Looking for originality, creativity and a signpost pointing towards the future of the music industry? Look no further than powerful singer-songwriter Kai Rose who is at work rewriting the rules of success in an industry very much in flux. Don’t believe the hype? Don’t worry, by the end of this interview, you will.
Born Kel’Leiah McCarthy, Kai has lived a number of lives during her short career. She’s known adversity and tough times, having lived out of a suitcase in a particularly transient time of her childhood. But this chanteuse has also known love and laugher and music and the love of a family that has stood by her through thick and thin during good times and bad.
Music, in particular, has been a guiding light for this accomplished artist and it is through her gift of turning a phrase and putting an electric and eclectic beat behind her lyrics that have really made people in and out of the industry stand up and take notice of one of the freshest voices to come down the music pike in an eternity. This self-described “chameleon funk” that is a potent cocktail of both classic R&B and Pop has propelled Kai up towards the coveted Brass Ring with such catchy tunes as First Of All, Pinky Promise and Truth Hurts.
Vents Magazine recently had the good fortune of speaking with Ms. Rose and the results were nothing short of fun and enlightening, much like the music she writes and performs.
Vents: Hi Kai and welcome to Vents Magazine! Before we barrage you with a million and one questions, how have you been doing during these tumultuous and historical times?
Kai Rose: Aloha! Thanks a lot for having me. I’ve been doing extremely well. I actually did catch the virus once but, I recovered in two weeks like the normal flu hit. It’s so odd how things work out, since the pandemic started I’ve started back classes online attending Colorado Technical University as I’m in my 3rd year of college. I’m currently studying for my BA of science in criminal justice and human services. I’ve gotten a chance to really relax, focus, and take a break from all the noise. I’m at peace during these times truly. As far as my music goes, I’ve been making more business connections since the pandemic perhaps due to all the time spent on social media and being in doors and I had a chance to embark upon new opportunities in my music career so, all in all I’d say it’s going quite well and that my music and home life are even more well balanced than before!
Vents: Congratulations on the recent formation of your own record label, DA WAV LCC! As a musician and artist, what does it mean to you personally to have achieved this important milestone?
KR: Thank you very much! I’m very proud of all my label mates and my partner /Co-owner of the label Mario Curaj for helping me build and sustain it thus far. For myself…being an avid music lover and creative arts enthusiast it was important for me to learn everything I could to be successful as an independent artist. I didn’t want to wait to be signed to feel inspired. I wanted to create something and build something that could inspire others to start the journey towards pursuing their dreams. The statement I wanted to make with the label ultimately is that you can be your own boss, you have the ability to create your own stability, and that you don’t need anyone’s approval to create a foundation you’re passionate about and that you truly believe in. DA WAV LLC label and my teammates are my family and a constant reminder that you can achieve anything you desire when your dream and actions match in intensity.
Vents: For the uninitiated reading this interview who might be interested in checking out your music, how would you describe your musical style?
KR: Independent artist for sure would be interested in checking out my music from my time of networking I learned just how supportive we are as a community and how much respect we have for one another knowing exactly how much hard work and dedication it takes to pave your own way in the music industry. Also, natural lovers of music who like to search out gems to add to their everyday playlist. Even I fall into that category as I’m always searching for new music to listen too. I’ve been calling my musical style “chameleon funk” since I was little. Me and my dad came up with it because of how abstract and versatile I am in my writing. When I do capture a different genre I truly embody it, so the art resonates with the audience it was meant to capture. The main styles my audience knows me for to date are abstract, pop alternative, r&b alternative and rap alternative.
Vents: I truly loved your latest single, Truth Hurts. Can you talk with us a little today about this song and what it means to you?
KR: Yes of course & thank you, I truly appreciate hearing that someone enjoyed the record as much as I did creating it. Truth Hurts is an advocate song for self-love, empowerment and promotes freeing yourself of toxic relationships and toxic energy. Truth Hurts was inspired by my own personal love experiences that had not worked out due to control, selfishness and overall toxic love. I learned so much during those times that if I had only known how to properly love myself mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually then, I would have never held on to the things and relationships that were bringing me down and causing me to hurt. So, with this song my message to everyone is that I know it will hurt to let go of the one you love but, when you love yourself you won’t allow others to hurt you in the name of “love.” Knowing your self-worth is key and essential to your growth and to your happiness. Part of that self-love journey sometimes starts with letting go of the attachments that you know deep down are no good for you no matter what or who it is. Ultimately, it makes you stronger and brings forth realization to who you truly are and the joy/peace you deserve.
Vents: Is there a through-line that connects all of your work as a musician, a certain commanality from one song to the next?
KR: Hmmm…Sort of? A lot of my content now is based on my ability to write and my personality as well as my spirituality. I write on the fly. At the moment I have inspiration I record a concept and develop it later when I have down time. Some records are abstract like I mentioned, so they’re not your usual record or would be expected in my line up of songs. Some songs I create are meant to make you feel good and dance. I’m only recently tying things together. For example, I have a project called ELEVEN ELEVEN that TRUTH HURTS is on which will be all pop alternative/r&b/trance/house music and commercial (all my more upbeat stuff, fun and edgy vibes). Then there is my project “YIN” (in Chinese philosophy the passive female principle of the universe, characterized as female and sustaining) that is being promoted as well soon with mainly soulful, happy, r&b and cosmic vibes and all these records will show my maturity and how really relaxed and peaceful I am in my current state of being. Also, I’ve dated so much in my short lifetime of 26 years. Lol. That may seem like an odd thing to state to this question but, all my songs are relevant to my experiences with relationships in all aspects of my life especially my dating life. Like, there’s maybe only seven that aren’t speaking of some sort of relationship out of fifty. Ha-ha. I’ve collected memories of personalities and characteristics both that I did and didn’t like, so some records speak of those different aspects and nuances about a person that I either favored or I didn’t. Sometimes, things would stand out so much that I’d write a creative topic around it. I am a very experienced writer so it would be very hard to tell which stories are fact and which are fiction but, any listener would be able to pinpoint the characteristics and relate with the idea in mind that the characters I mention or display in my music could exist in the real world.
Vents: Your music has been prominently featured in some major short films. Has branching out into film allowed you to cultivate and grow an audience that you might otherwise have difficulty reaching?
KR: Definitely! In all industries I’ve been so amazed at the many different things people can be involved in when they branch out and really immerse themselves into their careers and passion. I’ve been seeing growth since the day I decided to share my music with the world. To be more specific when I first started making beats before I was creating songs I ended up getting my beats featured in short films. Then producing led me to travel and to do motivational speeches which led me to radio. Then radio led me to creating even more and getting in front of numbers of people I could never even imagine at the time. Literally, one venture leads to the next and I’ve just been extremely grateful that I’m able to get past my fear, be confident in my ability to succeed in whatever I do and let faith take the wheel.
Vents: You are noted and well regarded as a true philanthropist, having personally devoted much of your time to giving back to disadvantaged children. Can you explain to readers why this is such an important facet of who you are?
KR: Yes indeed. It is my purpose in life to position myself to help others. My life is not measured just by what I do for myself but, instead for what I do to help others who could not do anything for me. Children will always be the most vulnerable on this planet. All children need adults who care! Though I don’t have any of my own, I have enough love in my heart to care about the wellbeing of every single child on this earth. My mission in life is to inspire, help, develop and encourage those who need to be uplifted. If I can motivate a child, teach them a new positive way of thinking, evoke thoughts of greatness, create a paradigm shift in their habits to help them achieve success and overall really make an impact that helps inspire them to aim beyond the stars than I have done my job. Children really are our future and I can’t speak for anyone else but, I want to be all that I can be so, when the time comes I can step up and help be their voice, back bone and whatever they need in life to succeed. One day I aspire to have my own youth program just like Steve Harvey except my doors will be open to all children who need guidance, love and support.
Vents: You began rapping at the tender age of thirteen. How did you not only become interested in rap but become so intrigued by this genre of music that you yourself became a musician?
KR: I grew up watching my older brother and my father pursue rap. My mother is incredible at singing opera and playing the violin; It kinds of runs in the family. I always loved music so much that I couldn’t stand silence! I wanted to listen to music all day long. I would dream about songs that I never heard before and even now I still do. I wake up out of my sleep with new melodies and stories to write about. I feel like it’s in the stars for me. I had diaries and journals in my youth, so I was always writing and expressing myself on paper. One day I was writing a poem about a rose speaking of myself being fragile as the petals (resembling my emotions and how easily my feelings were bruised back then and how easily influenced I was…I was a big baby lol), beautiful like the physical appearance of a flower (easy on the eyes), strong as the stem but rough around the edges like the sharp thorns on rose resembling imperfections… and my older brother (rap name J-FIF, real name James McCarthy) really liked it and rapped the poem to a beat. I was instantly in love with what he had done with my words. Ever since, I started practicing writing my poems to beats and slowly I developed a sense for music writing and storytelling through song. I stuck with it because of the joyful feeling I would receive after releasing all the creative energy in such a positive way. Now, writing music is a fix for me. Literally it’s addictive and if I don’t create for too long I feel sad like I’m missing a part of me.
Vents: How has your family reacted to all of your success?
KR: They’re beyond ecstatic! This has been their dream and mine for a long time, so they are very proud of me and very encouraging. The support has been a real blessing. My family truly wants nothing but the best for me in everything I do.
Vents: Who are some of the musicians that have inspired you musically?
KR: BEYONCEEEEEEEEEE!!! I feel like that’s so typical but she’s just such a hard worker and I love her. I also adore Nicki Minaj, H.E.R. Ella Mai, J-Cole, Eminem, Kendrick and Rihanna. Honestly, there are too many to name. All these musicians have done a great job at standing out and really defining who they are as artists in the industry. They are bold, unique, talented and simply brilliant in their creativity and image.
Vents: A tremendous part of the music industry is tied into live performances and/or concerts. How has the global pandemic altered the industry and, going forward, will these changes be permanent?
KR: I don’t think anyone can know for certain if these changes with the pandemic will be permanent. The problem is people can’t sit still. No matter what struggles and atrocities are presented, people have to survive, make moves and figure out a way to adapt so it’s extremely hard to control all the movement across the globe. The music industry has definitely taken a hit as venues are being closed, but people are adaptable and now everything is live just online which more people were becoming open to and familiar with before the pandemic. Everything is going digital even cash. It actually creates opportunities for more artists to be more innovative in their efforts to sustain their fan base and careers more than ever before. Now, we have to figure out a way to entertain from the comforts of our homes which I personally enjoy. I think it’s more convenient and safe. Who doesn’t enjoy singing in their living room for the whole world with pajamas and socks on? Lol.
Vents: You are one of the rare breed of musicians – a singer-songwriter. When writing your music, which comes first: the lyrics or the music?
KR: Thank you! That’s always shocking to me when I hear of how many artists struggle with writing & definitely lyrics for me! I don’t have to have music to write a melody or concept but it does help sometimes when I’m drawing a blank or don’t have any clear thoughts/direction in which case I’ll write to the mood of the beat.
Vents: Do you draw from your own life when writing your song lyrics?
KR: Yesss, quite often actually! Almost every song has one or more elements from my life, personality, experience I’ve witnessed, things I’ve thought about, heard about or something I learned, was curious about, things my family or friends were dealing with and the list goes on and on.
Vents: You’ve collaborated with respected names throughout your career such as Parallel Sound Studios, Wesley Snipes and – in the very near future – Dollah Jones. What does the collaborative process mean to you and how does it inform the music you make?
KR: Yeah, I just made that video collaboration happen with Dollah Jones featuring a song from the mature YIN project I mentioned earlier. The collaboration process to me is a beautiful opportunity to test your creativity, open mindedness and share respect for the artistry of other talented and like-minded individuals. Through collaboration I’ve learned more about my artistry, about myself and have truly developed a sense of teamwork and appreciation for those who share the common goal to create a masterpiece. Working with others has evoked me to dream bigger, it has allowed me to connect and explore more opportunities to grow in my career; it has made me more selfless, a better listener, better at receiving constructive criticism and has made me really want to give music all I’ve got. I’ve worked with incredibly talented entrepreneurs who are very professional and take their craft very seriously. It just makes me wanna go even harder knowing I have the support of true geniuses in the industry.
Vents: Is there anything in the industry that you’ve not yet done that you look forward to perhaps doing in the future?
KR: There’s so much I have yet to do. I’d like to tour different countries. I’d love to perform at huge award shows. I’d love to be on the billboard charts one day and meeting my inspirations would just make my music life complete. Lol.
Vents: Can you give Vents readers a hint about what you have coming up in the future?
KR: All I can say is I’m currently working hard to partner with labels to help write your favorite artist’s next hits as well as working on many visuals to help further give my audience a full picture on who Kai Rose is and to display all capabilities in my songwriting.
Vents: Final (Silly) Question: It’s a beautiful summer day and you’re driving down the road. Who are you listening to on your car radio and why?
KR: Ha-ha, this was an easy one! Taylor Swift! I love her country/pop vibes and whenever I listen to her she puts me in a specific mood that usually feels good unless I need to hear a break up record. Lol. Her music makes me imagine road trips, mountains, grasslands, hills, and just earth/nature. So, she’s my go to for traveling music. Not to mention, she has the best karaoke music ever!