Since January, a lot has changed for Pittsburgh singer KELS.
She’s moved to Atlanta, signed a global distribution deal, and is working on new music with genre collaborations.
Her voice gets her through the door, but her personality keeps her there.
KELS’ energy and passion for music is evident in his life and work. Although new to the game, her distribution deal allows her to focus more on the music, while Cage Riot, her distribution company, handles all the backend work.
The singer will deliver a new single this Friday, June 17, entitled “Be Fine”. The single will sound over a loudspeaker in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park.
KELS spoke with Zenger News about the importance of live performances, how her new contract changes her approach, and creative ways she hopes to expand her audience.
Zenger: Things have really improved for you since our last interview. How is everything changing?
KELS: It was crazy. I moved to Atlanta in January. It was really great because it’s a whole new music scene. I’m starting from scratch with live performances, which is cool because it’s a networking opportunity. Living in a new city has definitely pushed me to start from scratch where no one knows me.
Zenger: You seem to be really enjoying your live performances. You even put one of your tracks live on digital platforms.
KELS: It’s interesting because I did a singer-songwriter showcase here, so it was a super stripped down acoustic session. It was one of my favorite performances, and the reaction was great, because I tend to be quite different from everyone else on the lineup. Just in terms of style, I put jazz, R&B and pop and mix them together. People really seem to like it. I’m also looking forward to another performance, but I’m so new here. I’m trying to network right now. I made an open mic a few weeks ago. I’m just trying to get my name out there.
Zenger: On Instagram, you showed your followers a bit of the creative process behind the new single, “Get Fine.” What motivated this?
KELS: I like for people to know how a song can evolve. Often it’s not just about being in the studio, a producer plays a beat, and then you write an amazing song. Sometimes it can happen. But often, especially for me, I always try to find something that sounds different, so I can put my own spin on it. So it may be something that people have never heard before. I’m always following producers, listening to YouTube beats, underground producers, trying to find a sound that nobody does, and trying to put my own thing on it.
People seem to like the whole evolution of a song. I try to do that for every song I release, because it can take two years. First it’s about finding a beat, then putting a vocal note aside because I don’t really like it yet and revisiting it when I feel more creative. Songs can take anywhere from a few months to a few years if I don’t feel good writing them.
A lot of times what I’ll do is write something if I feel like it at the time, and then I come back and I’m like, “Was that a hit or was that cool?” I don’t know if that’s really cool, or if I’m on a creative high. I try to take my time. In this musical climate, it’s hard to take your time because everyone wants music all the time. It’s really consumer-based, which is good for me because I’m new and want to get the most out of it. But it’s hard as an independent artist.
Zenger: I understand there’s a billboard of you in Atlanta for “Be Fine.”
Kels: Yes! I’m so excited. I didn’t want to tell anyone because it seems so surreal to me. I felt like there was no way this was actually happening. On the single’s release date, Friday, this billboard will contain my album art and my distributor, Cage Riot. They’re managing the market and the pressure for this song, so we’re really excited.
We’ve never had a cast before. It’s always been through DistroKid or by downloading it and seeing what happens. It’s at Centennial Olympic Park, which is in the middle of Atlanta. I will be there on Friday. I have documents with QR codes where people can scan and access the song, I will have a sign saying: “This Is My Song!” You just have to get people to make the connection. We will have a speaker there who will play the song. For three hours, I’m going to annoy people who just wanted to sit there.
Zenger: Tell us about your global distribution deal.
KELS: It’s going to take my music to a whole new level. Before, I just uploaded my singles, I did the marketing myself. Now I can spend a lot more time being creative and writing songs, instead of submitting myself to blogs, playlists, constantly trying to find a new audience for my music.
I find TikTok to be where I have the most fans right now, so I’m still doing things like that, but with global distribution, they have access to Spotify’s playlist – and all the things that can help me reach a global audience. In the past, I’ve only been able to focus on the basics.
CHP Studios through Zenger
Zenger: Do you think you will be able to be more creative now that you can focus more on the musical side of your career?
Kels: Exactly! It’s interesting because I read every comment fans make on my TikTok, so I gather a lot of data to see what people really like, what my next release should be: guitar-based or piano-based. We are planning to do a tour next year, and I use TikTok for that as well.
People say what city they’re from, and we gather where the fanbase is, because I’d like to sell my first tour.
Zenger: What kind of collaborations do you have in store?
KELS: We have at least four that are currently being written, mixed or mastered. We try to understand the fit and where it makes sense with singles falling. You should expect at least two to go live this year. It’s really cross genres. I’m doing one with a guy who’s rock based. I’m doing one with a trap rapper. Different things, but everything makes sense with my voice. It’s exiting.
Zenger: What is your message to music lovers right now?
KELS: We have to blow this single out of the water. I hope to drop that and promote it so creatively that it reaches a whole different audience. Broadcast “It’s OK!”
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.