‘Music and science are driven by creativity’

28 Feb 2020

What do Biomedical Sciences and music have in common? More than one might imagine, according to Nina van Lier. Recently she won this year’s singer/songwriter competition ’Nootuitgang’. ’I wanted to do more than covering other people’s songs.'

There are probably a million ways to write a song. Nina van Lier’s routine is quite simple. ’It starts with a vague feeling, some subject I want to write about. So I’ll start improvising a melody on the piano, then I’ll start singing sentences. A bit random, but usually with some direction towards a topic. Once the melody holds, I polish the lyrics.’ This process usually takes half a day. Give or take a bit. According to van Lier, it’s easier when there are less people around. ’Then I can be as loud as possible, without disturbing anyone.’

’Music is the one part of my life where I don’t feel pressure’

Now, the twenty-one-year-old has won the singer/songwriter competition ’Nootuitgang’ organised by Cultuur op de Campus. It’s not her first competition, but she describes herself as far from competitive. ’If they see me as a winner, that’s great. But if they don’t, I got the possibility to perform. Everything else is secondary.’ If she could, van Lier would perform more. Preferably little venues. ’But it’s difficult to bring a piano to a bar. Guitar players are a bit enviable in this regard.’

Nina van Lier on stage. Photo: Cultuur op de Campus

Through ’Nootuitgang’, she now won some gigs for the upcoming months, including the Valkhof Festival in July. That music could become her bread and butter, however, is unlikely. ’I’m a perfectionist’, she says, ’Music is the one part of my life where I don’t feel this pressure. Making a career out of it would come at the cost of its charm as a hobby.’


Additionally, van Lier, a Biomedical Science student with a focus on Neuroscience, could never give up research. ’I really like the challenges of it. Music and science are driven by a different kind of creativity. But they’re not as far apart as they might seem. You need to think outside the box when you’re coming up with research hypotheses. That requires just as much creativity as writing a song.’

Music has been in van Lier’s life virtually forever. The composition of her own songs followed in high school. ’At a certain point, I wanted to do more than covering other people’s songs. That’s when I started to write my own.’ The results are lyrical and deeply personal. Songs that appear to hit just the right tone for any possible subject between loss and life. Van Lier writes and, consequently, sings about everything. Tear-jerking, motivational, or simply happy subjects. Taken from personal experience or the story of a friend. Always in English, though. ’I hate my Limburg accent’, she says and laughs, ’That’s more appropriate for carnival songs.’ And all her range aside, she doesn’t write those.

Getting through

What van Lier is reaching for with her music has little to do with commercial success. It’s about being genuine. Something that appears to resonate with her audience. ’I had written this song based on a story of a friend and it was about cancer. After one performance of this song, a woman came up to me to talk about it. This woman who had lost her child thanked me for this song. She told me how much music had helped her to get through her loss’, says van Lier, ’Getting this kind of feedback is something that touches me. Because in the end, it’s way more important getting through to people with your art than winning titles.’

Some of van Liers’ songs can be found on her Instagram-account @nina_van_l

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