On the Road With Niia

On the Road With Niia

Story by Justin Moran / Photography by Leandro Lara

“I had forgotten what being around people felt like,” Niia admits, having just recently wrapped her first mini-tour since the world shut down entirely.

The LA-based R&B vocalist is fresh off the release of her ambient project, OFFAIR: Mouthful of Salt, which uses everything from crystal healing bowls to harps and, of course, her sultry voice to shape an immersive experience that sounds like slipping into the ocean water — cleansing and therapeutic, but not without emotional hurdles along the way.

“It’s one thing to be in the crowd or on drugs, melting into the music and scene,” Niia continues, reflecting on her return to live performance this year. “When you’re the artist, the entertainer, it’s a different type of feeling and responsibility. I don’t do too many shows and being back on this tour felt like something I had never experienced.”

Primarily written and recorded in Niia’s home, OFFAIR: Mouthful of Saltwas “created so intimately,” which she says lent itself to smaller, stripped down shows, from Brooklyn to San Francisco. “No drummer, no full band, just two players and me. The connection that began to happen between my audience and myself was intense. At times it was overwhelming and exciting, but truly pure magic.”

In the middle of each show, Niia and her band would perform improvisational versions of the meditative music heard on OFFAIR: Mouthful of Salt. She was worried her fans “would get bored or not come with me,” Niia says, “but they did,” and this ultimately became a highlight of all her sets. “I needed this moment to find my center, use the flood of emotions and high energy in the room to channel into putting on a great show for everyone. That’s what drew me to creating ambient music and it was wild to see it translate live.”

OFFAIR: Mouthful of Salt, which follows 2021’s If I Should Die, keeps in line with Niia’s emotional storytelling. She’s joined by collaborators and friends, including Gabriel Garzón-Montano and Brandee Younger, who wielded an “underwater odyssey” that includes one of the “saddest songs” she’s ever written: “Deeper Than Goodbye,” among the album’s few uptempo tracks to keep Niia “moving, instead of drowning,” as she explains.

“Being present for an hour each night with a group of strangers felt almost like a religious immersive experience,” Niia says. “We can both say we were there. They felt me and I felt them. I’m learning with each show what the definition of a performer means to me. I can't wait to perform again.”

For more of OFFAIR's "intentional soundtracks," visit offair.co.

Photography: Leandro Lara