And those are just some of the musical aspects of his career.
Among Nakia’s non-musical undertakings, he worked at an Apple store, modeled, and was a cavern guide, a show rider (yes, horseback), a record label promo guy (pushing John Mayer for Aware Records) and an actual missionary in Africa.
Along the way, he managed to overcome drug and alcohol addiction and growing up as a declared gay kid in the South. He gets to the core of his experiences, and how he moved beyond them and into a positive place on “Dream Big,” a bluesy mid-tempo ballad co-written with his friend Bleu. The EP’s title, Drown in the Crimson Tide, comes from a line in the song — it’s not just a reference to a certain Alabama football team.
“When you grow up in that area of the world, it is really easy to get drawn into your surroundings and your environment,” Nakia explains. “If you’re not careful, you’ll get sucked into that tide and you’ll drown. My aunt told me if I ever got a chance to leave, I should. She also said that one of the hardest things in life to do is to change your lot.”
Nakia has worked to do just that. In fact, as CeeLo listened to Tide, he told Nakia, “I am consistently impressed by the amount you’ve been able to accomplish on your own by just rubbing two pennies together.”
Networking hard in L.A., Nakia made connections that resulted in several fruitful collaborations. He co-wrote the funky “Pieces and Castles” and the EP’s big soul-stirrer, the ode to his life partner, “When I Found You,” with Goldberg. “Make Up With a Gun,” a getaway tale that might be at home in a Sergio Leone or Robert Rodriguez flick, was written with Disney hitmaker Archontis. Seefried (Fitz & the Tantrums) collaborated on the groove-filled “Tight.” Juno Award winner Brian West (Nelly Furtado, K’Naan and Bono) had a hand in the closer, the party-hard R&B-funk rave-up “Walking on a Slant.”
“It was really important for me to have this Otis Redding/Fabulous Thunderbirds/Doug Sahm vibe to this song,” Nakia says. “Then we added the horns, and it took it to this whole other level.”
Joe Sublett and Darrell Leonard, a.k.a. the Grammy-winning Texicali Horns, are heard in various spots on the EP, half of which was recorded at Schell’s home studio.
Nakia continues to work with A-list writers, including legendary Motown hit man Lamont Dozier. Turns out Nakia’s earned himself a few famous fans along the way, including Dozier and Stevie Nicks, who floored him with a red-carpet rave before he could utter his own words of devotion.
Hero encounters aside, Nakia is generally regarded as a super cool, affable guy, one who makes friends as easily as he earns fans.