“I don’t understand why people feel the need to put females in categories to make themselves feel more comfortable” – In Talks With Kelly Kiara
2 Nov 2021
Following on from the viral response to Justin Bieber’s hit song, “Love Yourself”, Kelly Kiara and Yo Preston broke the internet with their “Fuck Yourself” rendition which swiftly accumulated tens of millions of views. Although, Kelly’s music career surprisingly didn’t take off as swimmingly after. Determined to one day become an artist in her own right, the budding songstress later signed a publishing deal with a major label and began writing hits for artists such as Mabel, Gorgon City, Era Istrefi, Ashnikko, and more, before stepping out the shadows and liberating men and women over the world.
Having recently graced supporters with the release of her debut mixtape, ‘Hopeless Romantic’, the Leeds native is ready to take the music industry by storm. Spread across 13 tracks of seduction, heartbreak, revenge, lust, and vulnerability, Kelly Kiara has let her listeners in through a true story of love and loss, as she begins to unravel a more vulnerable side to herself.
Mixtape Madness got the chance to catch up with Kelly Kiara on Zoom – a very early morning, may I add – to talk about her latest ‘Hopeless Romantic’ project, feeling liberated as a woman, what makes her happy, and more. Tap in below to see what she had to say!
I would love to take it back to the beginning with you! What was your introduction to music? What artists did you grow up listening to?
My first memory of music was definitely Disney. My mum would always encourage me to sing, it was Disney films and Annie – I was always singing ‘Tomorrow’ by Annie! *laughs* That was my introduction as early as 5 or 6 with music, from there I heard about Britney Spears and my life changed. It then evolved into what my parents would listen to which was Motown, Phil Collins, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston – a lot of big ballads! My preference for music has always been super emotive, expressive, and use big vocals. When I got into high school, it was a lot of 90’s R&B! I evolved within my vocal style around my teenage years with big R&B songs and ballads. As I got to my mid-twenties I stopped listening to a lot of music and I still don’t! I don’t have Spotify or Apple Music…
I know! A lot of people say that! *laughs* When I turned 25, I got a publishing deal with Universal, and I became a writer. I never planned on being a writer, I was put into a situation where I could put my foot in the door and make progress. In doing that, I was listening to what I was writing everyday more so than what I wasn’t writing. I became consumed with what I was doing. I didn’t want any outside influences – which may sound insular but that’s just how I felt! I decided after a few years that whatever music did reach my ears, would reach my ears – whether it’s radio or TikTok. I don’t go out of my way to search it!
You’ve just said you signed a publishing deal which I’m going to come back to. At what point did you start putting pen to paper and begin to write lyrics?
I guess it started non-musical, I was always encouraged by my mum to write poems for people who had given me a gift or something! My mum is a very sociable person and is very loved in her community; if I helped out when I was younger, they would give me a chocolate bar in return, she always encouraged me to give something back again, whether it was singing songs or writing poems! As I got into singing in my teenage years, I was always told by teachers that I wasn’t good at writing stories or even song writing…! *laughs* I didn’t write for a long time until I found myself in a situation a few years on that I couldn’t talk to anyone about, it was something that I was embarrassed about but that’s when writing came back into play. I put it all into music.
Having started your journey wanting to be a singer and then eventually signing a publishing deal and writing for other artists – Did that give you a new perspective or feeling toward music and creating something for yourself?
I didn’t even know that songwriters existed! My manager gave me a call and said they wanted me to go to London tomorrow, so I went, and it all happened from there. It did give me a new feeling, but I don’t think it elevated it, it just let that emotion continue. I never saw myself as a writer, I just used it to put my voice to something. It took me a while to understand that this could be a connecting of the dots to something much bigger, I was going to sessions with artists and producers that were signed at record labels – I was just taking it all in! That opened a whole new world to me. There are so many different roles in the industry, you can literally create one; it helped me find my identity within the scene.
Your pen game is very liberating, you speak vulnerably about relationships, sex, or intimacy. For a lot of women this can be something that’s hard to navigate. Where do you stream your confidence from to talk about these types of topics so openly?
I’m going to give you the deep answer. The way I view the world; I am very into science and stars, my great grandfather was an astrologist, so I was always brought up with a lot of books on science, psychology, stars, astronomy, and horoscopes. I don’t view myself and my human experience that is something that is the epitome of me. I see the world as we are here for a short time, we all go through the same things, the same negative and positive feelings – to pretend like we don’t is an insult to the human experience. I understand that not everyone feels comfortable expressing their life but if everyone asked themselves truly, “Do I want to live a life and inspire people?”, everyone would probably say yes but in order to inspire people we have to be vulnerable…I think!
I find it very hard to be vulnerable. I hated the process of writing my mixtape, it was genuinely the hardest thing I’ve ever done! I’m used to writing for other people so I can say exactly what I want and leave someone else to do the talking. If you listen to any of the songs prior to the tape, they aren’t vulnerable in terms of feeling sad, or hurt! This mixtape was genuinely based on what I was going through at the time. It was uncomfortable. In order for me to inspire and help other people, I had to go for it. On a surface level, you just have to give no shits! *laughs*
Let’s talk about ‘Hopeless Romantic’ – talk me through the meaning behind the title of the project?
It didn’t start out as ‘Hopeless Romantic’, it started out as a 4/5-track EP with a totally different title and sound. It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like it was true to my experience, it felt like a jumble of music that I had written and slapped together. I went back to the drawing board and asked myself to be completely transparent. I got lost in being a strong alpha presence that my reality didn’t connect at the time I was writing it! For people to feel a part of it, I had to welcome them into something that was real. The title came from how I view love and relationships, I have a very fairy-tale outlook on love – I am a hopeless romantic!
How long did it take to piece the project together?
A long time! *laughs* We scrapped the original idea and started it all over, it’s been a work in progress for around 2 years. All the producers I had worked on it with; all started out as one song here and there. When we realised that it had a sound, we sat down for 2 weeks in the studio and grew on that sound. It took a long time but the songs on the mixtape have been finished for 3 months before it dropped. The curation of the sound took 2 years, the process of getting it mixed and mastered took about 2-3 months.
What do you want people to take away after listening to this project?
I just want them to be inspired. I don’t want it to be anything about me or my experience as an artist. I want people to listen to it and feel something about themselves. For example, my inspirations for writing have been Jhene Aiko and Kehlani because when I listen to them, I listen to their experience, but I relate it to myself. I felt touched by it. They opened an emotion in me that I felt the urge to write about. That’s what I want people to take away. For it to unlock something in them and make them want to pursue something creative.
What’s your favourite track from the mixtape and why?
It is super difficult to know what my favourite is because I am super connected to them all in different ways! Ultimately, the one I listened to so much before it was released was ‘girls like ü’. I LOVE that song! After I wrote it, I listened to it after and I understood what I was trying to convey in the message but if someone had told me to try and write that, I don’t think I could have! It’s empowering, but it’s more about not being able to put a girl into a box. It’s about anyone that identifies as female and not made to be a derogatory term about; ‘girls like ü’ to me is a derogatory term and I wanted to flip it on its head. Why do we have to be shamed for looking or acting a certain way? For wanting to do certain things. I don’t understand why people feel the need to put females in categories to make themselves feel more comfortable.
Putting the music aside, what do you like to for fun?
I love that! No one ever asks me that question! I am such a loser – I love science, watching videos on psychology, science and history! Anything that is non-creative, is what I do in my spare time. I like things that are supernatural, reading self-help books and being out in nature with my family. Very simple things! I love learning! When am I too congested on my thoughts I shut off by thinking of things that are way bigger and it helps me to put things into perspective.
Are you into conspiracy theories?
Every. Single. One. *laughs* I love it! I don’t listen to these things for people to convince me otherwise, I just enjoy watching people talk about it!
You look like a stylish babe! What are your go-to brands at the moment?
Thankyou! So, I don’t even shop from many brands! Most of the things that I buy are from charity shops! I’m very passionate about quality and pricing of a product. I’ve been bought up with parents who didn’t have a lot of money, so I had to be thrifty. I found more passion in thrift than in fashion. That’s very I enjoyed doing my merch line so much, it’s not slapped together with cheap quality. I really enjoyed designing it.
Keep up to date with Kelly Kiara via her Instagram here. Listen to the full mixtape below.