Fandomize recently had a chance to chat with singer-songwriter, Kelsy Karter, who is on tour in the US right now, and later in the UK! Her debut album, Missing Person, was released in October 2020, and her most recent single, “Rest In Pieces,” features Goody Grace! Kelsy Karter’s currently ongoing tour is known as the Pink, Kink, and Punk tour. Check out the interview below!
SH: How did you get into music?
KK: Well, my family members are all musicians and I was just immersed in it my whole life. I was always a theater kid, performing from the age of four years old. So it just was a part of my surroundings and I think it’s just in my blood.
SH: Have you ever had your own U.S. headline tour before? Regardless, what does the Pink, Kink, & Punk Tour stand for to you in terms of personal meaning and the connection with fans?
KK: The reason I named it Pink, Kink, and Punk was because I have my whole life been told, “You can only be one thing,” and I’ve been many things. People have put this stigma on you, like, “Oh, you are the edgy girl or the bad girl.” And it’s like, “No, I also have a soft and mushy heart.” I have been fighting this thing my whole life where it’s, “I can be all these different things at once.” and Pink, Kink and Punk is sweet, sexy, and badass! It’s all at once, and I wanted to let fans find their own identity through that, the way that I have in my own life.
I look at this – the me and the fan relationship – as a partnership. I can’t do what I do without them. I’m here to serve them, and they’re there to listen to me and feed me the energy that I need. This to me, is just the ultimate part of being an artist – the fan connection that I get to experience in person. They’re not just experiencing me, I’m experiencing them. So yeah, I can’t wait. I’m experiencing them, I want them to be their true selves, and I want them to let me be my true self. I think that’s a huge part of what it means for me – just full and utter acceptance and unconditional love.
SH: Tell us about my favorite song of yours, “Liquor Store on Mars.” What was that creative process like?
KK: By the way, that’s probably my favorite song of mine as well. So we’re the same that way. I wrote that song, in 2018, when I had ended a very serious relationship, and I felt like it was just a really dark time for me. I had a death and I obviously had a breakup, and I was broke. I was just having an identity crisis. I was just all over the place. I walked into the studio and I said to my friend, “I’m going to have to move to the moon because I can’t get away from this pain.”
I was just in so much pain. I was so depressed. He said, “I’ve been sitting on this song title, ‘Liquor Store on Mars,’ that I feel like we could use to write around that concept, around you wanting to run away,” because no way seemed far enough away from the pain. That’s how the ideas spawned. Then, we just wrote it in an hour, me and my best mate.
There’s lots of levels to this song because we wanted to have a little nod to David Bowie because he’s a huge inspiration of mine. After that I continued on with my life. Maybe a month, later I was sitting at a coffee shop one morning crying, I was still in the darkness, and this little old man came up to me and asked me what was wrong. He was wearing little beret and had a newspaper in his hand and he just consoled me for a few minutes and said some profound things to me. I went back to the studio that day and I told Michael about the little old man.
SH: Old Man Jimmy? From the interlude?
KK: Yeah, Old Man Jimmy! Exactly. So that originally was going to be a part of the Liquor Store song. Then we made it its own track obviously, but that was part of Liquor Store. Then I had met my now boyfriend, Adam Slack from The Struts around that time as well. He heard the song , and he loved it so much. He was like, “I would love to do a solo on this song if you’ll have me.” He did a solo and we were like, “Shit, that made the song even better!” So that’s the whole story behind “Liquor Store on Mars.”
SH: So, you said that you love this song, but I know that on the other hand, you don’t really enjoy singing your other song, “Villain.” If “Liquor Store on Mars” was written during such a dark time, how come it’s not as difficult for you to sing?
KK: I think that they were both written around the same time and, I think “Villain” is a great song. It was just a very hard song for me to write, and the reason “Liquor Store on Mars” was very fresh at the time, I’d ended my relatonship, but “Villain” came probably two months after “Liquor Store on Mars,” so it’s in the same time period.
“Villain” was more of an inward song. “Liquor Store on Mars” was about someone and about pain, but “Villain” was, I had to look inward to myself. I have battled for years with accepting myself for who I am, and accepting my mistakes, and accepting my choices. Although Villain is speaking to someone, it’s also speaking to myself. Although he didn’t make me feel like I was a bad guy, I made me feel like I was the bad guy. He was just an accessory of that, but the Villain concept is a song that I’ve had to go through inward. It’s more of an inner pain for me, because I’ve always looked at myself like I wasn’t worthy, and looked at myself like I wasn’t good enough, and I did that. I brought that into my relationship as well. I made myself the bad guy so that he couldn’t, and it took me a long time to forgive myself for my mistakes and a long time to forgive myself for not being perfect.
“Villain” takes me to that place, and it’s just a really hard place to be in because it was a huge obstacle in my life and in my self development, whereas Liquor Store is about a relationship essentially.
SH: So, from what it sounds, “Liquor Store on Mars” represents getting away from that dark time you went through, while “Villain” is more just taking that dark time and examining it, and dissecting it.
KK: You’ve just said it, yeah, exactly. I do also think that “Liquor Store on Mars” was essentially about a relationship that I’m out of now. I’m healed. I hope I’m forgiven and I’ve forgiven him. I’m so far past it, but Villain is that concept that we’re always at battle with ourselves, at least I am. So it’s going to be work my whole life to not be in that place. Even though I am better now, and I have forgiven myself, and I am happier, and I don’t hate myself like I used to, it’s still going to be up and down. I think Villain takes me to that place that I don’t necessarily want to be. However, I am going to be singing it on tour, so we’ll see how that goes.
SH: Some of our readers may be unfamiliar with the story behind the song, “Harry,” and the fake face tattoo that goes with it. Could you tell us all of that and what it was like promoting the song in such a way?
KK: I wrote “Harry” around the same time that I wrote “Liquor Store on Mars” and “Villain.” I was sick of writing those sad songs, and I didn’t really want to be crying or in my pain. I went into this session and I said to the guys, “I don’t want to write anything about me, anything personal, I don’t want to open a wound today. Can we just write something fun?”
Harry Styles was my lock screen on my phone, and one of the guys said, “Alright, let’s write a song about Harry Styles.” I was like, “Alright, let’s do it.” I didn’t think anything of it. Anyway, we ended up writing this song. It was really cool. Then my management flipped over the song, like, “Oh my God, this is incredible.”
I’ve got new management now, but my old management was known in the industry for doing marketing stuff, and they were really good at marketing poise and stunts and stuff like that. They were like, “We have to do something surrounding this.” I was very vocal about my love for Harry styles. I could think fans like that, because they were like, “Oh, who’s this singer that also loves Harry like I love Harry?”
So I built this relationship with a lot of the Harry fans through that, because we had that common interest obviously. Then when a few months later it was Harry’s birthday was coming in, my management was like, “We have this idea.” they said, “I think you should get Harry Styles tattooed on you.” My first thought was, “Okay. Yeah, I’ll get him on my arm or something. I have tattoos and stuff.” I was just like, “Whatever, I’ll do it for the song.” They said, “No, no, no, on your face. and it’s fake.” and I was like, “What?” I was so confused by the concept. Anyway, we ended up doing that, having this whole release plan for this tattoo. At first, we released the photo on a Saturday night, but the song wasn’t coming out till Monday.
I had a good 36 hours of just pure death threats, and online trolling, and bullying and stuff because everybody thought I was a psychopath who got Harry’s face tattooed on my face. Obviously, it went viral and whatever, and my mate just held my phone. I couldn’t even look at my phone, but yeah, I lost 10 pounds in a week. It was a very intense time. Then the song came out on the Monday. Billboard premiered the song, then it went viral again. That was awesome because now I was like, “Okay, the art is out, people can chill and see that it was for the song.” But people still thought it was real. Obviously, it went viral again. Then we ended up making editing, a little mini documentary explaining everything I just told you basically and revealing that it wasn’t real a few days later. Then it went viral again and yeah.
It was a very intense experience. It was so fun. I can’t tell you how fun it was. It was also very anxiety inducing. It was just intense. It was just a lot. It got me, obviously it gained me so much of my core fan base now. I’ve just tried to nurture that ever since. Obviously, I was connecting with fans on their love for Harry and my love for Harry, and then it exploded worldwide, and the song was recognized and that was the goal. So yeah, it was fun, and I love that song. I still love that song even though my style has definitely evolved since then. I love that song, I always will.
SH: I know you recently put out a single, “Rest In Pieces.” What was that creative process like?
KK: That was an interesting one because it was passed around a lot, which I’ve never done with a song before. Usually, when I write a song it’s in a room with a couple people or on my own, and then I finish it with someone, but this was a bit of a pass around. Basically, we started writing it, I was in Palm Springs with my mate and he had a session with some other people so I jumped in on the session and then I ended up finishing it with some other friends of mine and then we got Goody on it. It was a long process – over a year – with that song. I wasn’t necessarily going to release it. Then I went on tour in the UK at the end of last year and after that, I was like, “I want to release something.”
I’d recently left my label, so I was like, “Oh, we can do whatever we want.” So I was like, “Should we release ‘Rest In Pieces’ and get a feature on it?” We were like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” So we just cleaned up the song, reproduced it, and got Goody on it. Then it went bam!
SH: Is there anything else that you’re working on or that you have coming up that you would like our readers to know about?
KK: I’ve been working on my new album for a year. Obviously, I was living in England, so it was a lot of back and forth, but we’ve been cultivating a whole new sound, a whole new direction. I definitely consider myself the type of artist that I want to reinvent myself every year.
We’re about 80% done, but I’m so excited about it. I don’t think people are going to expect it, but, I’m very, very, very proud of it. So that’s hopefully going to be coming next.