For an artist who named her most recent project Vacation, NJOMZA doesn't actually get away much.
"It's hilarious because after I decided I was going to call [my EP] Vacation, I was like, 'Wow, hopefully I'm manifesting a vacation in my life because I've never really had a real one.'"
Instead, the singer, born Njomza Vitia, has spent the last three months in a house in Laurel Canyon churning out new songs. And before that, she was posted up in New York City with Ariana Grande as part of the super-team of writers behind the pop star's No. 1 smashes "thank u, next" and "7 rings." It's been a wildly productive year for the 25-year-old, who, ironically enough, identifies as a homebody who likes to "stay home and watch trash TV and drink some wine."
Amid the constant work and occasional play, NJOMZA also found time to catch up with MTV News ahead of her show in Chicago on Friday (August 23) as part of Live at Aloft Hotels Homecoming Tour, which takes artists to their hometowns for intimate performances.
"It's just dope to go back home and be where you're from and have people that appreciate you and your music," NJOMZA said of the upcoming gig, which will bring her back to her Midwestern roots.
NJOMZA was born in Germany and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, and she would frequently venture into the city by train to see concerts — her faves included Fall Out Boy and Paramore — and build ties in the music scene. Perhaps the most important connection she made early on was with the late Mac Miller, who contributed a guest verse to her early mixtape Gold Lion. Miller later signed NJOMZA to his own REMember label, and her 2017 EP, Sad For You, marked the imprint's first release.
The two maintained a close relationship until his death last September, which inspired her recent one-off single "No One Is Spared." NJOMZA debuted the soulful track during her performance at the Celebration of Life tribute concert for Miller in October — moving the crowd with poignant lyrics like, "Supposed to swim, but you dove in / And then you drowned / I miss you" — but she waited almost nine months to release it.
"I actually finished the song right before the performance," she said. "And, I don't know, it was such a personal song that I wasn't so eager to just release it right away. Then after awhile, it's just sitting in my computer, and I know my fans want to hear it, especially the ones that were there at the Celebration of Life for Mac. It just came to that time where I was like, 'You know what, if I don't do it now, I'll probably never put it out.' So it was kind of just jumping in the water.
"It was awesome to see people vibe with the song," she continued. "A lot of my fans found out about me through Mac, so they were all extremely supportive with the record."
She's currently plotting a video for "No One is Spared," but isn't sure what that'll look like yet, besides it having a distinctly West Coast aesthetic. "It kind of feels like me being in California... so my 'sad girl' vibe," she said.
That kind of bluesy, wistful temperament was all over Sad For You, but NJOMZA noticeably lifted the mood on Vacation. Expect her to continue evolving on her forthcoming new music — she tweeted this week that she "feels like a new chapter is approaching," and she teased that her new songs are more "fun" than any of her previous work.
"I feel like I go through a transition feeling pretty often, but definitely right now, I'm just ready to put out the new music and get some new energy going," she said. "I'm super, super influenced by California and living out here; the sunny weather, being by the water. It's a completely different world, but I love it, and California definitely gives me a creative spurt."
As for what that new music will sound like, she explained, "Man, I feel like I'm so all over the place when it comes to my sound, just because I've spent so much time writing and it's kind of all just word vomit. Or brain vomit, I should say. I really have something for every emotion and every mood that I feel."
But before we hear what NJOMZA's been working on all summer, she's got her hometown show to do and an awards show to catch. "Thank u, next" and "7 rings" are both up for major prizes at next week's MTV Video Music Awards, which is especially sweet considering she was in the latter video. "The whole set was just us hanging out, drinking champagne, cracking up with each other... it was super, super fun. I feel like in the video, I'm just laughing my ass off."
And if "7 rings" ends up winning next week, you can probably guess what the celebration will entail.
"I'm gonna have to pop a bottle of Clicquot for that one!"