Revolution, roots, & reading a room.
Kelleia (she/her) is the alias of Kelley, a singer-songwriter/producer who makes artful alternative pop. Born of Korean descent in Orange County, California, Kelleia debuted in 2017 on the all-female, LA-based label Unspeakable Records.
Who is Kelleia in 3 words?
Exploratory, impassioned, visionary.
Can you tell us a little bit about your playlist?
I grew up listening to a lot of 90s R&B and pop divas like Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Selena, Madonna; my mom had a large drawer of CDs under the TV and “Music Box” was my favorite album. These early interests colored a lot of the music I listen to now. This playlist is a collection of my nostalgic favorites as well as contemporary artists like Sabrina Claudio and Anna Wise whose songs I’ve listened to on repeat. As a POC woman, I want to give more visibility and attention to other women of color artists, so they comprise a majority of this playlist.
What should we do while listening?
Find a spacious place to be comfortable. Be around plants. Move your body, stretch, dance, sing along. Remember how beautiful, perfect, capable, and limitlessly powerful you are.
What do Janet Jackson & Yaeji have in common, other than being on this mix?
Janet and Yaeji express themselves with unabashed authenticity. They’ve been able to relay their inner core through to the outer expression. Their music defines an era; they are both able to do the most magical part of being an artist, capturing the essence of the times, the zeitgeist of 90s/2000s sensuality and playful electronica of the 2010s, respectively.
As a DJ, what guides you when choosing tracks in the moment?
When I’m playing, I’m listening to the sounds of the crowd. Are they exclaiming in excitement? Are they quiet and absorbing? I tune into the collective feeling that is being shared, the vibe that is present. I become the priestess of the liminal ceremony, the freedom, the cathartic transformation that we are all experiencing. I think about what I want to hear next while also analyzing the room, trust myself, and carry forward with mixing.
What most excites you about producing?
There is no better feeling than making a song that feels wholly my own. It’s amazing to have complete creative control of what comes out as an expression of my soul. Producing is the most direct relation of my ideas into physical songs without dilution through extraneous communication that occurs when I have to describe what I want to another producer. While I love collaborating, there’s something incomparable about the simplicity of being able to produce for myself.
You have plans to record your next album in Korea. What draws you there?
Korea is my motherland. My parents were born in and grew up in Korea, and I’ve only visited twice for a couple weeks at a time. Besides certain customs (e.g., respect for elders, holiday rituals, household roles) and my love for Korean food, my connection with my heritage is fairly superficial. As I dip deeper into the well of my being in this practice of being an artist, I have a longing to situate my art within the context of my roots. Korean spirituality, pre-Christianity, is nature-based mysticism and shamanism. My paternal grandmother studied Korean folk music and vocal performance at university in Korea, and she told me recently that she would go to the mountains on her own and sing in nature because life at home was troubling. It’s in my blood to find solace and find my voice in the hills of Korea. So I’m going to do that. I’m going home to find the Source of my music.
If your fans could give you any gift, what would it be?
The best gift I could get from my fans would be to intake and appreciate the music and content I put out. Listening and sharing my music when it touches and inspires them, and coming to my shows is the greatest gift for me. I want to know how I make you feel. Write to me. I want to know who you are.
Do you think America is a good place to be an artist in 2018?
I was born and raised in Southern California and went to college in New York City. I think America will always be the most supportive and comfortable environment for me to live, but right now, I’m feeling called to harvest sounds and experiences from other global urban centres, other metropolises around the world where there are stories to be collected. We can’t be too insular as creators and leaders of the revolution. Although America can be a sociopolitically cantankerous place with our current administration, it’s also easy to stay in a bubble of complacent reverie here. I think it’s important for artists to have home bases where they can be safe and create and share in their local community, but it is also so integral to immerse oneself in new circumstances to grow.
Who’s one artist on your playlist we need to start following immediately, and why?
Please follow Ravyn Lenae. She is a brilliant vocalist and really young, 19 I think, from Chicago. Her style is already so articulated, and the timbre of her voice is very retro and nostalgic, like a disco queen, rich soul singer with swinging undulations. I love the balanced quirkiness and colloquial quality of her voice.
Kelleia's Upcoming Shows
5.23, #APAHM2018: More Visibility - Tenants of the Trees - Silver Lake, CA