Ny crafts a sound all for herself

She may call Tulisa and Plan B mates but the Kentish Town singer is now enjoying her own success

When Naomi Gray was thirteen she started listening to grime music. “I realised there were no girls doing it. I thought: I want to be the first girl to do this music. At the time I was around Tinchy (Stryder) Dizee (Rascal) and Wiley and I was looking and I thought I need to do a mixtape, they all have mixtapes. I started calling artists like Pro Green, Sway and Wiley to ask them for their music. Some of them I didn’t know at the time, but they were only going to say yes or no.” She put together the mixtape in a university studio, in a two hour window between when the classes finished and the cleaners came in to close the building. “Everyday for three weeks we recorded for this mixtape. Then I needed to get some money to create the mixtape, so I started washing cars and cleaning people’s houses. I raised �500, pressed up the CDs and sold them in the West End for a fiver each.” she laughs.

Growing up around what were to become some of the biggest names in the current UK music scene, Gray continued to build her craft. She would bunk off Parliament Hill school to attend out of school music classes at places like the Roundhouse.“I didn’t like school, nothing against Parliament Hill, I just didn’t like school at all. I thought: I’m not sitting outside smoking, i’m not chasing after boys, I just want to do my music. My mum wasn’t very happy but she supported me.”

The Roundhouse was where she met now highly successful Plan B- who was to become a life-long friend. Gray even supported him on a tour of woodlands around the UK. “I loved his music and he loved my singing and we just liked to do things together.” He recently gave her a lizard, because he was on tour and couldn’t look after it. “he thought it was a boy and called it Razor. We had it checked and it turns out it is a girl. I thought ‘I can’t call a girl Razor’ my little brother, he’s seven and decided to name it Lizzy.” She can also call X-Factor judge Tulisa a friend, after they met when Kilburn based Tulisa contacted Gray about her dog’s injections when they were teenagers. “I’d always heard there was another girl locally who sings and she’d heard about me but we never met. I’m animal mad, so she knew to call me to ask advice about her dog. We ended up just chatting. We are the same star sign- Cancerians.”

“All my peers are in the charts. It’s kinda weird but exciting, we have all been working and I have seen the struggle for all of them. I have seen when they weren’t getting radio play, when they weren’t having music videos on the TV. I think that what they are doing is a big achievement for the UK as a whole.”

Ten years later Gray has just released her own first album, under her stage name Ny, released on her own record label in partnership with Crooked Vinyl. “I set up my own label because I feel that if you are going to be part of an industry you should at least own part of it and be in it. “ She set it up in 2010 when she was 21. “I had it there simmering for when I had my album finished really.”

Music was there from the beginning for Gray. Her first vinyl was Yaz- The Only Way is Up, a neat new record to add to the collection of her parents that she was influenced by daily. Her part home-schooling as a young child also helped. “We played percussion and I learned the clarinet. My sister played the violin, we called her the squeak machine. My mum wanted us to really understand the world properly and have a proper education. She didn’t want us to be tainted, she wanted us to have open minds.She would make sure we’d go to every free art gallery, festival, protests and everything- if it was free we would be there.”

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With a host of star friends and a new album out, does she ever feel pressure to succeed? “You definitely get temporary periods where you think oh my god it is taking ages or it is going slow. I just think i want to have music that is remembered ten years from now and if it takes a bit longer that’s OK. If you listen to Bob Marley, he’s still relevant now. To me that means more.”