27/08/2013 10:20 BST | Updated 28/08/2013 10:21 BST

Little Nikki On Why She's Not Another Rita Ora, Sounding Like Her Music Heroes And Letting Others Inspire Her (INTERVIEW)

Little Nikki is fast building herself a devoted fanbase, with her sassy and urban pop catching the attention of teens and music critics alike.

After beginning to write songs aged six, she signed her first major record label seven years later as part of girl group SoundGirl. Now, over a year since they split, she's carving her own career as a solo artist signed to Columbia, home of huge female artists such as Adele and Beyonce.

The Huffington Post UK sat down with the 17-year-old - real name Nicole Shortland - to find out how the West Londoner has done it and why she's not just another Rita Ora...

Little Nikki supporting MKS on their comeback gig

You started singing at a young age, does it run in the family?

"My family is really weird. My granddad is a black-belt in karate, my cousin is a gold champion gymnast, my uncle is a dancer and my mum is a champion dancer. We all have our own little thing so there wasn't anyone who did music... I didn't really get any help but I always had support."

Little Nikki performs on stage as part of the MTV Brand New series

You went to Corona theatre school. If you hadn't gone, do you think you'd still be at this point?

"Maybe via a different way, but my manager was renting a room at the school, so if I wasn't there I would never have met him. We had different record labels wanting to sign us and then when SoundGirl split up I put 'Intro Intro' out and started writing and had interest again, I was so happy. When we first finished I was so worried about whether people would be interested in me by myself."

What artists did you aspire to be like, or really loved when you were younger?

"Michael Jackson, Britney, Mariah Carey. I literally thought I sounded like all three of them when I sung. I didn't, but I sound like them all in my head. That made me conscious of what I sounded like so I started to listen to my voice, if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now. Oh and Hear'say, I was so obsessed with them. They were the first concert I ever went to."

What inspires you when you're writing?

"I guess a lot of my songs are about being strong. It's not really girl power, it's more like team power. It's all about me being strong and not worrying about people's opinion so much, it used to bring me down a lot.

"Sometimes I try and write love songs."

Have you been in love?

"I was never really interested in boys growing up, I was all about music, so I kind of lie. I'm so young and I've spent so long in music I haven't done a lot. I tend to write songs about other people I know, like my mum and what she tells me of her experiences. Also, what I hear on Twitter and what my fans tell me. That's what inspires me rather than 'oh I went to the shop and I met someone.'

"However, I meet people on the train all the time and they will tell me about their lives. I met this guy who had such a hard life so he inspired me to write about not giving up, because he was so motivated to keep doing what he was doing... I have it kind of easy, I'm not someone who is struggling so I let other people inspire me."

Have you sent him the song?

"No. I'm not sure if it's his style of music, I think my friend has his number so she could."

Little Nikki supporting Rizzle Kicks

In your latest video you come across as quite feisty, but you seem sweet. Is that really you or have you got a stage persona?

"When I'm performing that's me, but then when I'm chilling and meeting people I chill out a bit. It's so tiring to be so all in your face all the time. I think the video is quite honest, that's kind of what me and my friends are like if we see people dancing we'll go show them how we dance... it's cool to have a video that makes that picture of what my life is like, just a more glamourous version."

You are 17 and singing about teen issues right now, plus you're called Little Nikki, what will happen when you get older?

"I think I'll just be Nikki. My tour manager had a joke that I could be Bitch Nikki, I was like 'no'. I think I'll just drop the Nikki, I don't really think ahead."

What age can you stop being little?

"On my 21st birthday I will drop it, change my Twitter handle and all."

You've toured with Rita Ora alread. What was that like?

"That was so cool. I did a gig with her in Manchester and when I saw her she was eating Nandos. She said 'good luck' and she was so nice, I didn't expect her to say anything to me. Then I saw her the other day at a festival and she said 'good luck' again, it was nice that she recognised me."

You've had quite a lot of comparisons to her, do you think you are similar?

"Musically, no. I guess we are both up and coming artists from West London but she's a lot older than me and quite different. Definitely style-wise, she's a lot more fashion and I'm a lot more style. She looks great though."

Are you excited about turning 18? Will we see you out on the party scene?

"I guess for my 18th yeah, but I don't think I'm really much of a partier... I'm too lazy to go out."

WATCH: The video for Little Nikki's new single, released on 7 October, ‘Little Nikki Says’ below...