Hiatus Kaiyote's Nai Palm on Her Solo Debut 'Needle Paw,' Australian Roots & Covering David Bowie
publish date: 2017-10-24
As Naomi "Nai Palm" Saalfield commanded the stage of the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Monday night (Oct. 16) her raw vocal talent became more of a powerful instrument than the Flying V-type electric guitar she was holding. Wearing a spacy metallic blouse and matching knee-high, platform boot, the frontwoman of Australian indie quartet Hiatus Kaiyote captivated the venue’s intimate crowd with her everlasting vocal range and depth previewing songs from her solo album, Needle Paw.
When discussing her debut effort with prior to the performance, Nai Palm specified that she wanted her voice to be the album’s central focus. “I guess I just wanted to take it back to basics. I don’t have shit to prove,” says the vocal powerhouse who wanted to “celebrate the most emotional and human [thing] on the planet.” Something needed in a time when the importance of the voice on R&B-centric records almost seems to be a faded memory.
Since last speaking to us, the magnetic personality received one of her biggest doses of mainstream reality: Drake commenced “Free Smoke” — the first track and signature hype single from his playlist, More Life — with a stirring sample of Hiatus Kaiyote’s “Building A Ladder.” On the song, Nai Palm’s vocals hold attention as if the sample’s musical space lies within a sermon. It’s only one of her and the band’s more notable accomplishments: Next to being the first Australian act nominated for a best R&B performance Grammy, while gaining A-list fans along the way, such as Naomi Campbell and the late Prince.
Stepping aside from her music brothers for a bit, Nai Palm refocuses that energy on her first solo project. Needle Paw is a 13-track journey starting with the healing chant “Wititj (Lightning Snake) Pt. 1” and eventually closing with its “Pt. 2.” The bookmark tracks of interlude length feature Jason Guwanbal Gurruwiwi and pay homage to the indigenous culture of Nai Palm’s native Australia. The singer considers the closer (an ode “thousands of years old”) her favorite on the LP because, “the Australian identity isn’t really as celebrated as it should be. Indigenous people are the most oppressed in the entire world and quite often they’re silenced.” She completed that thought: “I want to share the beauty I’ve been exposed to.”