Kerli isn’t a dance artist, she is a force of nature. The Estonian pop princess lit up dancefloors with her uplifting Utopia EP (“Zero Gravity,” “The Lucky Ones”) and has fully embraced the world of dance music, signing to Ultra records and collaborating with producers as diverse as Benny Benassi
, Don Diablo
, Cash Cash
, and Seven Lions
. Kerli’s new single with SNBRN
, “Raindrops,” shows how to bring emotion to an often generic EDM world. Together with her fellow moonchildren, she brings love and energy wherever she goes.
RS: You put the most amazing quote out there and I want you to explain it. “Writing sessions are like one night stands, you have to make yourself completely vulnerable to a stranger and be okay with never seeing them again.” Can you explain more about that?
Kerli: I compare writing and making art with other people to doing porn. At first it was very nervewracking, and I remember times where I would be in the bathroom praying because it was so personal. You won’t get great work out of it, though, unless you are completely vulnerable. I think that the best writers are the ones that are able to carry their heart on their sleeve and just say how they feel and talk about their experiences and pain and joy and be able to put everything on the plate in front of people that you have never met. I always say that it is just like doing porn, because at first it is really embarrassing and you get nervous, but after you have done it for a couple of years you are just like “okay, let’s get on with it.” I am a really sensitive person, so it has been complicated for me to go and connect on such a deep level and then not remain really good friends.
RS: That makes perfect sense, actually, and I have never heard it explained that way. Moving forward, what was it like working with SNBRN?
Kerli: It was really fun. We had a really nice little space by the beach where we started jamming on some stuff. He made a little track and I laid down a vocal. He sent me the track with the vocal on it and I was like “screw that vocal!” I was feeling a whole different vibe on the track that he created. We had a really nice day hanging out, but we both work in our own spaces. I write and I vocal produce myself, so I did that in my cocoon and he did his thing in his cocoon. He is honestly one of the nicest kids that I have had the honor to work with.
RS: Do you prefer working with newer producers or more experienced producers?
Kerli: It is different every time. Lately, I am starting to produce a lot of my own stuff and I have noticed that it is different in the electronic music scene and the pop scene. I tend to see that people that have been doing it longer are more humble, and I like that. To actually survive and to actually have a long career, you are going to have so many doors shut in your face, and you are really humbled by that. The best people that I have worked with are the ones that are really humble.
RS: I can totally see that. Is there a difference between working with a pop producer and working with a dance producer?
Kerli: Yes, I actually like the people in pop music a lot more than I like the people in electronic music. When I first started making electronic music, I was really excited about it because I thought that it was all going to be PLUR and be an amazing family of music makers and ravers. I thought that it would be all about the kids and the community and music, but it’s not. It’s actually pretty cold and more often than not, as a female who also producers and is techy, I have actually had more bad experiences than I have good experiences working with people in electronic music, unfortunately.
RS: Remind me to connect you with Dani Deahl; she is an incredible producer that you should definitely hook up with. Talking about some of my favorite producers, with one being you and one being Dani Deahl, did you work with Don Diablo?
Kerli: Yeah, I did the vocal on “Back to Life.”
RS: How did that come about?
Kerli: I don’t know. I just got the track and I actually got it at 7pm and by 10pm I sent it back and that was that.
RS: Wow, I had no idea that was you. “Worlds Apart” was absolutely epic. What was in your mind when you wrote that song?
Kerli: That song is actually so meaningful to me, and I think that Seven Lions is one of the most amazing producers in the world. I actually wrote the song when I was in Brazil and Seven Lions had just made the track. It just kind of came out and I cocooned out on it. It was really amazing because his tracks have a lot of layers, and it really inspired me to create a lot of vocal layers, which is what I love to do.
RS: Are you planning a new album for this year, or is 2015 going to be a lot of singles and collaborations?
Kerli: I am actually very deeply and intensely working on a new album, but I am in a really fresh place with who I am as a person. I got in the music industry really young, and there is a way that things are done and you get thrown around and you go to the studio and kind of just bang out songs. My last EP, “Utopia,” I wrote in a week - but this album that I am making right now, I think is going to be my best one. I am really taking the time to experience some life and play around with every sound until it’s absolutely perfect. Play around with every lyric until it is absolutely perfect as well. I want to have the songs sit with me and live with me and evolve and change with me. Ideally, I would like to have it ready by the fall, but we will see.
RS: When I heard that you wrote the song "Skyscraper" for Demi Lovato, I always thought that it was about your journey in the music business.
Kerli: It was more about life in general, but it could be. It is not an easy industry.
RS: You mentioned about being in a good place right now, is being a part of the Ultra family a part of that?
Kerli: In a way yes, because I have all the creative freedom in the world. It is not really about who I am working with but more about who I feel like I am becoming as an artist. I have had all of these years to develop all these skills. I have been so lucky to have been in the same room with so many incredible writers and producers and to work and learn from them. I really feel like I am getting ripe as somebody that can express themselves with all of these tools. I am just here sitting in my house, writing and recording and producing. I feel very good about the things that I am making right now.
RS: In your cocoon where you are writing, what kind of software you are using?
Kerli: I am using Logic.
RS: What color is your cocoon?
Kerli: I have one wall that has tropical wallpaper because I wanted some nature in my room. I have a lot of feathers and pink flowers as well. This is just my little space in L.A; I have actually really been enjoying going to back to Estonia to make some art. I have just been taking all of my gear with me which is so amazing that this day in age we can just pack everything up into a small bag of things. I have my mic and I have my laptop, and that is really all that I need. I have been going back to Estonia more because as time goes by, the more I actually miss the land that I am from, and I am starting to really sense my bloodline and the spiritual beliefs of my ancestors. My dream is to live in the woods and only come out of the woods when I have to.
RS: Do you feel that your creativity comes out differently when you are in Estonia than when you are in L.A.?
Kerli: I am not sure. I left home when I was 16 years old, and as time goes by I kind of feel like I want to be surrounded by my family, my land and my forest. I want to eat the food that was grown on that land and just be barefoot and see the billion stars.
RS: I really like that. Talking about eating, what is your secret for staying so fit and so beautiful?
Kerli: Aww, that’s so sweet. I don’t know, I don’t really think about it. I honestly rarely think about the way I look and for me to play with the way that I look is just a form of self-expression.
RS: What is something that you can’t go without doing every single day?
Kerli: Lately is has been coconut water.
RS: What is the most unique gift that a MoonChild has ever given to you?
Kerli: I think the most unique gift is the kind of love that they give me. Without even spending any time with them in person, the kind of bond that I have with them is intense. I also consider myself a MoonChild, so there is no hierarchy; we are all just trying to do our best. It has been such a blessing to have all of these amazing people that are just so supportive. It is not like a weird, obsessive fan and artist relationship; we have real conversations.
RS: If you could work with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be?
Kerli: Kurt Cobain.
RS: I could totally see that.
Kerli: Did you know that he was actually really sensitive? When I read his interviews he was really sensitive. Everyone remembers him as this really tough person but I read that when he was in school, he had the one guy friend who was gay. The gay friend was the only guy that he knew that was comfortable with saying I love you and hugging. So he was craving this kind of love that people don’t even allow themselves to feel.
RS: That is so true. If you could talk to yourself at age 18, what would you say to yourself?
Kerli: I would say that everything is going to be fucking great and just keep going and stay focused. I would just give myself a big hug.
RS: I love that. What would you like to say to all of your fans and all of the MoonChildren out there?
Kerli: I think that the biggest thing that I am working on right now is absolute self-love, shameless self-love, and really trying to not have any decreasing thoughts about who I am. I am trying to really eliminate any fear or anything that makes me feel small. I am trying to fully live an amazing existence. I would like to say love yourself, it kind of sounds cliché but there is nothing more important in the world than to love yourself, know your value and know your worth.
Interview conducted February 2015.