Kerli Interview: My Cut

(Pictures: Kerli's official Facebook music page)

Originally distributed, in a different edit, by Agence France Presse.

Elva, a town of 5607 inhabitants in 2013, was not an easy place for Estonian singer-songwriter Kerli to grow up in.

"I knew in my heart there was this crazy big world out there, but I hadn't seen it. In my town, we had the blocks from Soviet times, next to the woods. You had the beauty of nature, and then you had these blocks, where everyone's apartment was the same, and it was creepy in a way. I didn't know any artists, or anyone who would challenge the way of existence." 

The way Kerli chose to challenge this paved the way for her future visual ethic, creating some brightness and light to contrast with the uniformity and gloom she saw around her. "I started rebelling, wearing crazy clothes I got from second-hand stores or church donation rooms or whatever, experimenting with who I was." 

"For a while I didn't have any friends; I didn't feel I could relate to people." At age 11, she devised a Christmas play. "I had this vision, it had to be so grand, but no-one took it seriously! For me, it's always been the same; I was frustrated I couldn't find Alexander McQueen in Elva!"

Now living in Los Angeles and signed to Ultra Music, on January 20, Kerli's new single, Raindrops, is released, with a third album coming later in 2015. Kerli adds that, although happy with the upbeat collaboration with US dance artist SNBRN, Raindrops is not a precursor to her eventual album's sound.

In creating the forthcoming album, Kerli is inspired by her birthplace. "When I left Estonia I was 16. I wanted to see the world so much. But now, as an adult, I'm really excited to find that new-found strength from my land. So now, in the music I'm writing, I'm trying to channel that magic, in the hope there is something in the land supporting me."

Kerli gained a committed fan-base with first album, 2008's Love Is Dead, on which she established the artistic concept of 'bubblegoth', "that controversy of cute and creepy," as she explains it, while also creating a series of daring fashion trends.

2012 follow-up EP Utopia was compromised, she feels, by record label politics at former label Island Def Jam. "Everybody started freaking out, and telling me I needed to make the company way more money, so I needed to start making happy music. I made [Utopia] in one week. I think it's a really good album, but it doesn't have a lot of stories on there. It doesn't go to the dark corners."

The forthcoming album will be much more of the kind of sound she has always wanted to make. "It's very quirky and very colourful, but then at times it's very extreme melancholy, like a bipolar world. I want to do a whole bubblegoth album; I would have done with Utopia if different songs had become the singles." 

In late-2014, the singer posted frank messages on her Facebook fan-page. "I take it really seriously with my Moon Children [the name Kerli gives to her fans]. I make these posts not to get likes, but in the hope that some super-depressed 15 year-old, like I was [at that age], is going to think that finally, here is someone who talks the real talk."

"I want people to know that dreams have their prices too - their downside. One of the things that contributes to [dreams] having such a high price is not being able to be with my family and not being able to be on my land."

Kerli references burnout brought on by overwork; "a form of self-harm," as she puts it. "I've worked since I won Fizz Superstar [the Baltic singing contest, in 2002]. I've been so driven to the point where it's not healthy. It's only recently that I've had this idea that, I don't know, maybe I want to go to the woods and grow potatoes!"

"This rat-race: I don't want to be a part of it any more. I want to make art; I'll die if I don't write music. There's nothing more meaningful in the world."

Today, Kerli feels she has very clear objectives. "My goal is to write music that gives my grandchildren something to learn from, that would feel like they were having a great conversation with their bloodline." A fashion collection is planned for the 2015 holiday season. She has also purchased land in Estonia for a new home. "I've already started looking at this dome you can order from Norway; I'm going to build an alien-spaceship creative house!"