It is just before sundown in Barcelona when I meet Núria Graham. She is already there when I tumble into the almost empty bar. Passing by outside before entering, it seems like there are two of her. The person sitting on the reddish leather couch and a second Núria, the one reflected in the mirror on the wall next to the table. It is fitting as we later figure out because the new album Cyclamen is inhabited by various personalities and spins narrative yarns from goldfish to birdmen.

Getting its title from the Greek word for ‘cycle’, the album presents a circular story. Framed by the songs Procida I and Procida II, the journey, once come to an end, starts over without you even noticing. The tracks blend into one another. They are the same song – kind of. “The chords are backward”, Núria explains. It was only once she figured out that they were supposed to open and close the record, that the rest of the album fell into place. “It is kind of the same song, but you are not the same. Like this energy that, okay, after this trip you’re in the same place but you are not exactly the same person. Something has shifted, you know?”

Beginnings of Things

What I intended to be a track-by-track walk-through of the new record deflates into a beautifully disorganized conversation around, yes, most of the tracks, but far from having linear beginnings and endings. That may be a good thing because, as Núria Graham sings in The Beginnings of Thing, it is only the starting point that she likes. “I talk about this because I want to break this pattern”, Núria says referring to the toxicity of over-enthused beginnings and the hard fade-outs of initial love. “The entire record goes back to the beginning when it ends. Sometimes you feel overexcited only when you’re at the beginning of anything, even relationships, and friendships. I am trying to find the newness in other things, in a non-toxic way of always looking forward and trying to move in a way of always having a feeling of newness. But I do like the beginnings of things. Who am I lying to?”

Sometimes there is a newness to be found in exactly the opposite – in not trying to pursue unfamiliar things constantly. Núria tells me about her move to the Catalonian seaside. Living in the same place for almost three years now has also been new to the artist who had moved around a lot previously.

“I am finding a fresh beginning in the not-new. Kind of like finding beginnings within a cycle without breaking the cycle.”

88 Keys

Part of why it may be easier to keep beginning, to constantly start something new, is because it keeps you from getting to the hard part. The dryness of pushing through the vast middle ground towards who knows what end. After the innocence of the beginning comes the pressure of continuing, of improving, of being supposed to be good at what you’re doing because you are not at the beginning anymore. It is either hard work or boredom that follows, picking up another track that Núria Graham released during the pandemic. Boredom is not necessarily a new song. It was written in 2015 but maybe it was stuck in whatever followed the beginning.

Cyclamen, though, is not just a new beginning in the telling of various stories. It is also the first record that Núria Graham self-produced. Like this, there is constant newness even in the fifth record the young artist is releasing. The sound departs from the more electronic-orientated Marjorie and explores the deep range of the piano and wind instruments like the bassoon guided by a rooting groove of the double bass. Speaking of it like it were no big deal, Núria says “I feel like producing is just an extension of songwriting. The songs ask for things, and you just do whatever you’re told.”

Poisonous Sunflowers

And sometimes what the songs ask for remains a mystery even after being recorded and sung. We talk about another track on the album, Poisonous Sunflower. On it, Núria Graham sings “bring me the power not to speak”, a quote I wanted to pick the singer’s brain on. She ponders a moment and continues to rip the paper tag of the teabag in her long-empty cup into small pieces. Her hands are the hands of a true classical guitarist. The unequal length of fingernails on the right and left hand gives that away. “The song is still a mystery for me”, she says finally. “I am going to have to sing it a lot of times to know. When I sing, I say a lot of mysterious things that I don’t say when I talk. It is this weird power that you’re saying things that you don’t know – it is like magic sometimes.”

“These mystery lyrics are kind of like visions. Like you’re always searching, and I feel with the songs you’re doing this work of searching and trying to get to know yourself better. You need the openness to allow not knowing exactly what you feel but you feel it. Don’t be afraid of what it sends you. You’re just playing a game with yourself.”

On that note, Cyclamen does sound like a game. It has the playful nature of dressing up, disguising, and assuming perspectives of characters you didn’t even know you had in you. Through music, Núria taps into explorations of subconscious ideas and feelings. Who knows, maybe the Poisonous Sunflower does not make complete sense today but a few years from now.


The Birdman is one of those characters. Connecting all the way back to one of the first albums by the singer, Bird Eyes, the animals of flight have a tendency of reappearing in Núria Graham’s songwriting. Núria is surprised when I bring that up. She was not aware of that recurrent theme, but that is probably part of the game. On Birdman, she assumes the position of an observer and messenger. “The birdman represents this catastrophic view when somebody is seeing something from on top and then tells other people this vision of what is coming.

The song is shaped by darkly humorous visions of impending disaster – much in the current Zeitgeist. And by the radical amazement that the singer and songwriter rediscovered she had for the rarities of nature. “On the record, the super god is nature. She is the one that decides what is happening or not. Nature by itself is a divine thing – not in a religious way but in admiration of its beauty and strength.”

Fire Mountain

Marbled by this connection to nature, the album carries the title of a Mediterranean flower – the Cyclamen – and it takes the listener to places of waterways and mountains. During the last few years, moving away from the big city, Núria Graham has renewed her connection to nature. “I think, there was a physical need to talk about nature more than being there for some reason. Thinking about nature also as in human nature. Or even things bigger than that.”

Cyclamen is still a record of many secrets – to the listener and to the singer as well. That is part of what makes it such an intriguing listen. Sung in bright heaviness and melancholic lightness, the voice of Núria Graham gives these endless ambiguities and mysteries a hearable form.

Disaster in Napoli

The record cover follows the theme. It is a black and white photograph painted over with colorful details creating a multi-faceted surface. Núria Graham describes the cover as the “seed of all the concepts” that came to her without her knowing. Connected to the song Disaster in Napoli, they both represent a “kind of obsession with Naples and all the surroundings of this place”. Núria tells me, that there is this picture taken in a city outside of Naples. It has been sitting on her bedside table for five years now. “My friend Ingride and I took the train from Naples to Mount Vesuvio and then just got off at a random stop because we liked the name of the place, Torre del Greco. It was a kind of trashy coastal town, and we loved it. She took this picture and gave it to me for my birthday a few months after.”

Five years later, Núria picked up the picture that was there all along and discovered it to be the destined album cover. “The thing was there physically. Maybe it got into my head for some reason,” she adds.

Yes, It’s Me

The two sides of the image – one is black and white, and one is overwhelmingly colorful – could be seen to represent two of the other characters found on the record. The Catalyst and the Goldfish. Núria laughs when I bring this up, “the one song is like ‘I am the catalyst’ and on the next one ‘it’s me the goldfish’. And I am like who the hell are you? Like, are you settled down girl?” Poking fun at herself with “stupid Catalan-English” Núria Graham can switch from playfully self-deprecating to an in-depth analysis of lyrics from one second to another.

Out of the myriad of characters, these two might form the most interesting juxtaposition. As the artist explains; “the catalyst is a character who is trying to understand aspects of death. It talks about grief and is trying to understand the causality of its nature. Kind of how sometimes it feels like magic when you write or dream something and then it happens. But I don’t think it is magic. It is something inherent to nature that is just ahead of us.” While the catalyst is trying to grasp and untangle the mysteries, the goldfish takes on a more observant role towards the disasters and pains of life. “The goldfish is just in its fishbowl, thinking ‘well I am alright here. I am just going to watch how the circle happens all over again and again.’ They are different ways of seeing the world. I have both things in me.”

The Catalyst

When I think of catalyzing, I think of channeling sunlight through a glass prism giving the dispersed rays the unified power to burn. Núria picks up that thread and adds, “yeah, it kind of purifies energy. Sometimes your subconscious tells you all of these catastrophic visions of the future. I want to take them and catalyze them in an optimistic way.” While our conversation keeps circling around these characters, the sunlight starts to fade. It is either the day coming to an end or the night beginning – depending on how you look at it. I ask Núria one last question before we head off into the city in dawning darkness. Do you consider yourself to be the catalyst for your music or do you see music as the catalyst for you? The singer does not answer right away. And my gaze drifts off lingering on the reflected mirror version of Núria Graham. Mirror-Núria moves the same way as the artist in front of me, yet different.

“You know,” the Núria in front of me begins her sentence. “Sometimes I feel like I am just sitting in the backseat of a car, letting go and the information and the music just come through, driving the car. It does not feel like I am making the songs. It is a weird thing, it is more like getting this energy and then forming it. So yeah. I am the catalyst.”

Cyclamen is out now via Primavera Labels.