• Laura Khamis

Kali Claire uncovers the inspiration behind her youthful aura and soulful voice.

Photography by Jeeba

The 22-year old singer and songwriter Kali Claire effortlessly bridges the gap between nostalgic R&B and modern pop sounds through the delivery of her soulful vocals. With an attachment to music before her teenage years, she expresses a youthfulness that is yet to be seen as she embarks on a journey of introspection. Kali’s discreet start as a young artist began with a history of collaborations with Not3s, including her feature on Not3s' My Lover.

The Hackney-born artist now takes centre stage having dedicated 2019 to the long-anticipated release of her own singles, featuring in her first EP Symptoms of a Teen in which Kali reflects upon the shaping experience of adolescence. Her vibrant energy becomes undeniably evident through her widely acclaimed tracks So Sweet ft. Not3s and Fix My Lonely.

This year, Kali creates a different spin on her previous tracks as she expresses a new-found sense of elegance with her latest release Easy. Paired with the track's glamorous and sensual visuals directed by Terry Paul, she makes a clear statement as she draws into a greater sense of intimacy, revealing her growing persona as an artist. Kali and I speak more about her journey as an artist so far, her most recent releases and what’s to be expected for the rest of 2020 as she foreshadows an expanding and fresh collaborative space.

Tell me a bit about your background and when you first began making music?

I feel like I have been making music professionally for 3 years, but I grew up in a musical household, so I have always known music. My grandad used to be in a folk band, so I used to watch him play all the time and my mum isn’t a musician, but she is a music appreciator, so I’ve always been around music. It’s nothing new.

When did you decide to work towards pursuing a career as a young artist?

I think I’ve been in the studio for about 3 years, physically making music. I’ve been making music from the age of 11 just not at a professional level. I’ve never wanted to do anything else to be honest, for as long as I can remember. It sounds so cliché but it’s true.

As a part of the UK’s new wave of R&B artists, what first drew you to the reviving genre or the sound that you would personally identify yourself with?

I just see myself as an artist, I’m not really too caught up on genres. My mum played a lot of R&B so it’s definitely something that in my subconscious anyway. The artists also vary so Biggie, Tupac, Jagged Edge or Jodeci; just a mixture of everything really. I just gravitate towards R&B the most because it feels like home.

After discreetly featuring on a few of Not3’s tracks, what pushed you to start releasing your own awaited singles?

I think just seeing people around me you know. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I feel like you just have to know yourself a little bit and have the confidence to get up there present yourself. I think it gave me the confidence that I needed to do it and not make it seem so farfetched.

Your first and latest EP, Symptoms of A Teen, evident in its title, expresses a youthful energy. What inspired you to express the concept of youth so freely?

I’d say I am quite aware of myself. I’m around a lot of older people all the time and they always tell me ‘you’re young! You’ve got so much time!’ so I’m quite aware of my age. I’m also around a lot of people that are quite free with the music that they create and the lifestyle that they live so it’s not abnormal to be this free.

With two new releases in 2020 with ‘Heartfelt’ and ‘Easy’, tell me about both your tracks and how they came about?

So, the first track Heartfelt, I was in the studio and it was summer, and I think we just kind of caught a vibe. Sometimes, I can write a song in two hours and other times it takes me two months, but this song literally flowed out. It was just the right time. You just have to be in the right place at the right time and it was one of those moments.

With Easy, I’ve have had that song recorded for definitely over a year now, but I feel like I am a very visual person so when I make a song, I can see the visuals for it or where I want to take it. For that one, I wanted to wait for a little bit and kind of grow into the sound because I feel like timing is everything.

Focusing on your latest release Easy, the track uncovers a sense of sophistication, even through its glamourous visuals. Tell me more about your thought processes whilst recording Easy?

I feel like this is a new step for me. Everyone calls me cute and ‘awww’ because I have a baby face, chubby cheeks and have always been the cute one. I feel like I am starting to grow into my own person now and starting to see life in a different way. I wanted to approach this in a different way compared to Heartfelt for example. Heartfelt was quite jumpy and a happy vibe but this one, when I was in the studio, I dimmed the lights, just in my zone, burned some incense and was going through it! I feel like it was like that in the video too. Not that I don’t take all my other tracks seriously, but I wanted to approach this one in a different type of way.

With the track showcasing different sounds or even progression in sound, what would you say about the music you’re working to create throughout 2020?

I’d say that I am 100% excited. I work with people that are so versatile and have so much experience. We’re in a free time right now where we can kind of drop anything genre-wise. Everyone’s attention span moves so fast and people don’t linger on things for too long. I’m excited to experiment and see where I can go.

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