Grammy nominations: Songwriter Nija Charles’s ‘accidental success’

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Growing up, Nija Charles wanted to be a music producer or, as she puts it: “the female Pharrell”.

But after falling into songwriting “by accident”, she’s now been nominated for a Grammy Awards.

The huge US industry show has introduced a Songwriter of the Year prize – one of five new categories in 2022.

“It just feels like a dream, because this is really big. This is history,” she tells BBC Newsbeat.

“I feel this is long overdue. That’s why I thank all the songwriters who have fought for this to happen, because it only makes sense to have it.”

The 25-year-old has written for Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande & Drake, with her nomination for songs including Beyoncé’s Cozy.

But what’s the bigger achievement: Writing and getting to number one in the charts for those stars, or getting a Grammy nomination?

“It’s almost like there’s nothing higher than number one. It’s the top of the charts,” says Nija.

“But to get a Grammy nomination, it’s something I’ve looked at as a kid.”

‘A vessel for the artist’

Nija explains there is a fine line between songwriting for yourself and for another artist.

“As a songwriter, you have to understand that you’re not putting this out as yourself. This is the artist’s project.”

“And you’re a vessel for them. So if you have a story that you want to tell, I can’t tell you that your story is wrong, or it should go [a certain] way.”


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But there is a difference in process when writing for others and writing for herself.

“If I’m writing for another artist, I write with them in mind, I’m telling that person’s story and what they’ve been through.”

“But when I go into the studio for myself, I pull from my own stories, and it’s my vulnerability.”

Nija credits Beyoncé for making her a “a better writer”.

“Being around that energy and understanding what she envisions for herself and working with her is always the best.”

Nija Charles

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Nija’s story is a reminder that a journey in the music industry can be unpredictable.

“I grew up making beats since I was 13 years old,” she says.

“And I figured the way to get my beats out there, and spread across the world was if I just sing on top of them.

“If they hear songs and they’ll see who made it and they’ll come back to me. And it worked out in another way.”

Producers were then asking her to sing over their beats.

Nija has a stellar list of artists she’s worked with, but she still has dreams of working with many more such as The Weeknd and Rihanna.

“And I really want to work with Justin Bieber, my childhood self wants to do that for me,” she adds.

As is the way with big music awards, there is no guarantee Nija will win, but she says just being nominated in the new category is a big deal.

“I’m just blessed to be recognised for my work,” she says. “It signifies change and progress in industry.”


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