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Interview | Nite Jewel Shines Bright on “Real High”

The dance-pop soul singer reveals her influences and inspirations behind her fourth album.

Patrick Greenby Patrick Green
Photo: Leo Garcia

Nite Jewel makes bedroom music that’s more about getting in touch with your feelings than simply between-the-sheets baby-making. Her synth-laced, romanticized songs are like a one-way conversation with yourself about the peaks and valleys of falling in and out love.

On her fourth album, Real High (out now on her own Gloriette Records imprint), Nite Jewel shines, stripping down to proudly display her influences on her (hypothetical, or maybe not) “Rhythm Nation” jacket.

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I had a chance to chat with the Los Angeles-based Nite Jewel (real name Ramona Gonzalez) on the phone about recording Real High with her husband, their work/life balance and why Janet Jackson is the shit. 

Crave: Real High is your fourth album. Where does it fit into your discography? 

Nite Jewel: I had these songs from 4-5 years ago that never got to see the light of the day. Once I stopped touring from the last record I just said I’m gonna add a few more and rush these out. It was a matter of unearthing things from my past that I was ready to approach again.

You recorded some of the songs with your husband (producer/electronic musician Cole M.G.N.). Being married myself, I can only imagine some of the challenges that come up with that work/life balance. 

(A long beat) That’s a hard one. Cole and I developed our artistic selves side-by-side and often working together. We’ve been making music together since 2004 in New York. It’s not always easy, but certainly over the years it’s gotten easier.  Although there’s times of tension it’s been surprisingly fruitful because we motivate each other. 

So what happens when you disagree on a creative choice? Does someone have to sleep on the couch? 

(Haha). It depends on how much we’re both invested in the song. On my first album, Cole would come in to play on it. I would cry when he criticized me. Now, that never happens. It’s so easy to give feedback and constructive criticism because we know how to do it now. 

How have you changed as a wife/partner over those years?

Being an artist is the most selfish thing you can do in a lot of ways. Being by yourself. Being in your own head. Figuring out how to balance that selfishness with the selflessness of making a relationship work is crazy. It’s not linear. It goes up and down. Hopefully we’re getting more mature and figuring out what matters. 

There’s a nice flow to Real High. It doesn’t feel forced. What was the hardest song to record? 

“The Answer” probably went through 10 different mutations of style. I never knew how to make it work. It has a really strange key between the vocals and the synthesizers. It’s very acrobatic. Somehow at the stroke of midnight we made it work. It was a miracle that it got on there and it’s been the song that people have responded to most.

There’s a real ’90s R&B vibe to this album. Some Janet Jackson, a little Mariah Carey

It’s not like I’m trying to reference 90s R&B. It’s more like that shit just lives in me. I was able to fuzzy all that up in my earlier experimental recording style. Now, that I’m approaching recording in a more classic way those influences are easily acceptable to people. Janet (Janet Jackson’s fifth record) was big for me. “Anytime, Anyplace” is one of my favorite songs. Mariah Carey was more singles. Back then you signed up for BMG Music or went to Target with your mom and you would get at an album. You would listen to it over and over.

You committed to albums back then. 

Yeah, like for six months.

Going back to Janet and even Mariah, those women “owned” their sexuality rather than being “owned by it” like the pop divas of today. 

When they were coming up in the ’90s there was this idea of the tomboy who was hot, but not a Bratz doll. She had ownership of her body. I always related to that. I was both masculine and feminine in my style. Those women taught me that you can as an artist be open with your sexuality, while also not opening up to letting everyone in.

Nite Jewel will be performing May 4th and 20th in Los Angeles before embarking on a European Tour through June. See full tour schedule below: 

Nite Jewel Tour Dates:

5-04 – Los Angeles, CA – Upstairs at the Ace Hotel (DJ Set / Listening Party)

5-20 – Los Angeles, CA – The Getty Center

5-24 – Bucharest, RO – Control Club

5-25 – Vienna, AT – Hyperreality

5-26 – Rome, IT – Spring Attitude Festival

5-27 – Ancona, IT – Loop

5-28 – Padova, IT – Student Summer Festival

5-29 – Livomo, IT – Aurora

5-30 – Bologna, IT – Freakout

5-31 – Milan – Secret Showcase

6-01 – Baden, CH – Werkk

6-04 – London, UK – Camden Assembly

6-08 – Paris, FR – Le Point Ephemere

6-09 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso

6-10 – Rotterdam, NL – V11

7-07 – San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop *

7-08 – Portland OR – Doug Fir [tix] *

7-09 – Seattle WA – Barboza *

7-11 – Vancouver, BC – Fox Cabaret *

7-13 – Boise, ID – Neurolux *

7-14 – Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge *

7-17 – Denver, CO – Lost Lake *

7-18 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th St Entry *

7-19 – Chicago, IL – Chop Stop *

7-20 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme *

7-21 – Toronto, ON – Baby G *

7-22 – Montreal, QC – Vitrola *

7-25 – Burlington, VT – Arts Riot *

7-26 – Boston, MA – ONCE *

7-27 – Brooklyn NY – BK Bazaar *

7-28 – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenca’s *

7-29 – Washington, DC – Rock n Roll Hotel *

7-31 – Atlanta, GA – Masquerade *

8-01 – New Orleans, LA – Gasa Gasa *

8-04 – Austin, TX – Sidewinder *

8-05 – McCallen, TX – Yerberia Cultura *

8-10 – Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom *

8-11 – San Diego, CA – Casbah *

8-12 – Los Angeles, CA – Teragram Ballroom *

* w/ Geneva Jacuzzi & Harriet Brown