PHOTO CREDIT: Adnan Khan
IT is always exciting discovering colourful…
and vibrant songwriters whose stories and personalities capture the heart. Kira May, certainly, is one of those artists who warrant massive acclaim! She talks to me about the video for her new single, Muscle Memory, and whether this will lead to more material; how she has developed and changed since her debut E.P., Health (2014). I ask about her influences and what the scene is like in Toronto – and why it is so thriving in that part of the world.
She lets me into her future plans and whether a tour of the U.K. is a possibility; the experience of working with Allison Johnston on her latest video; albums that have affected her hard – if there is a fond musical memory that lodges in Kira May’s mind.
Hi, Kira. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello! It’s been busy, but exciting.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I am an experimental Pop artist from Toronto who works predominantly with voice. Using my voice, I make loops; pads, textures and samples to compose and perform my songs.
Muscle Memory is your new single. Can you tell me the story behind the song and the video?
Muscle Memory is about storing overwhelming experiences in your body and unconsciously developing behavioural patterns that are intended to keep you safe. But, as you grow older and further away from the original event; those defences can sometimes cease to serve their original purpose and become misguided, even harmful - keeping you stuck in the past and preventing you from engaging with the present. This song looks, specifically, at this phenomenon within personal relationships.
What was it like working with director Allison Johnston on the video? Did she bring a new angle to the song, would you say?
Allison Johnston is THE BEST.
I explained what the song meant to me and said something like: “I want to be covered in colour” - and she brought that idea to life. We had many brainstorming sessions with Roxanne Ignatius (Artistic Director) and Megan Fraser (Makeup/Hair/FX Artist) to test all of our weird ideas - and the concept kept getting better and better. Allison captured an angelic and, simultaneously, bizarre version of me.
Will there be more music down the line do you think? What are you working on?
Muscle Memory is the lead single from a full-length album called Sense. The album will be out in the spring. Sense is a collection of ten songs that explore panic and depression – and it follows the narrator’s journey (to try and) transcend these things.
Your debut E.P., Health, was released in 2014. You stepped back from music after that. Was it a hard time coming back to music after taking time out?!
I was making music the whole time but I was slow to do anything with it because I was afraid to. I was afraid to record it; I was afraid to ask musicians to play with me…the whole process was a slow and gigantic struggle...in spite of being surrounded by amazing and supportive people.
I had to deal with my personal issues before I had the wherewithal to work on any of this properly. But, now, I feel ready and excited to release Sense - and I already have a follow-up album written and demoed…
How did you get started in the industry? Were there particular artists that inspired you to take up music?
I have been singing since I could talk - but I’ve also had a phobia of singing in front of people since the earliest days of my conscious life. I discovered what music meant to me in the late-1990s when I fell in love with, basically, every Canadian Alternative-Rock band. Then, when I was in high-school, I heard Björk for the first time - and my whole life blew apart. But; I didn’t have the courage to play a tiny set in front of people until 2011.
Toronto is a thriving area for new music! What is it about the city that compels such fantastic artists?!
I think that there are a lot of amazing artists in Canada, but it so happens that most of the opportunities for them are in the bigger cities like Toronto and Montreal and, so, musicians from all over the country flock to these epicentres.
IN THIS IMAGE: The artwork for Petra Glynt's single, Up to the People
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
It’s hard to narrow this down!
I’m a huge fan of Toronto’s Omhouse and Petra Glynt (now based in Montreal) - both of whom released albums recently. There’s Indie-Jazz artist, Tara Kannangara - who is about to put out some top-notch new music.
IN THIS PHOTO: Tara Kannangara
If you had to choose the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Also very hard…but I’ll try:
Björk - Homogenic
This album continually teaches me to let go of fear.
Matthew Good Band - Beautiful Midnight
This was my coming-of-age record! I’ve listened to this maybe more than any other record. It’s incredibly nostalgic!
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
This album changed the way I think about sound-making and storytelling.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
No confirmed dates, yet - but I will definitely be supporting the record when it comes out in the spring.
Do you think you’ll ever come to the U.K. and play?
I would love to come to the U.K. to play! No plans yet…but it’s definitely on my mind!
PHOTO CREDIT: Olga Lipnitski
What do you hope to achieve, personally, in 2018?
I want to write music with new collaborators and expand my abilities as a songwriter. I want to continue to develop courage and fearlessness; particularly in the realm of creativity. I want to learn more about the First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities in Canada - and pay close attention to Truth and Reconciliation efforts. I want to speak out when I see something unjust.
I want to be kind...
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I have a particular fan who is in touch with me from time to time to tell me how good my music makes him feel - and how excited he is for new work. I think about him on those really rough days when it’s so important to know that there’s a stranger out there who really cares about what you’re doing.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
My best advice would be to follow your gut, your intuition. Make the work that feels important and natural to you. Be yourself! Authenticity, sincerity; honesty and courage are the things I find the most moving in art.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
I choose Higher Ground by Missy Elliott (back in 2001). THOSE VOICES.
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