In­tu­ition

Exclaim! - - MUSIC SCHOOL: WHERE I PLAY -

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.”

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