Interview – Kier

Danish artist, Kier, released his debut record, Pendulum, on September 30th. Some of Kier’s influences include Björk, Bonnie Raitt, Beyoncé, Imogen Heap, and Bon Iver. In 2004, he decided to pursue his solo ‘electro-soul’ project and later moved to Los Angeles. Pendulum will be Kier’s third release in the US and was created with musician Gabby Gordon. Learn more about Kier from his responses and be sure to check out his newest video for “Coming Alive” below.

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How would you describe your music to others?

Soulful. Warm. Passionate. Quirky. Electronic. European. Surprising. Good for the heart.

 

Who and what influences your music? Why?

As for the songwriting: My goal is always to write beautiful tunes, suitable for a songbook, that can stand on their own and be performed simply with voice / piano. Artists like Sam Smith and Adele have successfully done that in more recent times. But also writers from previous generations, such as Joni Mitchell and Carole King, have inspired me tremendously. I find that all of these artists tell stories that are personal (not private) yet relatable. And good melodies are like good food. They feel nourishing and make sense on a level that can’t be explained. Music should be good for you (not all music is, I find)!

Lyrically, I also very much draw from personal experience. I tend to sing about traveling (literally and metaphorically), dreaming, longing, striving, suffering, and loving.

On the production side, artists like James Blake, Imogen Heap, Disclosure, Oh Land, and Hannah Schneider play important roles. I like the harshness of electronics combined with the organic components. Feels like a “full meal.”

 

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I like cooking. Indian. Thai. Baking is fun too. I’ve got a very sweet tooth. Combined with friends and movies, it doesn’t get much better.

Traveling is also a passion. I have enjoyed chunks of four continents and have many more places to go. Favorite places so far include Tanzania, Japan, Italy, and Mexico.

 

How would you describe your writing process?

Writing songs is usually an activity on my calendar. I like treating songwriting like other types of work. It’s a craft.

These days, the vast majority of my songs are co-writes. On my new “Pendulum” album, 8 out of 10 songs were written in collaboration with my dear friend Gabby Gordon. We like to go on writing retreats to her parents’ cabin in gorgeous Idyllwild, CA. It’s a gorgeous area, and we go for walks, talk a lot about everything, watch movies, even work out from time to time, and then obviously compose music. Typically, we’ll do two songs per day. We may not finish them, but we’ll at least have a melody, a rough form, and some lyrics. Later, we’ll complete the lyrics, makes changes, and, if we like them, record them. We often work with a song title, then play around with melody, establish a chord progression and form, and eventually write lyrics.

 

From start to finish, how long did it take to create Pendulum?

We worked on the Pendulum album over the course of 1.5 years.

Gabby Gordon and I wrote the first songs, “Satellite” and “Coming Alive” in the Spring of 2014. More songs were written over the Summer and Fall. And then, in early January of 2015, I traveled to Copenhagen to begin the album recording process.

I had previously worked with Danish producers Tue Sander and Lars Rønne and American producer Christopher Given Harrison. But never had we all been in the same room. So we had an intense 10-day recording process, also co-writing a couple of songs, “Dive (Come Over Now)” and “Stalker” in the studio. Additional recordings were made in LA during the Spring, and finally the album was mastered during the Summer.

 

Can you talk about the inspiration behind some of the tracks on Pendulum?

The title song, “Pendulum” is very much the story of my life.

Many musicians’ lives consist of a series of “one-off”s. We travel, do concerts and events, talk to many new people, get attention, receive (acts of) love. Then we go back to where we live and lead quiet lives, often times a little disconnected from our surroundings. To me, this constant swinging between extremes feels like a “Pendulum.”

“Satellite” is about joy, freedom, and, yes, the beauty of being single. There are millions of songs about relationships. But how many songs celebrate our existential loneliness?

In the song “Gray Zone”, Gabby Gordon and I deal with lack of inspiration, the feeling of being completely stuck. It’s a universal feeling and something that many entrepreneurs struggle with, I think. Trying to reinvent yourself every day is not easy!

 

Where did you get the inspiration for the “Gray Zone” music video?

The idea for the “Gray Zone” had been floating around in my mind for years, and this year, I finally found a way to materialize it. I love visual art, and abstract painting is one of my favorite genres. Through Instagram, I learned that an old acquaintance of mine, Tina Hau, had started to paint large, acrylic paintings. I really liked her work and asked her if I could be her canvas. It fit the concept of being “in a gray zone” so perfectly. So we met up at a gallery in Copenhagen, and she painted me “back to life,” creating a beautiful image directly onto my back, neck, scalp, and face.

To illustrate the opposite of being colorless, the director of the video, Kristian Skårhøj, and I found some awesome kids that I could play with in their backyard. Afterwards we recolored the grass and trees so that they appeared bright pink and fun. I love the result and am very proud of how it all came together.

 

Do you play covers at practices or shows? If so, which ones are your favorites?

I occasionally sing cover songs at gigs. I also created a little video series, Kier Favorites, for YouTube where my listeners could suggest hit songs that I would cover.

Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” is one of my favorite songs to perform at the piano. Also Elton John’s “Your Song” is great.

 

Do you have any favorite venues or cities?

I am a big fan of intimate venues. I love living rooms, small theaters, clubs, and alternative venues where I get close to the performer(s) and use more senses. Intimacy, however, doesn’t always have to do with size, but also with the connection to the artist(s) on stage.

Memorable venues I have performed at include: an underground cave, an aquarium (next to a giant shark in a tank), tiny living rooms in northern Europe, and a huge TV performance with 2 millions live viewers in Herning, Denmark.

 

What do you typically do post-gig?

After a gig, I usually eat all the food I can get my hands on. The balance between output and input needs to be restored. (Unfortunately, you can’t eat music.) Maybe I’ll grab a beer with friends who came to the show. And then I want to sleep.

 

What image do you think your music conveys?

I strive to be diverse and to surprise my listeners. But I will always be a “soft” artist with a somewhat romantic expression. To mix it up a bit and to tickle my fans, I like to find collaborators that are quite different from me. I find that this adds a little friction and edge to my music, which I like.

 

What has been your biggest challenge as a solo artist?

There is both beauty and hardship to being a solo artist. I love being my own boss. When I was a part of bands or larger groups of musicians in the past, I missed bt the one who called the shots. The flipside is that I get lonely. And sometimes I am simply uninspired and don’t know which direction to go.

Financially, it can also be challenging to be the boss, especially in a day and age where it can be hard to make your money back from album releases. I basically pay people to work with me (producers, graphic designers, promotors, etc.) which means that I sometimes get no money myself or simply lose money on what I do.

 

What has been your funniest or craziest fan experience?

I have a thing with rubber ducks. It started when I bought two as I was moving into a new place that had a bathtub, the first of my life. The rumor spread amongst my friends, and soon I was gifted with many more.

So, when I was coming up with ideas for a crowdfunding campaign in connection to the making of “Pendulum,” I thought it could be fun to do a rubber duck race. Basically, I would let my 35 ducks swim down a small creek in Griffith Park, LA and let my fans sponsor them. The winner would get a free home concert. However, this turned out to be a big success. I had to order a lot more ducks online for my fans to sponsor, and it became quite the race. Following that event, I have received so many new ducks as gifts, including a knitted duck, viking ducks, angel ducks, and many more.

I love my listeners.

 

What can we expect from Kier in the coming months?

I have three more music videos coming out this Fall:

“Coming Alive” was filmed with Russian director Phil Grishayev who shot me in three long, uninterrupted takes at three different locations in California. The shots appear in a split screen format, and it’s fun to follow the storyline of the three different Kiers.

Also my song “Satellite”  will have a video with spinning lights and some beautiful underwater footage.

Lastly, my Quebecois friend and filmmaker Nathaniël Siri is working on a creepy, surprising, twisted music video for “Stalker.” It will most likely include a bathtub murder. I can’t wait for everyone to see the three videos.

And then I am in the process of creating an electronic solo performance with all songs from “Pendulum.” I’ll be incorporating vocoder and loop pedal into my set-up and do some creative spins on the material. Fans in Los Angeles will be able to experience the music at the Hotel Café in LA on November 11th.

 

 

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