Kira Kosarin is Taking Flight

Photo by Angelina Venturella

For singer and songwriter Kira Kosarin, music is an uncontrollable and undeniable force she’s always had. Born to into a family where music took roots generations ago, she was surrounded by music from the second she arrived on Earth. But rooted is maybe not the way you would describe.

“Part of the reasoning behind Songbird is that a songbird doesn’t really worry about how people are gonna perceive the song that it sings, it just sings because it has to and it’s just naturally the sound that it makes.” Kosarin explained when we caught up via Skype last month. We got together to talk about songwriting and her Songbird project, to bring out a perspective about her music that other publications haven’t approached yet. When the conversation happened, the EP drop was a little under a month away, but Kosarin was eager to release it and show the world every aspect of it. “This always happens with music, but even though to the outside world putting out this music is a new chapter, to me as an artist, it’s closing a chapter. Because a lot of these experiences and stories, and the person that I was when I wrote these songs a year ago… I’m really not that person anymore.”

And what a year it has been. Just a short 12 months ago Kosarin’s debut album Off Brand was new to the world and her single Vinyl’s music video had arrived at 1 million views on YouTube. She later went on an Europe and Asia tour, playing festivals in venues like the Mall of Asia, sold out to 15,000 people. After that, it was time to finally lay low and focus on the her next musical project. 

The journey to Songbird wasn’t a easy one. Just a short 3 years ago, Kosarin wrapped a 6 year run on one of the most popular kids’ TV shows of the last decade. Left to her own devices with what came next, she then decided to dedicate her time to finish the album she had been working on for a few years. The timing was right but also heavy: in the process of reconnecting herself with the music, she was also going through a lot of growth as a young woman, and still figuring herself out. When asked what advice she would give to herself when she first started on the music industry she was poignant: “Don’t worry about whether or not people think you’re cool. Generally, just chill out.”

Between sips of tea, Kosarin recollected a studio story that expresses perfectly how stressed to fit in she was at the time: “When I was working with Drake Bell, I ended up in this session with Soundcloud Rappers. And as I was sitting there, I realized that a verse I had written alone with my guitar fit with the beat they were playing. They called me to the booth like ‘Kira get up here, come on, do something’ so I went and just did the whole verse. They all just went silent. I started panicking and almost started crying because I felt like they all hated it and hated me. And then I walked out and I could hear them talking to each other like ‘Did you hear that? That was incredible, that was amazing’ and then one of the guys was like ‘You should take our verse off the song and just make it your song’ and that’s how Love Me Like You Hate Me was born”. Love Me Like You Hate Me is the first single on her debut album Off Brand.

Photo by Angelina Venturella

Kosarin’s talent ended up speaking louder than anything else when it came to finding her place on the industry. Besides touring with Drake Bell nationally and opening for Mac Ayres in the UK in late 2018, before she even had any music out, she was already having studio sessions with names that helped find who she wanted to be: “Cal Shapiro from Timeflies is obviously a huge one.” she tells, “He introduced me to Cooper who produced Vinyl and most of Songbird, he also introduced me to AWAL that distributed my first project. He was the first person that I ever wrote for, that I got a cut as a songwriter.” Kosarin co-wrote “So Cal” from CAL’s first solo EP “The Identity Crisis: Side A”, the connection between the two happened after Kosarin posted a cover of his band’s hit song Raincoat on Twitter

Other connections Kosarin mentions that helped her feel more confident on the music she was creating were long time friend Rachel Crow, whom she knows since they were both young teenagers and who helped her on the creation of Off Brand and rapper Futuristic, who she co-wrote and released “Somethin Real” in March 2019. “He was really early in my journey, one of the first people I wrote with and recorded with. He showed me the ropes, gave me the most confidence and flew me out to Arizona to record a music video! He was amazing”.  

Kosarin reflects about her journey with fondness and no regrets, even if she doesn’t feel like the person she was when the music came to be: “I’m glad did Off Brand because it was really fun to have produced R&B tracks that I could dance to, but at the end of the day I would tell the person I was then to trust my own songwriting, my own style and my own musicianship more.”

To the songwriter, Off Brand represented a way of making music that made her feel confident and unstoppable. But Songbird is just a trip back to the music she’s been making all her life: “Songbird is just vulnerable, open and maybe a little more quiet, emotional, nostalgic and bittersweet; a little bit more reflective. Songbird is processing emotions in music. Songbird is a kid writing in their diary.” Kosarin explains.

She would know, considering the multi instrumentalist used music as her diary for as long as she’s been able to express her feelings but if she’s scared about sharing those diary entries with the world, Songbird is also a reminder that at the end, music exists as its own entity: “Because I write about my real life, I get scared sometimes that people will make assumptions or judgments about me based on what I’m singing about” She ponders, “And Songbird was a way of reminding myself that in a way, they’re just songs. At one point, they were diary entries but now they’ve taken on a life of their own, they’ve been produced, I’ve sung them a million times, they have a totally different life to them.”

LEAP QUESTIONS

Set List: 3 artists to headline your dream festival
Kira Kosarin: Frank Ocean, just because I haven’t seen him live and Coachella isn’t happening anymore. Beyoncé because I need to see her live. I feel like the third one would be Ariana Grande or Billie Eilish just because I haven’t seen any of them live. I feel really sad that I didn’t see Ariana’s last tour because it was a very special one and I knew every word to every song on both “Sweetener” and “thank u, next”.

ST: First album you’ve ever owned
KK: I think the first album I’ve ever purchased was “Taylor Swift”. I got that album when I got my first guitar, I think, and I wanted to learn how to play it… Wait no, the first album I ever had was Corinne Bailey Rae’s first independent album. “Corinne Bailey Rae”.

ST: Pick any producer to produce an entire album for you
KK: FINNEAS or Jacob Collier. Didn’t even have to think about it

ST: If you could have a “Dinner with Jay-Z” styled dinner with any musician who would it be?
KK: FINNEAS or Jacob Collier. I mean, it would be Jacob Collier because not only do I admire his musical intelligence, ability and creativity, I’ve watched so many of his interviews just talking about life… A lot of the ways he views the world overlaps with the ways I view the world and I just feel like we would have incredible conversation.

ST: If you could have an album written by someone else, who would you pick to write an album for you?
KK: Realistically, if I had to pick a writer whose writing I know, it would be Rachel West who co-wrote Something To Look Forward To with me, because I just think she’s good at taking stories and pulling out the pieces that are important and building around that. And she just writes riffs that make a lot of sense for my voice. Also I think it would be fun to sing a Jojo record because our voices are similar and our styles are similar… Yeah, I’m gonna go with Jojo.

ST: Ok so, going the other way around…
KK: Wait, no. It’s FINNEAS, I want FINNEAS to write me a record, that’s it!! That’s my answer to everything!!!

ST: Now, if you could sell an album you wrote to an artist, who would it be?
KK: I think it would be really fun, maybe not a whole album, but I would love to write for Camila Cabello. Maybe Demi Lovato. A few songs I wrote like If I Just Leave or even Something To Look Forward To, she would just absolutely kill it on the piano. Honestly, I considered trying to get If I Just Leave to Demi because it’s a really Demi song. but I wanted for myself.

ST: Name 3 artists you want to be nominated for ALBUM OF THE YEAR with
KK: If I was ever nominated, I don’t think I’d know the artists whom I would be nominated with. I think they’re also up-and-coming, specially because Album of The Year and Artist of The Year have somewhat new artists. But in a perfect world I think I would like to be seen in the same class as like Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Demi Lovato… I would love to be in their world. That’s a big pie in the sky dream.

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