Thursday, 1 March 2012

Nikki Satira on Coming to Terms 
with your Inner Creative Superpowers

If there’s one thing being in university has exposed me to, it’s the world of creative thought and action. I am proud to be a part of a faculty that is attempting to re-establish a relationship between creativity and academia. Some key individuals within the system are now reinventing university space to make way for a new merging group of students who combine music, art, poetry, story-telling, physical activity, dance, and many other realms of creative movement inside the classroom. By doing so, they are weaving inclusivity and accessibility into our hardened web of books and lectures, finding a new learning that focuses on expression, free thought and personal analysis instead of theory and formula. This is a change that is slow but deeply rooted on the energy of a new and brighter future for post-secondary education.

Classic Nikki Satira
Enter Nikki Satira, a 22 year old Toronto native born activist, musician, poet and writer. At the present, Nikki is one half of the hit folk band Houses for Birds, a witty and intelligent ukulele-based duo that sings about everything from obsessions for beards to experiences travelling Canada’s diverse landscapes. Her early interest in animal rights and vegetarianism has led to a lifelong crusade that has successfully catalysed sustainable changes in the name of preserving and caring for the non-human world. Nikki has also found her niche as an accomplished and published writer and poet, taking her uncanny ability to use language and personal prose to evict emotion and thought from any of her readers.

There is no contesting this girl’s in touch with her creative side, but Nikki is usually the first to admit that it isn’t always easy. In an interview I conducted on getting in touch with your creative capabilities, Nikki discusses the big challenges and even bigger rewards of finding that part of you that intrinsically wants to be creative.

1) Briefly describe yourself and what is most important to you. What makes Nikki tick? What are you passionate about?

I’m loud, bubbly, a tad eccentric and definitely offbeat – and my passions and beliefs have moulded me this way. The most important thing in the world to me is being a kind-hearted, well-balanced person who sees the intricately beautiful characteristics of everything on this planet - and I’m passionate about using those skills and traits to connect with people and make the world a brighter and more colourful place to live. I live and act as though strangers don’t exist and I try to embrace the idea that people do bad things but there is no such thing as a bad person. To me, the world is full of magic - and I know that sounds a bit naïve and juvenile, but it’s a way for me to reconnect with the wonder, imagination and excitement of being a child that we all unlearn as we grow older. We’re too much in our heads and not enough in our bodies and in our hearts!
I also love to explore and I find that through exploration, I face my own fears and overcome challenges that allow me to learn something new about myself… and through this process of learning about myself, I am able to embrace the differences that surround me in a positive way and get a little bit closer to finding my path in life. 

Katelyn Plant (L) and Nikki Satira (R) aka Houses for Birds performing at the House of Energy in December 2011

2) How do your creative interests factor in to who you are and what you believe in?

I love words. Before I was a musician, I was a poet… which is one of the hardest endeavours I’ve ever undertaken. It’s not easy to say something unique and profound in only a few words, and I guess I fell in love with the rush of accomplishing exactly that. With that being said, I use words and lyrics as a form of mental satisfaction, and this satisfaction comes from writing a sick rhyme, a well-thought limerick, or a melodic string of puns. On top of that, the lyrics I create are always reminiscent of my beliefs and wishes - sometimes happy with a silly twist, sometimes serious with dark undertones and sometimes a mixture of the two. That way, after all is said and done, I can have a piece of work that will make people think about things they’ve never really understood before, in a way that makes them laugh, cry or even silence them. I love people, and to open up a dialogue in that way is what it truly means to be an artist to me! 

3) How do you find the time and effort to dedicate to your endeavours as a musician, a poet, a writer, and creative mastermind?

I don’t, hahahaha. I kind of just wait for ideas to hit me and then I take the time to see them through. When that happens, I pretty much just drop everything I’m doing and it usually only takes about an hour for me to write something when I’m hit with an idea. If I force myself to write something, it usually takes weeks and kind of sucks anyway so I just end up abandoning it. I used to think that this was just me being lazy, but now I understand that it’s simply how I work. It is important for me to be able to drop everything I’m doing and work on an idea, otherwise nothing would get done.

4) Why do you think it is important to be creative in life? What are the benefits of this?

There are both benefits and serious implications! Being creative allows you to accomplish something you can be proud of; it gives you satisfaction, boosts your confidence and forces you to interpret things through an entirely new lens – all the while making the world a bit more of an interesting place to live. The benefits definitely outnumber the implications, but you have to be careful. Sometimes what you create may never be good enough to you, and you’ll either give up because of that, or try so hard that you end up making things worse and sacrifice a lot of time and sanity to do so. 

Relaxing on a beach at the Wawa Music Festival 2011
 5) Imagine I am a person who has never once tried to do something organic and imaginative. How can I learn to ‘flex my creative muscle’ and establish my own creative foundation?

Think of it as being shy. I’ve never been a shy person but a few years ago I was too timid to start conversations with random strangers. I forced myself (and it scared the hell out of me) to start saying hello to people on the subway and people around me that I didn’t know because I believed to my very core that the world lacked a sense of community. I ended up meeting some amazing people that way and learning so much that I didn’t know, just by pushing myself out of my own comfort zone. It’s like that with a creative endeavour. You just have to do it, you can’t think about it too much or you’ll disappoint yourself – and once you’ve accomplished something, this amazing feeling overcomes you, like you’re so incredibly proud of yourself that you just want to keep going.
The first time I ever wrote a poem I gave it to my favourite teacher to read. Even though it wasn’t a great poem, he still said it was awesome and did everything he could to help me progress into a full blown poet. He recently told me that it didn’t matter that the poem was good or bad – what mattered was that it was the first time I had attempted something creative, and that incredible moment is something to celebrate regardless of whether or not it’s “good”.
It doesn’t just happen instantaneously though; you have to kind of make your own toolkit before you start any creative endeavour. When I first started, my toolkit included my passion for animal rights and my desire for world peace - even though it has changed so much over the years, it’s what worked for me then and it’s why I’m here now.

6) If you could sing one song for the world to hear, what would you sing and why?

In a tree at Stanley Park, Vancouver!
That’s a freaking hard question. If I’m going to sing a song for the whole world to hear, I want everyone to love it as much as I do, understand the lyrics in the way that I do and be moved by it like I am moved.  Everyone has so many different musical tastes and interests it would be impossible to sing a song for the world that would do that. With that being said, I’m just going to give you a copout answer and say that everyone needs to hear (I wouldn’t sing this, it just wouldn’t be the same) Tally Hall’s song, Bananaman – because I feel as though the world needs to loosen up a bit with some laugher, a lot of weirdness and a bit of insanity. – Enjoy!

7) What does the creative future look like for Nikki Satira? Folk-rock stardom perhaps? Or maybe beat poet of the decade?

I’ll let you know when I’m finished my degree. For now, I’m just going to worry about school and fixing the fret board of my ukulele!

*Check out more of Nikki Satira here:

On her blog ‘Words from the Woods’ -

On the Houses for Birds Soundcloud -

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