From the moment Niki Neiconi walks into the room, she’s all smiles.
Neiconi has been to AthFest every year since she started school at the University of Georgia in 2016, but this weekend will be different. For the first time, Neiconi will be performing at AthFest under her stage name N1KI with her band.
Neiconi remembers watching the acts of past years and being unable to imagine herself onstage. However, those who work with Neiconi believe she’s the perfect person to perform for a crowd.
“She just kind of always has this positive energy surrounding her,” Neiconi’s manager Aya Maruyama said. “You can always tell that people want to be around her. She just has this draw.”
After starting piano lessons in the fifth grade, Neiconi became interested in music when she quickly figured out that playing was something she excelled at. This is also when she began writing “melodies, lyrics, and whatnot,” as she called it.
However, she didn’t realize the magnitude of what music meant to her until she listened to the album “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends” by the band Coldplay in the summer between her eighth and ninth grade years.
“There is something more to [music] in my life than just something I listen to,” Neiconi remembered thinking. “It’s something I’m deeply passionate about.”
The next year, Neiconi decided she wanted to take up guitar. After her uncle gifted her one, she began teaching herself how to play by watching tutorials online.
Even though Neiconi carries her guitar with her when she performs, the piano is always where her songwriting process begins. She starts by creating a catchy melody on the piano, then transposes it to the guitar so she can perform the song on stage.
Neiconi views songwriting as another form of journaling. She takes a difficult part of her life, whether it be a complicated relationship she went through or her struggles with mental health, and turns it into something beautiful that her listeners can enjoy.
Performing the songs she writes out-loud is Neiconi’s most recent musical development. In the past, she would just sing quietly in her room.
Neiconi credits a lot of her sound to the talent and influence of the N1KI band members: Josh Tillman, Logan Gruenenfelder and Elijah Walls. She affectionately refers to the group as “The Boys,” and once offered to rebrand as “N1KI and The Boys” to emphasize their contributions.
All of the band members come from a largely rock-n-roll background, while Neiconi’s music tends to fall into the indie-pop genre. Though this might cause a collaborative issue in some groups, Neiconi and her bandmates don’t seem to have that problem.
“[Neiconi] is really good at taking her ideas and our ideas and making them work together,” N1KI’s drummer, Tillman said. “Whatever comes out is a unique blend of our styles.”
Tillman is the only member of the N1KI band that is able to make it to the AthFest performance, but that doesn’t dull Neiconi’s excitement.
“It’s kind of like a dream come true,” she said about being welcomed into the AthFest community.
Neiconi will be playing songs from her 2018 EP “UN1,” her new single “You’ll Never Know’’ as well as various covers.
You can see N1KI perform in the AthFest Club Crawl at 12:30 a.m. Saturday night at the Iron Factory.