Kacy Hill On Her ‘Bloo’ EP, Taking Control Of Her Artistry & The Importance of Live Music: Interview
Kacy Hill, who was one our top picks for artists to watch in 2016, has been mainly know for being one of the newest women to sign with Kanye West‘s G.O.O.D. Music imprint. But, as she gears up to release her debut album, the rising singer/songwriter wants to take the reigns of her own artistry and independence away from the big rapper shadow.
We sat down with the 21-year-old artist to discuss the workings of her upcoming project, the current Bloo EP and her favorite SXSW moment. Read on to see what Kacy Hill had to say in our conversation below!
You’re only 21 and still fairly new to this industry, so I was wondering how your life has changed since signing with G.O.O.D. Music? KACY HILL: I guess the biggest thing is that my entire life revolves around music and writing. There’s definitely a certain level of responsibility that exists now that didn’t before, but I think I’m still trying to process my entire life and what it is.
I know prior to becoming a singer you were a dancer and model. Would you want to still pursue those things now, or is it just about the music? KH: I actually wasn’t a dancer—I mean I was technically dancing on Kanye’s tour—but I never took a dance class before. [That job] was more through American Apparel. But as far as modeling, it just becomes an accessory to stuff I want to do in fashion. I didn’t realize how helpful it was until I started doing press stuff and cool collaborations with Vogue where I realized this was a useful skill. So that’s been super helpful, more than I would’ve imagined.
When was the moment when you realized you wanted to be a singer? Did you have a lightbulb “A-ha!” moment? KH: I don’t even know! It’s weird because I’ve always wanted to do music but never really knew how to admit it, because I came from Arizona and it’s not really a place where you say “Hey, I want to be a popstar!” It’s not really a thing that exists there. But the lightbulb moment came from doing it, where I knew it was something I enjoyed more than anything else in the world. I love every aspect of it, I just can’t imagine doing anything else.
And I feel like a lot of people who may not know your story will correlate your success with Kanye, but of course you’re your own woman. So how will you try to push away from that stigma of always being looked at as a protégé? KH: That’s been a little bit frustrating to me. In some ways, I’m super thankful for the association. But on some level, especially as a woman, people want to associate your success with a bigger man. He has no part in the music that I make or me picking my team or anything like that. It’s been all myself and the people who work really closely with me. I have an A&R, but it’s not someone who is breathing down my back and telling me to make this music. And I’m not working with a million writers that are creating this finely-tuned pop—it’s just me sitting in the studio. I’ve worked with really amazing producers but that’s all been through me just having a vision of what I want and taking a lot of time to plan out what I need, and I have people around who can give me those resources. But at the end of the day, it’s my vision and not Kanye’s or anyone else’s.
Great, that’s very important to note—you are your own artist. And speaking of your music, I get a very ethereal, warm vibe from it. So I wanted to know which artists inspired you growing up? KC: It’s funny because I didn’t listen to any soul music or anything like that. In the house there was a lot of ’90s alternative like The Cranberries and even Sheryl Crow. I really loved the Beatles and INXS, and everything I listened to was honestly really white. I didn’t hear any hip-hop or anything until I get older, when I was more exposed to the world where I looked up new bands on Myspace and stuff. It was also a really white part of Arizona so you just listen to, like, Third Eye Blind! I still love it, but I think it almost made more of an impact hearing soul music when you’re older because you’re like “whoa, this is so heavy!” I think you understand the voice behind it, you know? There’s more weight to it rather than just being an amazing song.
How would you personally describe your sound? Because on websites I’ve seen everything from alt-R&B to trip-hop. KH: Whenever I’m making it, it’s somewhere in the field of left-of-center pop. I don’t think I’m ever actively trying to do and R&B sound. But the more influential sounds that I heard in my adolescence was Portishead and Massive Attack, so those vibes are there because they’ve really interested me.
I know when you were younger, you played the oboe and saxophone. And a lot of songs on the Bloo EP have live instrumentation that I thought was really cool. Was that important for you to include actual musicianship into your work? KH: A huge part of it is that a lot music now lives on the internet, and that’s saddening to me. That’s kind of the downfall of modern music—it’s completely internet-based. When you see it live, there’s nothing to it and it doesn’t translate. I’m really conscious about making something that has that weight and a bit of timelessness. And it’s been so cool to finally perform [the songs] live because everything makes sense to me now.
So “Foreign Fields” is my favorite song off the EP. What’s the story behind creating it? KH: Rick Rubin set me up with Jack Garratt in the studio because he is a huge fan of his music and what I was doing, so he thought it was a cool pairing. We only had a day, but Jack was playing the piano riffs and I wrote some melody over it. It was just a song that came together really easily, which is the best way to write. It just flows out. And I think he’s one of the most talented minds, and that song just happened how it should have.
I’m also loving Travi$ Scott’s Rodeo album, and you have a feature on “90210.” How did that come about! KH: That was through my A&R, actually. He wanted me to meet Travis, and he was working on that album in this gigantic house and recording all day and night. I was listening to some of Travis’ stuff, and he had a few songs that needed hooks. I laid some stuff down and I didn’t think it was going to make the album, but it was a pleasant surprise! It was cool. I think if I had gone in knowing I was going to write, I would’ve been like “this isn’t going to work”—just because I’m very dreamy or whatever, and it is a weird combo. But it worked well and it was exciting.
So we all have your EP….when can we expect an album? What’s your next step? KH: I basically have the whole album, and I’m actually producing it with Jack Garratt. We’re on tour now, so we’re doing some of it on the road. As soon as it feels ready, it’ll be done. But I’m anxious to have more out.
Are you collaborating with anyone else? KH: I worked with BURNS, Jamie Hartman, Andrew Wyatt and Oscar Berglund Juhola, who is a really cool Swedish producer. And also Dan Heath who’s an awesome composer—we did an amazing orchestral ballad. Those were all during the early writing stages, but right now there’s not a ton of because—going back to the Kanye thing—I just want to make my own body of work first and then I’ll focus on bringing my voice to the rest of the industry.
Wrapping up here, since we are in Austin I wanted to know what’s been your favorite SXSW moment so far? KH: So I came two years ago but I wasn’t performing, it was right before I got signed. I think the most exciting thing for me, and it sounds really cheesy, but seeing people genuinely excited about live music. It’s so rare and it’s so special to me. I did Spotify House yesterday and it was like 1:30 in the afternoon, and people were still so stoked to see music. And that’s just such a special thing to be reminded about, like what I’m doing has purpose and that live music isn’t dead. People still enjoy it.