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Kerli - Estonian Excellence
Tuesday, July 08, 2008

With her long white hair, unique fashion sense, and powerful voice, everything about Kerli demands one’s attention. Critics have labeled her the “Estonian Pop Princess,” although she personally would rather defy categorization, and with her debut album, Love Is Dead, hitting stores July 8th she does just that. I caught up with the “Walking on Air” singer to find out more about her home country, her lust for escapism, and why Love Is Dead took five years to make.

Adam Bernard: Growing up in Estonia, what were your first introductions to American popular music?
Kerli: When I was six years old my cousin got MTV so I remember like Madonna and Roxette and the girl Sandra, who had the song “Hiroshima.”

AB: I know you have your own thriving music scene in Estonia, as well, including the Estonian Song Festival, which takes place every five years.
K: You know, that’s how Estonia got free from Communism, we held hands and we sang. It was of course other things, too, but that was the unity, it was called The Baltic Chain. Three Baltic States held hands and sang national songs. Estonia is actually called the singing nation. So yeah, we have all these choirs and every five years we have this big party and all the choirs rehearse for a year or so and they all sing the same song so when they get all together there’s like 5,000 people singing the same song. I’ve actually never been there; I was never in a choir.

AB: So you can’t headline that event, can you?
K: (laughs) No, you can’t headline.

AB: I’m sure they can make an exception. You’re going to be an American pop star, they’ll want you back.
K: Whatever. I don’t want to be a pop star. I want to be an artist.

AB: So you don’t see yourself as a pop singer?
K: You know what, I don’t really identify myself at all, so it’s funny when people are like “oh, Estonian pop princess.” It’s fine, they can say whatever they want, but I don’t like any identification in life or in music. People who can’t get in contact with the world, people who are Autistic or have other disabilities, you play music for them and they’ll react. Music is such a sacred thing to me it’s weird to put it in a box.

AB: Since you don’t like being put in a box, tell me about some of the other things about you that make you really unique and un-box-able.
K: I don’t know. I don’t like raising my own tail, but I believe that I am making music for somewhat different reasons than a lot of musicians and singers out there. I just want to create a magical world for people. It’s not really about me, or indulging myself. I grew up in kind of like an abusive home and I always felt really restricted in Estonia, so I had to create my own little fairytale world. Now my videos and my album artwork and everything that I do, that is the world that I had created when I was younger. I just want to offer an escape to people who feel they can’t quite relate to this world. I was always an outsider.

AB: A lot of those feelings are expressed on Love Is Dead. Speaking of the album, tell me about the title. How and why is love dead?
K: Well, I don’t believe that love is dead now, but I used to believe that love is dead. I wrote that album over five years and I used to be really really heavily depressed. I wanted to call this album Love Is Dead because it represents that era. Also when you look around at what’s happening in the world there is total lack of love, a total lack of respect to other human beings. So it’s a little bit universal like that, too.

AB: So if love is no longer dead to you what melted your icy heart?
K: Just a lot of pain, because I believe you have to overcome, you have to live through a lot of hard stuff. You have to really hit the bottom before you can rise above the darkness.

AB: Not to make you too depressed, but if you could expand, what was the bottom?
K: The bottom was when I really felt like love is dead and I felt like there was nobody in this world that understood me and I didn’t want to live in this world because it hurt me too much. The way that things worked hurt me too much. I’m very idealistic and I just always wanted to live a really pure, beautiful, light life and I never had it. When the world hurt me so much that I couldn’t be awake I sometimes went to a doctor and I told him to put me to sleep because it hurt me too much to be awake. That was my rock bottom.

AB: Musically, how do you go about describing such emotions?
K: “Bulletproof” and “Love Is Dead” are really depressing and then there’s “Butterfly Cry,” which is the first song I wrote after coming out of that depression, and then there’s “Walking On Air” and “The Creationist” which is all about creating yourself and believing in yourself and becoming everything you want to be despite all the obstacles. So it’s kind of like a journey. It’s all a part of life and it’s really beautiful. In five years you can look back at things like wow, without that heartbreak I wouldn’t have done this, or met that person, so it’s all for a reason.

AB: The video for your current single, “Walking on Air,” has some really interesting visuals. Did you come up with the treatment for it and if so what were you hoping would come across in the finished product?
K: When I first got signed I created this book of Kerli, which was a book of images which I had been collecting since I was 15-years-old. Every visual that you see in that video was in that book, too, from my hair to my shoes to my makeup to the environments to the thought behind everything. I always had a really specific vision which was really hard to get across because big record labels haven’t necessarily done anything like this before. With “Walking on Air” and the album art and with every visual that I’m about to create I just want to create a magical, beautiful fairytale-ish world where people can escape to and forget about their lives because when I was 16 years old I really wished there had been somebody creating that for me, so now I kind of feel like I owe it to the world.

AB: Style-wise I notice a lot of contrasting black and white. What’s with the distinct lack of color?
K: I love that you asked that! I always wear black latex fetish stuff with really white, frilly, innocent, childlike things. The blck represents obstacle and the white represents overcoming it. I think just one side of the coin is way too boring alone, which is why I like to put the most innocent, the most light, thing together with the darkest thing. So you know the little creepy dolls and everything represents repression, like repressed childhood. It’s my artistic vision. It’s not like I want to be the sexiest woman of 2008.

AB: But if you were it wouldn’t hurt your feelings, right?
K: Who cares?

AB: Fair enough. So, has anyone approached you doing something fashion-wise and would it be something you’d be interested in?
K: Oh I’ll definitely do something! I’ll definitely do something really soon.

AB: Finally, give us a peek into the everyday life of Kerli. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
K: You know I’m really boring like that because I work so much and being creative is really my hobby. When I hang up the phone I’m probably going to go work on a song or answer some fan mail. I’m a total workaholic.

Story originally ran on beyondrace.com


posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:30 AM  
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