Interview with Kelli
2006, Blue Note - Milan
Kelli Sae Archive
There are a number of factors that make an artist appealing. The way they
carry themselves. Their ability to draw cross-cultural crowds. The respect they
have for their craft. And of course, the vocal skills they possess. Yet, sometimes
there are less overt ways an artist can make an impact. Sometimes a performer has
worth simply because they resonate. Singer/songwriter Kelli Sae has spanned
the world with acclaimed bands such as Incognito,
Basic and most recently the Philippe Saisse Acoustic Trio, taking on the role of
lead singer for all three bands. Kelli has been honored by the industry, and is
admired by music critics. Yet the most meaningful indication of Kelli's worth is
how her music makes you feel. Her songs cut deep into your heart and soul and
give you a window not only into Kelli's world, but a new perspective into your
own. Kelli's become not merely just songs, but your songs.
On her self-titled debut album,
Kelli Sae, the vocal gymnast
created emotionally honest music that was deeply personal and universal in scope.
With a soaring combination of craft and compassion, Kelli's songs touch on a myriad
of subjects; heartache, romance, regret and redemption. It's no surprise, Kelli's
first solo project, released on her independent label, Kwurk Entertainment, initially
sold over 6,000 copies and is still going strong based on her live performances
and word of mouth. Kelli does it once again, and better than ever with her second
independent release, Heroine.
The new masterpiece is filled with diversified songs that take listeners
from up-tempo party bangers to intimate ballads that warm and weaken the heart.
Heroine is rich and full of great emotion. Just like the grasping, "Yesterday",
the songs on the album move slowly through each part of your body – from your heart
to your bones and back. Throughout the album, Kelli explores her Puerto Rican and
African American heritage. Don't be surprised if Heroine attracts a heavy Latin
market, which is already starting to take notice. Two of the songs on Heroine
are sung partially in Spanish, which opens Kelli up to the possibilities of her
becoming an international superstar.
From the Gospel-induced "Can't
Wait" to the drum-n-bass filled "Thank
You" and the soulful ballad, "Heaven",
Kelli fluently transforms into various eclectic styles with sheer ease. "My job
as an artist is to fill all of my creative gaps by expanding and making sure that
I cover every ground that I want to cover," says Kelli. "I don't want to
just stick with one genre or way of doing music. I want to listen to my energy and
go where it takes me."
Kelli's resume boast of accomplishments that any artist whether independent
or signed to a major can only wish for. She was worked with the best of the best.
As the lead singer of the internationally successful band, Incognito and the European
groove band Count Basic, Kelli's multi-octave voice has reached millions around
the world, from the USA to Africa.
The company Kelli has worked with is admirable. She's sang background
vocals for such respected artists as Me'Shell N'Degeocello, Peter Lord
& Jeff Smith of the Family Stand, PM Dawn, Neneh Cherry,
DJ Logic, Corey Glover and the Grammy Award-winning hip hop group
Arrested Development. Kelli has opened up for music legends such as the late
Curtis Mayfield, George Clinton and the P-Funk All-stars, David
Bowie, Bootsy Collins and countless others. Furthermore, Kelli has worked
and toured with Grammy Award-winner Ryuichi Sakamoto (score composer for
the "Last Emperor").
Kelli has already gained a mammoth following for an independent artist
after releasing only one album. Being herself, listening to her own voice and then
using that voice to express her love, pain, sunshine and rain to others is what
makes Kelli so unique. "At the end of the day, I'm just trying to make everybody
feel good" Kelli says. "I want to be that pain reliever."
Kelli Sae is a superwoman – a Heroine who is well on her way to
I met Kelli Sae at the
Blue Note in
Milano, on January 5th 2006, after
the first set. She had just presented the first part of her concert with Bahnamous
Bowie (piano/keyboards), Gintas Janusonis (drums), Trevor Allen
(bass), Biti Strauchn (backing vocals) and Arif St. Michael (backing
vocals). During the first set Kelli Sae and her band played "How
Many", "Life Goes On",
Lovin You", "Stayin'
and "Okay". Kelli's
energy and skills are awesome; she's a very generous singer and songwriter. During
the concert she calls out Biti Strauchn and Arif St. Michael (her
backing vocals) and we all have the opportunity to listen to their beautiful voices
while soloing. The artists in her band are very talented, but the music was a bit
too loud..... Kelli's voice is so expressive, that if the band would have played
a little softer, I'm sure I would have loved the concert even better that I already
I contacted Kelli shortly after her return in the U.S., and this is her
Eva Simontacchi: When
did you first start to sing? How did it all begin?
I began singing at an early age, around 3 years old. I probably wasn't very good
but I was really loud and sang with a lot of determination.
Who were your early heroines in
K.S.: Early on I remember just listening to what my parents listened
to. Minnie Ripperton, Gladys Night, Patti Labelle, Black
Ivory, Barry White, Love Unlimited, Celia Cruz, Hector
Lavoe and Ruben Blades and so many others.
Have you ever taken voice lessons,
and what do you do for your voice now?
Yes I am a big fan of vocal lessons.
I still train. Not as much as before, but as much as possible. Overall, I just really
try to take good care of my voice and body.
You write your own songs. How do
you work on a song? Do you start with the melody or do you start with the lyrics?
I don't have any particular way really.
Each time it's different. Sometimes it just begins with me humming some melody or
I may actually sit at the piano and start with a bass line and chords then the words
later. So I never go anywhere without my micro recorder, just in case a thought
Do you listen to a lot of music?
If yes, could you tell us what kind of music you listen to and which are your favourite
I listen to music almost 24hrs a day.
I listen to everything under the sun. One minute it's Hip Hop, next it's straight
ahead Jazz. I find something great about it all really. I have so many favourite
singers it's difficult to name just one. I go through phases where I will just listen
only to this singer or that singer or musician. Right now everything is all Nina
Which are, in your opinion your
strenghts and your weaknesses?
I think one of my weaknesses is focus.
I really need to work on that. My mind thinks of a million things at once. My mind
is like a computer where pop up screens just keep coming up. Then before I know
it…I'm doing more than one thing at a time. So - I'm trying to fix that. I could
probably think of ten other things that I need to work on. But let's just start
with that one! One of my strengths is my ability to see only the bright side of
things. I see the cup as always half full and I'm very resilient. In this business,
this attitude can be helpful.
Could you tell us about the "dream
of your life"? (Something that you would really love to do in music, and that you
haven't done yet)...
My biggest dream is for me to play
in New York City with my music. This is a huge dream I know. But I don't think it's
Could you tell us something
about this experience you had in Milan at
And was this your first tour to Italy?
I have been to Italy many times before.
But this was the first time I was in Italy performing my original solo music with
my band. So for me it was a really big deal. I was so excited to be there. I was
even more excited when people actually showed up for the concert! This is the greatest
gift to me. Each night the audiences were so warm, loving and just really terrific.
I can't wait to go back.
You have a wonderful amount of
energy, and you are perfectly capable of conveying it to your audience. What is
the essence of the message you would like to convey?
Thank you. I think the message that
I'm trying to convey is that I just want everyone to have fun and just let go. Sometimes
there can be so much going on in people's lives and stress with work and just life
in general – that I'm hoping to just alleviate a little bit of that in some way,
even if it's just for a short while.
When do you think you'll come back
I'm hoping to come back to Italy next
year or possibly even later this year after the new CD comes out. Hopefully the
people will want me to come back too.
What are your projects at present?
(Are you also working with other groups, or other singers right now?) And what about
your future projects?
At present I'm working on my new CD.
I'm really excited about it and sometimes recording it gives me chills, because
it's so autobiographical – it's really close to me. I still work with Count Basic
and doing some writing for some Indie Films. In addition to that, I'm working
on 2 books. I started writing them over a year ago, then I put it down. Now I've
started back up again. So I hope to finish them soon.
Could you talk a bit more about
you, about your life and your childhood.... and about how you got to be the artist
you are now?
I come from the South Bronx. It was
the hood and a tough street life. So I wasn't really allowed to go out too much.
At the time I didn't see that this was a blessing. It really made me get into music
even more. I would spend all day singing, listening, and practice writing some songs.
Some good…some not. I would ask my mom to listen to me, critic and rate me. I'm
sure I got on her nerves sometimes. But she was very patient. I really got into
instrumentation and was fascinated by the way things were put together and orchestrated.
My mom would point out things to me in the music and then I really started to get
into to it so much more. I didn't train with anyone in my early years. I just would
try to mimic what I heard. Then I'd ask for someone to listen and point out my errors
or what could have been better. Usually it would be my sister or mom. In my early
teens I started working with some producers. This was helpful in the shaping of
my sound and helping me to acquire my own identity. Later on it was Joseph Bowie
of Defunkt who really helped me to put it all together. I don't even think
he was aware of the impact he had upon me. I tell him now – but I think he thinks
I'm joking. When I worked in his band, he really pushes you to the edge to get out
more than you thought you could and do things you didn't even know you were capable
of. Again, I didn't realize what was going on-but now I get it and I'm so grateful
for this treatment. It was the kind of training you couldn't pay to get. So fast
forward to now. What I'm looking for is… in the end, after one of my performances,
or after someone has heard a CD - I just want people to walk away with the feeling
that's very real and that they can connect with. I don't put on a fake air or vibe.
I want them to leave feeling good.
Could you talk a little about your experience with "Incognito"?
My experience with Incognito
was and is still a very remarkable one. It is one of the most fun and great
musical moments in my career. I love the music and musicianship very much. I have
been very fortunate to have worked with such a great group of talented people. I
find Bluey himself to be very genius at
what he does. He's able to bring together so many creative people and make
something truly wonderful happen. He is also a great songwriter and producer. So
I truly feel grateful for being able to add this experience as one that tops
very high on my list of "great moments" in my career. I recently had the
opportunity to sit in and be a guest twice in these last months. It was such a
joy to me. It is indeed an extended family and like with any family, you will
have differences, adversity and challenges that come up from time to time. But
only through those experiences can you truly grow and elevate to the next
levels. I have such a fondness for Bluey and the whole gang. Stepping on that
stage with them now, feels just as great as it did the first time. I wouldn't
change a thing. It's simply an amazing experience.
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|Inserited on 7/8/2014 at 22.03.16 by "irmaomacs"|
Hello Biti Straunch We were missing you since T4F and now found you with kelli . I'll look for and listen to the musics and after i 'll send a comment . Peace your fan Marco Antônio from Rio de Janeiro Brasil
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Publishing Date: 15/04/2006