Whether she’s known as singer-songwriter Nikol Ette or as pro photographer Niki B. Burgi, she’s very dynamic. You can also and most definitely add musician to her name, as she plays a mean bass, in addition to several other string and percussion instruments she’s taken up since the age of eight.
As a photographer, Niki’s range is just as wide as her scope as a musician. To paraphrase what’s been stated by others about her talents behind the camera; Niki combines her artist’s eye, stylist’s flair, and musician’s harmonious instinct, to create her signature style of photography. Add to that, her easygoing personality and playful sense of humor, and she’s a model’s dream, something that seems to radiate from their photos.
Niki, who’s considering possibly branching out to acting and plans on producing her own music video in the near future, hasn’t seemed to have given many interviews. So this interview she recently gave to Idol Features will be one in which we can tell you to remember that you heard of her here first. What you’re now listing to is Niki’s “I Never Wanted a Life Like This.”
NIKI BURGI: We met at Gabor Csupo’s New Year’s Eve party that I have attended with my friends. Gabor’s NYE parties always had very interesting, eclectic group of artistic people showing up, like Andreea that time. We had a lot in common with our European backgrounds.
CHRIS: I read on your resume that you are currently a “senior consultant for the Governor of California”?
NIKI: Yes, I was and still I am, though I can only construct strategies and give advice and whatever he implements is his decision, but it is a new experience for sure to help to run a campaign. However, as I have said it, I am not the decision-maker. I send out all the effective ideas I can develop and he implements what he wants to.
CHRIS: You have a long list of photo credits and awards. Have you taken pictures since you were a child?
NIKI: Actually, I haven’t been, but I have been into fine arts from a young age. As a teenager, I wanted to shoot pictures, but my parents couldn’t afford to get me a camera. Since I have been told that I have been talented in arts such as drawing, but dancing and singing as well, I have went on with the singing. Cameras came later to my life.
CHRIS: What was your very first camera?
CHRIS: I know you’ve photographed many female models. Do you have any particular favorites?
NIKI: I wouldn’t really say that. When it comes to models, I choose them for the shoot based on the look needed and their skills. Of course, there are some models who can deliver a variety of looks more so than others so I shoot with them more often. For personal reasons, I like smart models more as their eyes reflect that as well and to me the eyes are very important.
CHRIS: You also model, yourself. Are you just as comfortable in front of the camera as you are behind it?
NIKI: Well, it is a very strange thing. I never really modeled, but it happened that photographers wanted to shoot pictures of me. I still don’t consider myself a model as much as I am a singer, songwriter, and a photographer.
CHRIS: What would you say has been the most unique location you’ve ever done a photo shoot, so far, on either side of the camera?
CHRIS: What photographers do you admire?
NIKI: Well, basically any good photographers. Among them for landscape photography; Ansel Adams, in fashion; Annie Leibowitz, but there are many others. It would be hard to list all of them. I don’t admire photographers for their names, but their work. Many of them who are famous are only a fad and have connections, so they have been made famous while their work is not that amazing and many times I see amateurs who are very talented. I admire real talent, not that is being fed to me as one.
CHRIS: You’ve given a lot of tips on photography when you posted to your website’s blog. Have you ever taught any photography classes?
NIKI: I haven’t taught classes yet, but I had interns working with me in the past. However, it is a possibility that I will try to teach photography at one point. Not sure when will I find the time to do it as I am quite busy presently, but I thought of it many times before as well. I guess it is just the question of figuring out the details.
CHRIS: Onto your musical career. Which came first; singing or playing the bass?
NIKI: Definitely singing! I was too small for a bass at age two I was singing a lot of solo performances starting at that age. At age eight, I learnt violin, then guitar, then bass, sticking with string instruments, but I also have learnt some percussion, congas, tom toms, maracas, and drums, and a bit of keyboard since, as well. I also played around with folk instruments such as the flute and Jew’s harp. I just simply love any instruments that I can create music with!
CHRIS: What was your first band?
NIKI: My very first band was a bluegrass band that me and the banjo player Gabor Pelyhes founded, who taught me to play guitar basics, and he has named the band Blue-Grass (laughs). We had bass, two acoustic guitars, a banjo, and of course vocals and later a mandolin as well.
CHRIS: Who are some of your favorite female singers?
NIKI: My favorite female singers really vary by style and era. I love good music from all eras, opera or very old jazz, etc. I think among those who influenced me a lot from earlier artists were Natalie Cole for jazz, Sade for smooth jazz, Annie Lennox and Alison Moyet for new wave, Alanis Morissette, Kosheen and Imogen Heap for alternative pop, Siouxsie and the Banshees for punk rock, Tony Braxton, Faith Evans, Faith Hill and TLC for R&B, Tina Turner for rock, Oceanlab, Carrie Skipper for vocal trance, and in newer styles, Halsey and lately, Katy Perry. These are only a few artists but there are of course many wonderful singers in many music styles and eras. I pick and choose based on my mood and I can say that I was quite fortunate about having been surrounded by a variety of people in both age and music preferences, so they have all introduced me many great music, hence I am familiar with most. I can possibly still remember who introduced me to what type of music that is how important these introductions were to me. I want to thank them all for coming into my life and giving me the gift of new music to listen to and making and molding me and helping this way to find my own style.
CHRIS: Wow, that’s some array of names you mentioned. So, who are some of your favorite female bassists?
NIKI: Hmm …I cannot say I do have one. I appreciate all good players whether female or male
CHRIS: Of the basses you own, which is your favorite?
CHRIS: Being a musician yourself, have you photographed many bands?
NIKI: Since in Los Angeles, I photographed many artists and many of those who are behind the great music we hear, like famous songwriters, producers, and sound engineers. I guess since I am a musician, but also a photographer, I have a good sense to know what they would need for their promotion in the industry and they like that sort of an understanding and appreciate my opinion and ask for it when they need a shoot. So far, I had very pleased clients the only problem they always ran into is to choose which image to settle on as the key image since they had a hard time to choose. So, I always try to pre-select the very best ones for them as elimination is a very hard process and it took me many years to develop that skill to be able to select for all type of models and artists. This happened to me many times but once with a Billboard #1 guitarist who hasn’t got back to me after a week regarding his photos and I was wondering if he was not that pleased with them. So, I decided to call him and ask and when he picked up he didn’t sound too cheerful at all. Then he said the reason why, because every year he has shot one album cover since the 80’s and he was glad if he had a few images that he’d like but from mine the exact opposite, he had hard time choosing the ones he actually didn’t want, so he got frustrated a bit (laughs). I tell you a big rock fell off of my heart as I always want to make sure that I give my very best I can in whatever I do and I like to have happy clients.
NIKI: Actually, I have, but many of them are not released and I cannot release them myself until the performer wants to do so. However, I am planning to release my own video I made with a very “no budget” method that has green screen, some animation in it as well and definitely won’t be like any other music videos one would expect. It will be crazy and fun, to say the least, totally showing the silly big kid side of me.
CHRIS: I’ll keep an eye out for that. So, whether as a bassist or a photographer, do you feel you have ever been treated unfairly just because you’re a woman in a predominately male field?
NIKI: Well, I believe it happened so many times, I stopped noticing it. At the beginning, it has really bothered me, but I understand some men has insecurities. I have to tell you a few stories, one about the bass, one about the photography. When I was playing bass at a competition once and sang with it they had the show schedule written up with the performers. So, all the guys who read the schedule saw that a girl will be playing bass and singing and came in to the theater’s concert venue and loudly said “Let’s see how she will pet that bass …” and I wouldn’t want to say what they have added to this sentence. After my performance, jaws dropped they clapped and never have looked at me the same way ever again. Then when I started shooting fashion, I started with runway photography. In the media stand I was the only female photographer and on the first day my fellow male photographers not only pushed me around literally, but made sexual comments on my lens that was a 70-200VR, and asked if I only liked it big. Well, the next day my very first runway photos came out in the fashion week’s magazine and when I walked in again, on the media stand things have changed around. They officially dedicated a spot for me by taping my business card on the ground I gave to one of them, and they have all shown up with a 70-200 lens. Well, I just couldn’t resist the temptation to ask them the same question they have asked me. But now those photographers think differently about me as a photographer as well.
NIKI: Actually, I was thinking of it and if opportunity rises I wouldn’t mind to try it. I would love to play in a James Bond-style film, a sci-fi, fantasy, action or comedy. I’m definitely not interested to be in a low budget horror that most actors start with, but rather an aliens-like more sci-fi-based one.
CHRIS: With that, I’ll thank you again for taking the time to do this with me, Niki. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone?
NIKI: First of all, a big shout-out to Andreea for arranging this interview with you and thank you for your great questions and the opportunity for this interview and you’re your attention regarding my name as you spelled it correctly with one “k” instead of two, that most people don’t even bother to acknowledge (laughs). Shout-outs to all who have helped me on my way so far! Unfortunately, the list would be too long and I wouldn’t want anyone who might be left out to feel like they haven’t contributed to my life and career. Everyone was important who affected my life, but to name a few, my parents who sacrificed a lot for me to be able to practice and learn my skills, and who filled my life with a musical home, always singing, my older brother, who has unfortunately passed away, forced me to listen to music that I hated first then learnt to appreciate later that he has shown me, my first platonic love who brought me awesome music mixes, my first boyfriend who introduced me to jazz, blues, and oldies. The guy who taught me the basics of guitar and led me into the world of bluegrass, country, and Irish music. Oscar Peterson, a world-famous jazz pianist legend who has made me feel humbled as a young girl when I had an opportunity to perform with him and he thanked me for creating new music with him. Jimmy Hendrix’s cousin, who took me on a rock and roll tour, learning some R&B. My co-producer, TipO, who has introduced me to film music and inspired and created my electronica vocal future step sound. And of course, all my friends who have in one way or another helped me to support my road, such as the amazingly talented Lauren Christy, who is a famous songwriter and though into a different genre, helped me with advice in the music business part and in writing. Judit Tarany, my best friend who never has given up on me and who is a major supporter of music and musicians. Iona Capricorn, who has helped me with my image in every way she could. Nikki Julius, for her introductions to people in the music industry. Of course, thanks to all my very good friends for their emotional support because we simply all need best friends who support us with love and care, so thanks to Terry and Tom Easterbrook for cheering and visiting every year bringing a bit of family feelings, Garry Kettleson, fashion photographer, my number one fan and my Canadian fanbase leader, Ildiko Kiss, a smart businesswoman and fun friend, Lucia Oskera, a longtime friend who is a gorgeous model and actress and a very kind heart and all the creative people in my path who have inspired me to never give up! And last but not least, I want to thank all my fans and followers who support me with their kind comments and words every day and by purchasing my music so I can create more new songs for them to enjoy and hopefully by that; adding a moving experience to their everyday lives!