Meet Niki Tonik, who balances the practical with the spiritual, not only in her life but through her musical offerings to others.
Originally from Los Angeles, now based in Mount Shasta, Niki blends elements of soul, pop, and R&B into organic sonic confections, while at the same time creating custom healing brews founded up Taoist Tonic Herbalism.
Her debut album Write On Time, recently released on 10/10/2020, features the talent of saxophonist Kamasi Washington, and specifically explores the duality of Yin and Yang on delicious intertwining layers of music flavored by colors flowing on dazzling textures.
Niki’s lush voice, at once tantalizing and elusively soothing, projects her distinctive velvety timbres merging into filaments of gem-toned opulence. The result is not only marvelous music but the discharge of restorative sonic pulsations akin to spells and exsufflations. It’s a remarkable album, displaying the innate gift in each person to “write on time,” i.e., shape their own actuality.
Thrive Global caught up with Niki Tonik to chat about her musical influences, the discipline of Taoist Tonic Herbalism, and the dark and light of the rainbow.
Which artists are you listening to right now?
The artists that I’m listening to right now are Rickie Byers (an amazing spiritual singer/songwriter) and Rickie’s daughter, Georgia Anne Muldrow (incredible vocalist and Grammy-nom artist). I tune in to them almost every Sunday morning for their at-home Devotional Music live-stream service. Also, John Mark Pantana and Rivers & Robots are some beautiful Christian/New-Age artists that I discovered earlier this year and whose music I really love. Jason Mraz, Alicia Keys, Jhene Aiko, and Miguel are also some of my favorites.
How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory?
I don’t really have a specific story about why I got into music, other than that lyrics and melodies just started coming to me and I was aware of it and excited enough by it to want to write them down/record and make songs out of them. Music feels natural to me and is something that I have always deeply loved.
What musicians/singers influenced you the most?
I would say that the artist that has single-handedly inspired me the most on my path has probably been Jason Mraz, not just because of his music but because of who he is as a conscious and kind human being. I had the opportunity of singing on stage with him years back when I worked at Cafe Gratitude in L.A., and am hopeful and optimistic about collaborating with him on a song when time allows. Vocally, I’ve always been incredibly inspired by the phenomenal Whitney Houston and, while growing up, Celine Dion’s voice and music had a strong presence/impact as well. I do also love Sade. “By Your Side” is my favorite song, and Stevie Wonder, one of the greatest singer/songwriters of all time.
What is your songwriting process? Do the lyrics come first, or the music?
As far as my songwriting process goes it goes back to hearing melodies and lyrics, sometimes a melody will come on its own and then I try to figure out what that sound wants to say, and sometimes it can be both together at the same time. I don’t really have a process or a formula. I kind of just “hear” and then “do” if that makes sense.
What’s the story behind the name Niki Tonik?
The story behind Niki Tonik is that I originally used to go by the name Niki Paige, which is my first and my middle name, but I also had a business where I was serving Toniks (custom healing brews as I call them) at parties and events and creating beverage menus/drink recipes for vegan restaurants in L.A. (Cafe Gratitude and Wild Living Foods) and started calling myself Niki Tonik. So that name just became more fitting for both the wellness mixology background as well as for my music. Also, when I found out that my original name was already being used by another artist (different spelling), it made Niki Tonik seem even more like the obvious choice.
What inspired your new album Write On Time?
The album was inspired by so many things honestly, different feelings, emotions, and thoughts that I’ve had about really everything, life itself, and where I was at different points in my life for the past 10 years, which is about how long it’s taken to put this project together. That’s also why I chose 10 songs and to release them on 10/10/2020. Something about that 10-year cycle coming to a close felt significant to me. It addresses the themes of love, heartache, loss, letting go, inspiration, creating and wanting a better world, life purpose, prayer, healing, and awakening in consciousness.
You practice Taoist Tonic Herbalism. What is Taoist Tonic Herbalism?
Taoist Tonic Herbalism is a specific practice of herbalism within Chinese Medicine, one of the most ancient systems of healing that is based on the Taoist principles of Yin and Yang, with Yin representing the feminine and Yang the masculine. This principle, along with the concept of the 3 pillars (Jing, Chi, & Shen), classifies herbs by their energetic signature and thus allows Tonic herbalism to able to treat different conditions within the body (or Spirit which is represented by Shen) where imbalances are taking place. Some of the Tonic Herbs include many functional mushrooms such as Reishi, Chaga, Cordyceps, and Lion’s Mane mushroom and other well-known herbs like Goji Berry, Ginseng, Astragalus, Schizandra, and Rhodiola to name a few. These herbs are known to have an array of health benefits and healing properties, with many of them being adaptogenic, meaning they help the body adapt to stress and regulate immune function. Because these herbs tonify, strengthen, and increase energy in the mind, body, and spirit they are known as the Tonic Herbs (hence the inspiration for my name).
Does your music reflect the balance of Yin and Yang?
I feel that my music does reflect the balance of Yin and Yang and that’s actually the name of the last song on the album. In it, I discuss the concept of duality, the dark, and the light, which ultimately makes up the rainbow. So, this album is very much of a rainbow to me because it contains many colors, ideas, feelings, and sounds.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
Inspiration, truth, and choice. Even though many of our external choices were taken away this year, we have been given so much free time to be “with” ourselves. It is up to us whether we choose to see the glass half full instead of empty during this time and I still do feel that all things are possible and that miracles can and do happen! My desire is that people will be uplifted by the album and remember that they too can “Write On Time” and literally create their own realities. It all begins with writing it down and praying it up!
How are you handling the coronavirus situation?
I’m handling it pretty well, I feel and have been really appreciating all the things that have actually worked out for me, or that I made work, this year including moving to Mount Shasta (from L.A) which has been huge, and also finishing my album, which is another big milestone for me. So, I’m just grateful that even during this crazy rollercoaster of a year, I was still able to make some major shifts and complete something really important to me that I’ve been working on for years.
Looking ahead, what’s next for Niki Tonik?
I have more music currently in the works, and also some things in the direction of Toniks as well. You’ll just have to stay tuned in 2021 to see/hear/find out. You can find and follow me on Instagram for updates.