Nadine Shah: ‘People need to empathise – there’s so much negativity towards refugees’

Watch our video interview with Shah above

Mercury Prize nominee Nadine Shah said she wanted her 2017 album ‘Holiday Destination’ to “document a decline in empathy” and change people’s negative perceptions towards refugees and immigrants. Watch our video interview with Shah above.

Whilst Shah was the bookies favourite to win the award earlier in the day, she lost out to Wolf Alice who picked up the award on their second time of trying, having previously been nominated in 2015. 

Speaking to NME ahead of the ceremony, which was held at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, Shah said she hoped her message about empathy would help change perceptions around the issue of immigration.


Shah said: “I wanted to mainly document a decline in empathy…what I tried to do was to collate a bunch of first time testimonies from people so one being the story of a woman named Ragda who is a Syrian mother and a political activist and tell her story.”

She continued: “In order to get people to understand, they have to empathise and there was so much negativity towards refugees and immigrants we need to change the dialogue somehow by showing people that they have to empties – like this could be you, she is a mother just like you.”

Shah also revealed that she has started work on her next album. “I’m working on it now. I constantly work because it’s my full time job and if I didn’t, I’d watch way too much daytime telly. I already do, I watch way too much.”

Describing being the bookies favourite as the “kiss of death” she said she didn’t view the event as a competition.

Nadine Shah at the 2018 Mercury Music Proze ceremony – Credit: Getty


“I don’t view it as a competition at all, the fact that like an artist like me was included in this is prize enough I suppose. My mother and father are here and they get to watch their daughter on this big stage amongst all these other artists…that’s enough for me, honestly.”

Shah continued: “I never wanted to be a massive artist, I always wanted to be able to hide in the background and kind of just have a steady growth with it. There’s been some lovely responses to the albums so far and more people hearing it, which is great.”

Speaking about the effect of the Mercury nomination, Shah said that many more people are coming to her work thanks to the exposure the nomination has brought.

“I’ve definitely felt that there’s more people discovering the album or me as an artist. It’s quite funny because people are like ‘there’s this new artist, Nadine Shah’ – I’ve been around for eight years! It’s my third album! …but that’s the beauty of this award.”

“There are people discovering our music and discovering what I’ve been doing and they’re checking out the back catalogue as well. It’s nice!”


“Lily or Florence…I’d like a woman to win,” Shah said when asked who she would like to win the coveted prize.

“It’s been a long time since a woman won and Lily is saying things that a lot of people aren’t as a woman, as a mother and speaking about what it means to be a good mother or what it means to be a bad mother and to be judged all of the time. I think it’s really important that somebody is writing songs like that because we don’t have that of role models who are being so candid and so honest and blunt about it…”

Shah is due to tour the UK in December and you can buy tickets for the gigs here.

Nadine Shah 2018 Tour Dates:

02 Dec – Manchester – Gorilla
03 Dec – Bristol – SWX
04 Dec – London – Heaven
05 Dec – Brighton – Concorde 2