." Colton says that living in LA for a month and being on the show's set made him even more determined to pursue his singing dreams.
The idea of becoming a duo didn't cross their minds until Dani's internship supervisor, Becki, mentioned it to her. The question was how they could stand out from the saturated pop music industry.
"There's lots of R&B black singers and lots of soulful white females, but there aren’t any duos, especially black and white," Dani and Colton say.
After receiving feedback from friends and weighing the pros and cons of becoming an actual "dating duo," Dani and Colton started Ni/Co in May of 2016. For the past year, they've been working hard at songwriting, collaborating with other musicians, performing at venues around Nashville and building Ni/Co's mission.
At the core of the Ni/Co mission, Dani and Colton hope to maintain their integrity as artists by creating songs that aren't just about drinking and partying but focus on spreading love. Colton says he wants to focus on promoting self-worth as an "African American male raised in a predominantly white culture." As the big sister of her family, Dani wants to promote self-worth and beauty in all women of all ages. Their songs fuse these underlying themes of love and self-worth into the lyrics.
“We can say something," Dani says. "We can do something really cool with this.”
The duo just released a cover video of "Issues" by Julia Michaels on YouTube. They connected with the song because "it's up beat and easy to sing a long, but if you listen to the lyrics it's relatable."
“That's the kind of music we aim to make,” Colton says.
Although they don't have music out yet, Ni/Co reassures me that we won't have to wait too long as new music is expected to be released this year. Their plan for 2017 is to increase awareness of Ni/Co on social media and build their presence as a pop duo in Nashville.
"It's cool to be rising up in pop at this time because I think we are going to be able to ride the rollercoaster of it breaking the surface and boiling over,” Dani says.
"I think in Nashville there hasn’t been a better time to be a pop musician,” Colton says.
Check out Ni/Co's latest cover video of Issues/Shape of You!
Keep up with Ni/Co by following them on Instagram, YouTube & Facebook!
Ni/Co's advice for other pop artists:
1. Find your crew. It's really important in any genre of music. It's so emotionally taxing and you are going to be broke so find the people you don’t mind being broke with and those who will support you.
2. Don’t be afraid as a Nashville pop artist to reach out to country writers because you never know who they are connected with.
Thanks for reading!