Interviewing Kerli at Lollapalooza
On August 5th-7th, Lollapalooza celebrated it’s historic 25th Anniversary and 7th year in Chicago at Grant Park.
Recently I moved to New York City for a position with EMI Music in Marketing working for Astralwerks, home to The B-52s, Kylie Minogue and David
Guetta among others; however, being a Chicagoan over the past 2 ½ years I felt attending the event was certainly worth a trip back to town.
With over 125 acts performing over the course of the three day event, selecting one’s itinerary is both half the fun and half the battle. Headliners this year consisted of Coldplay, Eminem, Muse and Foo Fighters; however, I particularly enjoy catching the smaller artists before they break.
I flew into Chicago Friday, August 5th and just missed the chance at catching Young The Giant and Kerli perform. I was so bummed. I did get to see UK rapper Tinie Timpah perform his chart topping radio hit “Written In the Stars” and the talented young Christina Perri belt out her beautiful balad “Jar of Hearts.” I strolled past Afrojack’s performance of his dance anthem “Take Over Control” on my way to catch Crystal Castles perform their trippy must-see show. Check out their collaboration with Nate Smith of The Cure on “Not In Love.“
I ended the day with an outstanding Coldplay performance that consisted of a lazer show, giant colored beach balls and pretty much every great Coldplay song you could ask for. As a bonus I got to catch Ratatat perform their wild hit “Wildcat” on my way out the festival doors.
During my second day of the festival I caught UK act Friendly Fires perform several songs off their catchy sophomore album Pala while trying to make my way over to catch the majority of the Skylar Gray performance at the same time. Skylar performed a medley of The Cranberries’ “Zombie,” and then went into a Medley of her Diddy/Dirty Money hit “Coming Home,” her Dr Dre/Eminem hit “I Need a Doctor” and Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie”: all-in-all a winner for the audience. Watch video of the medley here.
I ended the festival catching one of my favorite new bands Local Natives perform their track “Wide Eyes” before hopping over to Ellie Goulding’s stage for my final show of the festival. She looked gorgeous and sounded great. The highlight of the whole event though was a chance to interview Estonian pop star Kerli about her recent shift in musical direction, her views on life for gay teens in Estonia and her thoughts on Lady Gaga.
AfterElton: So tell me about what life was like growing up in Estonia?
Kerli: Well it was
boring and grey and restrictive. Sometimes when I say these things Estonians
get really hurt. They’re like “why is she saying such bad things?” Besides being from Estonia
I’m from a really small town of like 5,000 people. I knew that a world like
this was out there and I knew that I wanted to be part of it. Everything around
me was just so grey. I never really felt like I belonged. I got the fuck out as
fast as I could. I moved away from home when I was 16.
AE: Wow so
where’d you move?
K: Sweden. I got
my first publishing deal at 16. I was a songwriter before I was an artist.
AE: You started
off really young.
K: Yeah, and I got my
first record deal when I was 14.
AE: And then you
signed with L.A. Reid in 2006. Your first big American breakthrough was
“Walking on Air” and recently you’ve come out with the single “Army of Love,” with quite the interesting music video. Where did you get the idea for the gasmasks with the teddy bears?
K: I wanted to
make it very industrial. In my head that video would have even been more early 90’s experimental. I went to Estonia to film it. It was hardcore
making that video. It was just me and my team. Me and my mom made a lot of the
stuff in that video. It was very DIY. I don’t have anybody else. I’m a one girl army.
K: It’s not
awesome. I wish I would have someone helping me. I haven’t met that person yet.
I just did a thing in my blog: “What I want from Santa next year” and this one
thing I want is an “in-house nerd” that is a Logic genius who sews and cooks
and cleans. So when I have a skirt idea he’ll just make it.
AE: Would this be
a boyfriend or a non-sexual in-house nerd?
K: Not sexual at
all. I have other people for that!
AE: So is there
anybody special in your life right now?
special in my life
AE: Good answer!
You’ll make a lot of people happy with that. So you live in America now?
K: Yeah actually
I live in LA now
AE: Who are some
of your favorite artists?
K: I love Imogen Heap. Artists like that are the
biggest inspiration for me because when Imogen wins a Grammy for engineering,
that to me is the real shit. Somebody else writing your record and the whole
“pop stardom fame” stuff, I can’t really connect to that at all. I’m rooting
for Imogen. I’m rooting for Bjork.
I’m rooting for those chicks. And I’m trying to make that essence and
inspiration [in my music] and make it a little more pop
AE: How do you
feel about Lady Gaga?
K: I actually did
a lot of European promo stuff with her when she was just starting. I was
promoting my first album when she was promoting The Fame. She really had a fiery energy around her and she was so
prepared and so together and so on that road. It was written on her face that
she was going to be what she is. There are things that I love about her and
there are things that I don’t love about her, but you can only imagine the
work she’s done and anybody that’s willing and able to work that hard you’ve
got to give props to.
AE: It’s nice to
see that you don’t bash other female artists.
K: Thanks I try,
AE: What has it
been like handling fame and success for you?
K: I don’t really
feel like I’m famous. I mean I can go to the grocery store no problem.
AE: Do you dress
up when you go to the grocery store?
K: I’m actually a
really, really shy person. This is me being artsy but my fans helped me pick
out my outfit. I tweeted options and let my fans pick it out. I kind of see
myself as a cartoon character that the kids and I are creating together. I also
make everything and I write and produce, so when I’m in work mode I don’t
really give a shit about what my hair looks like. When I’m the creator, I’m the
creator. And when I step out, then I’m the artist.
[real] name is Kerli, right?
AE: So do you
feel like you have an alternate persona when you dress like this?
K: It’s the
artist and the “artiste.” When I close the door I become the artist. I go for
days. I’m bi-polar so I have this manic period where I pretend my balcony is
the stage. I program with my headphones on for 48-hours straight. It’s manic
creation. I don’t wear platform shoes when I do that. Really. I’m jumping
around like nothing matters. The visual though is such a huge, important part
of music. But it’s not like a different person. It’s the same person. My house
looks like the way I dress though. I have fucking toy guns, weird art, baby
doll heads, unicorns, everything LED that you can imagine.
AE: Where did you
get your love of art? Are either of your parents artists or did you take art
K: My love of art
comes from not having any around me. I was very restricted from music and art.
My parents don’t read any books. They don’t go to the theatre. I felt really
deprived. I was looking for many things. I was looking for art. I was looking
for religion and spiritualism. My family is very atheist, very real and down to
earth. Just showing my emotion isn’t of the European mindset. Showing your
emotion is taboo. Me being a child and wanting to cry because I was happy or
cry because I was sad wasn’t allowed.
AE: Do you
consider yourself a religious person now?
K: Definitely not
religious. At least not organized. Unorganized. I believe in many things. I believe in
angels. I talk to angels every day. They’re a really important part of my life.
I have areas in my house where I put gifts for them. They’re always helping me
with everything. I get a lot of messages from them. I believe in fairies. I
love nature. I go on vision quests with my friends to the desert. It’s a big
part of my life, as big of a part of who I am as my music.
AE: Tell me about
how you create your music. Do you do it alone?
K: I have a
studio in my house. A lot of this new album I created by myself and did the
original production. With my first album I wasn’t programming yet.
For me the whole way that labels work, they put an artist in a studio with the
producers and they allow one day to make something happen. For me creating art
is a big process. Even us just talking here, me going out hearing what people
are saying and feeling and then putting it in a song, it’s a way longer
process. I have a lot of songs that come to me in my dreams and I wake up and
record them. I like to break the mold in
every area. I just deliver my label music and if I don’t think it’s really good
then I don’t even deliver it. I don’t think they were even expecting that. They were
putting me in the studio with all these people, but now I’m totally going end up writing about 50-75% of this album completely by myself.
AE: Tell me about your new album. When is it
expected to be out?
K: The fall. It’s
taking shape and going more towards the rave world.
AE: When you say
rave world do you mean Kaskade
K: Yeah. Like Wolfgang Gartner, hard trippy stuff.
I’m recording a bunch of that kind of stuff. The song that is supposed to be my
first single should be sampled by all sorts of people.
AE: What’s the
name of your first single?
K: Can’t say yet.
I’m doing a whole round of shows and performing at the President of Sony’s
private party. And I’m doing an Independence Day festival with 75,000 people,
it’s a free festival. And after that I’m getting in the studio to finish up
that track. So it’s totally going to be on the fast track to finish it up.
AE: What’s it
like growing up in Estonia
dealing with one’s sexuality? Is it taboo to be openly gay?
K: We don’t have
any gay people. I mean of course we have them, but until now it wasn’t really
talked about. And the people who have, people are weird about it. But now that
I’ve been doing all these gay prides I’ve been getting letters from the local
Estonian community and that’s really rad. Drawing attention to that.
AE: So you’re an
icon for people in Estonia
K: I don’t really
like this whole separation, like who fucking cares? That’s why I like the rave
scene because everybody’s tripping balls and it’s not about who you like to
have sex with, or what you believe in even. It’s just about feeling the love
and love for music and art.
AE: It’s a good
attitude to have.
K: I try.
AE: Well thanks for your time and it sounds
like your life experiences have come together to make a really beautiful and interesting person both on
the inside and the out.
K: Thank you very
Kerli – “Army of Love”
LOLLAPALOOZA ALBUMS to check out
Foster the People – Torches
Christina Perri – Lovestrong
Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy
Friendly Fires – Pala
Young the Giant – Young the Giant
LOLLAPALOOZA SINGLES to check out
Dom – “Living In America”
Crystal Castles – “Baptism“
Phantogram – “When I’m Small“
Lissie – “When I’m Alone”
Skylar Grey – “Dance Without You“
In case you missed it here are some video highlights of Lollapalooza…
Deadmau5 – Raise Your Weapon & Sofi Needs a Ladder
Eminem – Airplanes
Foo Fighters – Everlong