Nena and her song “99 Luftballons” (“99 Red Balloons”), released in 1983, was a staple in the early days of the music video era. The song was the first German-language song to enter the U.S. charts and led her to continued success in her native-Germany, where she created 16 studio albums, and countless hits, and sold 25 million records. As iconic as the video became and the tremendous amount of airplay the song receives to this day, it is almost unfathomable to think Nena never played a single show in the United States. Now, 33 years later, this pop music injustice is being rectified as Nena stands ready to take America by storm on her 99 Luftballons Over America tour. The long-awaited tour will take her to some of the biggest music cities in the country — San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City. Much more than a nostalgia act, Nena will bring an exhilarating mix of music from her expansive discography, along with her iconic song, to bring the house down at each show. Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Nena to get a glimpse into how music has impacted her life and her thoughts on her longevity as an artist.
You had a very successful career in the music industry. Is there a secret to your success?
I don’t know if there is any secret! [laughs] I just have fun with what I do. What I have learned through my experiences, especially my stage experience and with my career, is to stay open and have fun with everything you do. That is my personal secret!
Your music had an impact on many music fans. What can you tell us about the music that impacted you early on in life and what made you pursue your passion?
I bought my very first single, with my own money, when I was 11 years old. It was Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” which was mind-blowing for me! I heard it somewhere and I had to buy the single because I loved it so much! That was a very big step for me into the whole universe of music. The second song I felt intensely was “Angie” by the Rolling Stones, which I heard on the radio when I was about 12 years old. That is how it all started. Then Neil Young came into my life, along with Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Pink Floyd. When I was 16 or 17 years old, it was The Ramones, Blondie, The Pretenders! My very first concert was Eric Burdon and The Animals when I was 14 years old. That was very inspiring. That was the kind of music I listened to early on, different from what I do, but what I was mostly influenced by.
When I started my first band, I was about 16 or 17. I was from a very small town in Germany and we played music for fun. When I started, I never thought about going to make records because I never knew that something like that existed. When we played our first concert, I was very shy and didn’t want to do it. It just happened that I was on this little stage in my hometown. There were 28 people in front of the stage, mostly friends and family, and I grabbed the mic and did what I did. I had so much fun with it. I have never stopped loving it! I think you have to stay open to whatever life throws in front of your feet. I am very open to things that challenge me and I am happy to have the chance to make new experiences!
Speaking of new experiences, you will embark on a tour to perform your first shows in America.
Yes! I am excited to be traveling to America and playing live for the first time because we missed it in the ‘80s and now, all of these years later, I finally have the chance to do that! I am looking forward to spreading my wings to play more songs than “99 Luftballons.” That is kind of cool and it couldn’t be better! It will be a new musical experience and I hope to come back in the future to do tons of more shows. If it is meant to be, I’m in! I am very open to the first step!
The long-awaited 99 Luftballons Over America tour will take Nena to San Francisco on September 30th, Los Angeles on October 2nd and New York City on October 4th. For the latest on Nena, visit her official website at www.nena.de. Connect with her on social media via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.