Relationships all have their ups and downs, but when you’re in it for the long haul, you stick around despite the challenges. NYC-based pop artist Nora Lei, a self-described “hopeless romantic” who’s been in a relationship for six years, channeled this sense of unrelenting faith and loyalty into her latest single, “Together,” an ode to unbreakable love.
The verses describe the difficulties a relationship may pose — “I can tell you’re tired/It’s alright because I am too/Been so much tension/Could cut it with a knife” — while the chorus nevertheless returns to a hopeful note: “We know we’re supposed to be together.” The production, full of electronic effects, makes the song fun and danceable, adding to the sense of optimism that overrides the hardship described in the lyrics.
Lei cites Halsey as an influence, which is audible in the way she belts the bridge, “You said it’s gonna get better/But we lost our way/Didn’t you say/So I think it’s time to go/Watch me fly away, wait.”
“I feel like everyone can relate to that,” she says. “You’re so in love with the person, they’re so in love with you, but you feel like you’re hitting this wall. But in the end, you guys are putting the wall up, and you have to kind of let that down and erase the societal norms if you’re in love with each other and be like, ‘Let’s do this and enjoy each other.'”
Though her partner is her muse, Lei also tends to imagine fictional situations that become the basis for songs, and “Together” was born from a combination of these two sources. “I create so many different scenarios in my head, so many different relationships from chatting with girlfriends and understanding what everyone goes through,” she says. “It kind of fell out of me, just holding everyone’s different experience in me, and it just bled out on paper that way.”
She first found the Polar Beats online, then wrote the lyrics around it, and producer Joe Laporta worked with her to fine-tune and mix it. The contrast between the lighthearted sound and the deep lyrics was intentional. “I imagine people dancing to it and enjoying it, even though the words are relating to a relationship in those tough times,” she says.
The 28-year-old began posting covers of songs by artists like Michelle Branch and Demi Lovato to her YouTube channel as a teenager but just began releasing music this year, having been a fashion designer and creator of the swimwear brand Perfect Peach. For a while, she’d record lines that came to her on her phone but didn’t do anything with them. Then, during quarantine, she began to get serious about turning her ideas into songs.
“As terrible as that was, it gave me so much ability to sit down and get inspired and turn all those thoughts and notes I had written down into music, so this year kicked off everything for me,” she remembers. “It’s amazing for me that I’m doing it. It’s a big passion of mine, and it’s been in my life forever. One year down, lots to go.”
While she’s still creating made-to-order pieces for her fashion brand, her focus has shifted to her music, which has already garnered a following; she has over 50,000 followers on Instagram and hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify. To improve her songwriting, she’s begun learning piano and guitar. She’s working toward an EP but is focused on releasing singles for now.
Her very first single, the slow, rhythmic “Heroine,” is an empowerment anthem about “being your own heroine, your own inner goddess, and just doing what makes you feel great and being strong and confident,” she says. She then released the moody, atmospheric “Chemistry” and the wistful “Never Knew Why,” a reflection on the times relationships don’t go as planned.
“All my music is exactly what I’m going through and internally processing, so it can be quite emotional and relatable,” she says. “Some of my songs, I will have purely a melody and will work off of that. Other times, it’s something I absolutely have to get out of me, and I will sit down and write the song in 15 minutes, and I will build the melody around those lyrics.”
When she thinks about the future of her music career, her fans are her priority. “I really just want to be in this for the long run,” she says. “It would be great to win some awards and get more streams, but I really just want to grow a fan base and have my music really resonate with people and have them feel something. If I can keep doing that and have that happen for me, that’s my biggest goal.”