Nathan: The video for your new single, “The Channel” was just released. Watching it feels as if you’re leading us on an adventure through the gorgeous scenery of the Seven Sisters Cliffs. Can you tell us about the journey that led to creating the song, and what brought you there to shoot?
Kaine: Well it was shortly after I released my first album Up High, I went through quite a down moment where I was questioning my worth as an artist. As if by magic I fell on this quote from the iconic dancer Martha Graham. She explained to a friend of hers who was also questioning their worth that there’s no point in comparing yourself to others, that we all have a unique expression that will be lost if we let our self-doubt have its way and that we have to keep the channel open. When I read that, it was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders! A few days later I picked up the guitar and found this haunting chord progression and wrote “The Channel”.
I wrote, recorded and produced a demo that same night, sent it to my producer Finn Sally who pointed out how it was different to our usual sound and almost spiritual. The outro was inspired by Kate Bush’s song “Rocket Tail”. In the song she used a Bulgarian folk trio as an instrument and that inspired me to be more experimental in the vocals. From the get-go I knew that I wanted to be near the sea, it’s where I feel the most free, and so with my good friend and videographer from Insula Productions, Elias Von Hildebrand, we went to Eastbourne’s Seven Sisters cliffs for the day. It was such an amazing experience. It’s this story of just taking a train, leaving the noise and going on a journey into your own thoughts, into the open. I really wanted the video to illustrate the freeing feeling of the song and the light and depth of its lyrics, and the drama of the waves crashing in and the emptiness of the beach at sunset just really, I think, makes the song even more beautiful.
N: You recently released a new single, “Dear Stranger”, which tells the story of longing for a lover. What was the inspiration behind the song?
K: I was leaving Peru after visiting friends for ten days and my plane was delayed, so I got out my little notepad at the airport and I started writing some lyrics to a melody I had composed on the piano just before leaving London. I was inspired by being in that departure room full of people from different nationalities, some travelling home, some going on holiday, that I made up this story in my head that the love of my life could be in this room right now. He could be checking my boarding ticket, or holding the door open for me or asleep on the plane right in front of me!
In a sense it’s a letter to someone I have yet to meet and one day I’ll tell them about this trip to Peru, the things I saw, the people I met… and who knows? Maybe they were in Peru at the same time, maybe they were going through something really hard in their life, maybe they were in love. So yeah Dear Stranger is the hopeless romantic of my upcoming EP.
N: In October, you released a beautiful music video for your song, “Catching Fire”. Can you give a “behind the scenes” look into the production of video?
K: So “Catching Fire” is actually the lowest budget music video I’ve ever made as it probably only cost me about £3.50! “Catching Fire” was the first song I wrote for The Channel, my new EP, which ultimately shaped the new sound I’d wanted to explore. My mum has always warned me about ‘burning the candle at both ends’ and people who know me always comment on how busy my life is. I wrote this song when I was approaching the release of my first album Up High and everything was coming to its peak, which is a scary feeling. I was also going through some health problems due to stress, so I generally did feel like a candle burning at both ends and this song is me reflecting on what makes me different from others and why I can’t just be content with a simple life, or one career. I spoke with my good friend and videographer Jeremy Martin and told him of my idea, he came over one Sunday with his camera, we put on some music and got to work burning this candle just under my mantelpiece in my living room. I had to put a cardboard box under the candle because there would have been wax everywhere (sorry landlords!). We didn’t know what would happen to be honest but we got the shot on the second try; when it started burning the string and twirling around, I remember remarking that it was perfectly mimicking the song’s crescendo. Then it was played on BBC Radio Kent, which is where I’m from, and I couldn’t have been more proud!
N: The anniversary of the release of your album, Up High, just passed. The album is heartfelt, vulnerable, and easily relatable. During that time, did you learn about how your listeners connected to the album? Are there certain songs that resonate more with your audience?
K: First of all, I can’t believe it’s been a year – it’s gone so quickly and we’ve done so much since, listening to the songs now for me, I can really see the maturity since and the difference in production, singing technique, lyricism… But it’s always fun for me to ask listeners their favourite songs. There are quite a few who love “Black Friday”, or “Up High”, which are definitely crowd pleasers so I really love it when people come up to me and say: ‘Hey I love “Two Lovers”, it really reminds me of a break-up’, or ‘My favourite is “Crescendo Dreams”’. I knew those songs were the slow-burners, the ones I knew had to be listened to quite a few times to get. That’s the beauty of writing a genre versatile album; there are people who get it, and some who don’t, but that’s ok because there’s always something for everyone.
Check out the full album Up High on Apple Music.
N: Writing an album is a huge undertaking. What was your writing process like for the album?
K: It all started when I moved to London. I’m from the UK originally but I grew up in France where I had taught myself to sign and play piano. When I moved into my flat in London, to my delight, there was this one hundred-year-old piano just sitting there in the corner. That day I wrote this song called “Over You” about leaving my long-time boyfriend at the time, and then in under about six months I had written about 20 songs. On the bus, on the piano, guitar, acapella. It was just pouring out of me. So I would record them on my iPhone, send them to my friend and producer Finn who then said ‘wow they’re really good you know’. Then one day I wrote ‘Up High’ and suddenly this whole concept was born of a boy flying to space through music. Afterwards I cut the 26 songs down to 12, and found connections to this overarching story I had made.
I only wanted to write the album as a sort of keepsake, or polaroid of my life at that time – which is why many of the songs are vulnerable, like the song about my brother, Eden, but it was when I started showing friends and strangers who would say: “I think this is good enough to go public!” that I decided to go the full mile. It’s hard running your own business because it’s so much more than just singing and writing songs. I’m my own business manager, social media director, videographer, photographer, label etc… and it’s all done from my basement bedroom!
N: Who are some musicians that have influenced your style?
K: The way I listen to music is quite obsessive; I’ll listen over and over an artist, a song, or an album until I’ve learned everything I can from it, until I know why every breath or beat was chosen. I see music as a sort of incantation that if repeated and done perfectly can make everything ok. I really love musicians who put their heart and soul into their music. Artists like Kate Bush, who is probably my biggest songwriting and performance idol – her lyrics, choice of musicality, independence and discography ranging so many themes and stories, I am just obsessed. I grew up with great Indie-Pop artists like Florence and the Machine and Marina and the Diamonds, who were the epicentre of my teenage angst escapism. I was brought up listening to Shania Twain, ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, lots of Ska influences like UB40 or Bob Marley (thanks Dad!) But mainly I’ve always been obsessed with female, nostalgic driven artists. While recording Up High I was obsessed with Lana Del Rey who I started listening to late, I just love her mix of pop and electro and what she does with her voice, very inspiring as a songwriter. Lady Gaga also has been one of the biggest influences; the first song I ever played on the piano was an acoustic version of Poker Face and her identity as an artist has always been so powerful to me. When I’m alone I love to listen to opera, with Maria Callas being my go-to, there’s so much I could say about that woman and her story, the emotion and technique is so flawless, it’s truly something any singer should strive towards.
For a happy person I’ve always been told my obsession with nostalgia seems slightly misplaced. But I know that this little obsession is something deep inside of me that is mine only, until it can be shared with my listeners.
N: Most of our readers are based in Toronto, so we’d love to learn about what the music scene is like for an independent artist in London.
K: I must say it’s been a year since I’ve been playing the London music scene, and I am just so surprised at how easily I fell into it. I thought it would take me months to get my first gig, but everything happened so serendipitously. There are some historical venues where the greats have played; the other day I played on the same stage as David Bowie and Bob Dylan! The sad thing is that not as many people are willing to go out and pay for live music, so bars and pubs stop paying artists directly. The artists themselves are so talented, there are so many up-and-coming artists that it can feel overwhelming, but what’s fantastic is that we’re all in the same boat and everyone is so nice.
N: Every artist has a dream collaboration. Who would it be for you?
K: Hmmmm, I think it would have to be Lana at the moment! I think our voices would suit each other, and we’d have the same direction musically. If not, the great opera diva Maria Callas, but I’d probably just cry and let her sing!!! Or maybe “Landslide” with the hauntingly beautiful Stevie Nicks, I think we would have such a great time!
N: You are quite the traveler! What were your favourite places to visit? Any memorable music related experiences from your travels?
K: In Peru I remember Finn sent me the first mix of “The Channel”, it was the last night of my trip and I was standing on my hostel’s roof watching my last South American sunset. I had goosebumps and tears and was just so happy, it was an amazing feeling. Seconds later a fellow hostel traveller shouted at me in Spanish to come over and look at something. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Arequipa’s Misti volcano which we hadn’t seen the previous days due to clouds; it was one of the most outstanding things I’ve ever seen and I just remember that night feeling overwhelmed with this feeling of purpose. Going back two years now, I went solo travelling to Vietnam. I met these beautiful people and saw beautiful things. Finn would send me mixes of songs from the first album Up High and I remember cycling to cafés to get wifi so I could download and listen to them! Travelling opens your minds, and I believe getting out of your comfort zone always inspires creativity.
N: It’s almost 2020! How do you plan to take on the new decade?
K: I can’t believe it! I’m feeling ready. I accomplished more than I wanted to this year and have managed to reduce stress and negativity in my life, so all in all I’m feeling pretty excited. I’ve got some more urban pop songs that I wrote with an independent label in Bordeaux France that will come out, I’m already mixing new songs that I’ve written in the past six months and we still have the rest of The Channel to release and promote, including a new music video in January and two final songs! I’m really excited to keep gigging too, the venues have loved us so far and we’re going to try and organize a tour either in the UK or in Europe! I love Canada and need to visit Toronto too so that could also be in the cards! But one thing that will be different is I’m starting the new year with a team that has grown, all volunteers, all close friends who believe in me and that is precious.
Credits (Feel free to credit anyone who has contributed to your projects).
K: I’d like to thank my producer and friend Finn Sally who has always believed in me and makes this so fun. I’d like to thank my bassist David Richardson for sticking with us after the first gig, all my family for their support, all my friends who have come to EVERY show, who have streamed, shared, sent me loving words and quite simply loving me for who I am, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it weren’t for you. And of course platforms like yours for shining some light on up and coming artists. You’re all so special and I am so lucky, don’t think I don’t know that. Let’s conquer 2020 together.