With a unique tone and warm stage presence, Nicole Demisay of the “soulful, funky” band, Djenga, has the ability to make an on-campus bar feel like home. It’s part of her sincerity, love for music and passion for people.
The Florida Atlantic senior made the move to South Florida from her home state of New Jersey about four years ago, taking the practical route by majoring in social work, but always keeping music in view with a minor in the subject.
“Music is the main goal. I have a passion for both. I love social work – it’s my major – but I have always wanted to be a musician. That’s always been my main focus,” says Demisay, who has been performing since she was a young girl.
She says, “I remember specifically when I started getting really into it. I always knew that I could sing, but something came over me and I was like ‘I like to write music.’ I picked up my guitar and started doing it,” she shares.
“And then, my friend Nellie came with me – my dad lives in Naples, so we both went on vacation – and she’s also a singer-songwriter and we both were like ‘Let’s go to open mics. Let’s collaborate on this.’ And ever since then, it’s been great.”
And over the years, songwriting found a spot in her heart too. “I just love sitting down and just letting it come out,” she says. “I won’t only write ‘I’m feeling this way, so I’m gonna write about it.’ Most of my songs aren’t even personal. It’s just whenever I’m sitting down and I feel the vibe of the song, it just comes out.”
Some of her inspiration coming from the fact that she grew up near New York City, a hub for current music. “I grew up in a really small town; the music scene wasn’t very good. But, you go thirty minutes and you’re in the city and it’s totally different.”
Demisay’s mom also introduced her to classic inspirations like Michael Jackson and The Doors, but she says one of her current favorites is Jason Mraz. He would be her ultimate touring partner.
But while Demisay spent years performing as a solo act in talent shows and such, she believes that the creation of the band has been a major key to her current success.
“It’s been really helpful being in a band,” she says. “I’m not the best a guitar; I’m really limited with what I know how to play. But having Jeff and my boyfriend, Joe, there and how they can just start playing stuff – that opens a new realm.”
The current trio (Demisay on vocals, Joe Mulhern on drums and Jeff Fitzpatrick on guitar) met in 2015 over a game of Jenga, instantly clicking. But that was just one of the many building blocks in the start of Djenga (can you guess how they came up with the name?).
They’ve since signed with Florida Atlantic University’s student-run record label, Hoot/Wisdom Recordings, and aren’t playing games anymore as they work to make a career out of their talents. And while this move is still fresh, frontwoman is finding her footing quickly.
“This has been a really great experience. [Our manager,] RJ, has been really pushing us. That’s been so helpful,” she divulges. “My whole thing was ‘Oh, I’m a perfectionist. I don’t want to put anything out. Oh, I’m scared.’ And he’s just like ‘We gotta do it. We gotta get it done, done, done.’”
Manager Rakesh Jhaveri says, “Nicole is a talented R&B/soul artist that is motivated by her simple dream of impacting the world one day through her music.”
Her boyfriend and drummer for the band, Joe Mulhern, who met Demisay in a high school music class also speaks highly of her, saying, “She’s evolving, getting more comfortable with expressing herself and finding her voice. But, she’s just honest.”
This honesty stems from her passion for people, the reason she chose social work as her major, and it has influenced her songwriting and stage presence. “What I’ve learned over the years is that they go hand-in-hand. My music – I want to help people and that’s the main goal. I want to reach people. And social work, it’s the same thing,” she explains.
And as for if Demisay hopes to stay in the band or pursue a solo career after college: “I’m always gonna write as my own artist, and still have a bunch of stuff as me – as Nicole,” she says. “But being in a band has presented me with so many other opportunities that I wouldn’t have, so I’m open to both. As long as music is there, I’m cool with either.”