Artist Spotlight: Nimkish

Emerging pop artist Nimkish Younging explores her queerness, Indigeneity, and emotionality through songwriting

Nimkish Younging is an emerging pop artist from the Kwakwaka’wakw and Cree nations. (submitted)

Nimkish Younging’s evolution as an artist is a tale of metamorphosis as much as it is a testament to art created through hardship. Her debut album, Heartbreak on the Coast, is a creative representation of the time she spent grappling with her identity as a queer Indigenous woman — a struggle that remained private until she came out at 22.

“I had a very confusing relationship with this girl and she was the first girl I ever had feelings for. It really inspired me to write about it because at the time I wasn’t really comfortable with my sexuality,” she says.

Nimkish is from the Kwakwaka’wakw and Cree nations, and though she originally came out as bisexual, she later learned more about two-spirit people — those who carry both male and female spirits — and began to consider what that identity could mean to her as well.

“Getting used to my identity and being comfortable with that was a huge process for me, and she was a part of that,” she explains. “Once I started writing about that situation, it just kept flowing.”

Heartbreak on the Coast is intimate and profound, but it’s also catchy. Strong, layered vocal hooks break through instrumentals with both rnb and electronic elements, producing pop that feels sexy, but hardly bombastic and never frivolous.

With her next record, she hopes “to really immerse [herself] in the Indigenous community here and the Indigenous art scene in general.”

Her first LP, tentatively titled Damage Control, is slated to drop sometime next winter.

“It’s very representative of what my life is like right now. I’m processing a lot of things and I’m kind of fixing things as well,” she says. “I also think that Indigenous people are often thrown on damage control to fix situations, to fix our families and to fix trauma.”

“The main thing that I wanted to write about but it actually didn’t start coming out until recently — because I’ve been processing it — is the loss of my dad.”

Right before the release of Heartbreak on the Coast, Nimkish’s father passed away from kidney disease. Since then, she has been trying to write about “addiction in Indigenous communities” — “maybe not directly” but about “how it has affected [her].”

“He was kind of dealing with a lot of trauma he had experienced second hand,” she says. “I have started to tackle it in terms of the songs I have written about my dad and those are the ones I am keeping to myself and am not letting many people into.”

Some of those will likely make an appearance on Damage Control for the first time, but Nimkish’s dad did make a brief appearance on Heartbreak on the Coast. At the end of the song “Green”, she reads a poem called “Angel on the Coast” which he wrote. This moment, she says, is her favourite part of the record.

“As my last album went hand in hand with me dealing with some changes in my life, this album, even though it’s in its early stages, is helping me process some things,” she says. “It is going to be very therapeutic.”

With the release, she’s hoping to go through “a huge collaborative process” as well.

“I am tackling some issues on this next album that I would really like to involve other Indigenous artists in,” she says. “I also found that the songs on the last album we ended up bringing other people into ended up being really awesome and really transformed what my producer and I had going in.”

Nimkish has no shows planned until next year but “may come back with some new songs to share.” Stay tuned to her social media for updates.