Passion for music and the theater goes hand-in-hand for Kiki Holli, elevating her art to a new plane. “I think my theatrical background and my love of music are deeply intertwined,” she muses. “They both create a template for emotional expression and a vehicle to reach the heart or to help spark various emotions. Both help the audience or listener see a different perspective on the human condition and potentially develop a deeper sense of empathy, or understanding of themselves. Or maybe it simply gives you an escape, makes you dance or helps you feel uplifted and happy. The actor is to the stage or film what the singer or the musician is to the song or the music. When done properly, when executed from a place of true craft there can be an elation for me that is only possible when either doing the performing myself or watching someone who is lost in their art form. Everyone knows about David Bowie’s love for musical theater and that is part of what influenced the character of Ziggy Stardust, his makeup and costumes. Bowie intertwined the two: theater and music to create a spectacular spectacle that has come to influence generations of musical artists and performers. Performing for me is love at its core essence. It is the expression of love, beauty and release. Performing has kept me from my darkest places and has also let me explore the darker aspects of my personality safely. I think that is what true great theater, music or any art form is for. To help get us out of our day to day and be able to live and understand life. I am most at home when I can be creative and be in a flow. When I lose myself in that space it is a true gift. I think that the true essence of life is to create, whatever that expression is for you.”
She aspires to move her audience. “To have my music be a nurturing experience for listeners is a nice goal to have, but I am not sure that my music is always that. I think and hope that some of the songs that I write will be that for my audience. I have other goals too, like for people to dance and have fun. Inspiring happiness and joy would be a great goal. I know I certainly need more of it in my world and when an artist does it for me, I am incredibly grateful. I deeply value the artists that have changed my life, my perspective and sometimes have just simply gotten me through the day like Prince, Dusty Springfield, Stevie Nicks, John Lennon, David Bowie, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Roxy Music, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper, U2, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, etc. Newer artists like my producer Ethan Allen’s band ASHRR, Khruangbin, Leon Bridges, Cannons, Sports Team, Sunflower Bean, The Shins, Glass Animals, Billie Eilish, HAIM, Wolf Alice etc. etc… the list is very long of artists who have changed me on some cellular level. And it’s just because they had the courage to stand up and make their art heard. I just hope that my music can touch people in some small way the way that these great artists have touched me. For me, music has always been the healing balm in my life. I think that is what it is for most of the human population. It is the true universal language. Music is maybe the one thing that all humans can agree on. Music is fucking awesome and a world without it would suck pretty hard!” In that same vein, writing music can also replenish her own soul. “I think it would be amazing if someone received some sort of healing vibes listening to my music. I am a firm believer that music heals. I think there is validity in wanting my listeners to heal and that in turn heals me as well. Many musicians have talked about music as therapy or writing songs helps them work through their issues. Dolly Parton talks about this constantly in most of the interviews I see with her. And I would say that Dolly Parton’s music is a healing balm for our nation and world, especially in these dark times. I think when you give yourself permission to heal and work through your own issues, you automatically help lift others up to potentially heal as well. We are all interconnected and there are universal themes that we all go through within the collective unconscious. Different players in each individual life but the same themes. I think that is why music can be such a powerful healing force.”
Her latest single, “Sun Playing Tricks On Me,” was a collaborative experience. “To me, ‘Sun Playing Tricks’ is best encapsulated as a sultry fever dream in a mirage of lost love. Ethan Allen came up with that line and I just love it because I think it nails what the song is about. ‘Sun Playing Tricks’ was co-written, produced and mixed by Grammy nominated Ethan Allen. We recorded at Royal Triton Studios in Silver Lake, CA which is Ethan’s home studio. He has so much vintage gear and he really knows how to use it. He was mentored by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. He was the lead engineer at Kingsway in New Orleans for seven years. The guitar lick he came up with in the song really makes the tune for me. It is truly an honor and a pleasure to get to work with Ethan and we laugh a lot. Ethan has this book on William Blake sitting in his studio. The hook for the song just came to me one day as I was doing some improvising. I came in and played a bunch of stuff for Ethan and he was like, ‘That one. Let’s work on that one.’ When we were looking for lyrics, I started to pull from William Blake and then the song took on a life of its own. It became its own little story and really surprised both of us, I think. I am proud of how it came out and Rolling Stone picked it up for an Editorial Playlist and said, ‘It delivers here a performance of great beauty.’ I’ll take it! I hope that my music can bring just a little more light and beauty into the world. That idea feels really good.” Kiki has plenty of meditations on why people are so drawn to reliving past romance. “That’s a tale as old as time. The list of cliches is endless right? You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need. If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with. I don’t know? That’s kind of silly but there are too many to name. I think it’s just ingrained in human nature to want what we can’t have and to pine for something that once was, but never will be again. I think sometimes it is easier to stay in that fantasy of lost love than to take the steps to move forward and have the courage to change. It takes real guts to put yourself out there again because you don’t want to experience that heartbreak again. The older I get (and this may sound very cynical), I realize heartbreak is the fabric of life. Yes, fun and love should be the fabric of life but anyone who has lived long enough will tell you that it is heartbreak. To quote Leonard Cohen, ‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’ If you haven’t had your heart broken at least once (or in my case multiple times), you aren’t really living or learning. So, I say go out there, get your heart broken and make some good art romanticizing and fantasizing about your lost love.” Despite the pain, resilience springs eternal. “The lessons that I take from these daydreams is that no matter how shattered your heart may be, you must carry on. Amor Fati is what the stoics say. Love your fate. It is much easier said than done and is a daily practice. Life is so very short and the more people that you love pass on, that fact becomes even more poignant. Fight for what you believe in and stand up for justice, truth, beauty and peace in this world because those are the things that are truly worth fighting for.”
Her EP, CHEMICAL LOVE, is the crown jewel of her career thus far. “CHEMICAL LOVE is out today. It is my first EP and took years of work to come to fruition. I wish that it hadn’t taken that long but I guess things happen how they happen,” she says. “It is four original songs, one cover and one remix of the song ‘NEW HIGH’ by a fabulous group of producers, Derek de Lang and Keith Larsen, who just did a kickass job on the remix. I loved it so much that I asked them if it was okay to be included on my EP and they agreed. I am super excited for everyone to hear that one, especially DJs. The new original song on the EP is ‘It’s Chemical,’ an homage to ‘70s disco. I wanted to do something fun to round out this collection of songs that will hopefully make people dance a little bit. I am incredibly proud of the work on this collection of songs. We have an EP Release Party at Hotel Café on December 3rd at 7pm. I have an amazing band of truly incredible musicians that have worked with some of the best artists in the business. I hope that you all can make it out. We have been working hard on putting it all together and I think it will be a fantastic show. Here is a link to buy tickets.” Expressing herself through her work has helped her cope with a soft heart. “I think that vulnerability is at the core of the work of any artist worth their salt. It’s why we create, to be able to expose those deeper places in our psyche. To be an artist is to be vulnerable. I have a high level of sensitivity and that can be very challenging at times. I have learned to live with it in a healthier manner. You must, if you want to survive. We have all seen many artists with this level of sensitivity and sometimes they don’t make it in this world because it’s just too damn much. I have been to those dark places in my life and I am just grateful that I made it through and that I am still alive. There are many I know who didn’t and that is just plain sad. The world doesn’t always understand vulnerability. They see it as a weakness to be exploited. But I think that vulnerability and kindness are what will help to turn this world around, if we think that we can still save it. It’s going to take a village of people that care. I was incredibly inspired by this last election and how so many Gen Z (for lack of a better description) came out to vote and had their voice be heard. It gives me hope for our future and that maybe the planet can be saved.”
She wants the EP to make her fans’ hearts lighter. “I just hope they listen and enjoy the experience. Maybe it helps them in some way, lightens their burdens or makes their day a little brighter. I think that is all I can really hope for. That the music helps get the listener to a place of remembering love, why they love, how they love or how they can spread more love. You know, the little things in life. Maybe it gets the listener thinking what or who is their CHEMICAL LOVE? Because when it comes right down to it, love is all there is.”
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Kiki Holli Channels the Complexity of Love in Debut Ep, “CHEMICAL LOVE.” Photo Credit (in order): Daniel Reichert and Anna Azarov.