I’m Nadeem Shakir and I was part of the Music cohort of Ladders, working in Blank Studios for 4 weeks in Stage 3. I’m currently a Sixth Form student at Gosforth Academy.
When do you think your interest in Music flourished?
When I lived in New Zealand, I had piano lessons but I absolutely hated them. It was too much pressure and I ended up quitting. I didn’t play the instrument again until Year 6 when I came across this song and thought ‘oh, that sound would sound nice on the piano’ and I learnt it just like that. From then I did talent shows – I never won them but it was nice to just put myself out there. I never really sung or played the guitar before until Year 9 and I ended up doing another talent competition at that point. I sang Unchained Melody and got a really good response.
Did you end up feeling relatively comfortable after a while?
I felt like I did, yeah. I would get so nervous beforehand but once I did it and got a positive response from the audience I started thinking I should do it more often. So I kept going and I got better and better. I would always sing the likes of Bruno Mars, Prince and Freddie Mercury which helped with my falsetto and naturally my range increased.
So would you say you built your voice around other artists?
Absolutely. It started off with Johnny Cash playing the guitar, then Bob Dylan with his songwriting. Other artists like Billy Joel, Elton John, Ed Sheeran, James Brown, Michael Jackson and Ray Charles. I’ve taken inspiration from them to get to where I want to be and I think after a while I realised I wanted to be a showman.
I can see that because the artists you have mentioned certainly have that in common!
Exactly. They have to be seen and on stage, they are not shy in the slightest.
Interesting. You’ve built yourself up to be a showman and you’re at school studying Music, History and Drama. How did you end up coming across Ladders?
My Mum and I had been looking for songwriting competitions. We were doing a lot of research and ended up typing in ‘Music Courses’ and Ladders just popped up out of the blue. It was just a thing by chance. At that point, I was kind of on a fearless streak and I guess I still am. Ever since I joined Ladders, I still have this ‘what have I got to lose?’ mentality.
Joining Ladders has the best thing that could’ve ever happened. It’s been so good. I applied and even that process in itself was very helpful since I now apply for things way more often, including my UCAS.
What was the experience like once you joined the course?
I had never been to Blank Studios at that point and it was just insane. The engineers, the other people on the course, Sam – they knew what they were doing and they were just so nice. It made me feel so safe and secure. Sam helped me with my song and it was great. But he also said that I could pop into the studios to be a fly on the wall for other musicians…so I went to every single one! They had a lovely piano there so I would go and do my own thing, try and write a couple of songs whilst I was in the studio vibes. Even the final showcase was lovely as I got to meet new people. Everyone has just been so nice. I feel like now that little spark of motivation I had has now turned into flame because of Ladders.
Out of curiosity, do you have a favourite Ladders moment?
For me, it’s just the laughter. For instance, Sam and I would always go on about Bourbon Biscuits. He said he hated them so much but because we both hadn’t eaten for hours it got to the point where we came across a packet of Bourbons and he had no choice but to eat them. As a joke, I was going to get him a packet of Bourbons at the final showcase but I forgot.
Oh man, he would’ve loved that! Speaking of Sam, how did you find working with him?
He’s just SO positive. He would explain himself very well and he knew exactly what he was doing. Such a clever guy, with so much knowledge about the music itself, the tech and best of all, he could have a laugh while he was doing it! He’s been amazing.
For your actual Ladders project (an original song called “Mika”) – I have to say that I heard it at the Final Showcase and it was incredible. Brilliant songwriting. I was wondering what your process was and how happy you were with the result?
There was this girl in my year called Mika who’s so funny and nice, had a quirky style and was one of those characters that just sticks out. With that in itself, I was always confused about whether I had feelings for her or not. I remember writing it and it was after my Grandad’s birthday party at my house. I sat down at the piano and started playing some chords and just kept asking myself where the chord would go next and that’s how I tend to write my music. It’s like joining dots.
Then the line “stay on the line until I get home” – I don’t know where it came from but it just sounded so good. On a general note, the lyrics just poured out of me at very early stages of the writing and I rely a lot of visualisation when I write.
What was the significance of Ladders on your career choices?
I have wanted to be a musician for a long time but I never really knew how to do it. It was just always there. Then years went by and I started writing more songs, I began questioning how I’m going to get these songs out. I started to get a bit scared at that point. When I came into Ladders, it kind of opened up these brand new contacts and so in that way, it has solidified that idea of becoming a musician. At school you’d say ‘I want to become a musician’ and the response would be kind of disheartening. But now I feel like I can justify my answer by saying that I’m building a repertoire or working on an EP. Even at the Ladders Careers Day, I met Wayne C McDonald and I know I’ve got his contact details now if I ever want feedback on a song. Likewise with Andrew Archer at Loft, who’s actually offered me a work experience opportunity. Overall, it’s really helped because of these contacts.
Finally, would you recommend Ladders?
Definitely. It’s so sad that it has now ended…imagine if I didn’t find the application form on the website. I don’t know what would’ve happened! I just hate to think. But if there were to be another course, I would say just try. It benefits you so much and you learn so much. All of these opportunities for a young person like me is like being handed a diamond- so valuable. It’s a great way to push yourself out there.