Name: Kiesza aka Kiesa Rae Ellestad
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Current release: "Out Of My League", Kiesza's duet with Brando, is available via Armada.
If you enjoyed this interview with Kiesza, visit her official website for more information. She is also on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, and Soundcloud.
For a deeper look into the creative process of her "Out Of My League" partner, read our Brando interview.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
Every aspect of my life goes into inspiring my art.
I began creating music as a healing mechanism; a way to process and interpret the world around me. Dreams, conversations, story’s and ideas all become the building blocks of each new creation. I pull inspiration from all around me.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
Yes and no. Both planning and chance work. It really depends what works for you. Deep down, a feel that the most masterful creations manifest within us in entirety, before making their way into the realm of our senses. But I am far from this level of mastery.
I often begin with nothing and let it unfold on its own. There’s both comfort and mystery in the unknown. As long as I trust that the idea already exists within me, and it usually appears effortlessly and without much thought. But as a creator, I am always growing.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
I write a lot on my instruments first and then bring them to the studio to develop. My voice memos are endless.
Ultimately I just need to feel open to create well. If I feel any sort of discomfort or lack of connection to the person I’m working with, I’ll stall the process. Sometimes I’ll talk with a producer for hours before I begin to write something.
One time I even flew to Quebec and talked with someone for three days straight, and we never wrote a single song. We just had amazing conversations and figured our song would come another time. In that particular case the conversation was more inspiring than any song we would have written.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Lighting definitely effects the mood. I don’t like to create with bright lights on.
As for food, I can can certain vouch that many of my favorite songs have been written after a great meal. I find that food is grounding, and great dynamic flavors help me open up. But too much food can also put me in a food coma. I love coffee, but it’s a hit-and-miss because sometimes it makes me anxious. A good candle never hurts either.
The most important rule for me, is not to begin creating until I click into the creative state. I do a lot of things to get into this state-of-mind, and once I’m there, the rest just flows.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
There’s no rules, though I often love to start my writing process with a strong chord progression and then often work on melody next, followed by lyrics.
I purposely change my process often, to keep things fresh.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Lyrics begin to reveal themselves once I’ve began the melody. The song tends to unfold itself, once inspiration strikes. But often I start with lyrics and the melody follows. It’s always a little different. Lyrics can come from anywhere.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
Honest. Open. Risky. Unique. Mind-bending. Simple.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
When I’m working in a more collaborative environment, I love to adapt to the people I’m working with until we find our own creative flow. There’s often a lot back and forth, but once we catch a wave of inspiration, it tend to unravel itself almost effortlessly.
On my own, I go to my instrument and suddenly I’m in a creative trance. Time operates differently, it’s weird. I love it.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
There is no controlling the creative process, you can only guide it. Like a river it makes it’s own current and though you may create boundaries, you must always allow it to be limitless.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
New possibilities arise all the time and sometimes you have to go down every road and back again until you find the right way forward. I just enjoy the process and embrace the journey, redirecting myself when I meet a dead end. Some dead ends become the start of a new project.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
When I am truly in a creative state, it’s as if I lose all sense of self. It is the most beautiful state of existence I’ve even known and the reason no obstacle could ever stop me from coming back to it.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
When it’s finished, you just know. It always tells you. And when you’ve made something truly great, you can feel it in every cell in your body.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
You can never truly achieve perfection, so there’s always a point when you have step back and just let it be.
Every creation is different. I have songs I’ve been waiting nearly a decade to finish and some I’ve done in less than an hour. I often like to sleep on a song and hear it fresh, to make sure it makes me feel the way it did when I first wrote it. When I’m stuck, I often put it away and come back to it.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
It really depends on the project and who I’m working with. But I can get really involved in a mix, and sometimes the mixer has more notes than I do. But I always know when it feels done.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I honestly don’t ever relate to feeling emptiness following the release of a project. Creating is my favorite thing in the world, so I’m always ecstatic for the next project and excited to release them into the world.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Creating a song and a perfect cup of coffee stems from the same source. However some areas open our unique gifts and creative channels more than other. No talk is mundane unless we make it so. I believe the same goes for the creation of all things, including our lives as a whole.