On Kelsy Karter's debut 2020 album, Missing Person, the New Zealand musician says she "sang with her balls" to unpack her experiences of being a woman in a man's world. "Being a rock singer, I'm always belting and screaming," Karter says, which is why she wanted to spend quarantine experimenting with the more "delicate, jazzy, soft side of her voice."
Inspired by Billie Joe Armstrong's album of covers last year, Karter decided to create a similar project — from lockdown in England — that transformed all her favorite pop songs. Live From Nowhere, out today, features six stripped down, raw takes on everything from Miley Cyrus' "Angels Like You" to Yungblud's "Mars."
Related | Let Yungblud Teach You How to Be Weird
Karter also took on Billie Eilish for the EP, covering the pop sensation's 2020 single, "My Future," and turning it into a grittier guitar-heavy track that slows things down a bit with smokey, soulful vocals. "'My Future' is a song about empowerment done in a way I've never heard," Karter says, gushing about how Eilish has recently been owning her "body" and "sexuality."
Watch the PAPER premiere of Kelsy Karter's "My Future," below, and read more about her intentions behind Live From Nowhere.
What initially sparked the idea to release an entire project of covers?
Billie Joe from Green Day released a covers album during lockdown last year and it inspired me to do the same. I moved to England in November and the massive change put me through a pretty dark couple of months. I rarely just sit down and listen to music, so I did and these are a few songs that helped me through the silence.
What's your approach to taking on a cover?
I started singing from listening to jazz and soul records as a kid. When doing this covers EP, I kind of wanted to go back to basics with just one guitar and my voice... no bells 'n' whistles. These songs all have such incredible lyrics and I wanted people to hear them. I didn't try to stick to the original or make it my own. I just wanted to sing from my heart and let my voice shine.
Why do you think Billie Eilish resonates so deeply with a global audience today?
She's profound in so many ways. A true artist. People love to talk shit and I hear a lot of people say she's part of the "machine," but I think she's as authentic as they fucking come. I personally connect with her on many levels. I've always been a tomboy and had people judge me for how I dress. My whole life. I've always been perceived as the "bad girl," which I don't mind, because at the end of the day I'm just not afraid of being who I am. But the fact is, I'm not just one fucking thing. And neither is Billie. She's strange and beautiful and that's what makes me relate to her.
What drew you to her song, "My Future"? Do you relate to it?
"My Future" is a song about empowerment done in a way I've never heard. The lyrics and perspective are so fucking unique. Everything has been said, so when I write a song, I try to write it in Kelsy's way. Billie has done that with "My Future." It is so her, but still so relatable. And I fucking love singing it.
What was your goal with making this track uniquely your own?
Being a rock singer, I'm always belting and screaming and singing with my balls. My intention with this whole EP was to do the opposite, and to show a side to my voice I don't always show. The delicate, jazzy, soft side. No better song to do that with than "My Future," right?
What do you think of Billie's recent style transformation?
I love a good "fuck you" to people who try to tear others down. She's owning her body, her sexuality and reinvention is part of being a true artist. I fully support Billie and whatever she's got up her sleeve next.
Stream Kelsy Karter's Live From Nowhere, featuring "My Future," below.
Photography: Sonny Matson
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