Following the release of her debut single "Don't Follow Me" which we featured on MHB back in December of last year, North Virginia-based alt-pop singer KINSLEA returns with the release of her 5-track debut EP "Sub Rosa" and chats with us about the meaning behind "Sub Rosa" and her journey of it's creation. Read our interview with the talented songstress below:
MHB: Did you always want to be a musician or was there a specific moment that something happened that made you think "this is what I want to do with my life." If so, what was it?
KINSLEA: While I have always wanted to be a musician or work in the music industry, it had been more of a fantasy and less of a plan I had for myself. There were many times that I gave up on the notion all together - specifically a year or so into college. I began my undergrad career involved in the music scene, but my insecurities got the best of me and I gave up on that aspect of my life for about four years. There is so much I could have done in those four years! But that’s what happens when you doubt yourself and worry so much about taking the right path that you’re too afraid to begin.
A year into grad school, I had my “this is what I want to do with my life” moment. One night during the summer after my first year in that program, I decided to watch “Joy” featuring J-Law - which is based on a true story. Her perseverance in overcoming everything in her personal life, while also pursuing her childhood dream - and stopping at nothing to attain it on her terms - helped me reach the decision to quit grad school. I was extremely depressed and had lost all sense of purpose that year - something had to change, and that movie gave me the push I needed to make that life-changing decision.
MHB: When was it that you realized your voice could be a very useful instrument?
KINSLEA: I’ve wanted to be a singer for as long as I can remember, but there were certainly many twists and turns along the way that led me in other directions. I sang in front of an audience for the first time in my first grade talent show - that is when I discovered my voice and my interest in music. I wore a denim dress and sang “Lucky” by Britney Spears to a karaoke cassette. I was a huge Britney fan as a kid. (Honestly, I still am.)
MHB: Who have been some of your biggest musical influences growing up? Which artists currently continue to influence you now?
KINSLEA: Growing up I listened to a lot of Alternative and Pop from the 90s and early 2000s… The Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Keane, The Raconteurs, The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, Fiona Apple, Jewel… I was also obsessed with Avril Lavigne during my middle school years - I had all of her albums. Currently, my all time favorites, and bands that continue to be my biggest influences, are Nirvana, Death Cab, and Sylvan Esso.
MHB: Without using any musical terms, how would you describe your music and sound to a new listener?
KINSLEA: Wow, that is difficult to do. I don’t even know how to describe it to people in musical terms. Haha. I would probably say it’s an unfiltered reflection of myself and the experiences I’ve gone through over the last few years. Its dark at times, a little chaotic, but dancing is encouraged.
MHB: Can you share a little about your creative process?
KINSLEA: I still haven’t gotten down a process that works for me every time. Each song was developed a little differently - though I think best when I’m driving. Most of the time I’ll come up with a riff while I’m driving somewhere, record it on my phone, and then when I get home I develop the idea until 3AM, like I’m afraid its gonna disappear into thin air. After that, a lot of times I’ll completely change the lyrics the next day when I have more time to think. Other times I’ll come up with a synth part before I write the vocals.
MHB: Where did the name of the EP come from?
KINSLEA: "Sub Rosa" is a latin phrase that signifies secrecy or confidentiality. I decided on that name for the album because - before I chose to pursue music again - I had kept my musical side away from new friends and really ignored that part of myself for a while.
MHB: Which song off of your album is the most dear to you and why?
KINSLEA: The last song on the album is probably my favorite but it’s also the most difficult for me to listen to - just because of where I was in my life when I wrote it. It’s the most raw, stripped down song on the album, and without too many words it describes everything I’ve been through over the last few years. It was also cool that we got the vocals and piano parts in the first two takes, it took like five hours to do the whole thing.
MHB: What else can we expect from you in the next coming months?
KINSLEA: I already have new material in the works for a second album - but that may be a ways out. I’m also currently collaborating with another artist who will not be named, but I’m super excited to see what comes of it!
MHB: Who are the top 5 "undiscovered" artists you are currently listening to?
KINSLEA: Some lesser known bands I’ve enjoyed listening too recently include Clementine and the Galaxy, Natalie McCool, Farao (I love Sin Fang’s remix of Bodies), Laurel, and Krrum.
MHB: If you were stuck on an island and could only have one album with you, which would you pick?
KINSLEA: Haha this is such a great question! And so hard to answer… Though I’ve been listening to Sylvan Esso’s new album on repeat in my car for weeks, I’d probably take Transatlanticism by Death Cab because it has my all-time-favorite song on it (“Lightness”) and that album moves me like nothing else.
MHB: If you could perform with any artist live of your choosing, who would you choose?
KINSLEA: Death Cab for Cutie. Can you tell I like Death Cab for Cutie? lol
MHB: Is there a piece of advice you received that really hit home and stuck with you? If so, what was it?
KINSLEA: You can’t control what others think of you, and you will never be able to mitigate the details of their impressions.
MHB: What is it that ultimately gets you up in the morning?
KINSLEA: About five alarms, lots of coffee, and my wonderful fiancé.
MHB: What does music mean to you?
KINSLEA: Everything I’m about to say is a cliche and really cringy, but it’s a cliche for a reason!! Music is expression and emotion. It’s what moves me forward in life. It’s an outlet and an experience, and its a bright, beautiful thread woven into the fabric of who I am.
Kinslea's five-track EP, Sub Rosa, was released in June 2017 in collaboration with Blue Room Production's Devin Spear and features songs with an alternative dream-pop vibe with heavy influences from the 1980s. Check out one of my favorites from her EP called "Circumstance" below:
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