Everyone remembers the melodrama of their first breakup: tear-stained diary pages, long walks listening to Alanis Morissette, hours spent curled up under a girlfriend’s duvet moaning. But with maturity comes perspective, and sometimes letting go of baggage too heavy to bear can be exhilarating.
This is the crux of “Lighter,” the second single from Kalen Lister, who performs eponymously as Kalen. Forgoing the same old sick-at-heart tropes, “Lighter” looks at a failed relationship with happiness and hope. Having left her rock project Kalen and The Sky Thieves in pursuit of solo freedom, Kalen knows a thing or two about moving on. Recent single “Weak” showcased a more haunting, seductive vocal style, and though “Lighter” continues on that trend, it also allows Lister to flex her pop music muscles. Her vocals are airy and effervescent, mirroring the buoyant sentiment of the lyrics. At first she relives the last moments of her relationship, but soon enough she sings with resolve of having “living to do” making this the perfect anthem for when the crying is over.
Listen to AudioFemme’s exclusive stream of “Lighter” and read our interview with Kalen below.
AF: At what age did you write your first song? What was the subject matter?
KL: I was 11 when I wrote “The Storm in D minor” on piano, the saddest of all keys. I loved arpeggiating chords and having a tonal pedal point, a melancholy minor feel, and dynamic parts from a young age.
AF: How does your solo project deviate from Kalen and The Shy Thieves?
KL: While KST started as my compositions and direction it really became a rock band and a democracy. We wrote in order to deliver a particular type of live experience. When we recorded Bluebird, our intention was to capture much of that live rawness. My new solo music — “Weak” and now “Lighter” — are simply trying to be the best-recorded versions of themselves. Something that captures the song at the core but does it with more bells and whistles, exaggerating themselves to capture a story truth. They have been collaborative explorations with the producers I’ve recorded them with – “Weak” with Izzy Gliksberg, “Lighter” with Eric Zeiler, and my forthcoming releases with Yoav Shemesh.
AF: Where do you normally draw from in terms of inspiration?
KL: Primarily, I draw inspiration from my own experiences. Sometimes, that of friends or even strangers. The natural world, painting, and politics all motivate different types of writing.
AF: Tell us about the genesis of “Lighter.” How did this song come about?
KL: I was so stuck in a relationship that felt like it ultimately wasn’t serving me. It took letting go (twice) to really release it and feel released by it. I was amazed that pretty quickly I started feeling better and better, lighter and lighter.
AF: You live in New York City – where are your favorite music spots right now?
KL: Oh man, so many of the old spots have closed. I saw an amazing show at a small gallery the other day Tornado Things – the DIY scene is still strong. For bigger venues, Brooklyn Steel and Pioneer Works. For smaller places, C’Mon Everybody, Bar Lunetico, Our Wicked Lady, Rockwood.
AF: Any great up-and-coming bands we should check out?
KL: Reliant Tom, Late Sea, Me Not You, No Swoon, Escaper, Johnny Butler & The Epic Fail, Ghost Cop, Mother Feather, No Surrender, SeepeopleS, Leaders of the Shift.
AF: What advice do you have for a young musician about to move to the city?
KL: Pay your dues & get involved.
Check out Kalen live in NYC at Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 1) on Thursday, August 23rd.