Not many artists can claim to have had the introduction to their career that Niia has had. It's 2007 and, flanked by Akon and Lil Wayne, Niia Bertino's tentative forays into the industry are accelerated at an alarming pace by Wyclef Jean, who has her cooing over 'Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)' on record and, better still, on stages around the world as part of his touring band.

If her initial endeavors were unexpectedly fast-tracked, however, Niia found herself in no hurry to unleash solo material, despite an understandable tangle of her eagerness and our impatience. Scraps of songs came in fits and starts; intriguing covers of Jai Paul, Tears For Fears and Cher surfaced, as well as an ambitious production in which Niia paid tribute to the iconic orchestral flurries of the James Bond films, which, of course, were consistently impressive, but never gave fans the satisfaction that a full body of work promised.

On the strength of early album offcuts, the chokingly majestic 'Made For You' and the glassy allure of 'Generation Blue', it appears that biding her time has been a suitable course of action. "I think that since I hadn't put anything out in so long, I ended up picking those two songs because they meant the most to me. I didn't even care if anyone else liked them." As if we wouldn't.

Nevertheless, that's not to say that Niia hasn't been restless in the intervening years. "I am very excited to finally release an album," she beams, before confessing, "I used to wish that I had released music sooner and would get frustrated and complain to everyone like Veruca Salt, but, now I've really come to realise that patience and timing is important." That final statement is particularly telling, if only for how much Bertino has matured throughout the crafting of her as-of-yet untitled debut LP.

Much has been made of Robin Hannibal's significance within the project, with Niia speaking highly of the soothing figure helming production duties. Responsible for Rhye's seductively intricate instrumentals, his involvement is evident on both of the snippets that we've already heard, especially 'Generation Blue's minimalistic percussion, elevating the track above humble piano ballad drudgery.

"Robin and I met a while back during one of my first trips to L.A.," she recalls, wistfully. "A mutual friend had suggested we meet over breakfast to see if we clicked to potentially work together. I didn't have his number or email and, to be honest, didn't know if he was a boy or girl. It was all too mysterious for me." Thankfully, Niia did not allow her skepticism to prevent her from meeting Hannibal. "Everything leading up to shaking his hand was so bizarre. I remember this 6'4 Danish kid approached me wearing a jean shirt, with all the Looney Tunes characters on it, with a great smile. Who knew that he would be producing my entire album?"

Interestingly, a plethora of musical influences are never far away from Niia's mind. She speaks of her fascination with newer bands, enthusing over the lyrics and look of Majical Cloudz, who are subject to a haunting cover on her SoundCloud page, but admits that her roots in jazz still remain crucial to her musical growth. Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone, Peggy Lee, Dick Powell and Judy Garland are held in high esteem, although the warmest praise is saved for an early mentor. "Wyclef truly taught me the secrets of the trade. That experience with him really shaped, not only my craftsmanship, but it shaped me, too. I owe so much to him." For pointing our ears in the direction of Niia's flawless vocal and staggering abundance of instrumental flair, we, too, should be grateful.

Fugees - The Score

I had dropped out of my music conservatory and was living alone in New York in a studio apartment at the time... I had been working with Wyclef on some songwriting but mostly just sitting in his studio watching his sessions and taking it all in. We were talking one night about music and the music industry and he left the room suddenly and came back with three plaques with his different albums on it. He then began sharing his own personal stories about where he was in his mind with each album he made. The Score he said, which I think is the Fugees' most successful... he was the most relaxed and honest going into it. They all decided to just make some music together. Clef was a huge mentor to me back then helping me learn the secrets of the trade. So when I listen to The Score I guess I feel like its teaching me all over again. They pulled old samples and classic songs all together and created something fresh and modern. The Score was also a gateway album to many others in genres I would have never explored. Whenever I get stressed out or nervous about my career I will listen to this album. Sounds so strange... but, it just does it for me.

Diana Ross - Stolen Moments: The Lady Sings Jazz& Blues (Live)

I can't really think of anything better than Diana Ross singing Jazz standards at the Ritz Theater. I used to listen to this album all the time. It's possible that every jazz singer goes through a Billie Holiday stage and these songs were all associated with her. I was very serious when I was studying jazz voice and I think this album reminded me to have fun when I sing. As I got older Jazz became more about letting go verses how technical I could be. This album really taught me that... Diana just has a way that makes you feel comfortable. You can hear her walking through the audience and sitting on someone's lap. You can also hear some mistakes which is even more interesting especially how she handles herself. But, whats truly incredible is her ability to go from a song like 'Good Morning Heartache' where I'm crying, and then switch to "What a little Moonlight can do" where I want to order another cocktail and dance. There are some jazz giants like Roy Hargrove, Ron Carter and Urbie Greene taking some great solos throughout the album too. I actually got suspended for listening to this album during math class in high school. My mom wasn't really sure if she should be concerned that her daughter got suspended or that she was suspended for constantly listening to a live Diana Ross album.

Jeff Buckley - Grace

I'm not really sure what to say about this album except that I love it. As I slowly transitioned out of listening to only jazz it was hard for me to find vocalists that I could resonate with. But, I remember the first time I listened to Jeff Buckley's voice and was just so confused. I couldn't understand how someone could make me feel so uncomfortable and safe at the same time. His voice sounds like liquid coal. I read that he was painfully shy when it came to singing or performing which I can relate to. I could listen to his version of Nina Simone's 'Lilac Wine' anytime. There are different musical styles all working together... and then when you add his voice... you really can't get any more authentic. This album is just so beautiful and I'm thankful I can listen to him whenever I want.

Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me

I love Joanna. She is an extremely talented woman in music. This album has so many perfect moments its hard to pick only a few to talk about. She is by far one of my favorite songwriters. You have to pay attention when you listen to some of her songs or you might miss some of her golden lyrics like "Who says that leaving keeps you young" that just flow by. Her chord progressions and subtle horn arrangements compliment each other so nicely. The song 'In California' is eight minutes and forty seconds long leaving you feeling like you just woke up from a dream and I love that! She transports you to another place and takes you on a journey through her stories. I think being able to do that makes a great album.