Interview: Kelis

From single “Milkshake” (2003), to “Jerk Ribs”, “Breakfast” and “Biscuits n’ Gravy” – the striking musician and singer-songwriter from Harlem has released a multitude of tracks about things you put in your mouth. This month we’re interested in what comes out of her mouth, ahead of her headline show at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival…

‘Kelis’, Kelis Rodgers was raised in New York – her father a jazz musician and multi-instrumentalist; music was in the family.  Singing in the church  choir and playing violin, piano, and saxophone, Kelis pursued her own musical career, and, some time after an introduction to U.S. production duo The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and his lesser-known counterpart Chad Hugo), landed a record deal and began recording her debut album “Kaleidoscope”. Over here in ol’ Blighty, lead single “Caught Out There” hit the UK Singles Charts to a great reception, peaking at a very reasonable number four, but mainstream success was to come later, in 2003, with universally popular dance hit “Milkshake” from third album “Tasty”.

Nearly a decade later, the artist has been recognised with Brit Awards, Q Awards, and NME Awards, as well as two Grammy nominations. She has worked alongside the likes of Björk, Busta Rhymes, Calvin Harris, Britney Spears and Enrique Iglesias, and has released six albums so far, including this year’s “Food”, out now on uber-cool independent label Ninja. Produced entirely by Dave Sitek, best known as guitarist in the band TV On The Radio, and who has previously worked with the likes of Foals, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Little Dragon, the album shows a more personal side to an artist who’s comfortable to explore happiness, pain and whatever falls in between, across 13 tracks of of warm, intimate and chilled out soul. Referring to her time with Dave recording the album, Kelis talks of a laid back approach, with food at the heart of it – cooking and eating, and singing a tune to Dave’s melody on the piano – “The Vibe was very relaxed” Kelis explains – “It just naturally worked out that way. We had a tonne of musicians recording for the album and in the process of making music, I would cook. Very natural”. And natural it would be for a fully- qualified Cordon bleu chef like Kelis, who went to culinary school, and has even launched her own range of sauces: “Feast”. (Really! Google it).

Back to the music now, and with personal themes such as love and family running through “Food”, with her young son Knight featuring on “Breakfast” and references to her father on ”Jerk Ribs”- we wanted to know how it feels to perform music that’s so personal … “I write the tracks about where I am at that period of my life, so it’s personal, but at the same time it’s a part of me”, Kelis answers openly. So the music is a natural extension of her, but how does Kelis translate her recorded work into a live show? “Even though it’s recorded it’s still live instruments” Kelis explains, “ …which is the same as the show. Everything; from horns, trumpets, keys – is all recorded in-studio but the live stage will be just the same, just with an audience – which I love performing in front of!” So, true to her passion for music, it sounds like for Kelis it’s about letting the music speak for itself on a live stage. It seems to us that this singer-songwriter/ chef/ business woman/ mother applies the same no- nonsense approach to her life and her music. What can we look forward to at her headline show this month at the Great Escape festival, we want to know? “For the show I’ll be playing some old and some new stuff off the album” Kelis tells XYZ. “And I’m excited to come and play at The Great Escape Festival!” We’re excited to see Kelis perform, and we’re not the only ones, as the show at the Dome has now sold out. If you missed out, see Kelis’ website for more live dates and news.

If you missed out, see Kelis’ website for more live dates and news. For more information check out iamkelis.com or the festival website at greatescapefestival.com

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