Interview: Kerli on Success & Musical Inspirations.
by Daniel Haim
Born in Estonia, Kerli grew up with a dream to escape from her surroundings. Ignoring material comforts and new clothes for lessons in singing, ballet, acting and classical piano, at fourteen Kerli entered and won Euroalaul, an annual televised competition to select a song to represent Estonia in the Eurovision Song Contest. After the win, she decided to concentrate on singing. Island Def Jam Chairman Antonio “L.A.” Reid signed her on the spot after she auditioned for him.
Daniel: What was it like growing up in Estonia? And when you finally traveled outside of Estonia, what was that experience like? And what was the biggest culture shock?
Kerli: “Growing up in Estonia was beautiful. The nature is absolutely magical. I grew up in a small town of 5000 people where i wasn’t supposed to show any emotion. Laughing too much or crying was a taboo. Expressing yourself or even looking remotely different was looked down at. So I always felt kind of restricted and very lonely.
But it made me wanna create something fantastical and express myself even more. And gave me this crazy drive cause there was no way I could have stayed in that environment and been happy. I needed my world to be bigger.
When I finally started traveling, I was surprised that I never felt homesick. I just always knew what I had to do. There was no big culture shock really. I think people are pretty much the same everywhere. It was hard for me to go back to my normal life in Estonia when I first started traveling,” she says of the inspiration for “Fragile.” “I felt like I didn’t really fit anymore.
None of my family or friends could relate to what I was going through, and I couldn’t relate to what they were going through. I’m a passionate person,” declares the blonde-haired beauty, who once drew a picture in a diary when she was 13 that depicted her going to America. “Where I come from, it was a shame to show your emotions. You could never be too happy, because something bad might happen. I was always a passionate person. I wanted to live every moment. I looked around me, and it was beautiful, but I wanted something more.”
Daniel: What were your influences and how did you get into music? Also when did you realize that music was your calling?
Kerli: “It’s always really hard to name only a few musicians who have inspired me. I think that when you have an open mind, everything inspires you. And I think that the best ideas happen in complete silence – going inwards. People look for everything outside,but we shouldn’t. We have it all within us. I always knew I had to make music but the reason has changed over the years. Right now I’m at a point where I just can’t live without it. I breathe music. I think that everyone who are able to create something are given a very special gift for a reason we shouldn’t deny. I used to fantasize about being a pop star, but now my passion is for music,” she says. “I don’t care about attention. I just want people to hear this record. It’s not about me. Everything I do at this point is for the people and the hope somebody can relate to what I went through.”
Daniel: You’ve been in this industry for quite some time for your young age. Tell us one story about your adventures in this industry that sticks out in your mind the most.
Kerli: “Oh, u mean that orgy I had with Prince and Ronald McDonald? Actually, there is too many stories to pick from. They are not juicy showbiz stories. More like never ending battles between what I need to do in life and how to make it work in the corporate world. Being here has enabled me to grow as a person,” she says. “What I like here, which I never had in Estonia, is that people really do believe they can become whatever they want to become. My background has made me what I am, but it must be so much better to grow up in an environment where nobody tells you that you can’t do something. My dream of leaving and making music was my escape. I had no other options.”
Daniel: There seems to be a somber theme that runs through your album. Tell us how your creative process works and the inspiration for this?
Kerli: “I used to be depressed a lot while writing this album. That’s why the theme is kinda moody. This album for me was about finding who I was and who i was not and the struggle of growing into who I really am. But I hope that if u listen to it carefully, u can sense the light at the end of the tunnel. There is always hope.”
Daniel: Are you currently writing or working on a follow up?
Kerli: “Yeah. I’m always writing, and try to spend as much time as possible improving my songwriting. It’s difficult for me, as I’m currently homeless and don’t have any space. I try to keep a simple recording setup with me at all times in case inspiration strikes me.”
Daniel: The accolades is starting to pour in, how does it feel to be positively embraced by this industry? And what are your aspirations?
Kerli: “It’s about motherfucking time. Hahaha. No, it feels good. Hopefully, it’s just the beginning.”
Kerli thanks her fans, she says “they are the best. We communicate a lot and I have gotten to know many amazing people and many beautiful minds. Thank You guys.”
“I haven’t had a single dream that hasn’t come true,” says Kerli of her remarkable path, which has led her to L.A. and N.Y. to record her debut. “The bigger the dream, the more time it takes to come true. The moment you really let go, that’s when something comes to you. The next level for me is to be totally untouchable. My dreams now are very spiritual, of personal growth. All I want is to be happy. I want to make love my armor so that nothing can hurt me.” Love Is Dead is the next step in that voyage, which has taken her from a tiny village on the other side of the world to an opportunity to tell that story so that it inspires others. “Life is my creation/My best friend,” she sings in “The Creationist” of the way she has invented and then transformed herself and her life. “Whatever happened/Was meant that way.”