by Kyle Mullin
someone you are still in love with, and doing it because the pairing doesn’t make sense, it’s not correctable.”
Equally nuanced is “Jupiter,” which Kelela cowrote with her friend Romy Madley Croft of the Mercury Prize-winning band the xx (the instrumental comes courtesy of Gatekeeper’s Aaron David Ross). And their pairing was as unconventional as their approach — the song began with Ross’s instrumental, over which Kelela sang gibberish to find the melody she was looking for. When Madley Croft heard it, she began suggesting lyrical themes or directions, and after talking it through together, it didn’t take long for Kelela to arrive at the words she wanted.
“That’s pretty much how every song of mine works — I start with gibberish and melody and phrasing. I speak it naturally first. And then I think about lyrics that fit into that,” Kelela says, before adding that Madley Croft’s process is much different. “She works on poetry. She writes, then figures out what the melody for those words are. It’s really cool, she’ll listen to me and say: ‘I think you’re saying this.’ That’s natural for her, and for me it’s natural to have a melody, but not say anything. It’s a total yin and yang situation.”
Indeed, for Kelela, it’s all about feeling, being empathic, being intuitive. And, in the way she absorbs a song’s vibe before finding the lyrics and explores the nuances of both words and melody, Kelela hopes to reach fans that are equally in tune with their feelings, so that they can turn to her music when those emotions become too much to bear.
“It’s one of the best parts of what I get to do,” she says of the complex R&B she writes, and how it’s appreciated by fans with equally nuanced romances, stresses and turmoil. “The most rewarding thing, for someone like me, is for someone else to find solace through my music.”
“I want to soundtrack people’s layered feelings.”