Female DJs’ are here to stay and this Australian DJ duo has proved it.
The ladies – consisting of twin sisters, Olivia and Miriam Nervo are a singing, songwriting, DJ and production powerhouse, where many singles are by powerful female vocals from the sisters themselves.
They shot to fame in 2009, when they co-wrote David Guetta and Kelly Rowland’s hit When Love Takes Over and later worked with the likes of Afrojack, Kylie Minogue and Dimitri Vegas, and more.
All set to perform the upcoming Ultra music festival on Saturday, March 4 to Sunday, March 5, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, we speak to them ahead of their performance.
To understand more about them, Emirates Woman spoke to the duo on how they continue to stand out in the music industry.
Talk us through your career.
We started as songwriters and producers for other artists. After we had our songs released with many pop stars and DJs, and we later turned into DJs & performers ourselves. A major turning point in our career was around 2009 when a song we wrote for David Guetta and Kelly Rowland When Love Takes Over won a grammy. In that same year, an artist we were developing (Ke$ha) also became very successful. Our lives changed overnight. From then on, we focused more on writing for ourselves as NERVO, instead of writing for others. Since then, we have been touring the world and releasing music as NERVO and love what we do.
What inspired you to enter the music space?
Music was always the only talent we had or enjoyed. It was a passion that we started very early on. We had been playing piano since we were six years old and making up songs from a very early age. We wrote our first pop song when we were 15 years old and that song was put on hold for The Backstreet Boys. It never made the album, but it started us on our way to be songwriters. Many years later we did a course in music production and recording, in London. This was another huge step for us as we were able to gain more control of our work. We left the comfort of our family and friends in Australia when we were 19 years old to pursue a career in music, and it wasn’t an easy road for a very long time, so we feel very grateful to be touring the world doing what we love today!
How would you describe your music as a DJ?
High energy, vocal house music.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
Let the music do the talking. Spend time making a lot of bad songs because this is the only way you will learn to make better ones.
Talk us through the creative process behind producing a track.
It can start from a riff, a chord progression, a top-line melody or even a lyric. We love to dig deep into our lyrics and we use our writing sessions almost as therapy. Our writing sessions often help us to understand our feelings around certain issues, relationships, traumas and more. We are often very inspired in times of struggle or celebration.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest musicians in the industry – tell us more.
In the early years, we worked for a lot of pop stars like The Pussycat Dolls, Miley Cyrus, Rachel Stevens, Britney Spears and more. We then started to work for DJs like David Guetta, Armin Van Buuren and Avicii.
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How does it feel to play at the UAE’s first ULTRA music festival this year?
We are extremely excited. Ultra always does such a great job at production and we can’t wait to perform for everyone in the UAE.
The DJ industry is quite male-dominated. How does it feel to be a part of one of the female DJ duos?
When we started touring around 12 years ago there were not many main-stage female DJs, and we didn’t realize how rare it was as we were just grateful to have been booked. We had some pretty strong female role models like Sister Bliss and Annie Mac and Sonique. But these days there are a lot more women headlining shows or festivals and perhaps with the benefit of hindsight we can see how special it is to have been part of this female movement. There is absolutely no reason why women cannot commend a crowd as a man would, but strangely dance music has historically been male-dominated. Women were often shoe boxed into being singers and not producers. It’s nice to see that in 2023 women do not need to perform in a certain attire to be booked as a DJ, finally!
You first played on the Ultra Main Stage in 2010 – how was the experience?
That was a major highlight. Ultra was probably the first major festival promoter to support us. We will forever be grateful to them for that.
What’s been some of your most memorable performances to date?
There are so many! Tomorrowland Brazil was probably the most epic moment. We flew in on a helicopter and played the second last set on mainstage. I think we played before Martin Garrix. The crowd was ecstatic. Someone from the crowd threw a t-shirt at us during our closing song and it hit the CDJs, making the music stop, coincidentally right at the build. We got a shock of a lifetime, but we carried on, and it almost made the performance even more special. We played a lot of our own music in that set and seeing the crowd sing the lyrics to your song is the highest of all highs one can experience and it still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.
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You manage a label, tour internationally and work on various projects in the studio. How do you manage to balance all of these roles?
We don’t feel like we are managing because we have about 1000 unread emails, and 20 song ideas that need to be finished and are constantly spreading ourselves thin when it comes to our family and friends, but we’re happy if it appears like we are balancing or managing it all. It is a struggle sometimes, but we are so very grateful for our careers and our position and our lives in general, so this keeps us happy. We have very blessed lives. Between us, we have three incredible daughters. I (Mim) have an incredible partner and family support in Europe. Liv is a solo single parent so that is another level of work to balance. We will always have each other’s back and I think that support helps us to strive and dare I say, thrive!
Can you tell us a little more about what you’ve got planned this year?
We are trying to finish songs to release them so we can continue with more exciting things to come.
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Images: Instagram @nervo