Lifoti Interview | KAILEE SPARK: The Rising Star of Indie Industry

A beautiful blue-eyed California baby of the late 80’s, Kailee Spark started taking piano lessons at 8 years old and became forever intrigued with the idea of expressing herself through songwriting. She says, “My parents are big into classic rock and artists like Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens. So I grew up listening to a lot of music. At one point I was obsessed with this CD my parents had called “Wacky Favorites” which had songs like “The Auctioneer Boy” and “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport”. I’d listen to it over and over. I remember sitting on the floor listening to this CD when I decided that I wanted to be a musician someday, I must have been around 6 or 7.”Spark found her instrument of choice at 14 when ‘Uncle Billy’, an eclectic character from her family’s church, gave her an acoustic guitar for Christmas and she immediately began to write songs on it after learning several chords. In high school Kailee formed several short-lived bands, emulating her favorite bands/songwriters like Saves the Day, Conor Oberst, and Jewel. It wasn’t until her college years, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, and a MA in cultural anthropology that she began to explore her wanderlust and her desire to gather stories by traveling the world. Packing her charming curiosity and her guitar, Spark’s extensive international travels have certainly influenced her unique songwriting style, as many of her songs provide glimpses into her love of travel and inquisitiveness of culture. 

Spark explains: “I love travel- it’s one of my favorite things to spend time in a completely ‘foreign’ environment (foreign to me, that is), and learn as much as I can about it and get to feel comfortable there. I’ve had so many interesting experiences, and I try to encapsulate these experiences into my quirky and uplifting songs, while touching on a broad range of topics and emotions”. Spark’s love of exploring and culture led her to call the floral trade winds of Hawaii her home. She explains: “I found this bizarre, clothing-optional intentional community on the Big Island that was offering an internship in permaculture. My third day there I made the decision that I’d be moving to the island- it just felt right. After that move, a massive wave of creativity hit me and I wrote a bunch of songs. Some of them made it onto my upcoming album. The natural beauty here is incredible-sometimes the stars are so magnificent they look close enough to touch- like you can run your fingers through the Milky Way. The lush jungles, lava, the snow-capped volcanoes, the sound of birds...the island definitely sparks a lot of nature themes in my songs. ”

Spark’s newest single and music video, ‘Sparkle & Shine’, was released June 4th. Spark relates, “Writing ‘Sparkle & Shine’ was a lot of fun. I stopped at the studio one day to have a production meeting with Bub and showed him like four lines of a song I was working on that at the time was called ‘Bright & Shiny’. The idea of the song was that sometimes I’m feeling like I’m in the flow of life, and sometimes I’m not, but either way it’s cool and I’ll just keep doing my thing. Later that same night he sent me a recording of practically an entire song he had written based on the little information I’d given him! We went back and forth creating the verses and fine-tuning the hook, and recorded the song maybe a week after we wrote it. That was a fun and quick co-write!”

The video is a fanciful frolic through cliffside Hawaiian vistas. After a sunrise songwriting session on a cliff overlooking the vast Pacific, and a ceremonial toss of her mobile phone into the open waves, she finds that her jeep won’t start. Spark grabs her guitar and meanders down the rural jungle road, intending to hitchhike back into town. A sweet couple in a truck pick her up, and as she rides in the back, an adventure ensues with a crazy cast of characters and riveting imagery.

Whether her subject matter is otherworldly or of the everyday, Spark is a true poet: she weaves her lyrics masterfully through a pallet of emotions. Her songs are filled with wisdom, affirmations, and stories of love and loss. Spark’s voice is pure and unique, and the distinctive, saturated hues of her imagery are likely to leave a lasting impression on the listener. Spark said “I’m not quite sure how to classify my singing style or voice. I am a soprano, but to me, I sound kind of like a female version of Dylan or Oberst. I wouldn’t call myself a singer, more of a musician singer/songwriter. I don’t have a great voice, but I think the uniqueness of it is an asset to me rather than a hindrance because I don’t sound like everyone else. Something I know I’m good at is conveying emotions through my voice and I think that’s why it resonates with people.”

Reflecting on her songwriting process, Spark explains, “Typically I’ll just fool around with some guitar or piano chord progressions, then start humming a melody. Emotions and words will flow through, and in that initial burst of inspiration I’ll usually get a good portion of a song written. I always record my ideas using a voice recorder app on my phone, so I won’t forget anything. Often I will listen to it over and over and finish writing the song in my head while I’m on a walk, or driving or doing something mundane. I write the lyrics in a notebook in a way that probably wouldn’t make much sense to anyone else, just lots of chaos and mess, but it works for me.”

Lockdown was a major creative bridge for Kailee- it was during that time that she first began live streaming her music performances and was surprised to find that large numbers of viewers would ask where they could purchase her recordings. With the encouragement and support of her new fans, she decided to finally undertake the project of recording her first album. This led her to search for a place to record and that’s when she found Kukuau Studio, a multi-media art space/recording studio curated by Bub Pratt.

“The minute I walked in I heard Conor Oberst in my head, “let’s live it up boys, make some noise!”. I felt at home right away. You walk into the studio and there is this whimsical mural on the wall with mushroom houses and flying whales and stuff. I’m not some diva who needs a crisp, sterile environment to work. There is definitely a vibe at the studio that matches well with my own. Bub, the producer, is great to work with too. And the engineer Keli’i is incredibly talented. I’m pretty lucky to be working with these guys.”

The album, “Savor This” is due to be released digitally July 30. Spark says that although she had dozens of songs to choose from, the ten included on the album were carefully chosen as they represent a range of topics. “Some of the songs on the album are love songs, some are energetic, uplifting songs, and some are darker or a bit sexy. And yeah, some are like ten years old, and some are brand new”.

Spark’s first single and music video, ‘Passageways’, was released on April 19 of this year. Passageways is a love song, but some listeners may interpret it to have a slightly darker tone. Spark explains “There is one level of the song that is about how sometimes, in loving someone, we hope that our love can ‘heal’ them from their pains and their shadow sides or whatever. It’s a kind of idealistic, naive pining. We know we can’t “fix” someone, but damn, when you love someone and are enamored with them you sometimes hold an unrealistic optimism that you’ll be the one who can help them change.” The music video flashes back and forth from a ‘dream reality’ and ‘normal reality’ of a live stage performance in a theatre. The dream sequence is set in a thick, misty jungle, and at one point in it Spark crawls through a deep mudpuddle. Spark said that “The idea of crawling in the mud seemed kind a fun at first, but actually doing it was disgusting. It was a stagnant swampy mud puddle that smelled awful. It was all warm and mushy and with each step I didn’t know how deep it went.”

She goes on: “It brought back these terrifying flashbacks from when I was 10 and almost died by walking into a muck pit, which is basically a huge deep hole of cow manure. I was visiting a relative’s dairy farm and was wandering around, and started sinking down into a muck pit like quicksand. My life flashed before my eyes and I thought my short life was over. Luckily I managed to crawl out after getting up to my chin in manure. I think that the fact that it brought up those emotions made the story in the song come to life for me” “The whole video shoot in the jungle was an emotional experience. It felt like I was on a cathartic journey, starting off feeling this total fear in the mud and then setting off on the “mission” to submerge and cleanse myself in the ocean. After I covered myself in mud it was another two mile hike to get to the ocean, and I was exhausted by the time we reached it. Hiking barefoot over slippery, muddy trails in a mud-caked dress. I definitely got some strange looks from other hikers on the trail. Of course Bub (the producer), always the funny guy, would say to other hikers as we passed “sorry guys, she had a little accident!”. Overall, filming it was a great experience. Everything just seemed totally in the flow, the weather, the ideas we had, the sunlight pouring down through the trees like spotlights, the huge mud puddle we came across. Couldn’t have asked for a better team. And while the mud part was disgusting, well, it definitely leaves an impression on people when they watch the video.”

When asked about words of wisdom shared with her on this journey, Spark says, “The best advice I have gotten is ‘don’t take yourself too seriously’, and ‘the fun is in the journey, not the destination’. That’s where my idea for the album name came, “Savor This”-to savor the moment. Nothing lasts forever, so enjoy it now. All we have is the present moment, and right NOW is where all the fun is. Happiness is an inside job.”

The future is looking very bright for Ms. Spark, and she’s excited to share more songs and stories with her fans. Her musical bucket list includes landing on billboard charts, a Grammy nomination, songs on the radio and playlists around the world. “It would be pretty cool to get my ‘Universe at your fingertips’ song into an iPad commercial or something.” Keep your eyes, and ears on the lookout for this up-and-coming artist as she Sparkles &Shines her way to your favorite radio station, and right on into your heart. In this exclusive interview with Lifoti Magazine, Ms. Spark discusses heartfelt creativity, and why music is so important to her.

➧Interview By Maria Nicolas 

• Would you please share a brief synopsis of your music journey? If you could walk us through your music-related journey from the start to present, what are some of the most notable facets of your life as an artist?
» I’ve been writing songs since I was around12. My first instrument was the piano, and I picked up the guitar when I was 14. I was in several bands throughout high school, and I always wanted to pursue music someday. I continued to write songs through college, and I’d occasionally play at open mic nights, but mostly just kept my songs to myself. In 2020, I had a lot of free time and I decided it was the perfect time to record an album. And here we are now. My album is coming out this July, and I’m very excited to share my music with the world.

• Is it easier or harder to be a musician in 2021?
» I don’t know, I’m just starting out on my music journey “professionally” so I have nothing to compare it to.

• What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
» Do a commercial for Hot Pockets (I could imagine my family and friends teasing me for years, with that little “hot pocket!” jingle ). Or go underwater cave diving.

• How important was music in your life? Were your family and friends supportive of this career choice? If you weren’t a musician today, could you see yourself doing anything else?
» Music and songwriting were always “my thing” as far back as I can remember, so I’d say it’s an important part of who I am. My close friends have always encouraged me to do music. My family supported my music endeavors as well, although like most families, when I told them I wanted to be a rock star someday they tried to talk some sense into me about how hard it is and that it’s good to have another career option. Which, of course, I agree with. So I went and got a master’s degree. Ha!

• What, or who serves as your biggest inspirations, both musically, and personally?
» What serves as my biggest musical inspiration is the kind of cliche notion of ‘following your dreams’, as well as nature. I think Ionly have one song on the upcoming album that doesn’t mention something in nature like the ocean, stars, moon, or birds. I am lucky to live on the Big Island of Hawai’i, and I’m sometimes astounded at how much beauty surrounds me. I love it.

• Do you think music today is enjoyed more for the beats and rhythms or for the lyrical content?
» I’d say it just depends on the listener. People have different tastes, sometimes I love songs purely for the catchy beat and bass line. But lyrics are my favorite. Songs are kind of like magic, they conjure up emotional states in us. You can do that through just beats or instruments without the lyrics. Sometimes even great lyrics, if they’re not sung with emotion can seem kind of dull. I really try to create solid lyrics and sing them in a way that conveys the emotions of the song.

• How do you want fans to feel when they see you live?
» I want my fans to get the chills at the good parts of my songs, to laugh at my witty banter, and to leave the show feeling enlivened and inspired.

• Let’s talk about your debut album, “Savor This”. What did it feel like releasing these collections? Did anything surprise you about the overall process? Can you describe the themes that you explore on this album?
» The album coming out in July 2021. I learned a lot in the whole process. Some of the themes are romantic love, despair, trusting in your dreams and intuition. Basking in the beauty of the world and notion that the universe is on your side and supporting you.

• While it’s difficult, can you pick out a few of your favorites tracks on “Savor This”?
» My favorite track right now is Tulips With Teeth. I wrote it about my dog Hoku that died, but I think it’s funny because a casual listener will assume the song is about a lover who dumped me. Near the end of the song, there is a reference to a eulogy, so then you realize that whoever the song is about actually died and it suddenly makes the song much more sombre. My other favorite is Ebb & Flow. I probably spent more time working on that one than any other song on the album. I tried something a little creative on it, the first third of the song is in a minor key, then it shifts to major for the rest of the song. I love the words on that one too. I feel especially proud of both of the above tunes because I created most of it on my little computer at home. Just recorded the vocals in the studio.

• What was it like making the music video for “Sparkle & Shine”? How creatively involved with the process were you?
» It was very fun, a nice sunny day on the coast and cruising in the back of a truck. The ending scene in the natural hot spring was, well, HOT, because the water was extra hot that day. We were all pretty exhausted at the end of the day. And like all of my projects, I was very involved in the creation process. I had bought a drone the day before the music video shoot, and we got some neat bird’s eye footage following us in the truck, but unfortunately the following morning when we did the sunrise shoot scene the drone went haywire and crashed and broke. Oops haha.

• Singing in unknown language is quite difficult task. But you done it very perfectly, And most important your vocals invokes emotions and feelings. So tell us your overall experience of singing a Punjabi cover song “Heer Heer”.
» Thank you! Well that song I first heard in the Bollywood movie Jab Tak Hain Jaan, and I loved it. It’s a beautiful song. So I just made my own little simple cover version of it. I’m sure my accent could use some improvement. I can speak and understand a little bit of Hindi, but not Punjabi.

• What does the next page in your career trajectory look like? What does the rest of this year and the start of 2022look like for you? Do you have plans to release more new music or a full album soon? Are you currently writing new music?
» Releasing my album July 2021! I plan on creating a couple more music videos this year, and there is a possibility of doing a little touring this fall. I’m going to start working on my next album right away as well. I recently got my own little recording set up at home which makes it easy and fun to work on song ideas. I’m already brimming with song ideas and inspiration for new material.

Now it's time for Rapid Fire Round, you have to answer in one line. So get ready for it...!
» The first song I remember hearing? - Pressure by Billy Joel
» The first song I fell in love with? - Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport by Rolf Harris
» The first album I ever bought? - Deana Carter “Did I Shave My Legs For This”
» The first gig I went to? - Saves the Day
» The song that makes me want to dance? A Hindi song, Bom Diggy Diggy by Zack Knight/ Jasmin Walla/Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety
» The song I wish I’d produced? Mmmbop by Hanson
» The song I can’t get out of my head? My song “Ebb & Flow”
» The song I can no longer listen to? Hit Me Baby One More Time by Britney Spears
» The genre I don't like? Hmmm...super heavy death metal maybe
»Describe Kailee Spark in one word? Sparkley

• You’ve always championed new music. Are there any recommendations for Lifoti and its readers to check out?
» A couple of locals artists I highly recommend are Drew Daniels, Bub Pratt, and Rob Taylor.

Pre-order the "Savor This" album from Kailee Spark here

Follow her on Official Website | Instagram | YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Spotify

Recently she was featured on cover page of Lifoti's July 2021 issue 15, you can check it from below link's for your country:

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