PREMIERE + SOUND OFF: KAI ‘IN THE NOW’
Aug 7, 2020
A FRIDAY TO BE CELEBRATED!
The Toronto native singer-songwriter, kai, has released a new sultry and sensual video for her new single ‘In The Now’!
‘In The Now’ comes as an alluring gesture to the artist’s significant other as she sings “I feel so ignited/ I don’t wanna fight it/ So I don’t care”. The artist continues, “I just wanna be here / With you now”. The song presents as kai wanting to just simply be in that moment without the fear of future regret or heartbreak stating “On another level, it is about a deep desire for intimacy. It is this breakthrough moment I had when I realized that I’d created all of these protective strategies to avoid intimacy because it is innately scary to me.”
This isn’t the artist’s first rodeo though. kai has already racked up over 1 billion (yes with a b) streams, a Grammy-nomination, and collabs with Childish Gambino (“Crawl”), Flume (“Never Be Like You”) and Skrillex and Diplo (“Mind”).
Keep reading in our exclusive interview as we take a deep dive into kai’s background, the FULL story behind her new single, and what it’s like writing for other artists.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your story. How did your background and culture shape you and what creative expression means to you?
I was born in Toronto, in a big, loud, passionate Italian family. I am the oldest of three girls, an introvert, a Pisces (with a Sagittarius moon and rising haha!) and someone who is naturally drawn to the occult, metaphysics and spirituality. I grew up competitively dancing which has really influenced me as an artist on so many levels. To this day, when I’m writing a song, I’ll watch dance videos on Youtube at the same time. The two go hand in hand for me. If I were to ask my six year old self what I would be doing today, she would say this. But somewhere along the way, life chipped away at my self esteem and for a long time I hid my gift from people. It’s been a long journey of reclaiming my power and belief in myself but now I feel so excited to start sharing my music with the world.
2.‘In The Now’ is a great song. What’s the story behind the song and how it came to be?
Thank you so much! It’s a really special song to me for many reasons. I made it with my best friend and co-executive producer Isaac Valens while we were hanging out at my apartment. It was around 5am and I was taking a nap on the couch when, in-between dream and waking state, I started to hear what he was starting to create. I remember I started singing this melody which is now in the intro and I then woke up and took over and he then took a nap and we just kept creating back and forth like that practically asleep. It was a really hilarious and wild creation experience. The song’s meaning has many layers to me. On one level it is about this deep desire I have to be present. We live in a world where not only is there an excessive amount of external stimulation, but at the same time our minds are nonstop. My mind is super obnoxious ha, and finding that grounding and stillness in my day as much as possible is really essential for my wellbeing. That is where the goodness lives, in the the NOW.
On another level, it is about a deep desire for intimacy. It is this breakthrough moment I had when I realized that I’d created all of these protective strategies to avoid intimacy because it is innately scary to me. So I tend to reminisce on the past and past relationships. Or I fear the ending of a relationship and so I give it a deadline in my head. It’s an exhausting way to live! I still have to work on it every single day but I know that the universe brings people in our lives for a reason and it’s such a shame if you can’t truly experience people while they are there.
On yet another level, the song is a message to the people that have been following me for years waiting for my music that I am finally ready. I spent many years living inside my head and fearing this day.
3. You came out with your debut in 2011 titled 11:11. How have you changed as an artist since then?
Wow, that is such a throwback. That feels like another lifetime. Back then I was a baby just learning the craft of writing a song. At that point in time I didn’t have much inspiration, I hadn’t experienced much yet, I was still figuring a lot out, exploring, trying on different hats creatively. I am 30 years old now, I have loved, I have gone through intense pain, I have learned a lot about myself and my creative process and I am on a spiritual path of healing and music is now an extension of that. it’s no longer about what I can get out of it but about what I can give and how I can be of service. There’s just so much more depth and intention to me as an artist now.
4. You wrote the titular track “Sweet Talker” on Jessie J’s third studio album. How does something like that happen?
Sweet talker was a song I wrote in my apartment one night and I remember as I was writing it I had Rihanna in mind. I never really do that, but with this song I remember I was in a creative lull and I wanted to step outside of myself to spark something. I had met Rob Stevenson at Republic and he was a fan of the music I was making at that time – when I showed him Sweet Talker, he flipped out, and not too long after Jessie J cut it. It was a super surreal experience.
5. What is your process in writing for another artist vs for yourself?
I am not the best when it comes to writing for other artists if I am being completely real. Writing music is so personal for me and my writing process is so intimate. I write alone, and I can only write from my experience, so I don’t really try writing for others much. However I have been opening myself up to sessions with artists that I feel an alignment with and that has been a really fun challenge for me. On one hand, it’s fun to not be so precious about things – and on another hand, it is difficult because I have to compromise in a sense. It’s a double edged sword.
6. After the success of ‘Never Be Like You’ with Flume, did you face any pressure to produce or be a part of another groundbreaking hit like that?
Honestly, I’ve been so focused on my project all this time with the belief that when I felt ready to put music out that it would be really successful. I did get “you have a window, put out music now while you have a song out that’s hot” but I never bought into that scarce mentality. It goes back to my faith in the universe and the understanding that good things take time and that I would know when I was ready.
7. A lot of your collabs tend to fall more into dance music with artists like Diplo, Flume, and Skrillex. Is this intentional?
It’s been such an interesting journey, I couldn’t have written this. You know the saying “we plan, god laughs”, that is so true. I never saw myself being a part of dance music, it organically just came into my life. It’s not the music that I personally make but the thing that all of the artists that I have collaborated with in that space have In common is that they are genre benders and trailblazers and those are the types of artists that resonate with me. So I was always down because I was a fan of each of them, and to me, good music is good music.
When choosing the moniker ‘kai’ you said it was to symbolize wanting to make change with your music. Do you remember any alternatives you had in mind before you settled on this one?
There was never another name. The second I heard the name kai for the first time, I just knew. I didn’t necessarily know in that moment that it would be my moniker but I remember having a visceral reaction to the name and writing it down. And then once I started brainstorming names for my artist project, it was a no brainer.
9.What is the story of how you got signed?
When I was 20 I went to an audio engineering and music business school in Toronto called Metalworks, and there for the first time I started to build real music industry relationships in my city. One of my publishing teachers Vivian Barclay (who is a music publisher at Warner Chappell) had heard ‘I choose Me’ from my manager at the time (Wes, who was also a student at the school) and she spread the word to some people over at Warner Canada (Ron lopata, who is the head of A&R). I was playing a Canadian Music week showcase in this really grungy smelly basement venue and after I got offstage, I remember my manager telling me that Warner had been there watching the set. It was one of those milestone moments in my career. I then signed a development deal with Warner Canada which eventually moved over to a US deal. It’s been a long journey from there to where I am now putting out my first project as a fully independent artist without a major label behind me. I feel a lot of freedom in it.
10. Of all the songs you’ve released, if you had to pick one that best encompasses you as an artist, what would it be and why?
In The Now most definitely. It embodies who and where I am today. Its message is something so personal and important to me and sonically it is this beautiful hypnotic blend of so many of my influences, but ultimately it is the most authentically me.
11.You also play an array of instruments. How does that play into the way you create music?
I dabble haha! I started out playing guitar but I would by no means call myself a guitarist – I can play some chords! But the most pivotal moment for me creatively was when I learned Ableton and started producing ideas by myself. For a long time I felt so dependent on producers to read my mind, which is impossible, and it would make me super frustrated when I heard something in my head and didn’t know how to articulate it properly. Learning Ableton was an absolute game changer and such a moment of freedom for me. I start many ideas on my own, I actually started Mind by jacku that way.
12. What would you be doing right now if not for music?Damn, I have no clue. I can’t see myself doing anything else but maybe in an alternate reality I would be a holistic therapist or an interior designer. I am obsessed with decor and I love being there for people and helping them get to their aha moments. I am fascinated by humans and why we do the things we do.
13. What is the last text that you sent?
I sent Jessie Ware’s song “Spotlight” to my little sister and said “it’s so fucking good.”
14. Shuffle all of your music. What are the first five songs that come up?
Brent Faiyaz “needed”
Mac miller “ladders”
Jessie Reyez “roof”
Lucky Daye “love you too much”
Erykah Badu “get MuNNY”
15. With the vibe of your sound, what show or film do you think it’d be a great fit for?
I am really obsessed with the HBO show I May Destroy You and I would geek out if a song of mine was placed on that show. I also love Insecure, that would be a dream!
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