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Kara Connolly

 

Photos by Betsy Newman

 

The minute I came across Kara Connolly I was hooked. Their was something about her music that appealed to me.  I bought her music off my favorite digital retailer straight away and will be buying a t-shirt as well. She has something special going on and was totally appreciated the opportunity for an interview and dug my site. Not only that she has given some of the best answers for an interview this year.  She is something that is worth checking out. I was so stoked when she said yes to an interview.  She is one of my top 5 favorite discoveries of 2018 and I know her up coming debut album will be one of the best of 2019.  I have no doubt she is one of the artists to watch out for in 2019.  Read on and find out why I am hooked. She is just so super lovely and anybody who takes the time to appreciate the support they are getting from a small time site like myself deserves all my support. So enjoy.

https://www.karaconnolly.com/

1. How did you get into music?
 
From a very young age, I loved dancing, singing, and performing. My parents say they have a video of me jumping on the bed naked and singing Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” at age 3. In second grade, my friend Kelsey and I called ourselves “The Sugar Girls,” and we would wear matching Limited Too outfits and sing cover songs at the local park.

Kelsey recently reminded me that at around that same time I would write little songs and sing them for her… some of which she still remembers. So I guess you could say that was the first hint at my love for songwriting. Then, I performed “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” at a summer cruise ship talent show as a young woman… of 6. I remember having my hair up in a French twist, ripping the clip out of my hair, and shaking it out for dramatic effect.

All of these experiences led to me writing fully formed relationship songs back when the only man in my life was a stuffed animal named “Doodle Bear.” I was in the second grade and writing a song about some guy playing with my heart and cheating on me… I’ve still never been cheated on (knock on wood), but it all felt very important at the time!

Since then, I’ve continued to write relationship songs with a twist, though in high school I began to draw from my own life. I started dating my first boyfriend – you know, lots of emotions – and I would sit in math class and write lyrics into my notebook to make it look like I was taking intensive notes. That must be why I am now very very bad at math. Or perhaps my being innately very very bad at math caused me to tune it all out and just write songs instead. Maybe a bit of both.

Despite music being my first love, I eventually became more focused on acting, booking and shooting a couple of indie films, attending Acting for the Camera summer camps at UCLA throughout high school, and graduating from USC with an emphasis in Acting from the School of Dramatic Arts. To be honest, I picked up the guitar quite late, my senior year of college, and began writing a bunch of songs on the instrument. I quickly realized that I could hear the chords that went under the lyrics and melodies I had been creating in my head.

I used songwriting as a form of therapy when so much felt out of my control at that point in my life. I was stoked to graduate and be done with school, but so many other difficult changes fell within the same few months. As I said earlier, I moved out to Los Angeles as an actress and wrote plenty of songs while waiting for auditions that never came. I loved that with music I could create my own world and wasn’t told who to be or what to say. It sort of just happened.

People started asking me to record and co-write with them, acquaintances approached me about playing shows, opportunities opened up — I love that I didn’t have to force it in a way I felt I had to force other things in my life. There are, of course, still challenges and I’ve had to work very hard to get past those, but I really started to feel as though there was no other option but to walk down this path and see it through.

My friend Jon works over at Conway Recording Studios, this magical recording studio in Los Angeles in which we went in the middle of the night (the only time the rooms were available) to quickly record some basic guitar/vocal demos of my songs. There are a lot more steps to the story, but eventually, the producer of my current project heard those basic demos, we met up and decided to work on an album together.

My recent (and first) releases (Life in Rear View, Nice Guy, Abuser and Swing, Swing) all come from this project. A lot of it has just been putting myself out there time and time again, thinking outside the box, taking this dream one day at a time and slowly inching forward. The best things happen when you least expect it, but also because you’re doing the work and working towards a goal.

2. What inspired the song Nice Guy?

 
I wrote Nice Guy as an acknowledgment of self-worth. As a reminder to myself and to my friends to never settle for less than the love and respect we deserve. I wrote it at a time when a lot of my friends were waiting around for guys who never called or who left things open-ended, wondering what they did wrong and thinking things would be different the next time he reached out (like clockwork). Repeat the cycle. Then there were the songs on the radio. Girls singing things like, “It’s fine if you don’t call me tomorrow, just tell me you will tonight,” and me thinking, “If you tell me you’re going to call me tomorrow, you better freaking call me tomorrow!” The song was born out of these experiences, and others, compounded.
 

My goal was to create something fun and honest that you could sing to, with hopes that after a second listen you may realize you’re singing something empowering.

Or maybe you never realize it. Maybe it’s just a song to sing along to in the car with your best friends. And that’s great too. But my hope is that the message subconsciously seeps in one way or another. That it can encourage men to embrace their true selves in a society that rewards hyper-masculinity and, for everyone, when faced with the choice, to pick a partner who shows them unconditional love and respect.

3. Were you happy with how it has been received?

 
I’m very happy with how it’s been received. Nice Guy is the first song of mine to ever play on the radio. I did this social media campaign on my Instagram stories called “Nice Guy of the Day” in which friends, family members, and fans could nominate a “nice guy” for the title. The idea was to highlight and celebrate deserving men in order to spread the positivity and encourage kindness as being what’s truly sexy. This radio station in Los Angeles got wind of it and wanted to interview me on-the-air about the selection process and also asked me to perform the song live. 
 
The lyric video for that song was premiered by Parade Magazine, which was exciting considering it was my first lyric video ever.
 
All that said, I’m also just happy when fans send me videos jamming out to the song in their cars or messages from nice guys that they finally felt seen and cool for once. It’s one of my favorite songs on the upcoming record so I’m stoked that people have been excited about it.
 
Of course, I hope that it transcends further, but if that’s all that happens with this track then I feel I’ve done my job. 

4. How does a song start for you?
 
Songs start in many different ways, which is what keeps songwriting so exciting. What I will say is that, for me, it usually starts with lyric and melody at the same time. I’ll either be driving in the car or playing some chords on the guitar and I’ll have an idea pop into my head. Something about movement, whether being in a moving car or my hand strumming along, helps me get the creative juices flowing. When an idea comes out, I usually know if it’s a verse or a chorus right away just from its feel and then I’ll strategically build around that. That’s when changes come in or things get a bit more technical. The first impetus typically just comes from a lyric and melody popping into my head simultaneously though.

5. Where do you get your inspiration from?
 
I definitely get inspiration from my life. When I write on my own (as opposed to co-writes) it’s almost always related to whatever is going on for me at the moment. I’ve also drawn inspiration from what’s going on in the world at large, with my friends, or with family members. For instance, I wrote a song called Marry Me that’s on my upcoming record for my cousin’s wedding. When I write with a group (most of this album was written solo), I’m more open to writing about whatever and just  imagining the circumstances. Whatever connects with the collective. It’s a fun switch up to write in this way and it gives me some liberty to stray from the facts. Sometimes we end up writing a song that I personally connect with and the sentiment feels true to life, even if the specifics aren’t. 

6. Has your songwriting changed from when you were starting out?
 
A lot of it has changed as I’ve studied music and structure further, and much of it has stayed the same. I’m much more open to co-writing than I was before. I think at the beginning and with this project, I just really wanted to get my vision out and my songs out there as a solid foundation of who I am as a person and an artist. I had this sense that I didn’t want my vibe to be warped with by those around me because I was afraid of being a shell of somebody else as opposed an authentic version of myself. Now that that’s really happening and this record is coming out, I’m excited to explore, try new things, and work with different people. I think in order to branch out you need a firm foundation and to truly know who you are, which is why I think writing much of these first releases on my own has been invaluable. 
 
When I write a song by myself, most of it has remained the same. I tend to sit alone, with my guitar, and record my ideas out into ten billion voice notes. I then collect a ton of these voice note songs over time, narrow down my favorites and start the process of producing around them and making that idea into a reality. That’s really how this project came into fruition.

7. What has been the best piece of advice you have been given about your music
career?
 
My parents both remind me to enjoy the ride and not take things so seriously. It’s not worth it if you aren’t happy. I think this is great advice for not only a career in music, but just life in general. It’s really easy to miss the moments of your life when you’re always thinking one step ahead and trying to control the situation. 
 
I can definitely be guilty of this, but I’m trying to step into this mindset that what’s meant for me will come and that it’s okay to step back, let things happen and to experience them as opposed to trying to force everything to be the way in which I want it.
 
That said, I think a vision is crucial. But I’m learning that, for me, that vision comes from trusting who I am as a person and that letting go of the how, where, and when is essential. 

8. How did your album Life in Rear View come about?
 
I explained a bit of the logistics above in talking about my journey to music, but the truth is that I always wanted to make an album. Some people were trying to convince me that I needed to play x amount of shows first or that I should only record a single, but I wrote tons of songs leading up to this record that I felt were starting to pile up on a hard-drive somewhere. I didn’t feel good about moving forward with writing more music until at least a few of these songs were out into the world. My early 20s was a really transformative time for me and I knew that I wanted that story told before moving onto the next phase of my life. There was a little part of me that needed to prove to myself that this music would, in fact, be heard in order to trust myself to continue writing more songs (that then hopefully also could be heard). 
 

The album is essentially a journey from breakdown to breakthrough, made possible by taking strides in discovering my self-worth along the way and letting go of what no longer served me.I would love to encourage others to jump in the driver’s seat of their own lives, let go of what no longer serves them, embrace vulnerability, self-worth, friendship, and to never settle for less than the love and respect that they deserve. It’s a process. I’m still learning how to let go and leave the past behind me, in the rearview mirror, to occasionally glance back on (or write a song about).

9. What was the songwriting process like for it?

 
I wrote most of these songs in my bedroom, on the guitar, initially recording into my iPhone voice notes app. The earliest song that I included on this album was written in early 2015 (Life in Rear View) and the last song I wrote that was included was written in 2017 (Other People). So the other tracks were selected from songs I wrote in between that time frame. They’re all inspired by real experiences that have happened to either myself, my friends, or my family members. 

10. Was the recording process different to earlier material?
 
This is my debut project and my first releases as an artist.
 
There were a lot of songs written in that period I spoke of above that were in various phases of the recording process that I thought would be released, but then weren’t as I continued to change and write more material that I felt more connected with at that time of my life. For instance, I went through a phase in 2014 and 2015 in which I wrote a lot of super cute, quirky love songs. I was incredibly inspired by new love and first dates and telling those stories. My friends David Yuvienco and Jonathan Sher and I would stay up super late and record demos of those songs in their home studios. I wish some of those songs got out into the world, but by the time I was recording this project I was in a different place in my personal life. Those first dates and relationship songs didn’t feel as meaningful as some of the topics I started to write about that blended that vibe, but with a larger message. I think that’s just a part of it. I’ve written a lot of new material since recording this project and I’m expecting that 99% of it won’t see the light of day as I continue to write until I’m ready to get in the studio again.

11. Did you go into the studio prepared or did you go with the flow?
 
It was a bit of both. Bill Lefler produced my album at his studio called “Death Star Studios” in Los Angeles. Basically, I had written roughly 80 songs prior to the recording of this album. I sent Bill 38 of those and he narrowed it down to 15 or so of his favorites. There were 5 or 6 that were definite, but the rest were mostly just selected depending upon what I was leaning towards each day in the studio. We recorded the album over the course of 2 months (apart from one or two tracks that we were testing and working on prior to starting a project together).

I had sent Bill a list of tracks that I wanted my record to be “in the style of.” I can’t say that we totally stuck to that. That said, my record is very percussive and most of the tracks I sent over had an upbeat, highly percussive element. A lot of the tracks I sent as examples were blends of organic instruments with electronic elements. It was really just approaching each track as an individual and looking at what it uniquely needed. Bill would usually start adding things pretty immediately and then, as the process continued, I would either take elements out or add an instrumental hook idea or layers that I felt would make the song more dynamic.

About halfway through, I started to realize that there was a bit of a theme and story-line in the tracks we were picking (loosely, but still there) and so it informed some of my later selections for songs to include.

12. Do you have a set theme for your music or does it go with the flow and
change?

 
What great questions! I guess I sort of started to organically answer that in the last question.
 
I noticed there was a bit of a theme, but only after I wrote a bunch of songs and started to sense what that was. With this project, I noticed there was a theme of letting go of what no longer serves you and acknowledging your self-worth that was coming through many of the tracks selected. People started to point out that there was a strong female protagonist in the songs that was learning her value throughout the course of the record. I definitely resonated with that and it felt true to my experience. That said, I write whatever I’m feeling so I’ve written about many different topics and I’m sure that will change as I continue to write and release music.

13. Do like to write without inspiration or distractions or do you need a
bit of both? 
 
I love to write from a space of inspiration. I tend to write when I give myself time to process what I’m experiencing and not  write so much when I’m going, going, going. I’m learning to write even when I’m not in that inspired space. 

14. How important is having a plan in place for your music?
 
I think having a plan and, more specifically, a vision is very important. It inspires my decision making and encourages me to move onto the next step. That said, you need a plan so you can then say, “Fuck the plan!” Nothing ever goes according to plan.

15. What inspired doing the cover of The All-American Rejects song Swing, Swing?
 
I’ve always loved The All-American Rejects. Their music got me going to live shows…SwingSwing was one of my favorite songs growing up. It has a special place in my memory.
 
I wanted to take a song that wasn’t an obvious choice, but did have it’s time in the spotlight, and unexpectedly spin it on its head.
 
The band’s version is pretty angsty, triumphant and anthemic, but listening to the lyrics over and over again as I have throughout the years made me realize that the song’s sentiment is actually quite melancholic. I love the heart-on-your-sleeve vibe of that entire record so I wanted to put my own spin on it and honor a band I’ve always admired. Recording this cover made me really emotional. I found that I could now connect in a way that I hadn’t as a kid. It brought me back to this incredibly desperate place in which you just want anyone to help you through the deep sadness and loss of (in my case) a first love.

16. How important are video clips for you?
 
Video clips have been very important for me. My first music video is what has gotten me in some cool rooms and was shared across Facebook. I’m realizing how much people are engaging with the video content and it’s encouraging me to make more. Video is a lot of work, but worth it if that’s what my fans are responding to.
 
17. What do you love about Social Media and connecting with your fans?
 
I love how creative and personal you can be. I spoke about my “Nice Guy of the Day”campaign above…that was incredibly fun for me to social media stalk fans and friends and write a funny little caption highlighting how awesome they are. It’s awesome to get fans and friends engaged. I got them to send in items to be burned for my Life in Rear Viewmusic video and often play guessing games, make polls, and quizzes, etc. on my Instagram.
 
It’s really exciting to be able to do what you want, when you want, and how you want to do it. Social media allows for that and I’m really excited by the people finding and connecting with me on there. 

18. How important is your brand Kara Connolly?
 
What an interesting question! I love it!
 
What I will say is that my “brand” comes out of who I truly am as a person and a writer and I hope that it always stays that way. In my opinion, branding in any other way is just backwards. To create art off of a brand is, of course, done and is sometimes done well, but for myself, I had to write tons of songs and get clear on who I am as a person and what it is that I’m trying to say before I could then come up with a photoshoot idea, album concept, marketing plan, etc. 
 
I’m happy with things that way. It’s fun and exciting for me and I think is ultimately more sustainable because it is me. Or at least a side of me…and a prominent one at that. To answer your question, I’m very involved with every decision I make from what the cover looks like to what I’m wearing to how the music sounds to what I’m saying so I guess in that sense of the word “brand” it’s definitely important to me. But that’s only because I want to make sure I remain true to myself and not get lost in the “This is what everyone else is doing” shuffle. 

19. What does 2019 have in store for you?
 
Expect more singles, the release of my album, another music video, ways to get fans involved, live shows (maybe even a tour), and the writing and recording of my next project! I’m excited to see where it all goes!

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