Naia Kete is an upcoming pop-reggae inspired singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. You may recognize Naia from the latest season of The Voice and after listening to some of Naia’s newest solo work we were really impressed so were delighted when she took the time to be interviewed by Song Revelation. Read on to discover, amongst other things, where Naia Kete’s recently been performing, who she would love to collaborate with given a chance and what she does to relax when not working.
Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?
I am an earthy songstress with a pop-reggae sound infused with neo-soul colored and jazzy influences sprinkled in my voice.
Q: What is your musical background?
Music was everywhere growing up. My Mom, Dad and Step-Dad all played together in a reggae group, that my brother joined by the time he was 9 as the drummer, and I joined when I was 12. Though I started as a back-up vocalist and 2nd keyboard player, I soon became the lead on keyboards and started singing my own songs in the group. This gave me an incredible foundation as a performer and gave me real roots in reggae music that has truly been the basis for my sound. I was 17 when I recorded my first EP at the Institute for Musical Arts in Goshen, MA that really jump-started my career as a solo artist eventually leading me to Los Angeles where I developed a fan base busking on the streets of Santa Monica and performing at various venues including the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood.
Q: How have the last 12 months been for you?
A lot of hard work! I’ve been on and off the road performing everywhere from Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco to Iowa, Madison and Chicago, New York City, Boston, Maryland, Tuscon and Tempe, AZ and one of my favorites, SXSW in Austin, TX… just to name a few. I got a chance to open up for some incredible artists including Ozomatli and Michael Franti. I’ve been working tirelessly on my upcoming EP, Fire Breather (to be released June 11th), writing songs for the EP with such greats including Colbie Caillat, Linda Perry, Mikal Blue… too many to name. Of course, in between times, still hustling on the streets with my brother. I have a new band. A 4 piece, so we’ve been working hard perfecting our live show, as well as making our social networks a main priority, filming YouTube videos every week and always on Twitter and Facebook connecting with fans as much as we can. Just doing anything and everything I can to develop myself and my artistry and grow my fan base. It’s been an amazing year and I feel very blessed.
Q: Who inspires you musically?
Too many to name! From a very young age though the people who have always been there are India Arie, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Michael Franti, Bob Marley (and the whole Marley fam), Steel Pulse, The Roots, Norah Jones. In recent years I find myself really getting into Coldplay and Incubus…. Foo Fighters. I love John Mayer and The Civil Wars. Bruno Mars is just an out of control singer and performer. Adele floors me. I mean I could really just go on and on but that could take days and a lot of pages so I guess I’ll just leave it at that for now
Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to?
Well I mentioned a number of them in the question above. Overall, I love artists that don’t fit into any one box. The artists that are really able to create their own lane as opposed to trying to follow one. That’s why artists like Adele and Bruno Mars are so great to me. Is Bruno rock? Pop? Reggae? Soul? No! And Yes! He’s all of it, and he’s been able to get a group of people around him who trust his vision enough and really make it universally accessible and commercially successful without compromising who he is, what he wants to say, or the type of music he wants to create. That’s the artist I want to be. That’s the artist I am.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?
Once again, the above artists come to mind. Someone I haven’t mentioned yet though is Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The way the just exploded onto the scene truly blows my mind. I’ve always loved rap and have a secret desire to be an MC myself, except that I can’t write raps at all! Still, I’d love to collaborate with an MC and I have just fallen in love with Macklemore and what he has to say. I feel he’s the type of artist who understands that he has a responsibility to the listener and truly say something of substance and I really respect that. I also have always thought that a tour with Jason Mraz or Colbie Caillat would really work well for my sound. The show I did opening for Michael Franti was like a dream come true and I’m hoping to go on the road with him someday as well… ah the dreams. There are a lot of them.
Q: What songs are you listening to at the moment?
I’m really digging Janelle Monae’s new track with Erykah Badu. I just love the female empowerment in that song and in the video. I just released a cover of Trojan’s by Atlas Genius on YouTube. A very cool song to begin with, and it inspired a lot of creativity in me. I feel like I turned an alternative pop rock song into some kind of fun acoustic, pop, reggae with a rap in it. Haha! I love it when that happens though. You can approach music from so many different angles and when a band has a song that lights a fire like that in you, that’s pretty awesome.
Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?
There’s no one way to do it. However, I find more often than not I’m sitting on my bed, guitar in hand. I come up with a chord progression first, and the melody and words follow. Sometimes it’s easy and I write a song in half an hour. Other times I have to keep coming back to it and it takes months. Either way though, it feels AMAZING when it’s done.
Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?
Man, I go back and forth on this. In my opinion though, the melody is what grabs you… the seductive aspect of listening to a song. However, the lyrics are what get you emotionally connected and keeps you coming back for more. Both are equally important for different reasons.
Q: Where are you based?
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
Well, originally I’m from Western, MA. It’s incredible there. An amazing atmosphere. An incredible community. A small town vibe, while still having a lot going on. I have so much support so even living all the way across the country I still feel that. But nothing can really prepare you for the hustle and competition that it can be like living in Los Angeles. But I’ve done my best to be open to it and stay humble, and so far, it’s been good to me.
Q: What are you currently working on?
I’m just finishing up my third EP, Fire Breather, now. It’s going to be released June 11th and I couldn’t be more excited!
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
A definite highlight for me was getting to be a contestant on Season 2 of The Voice on NBC. I made it to the live rounds being in the top 24 contestants out of 48. It was such an incredible experience. From the stand point of having this incredible platform and exposure to new fans, while learning so much about myself, my nerves, how I need to make sure I represent myself in the way I know I have to. It was great. I’m very grateful.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in over the next 12 months?
I’m hoping to be on the road as much as I possibly can. Sell lots and lots of copies of my EP both in physical and digital form, and really get a big leap in my social network. I’d like to make it to 1,000,000 views on YouTube and for at least one of my videos to go viral. Just gotta keep putting that content out there!
Q: Do you have any gigs or shows that you’d like to tell us about?
Yes! I’ve got some really exciting festivals coming up this summer including Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, High Sierra and California Roots Festival. Bonnaroo is happening in June and just a few of the artists on that bill include Paul McCartney, Mumford and Sons, Bjork, The Lumineers, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Nas, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. It’s going to be INSANE and I can’t wait. Anyone who’s going let me know!
Q: What do you do to relax?
I salsa dance! At least once or twice a week when I can. It’s one of the most amazing feelings on the planet as far as I’m concerned.
Q: Where would your favourite holiday (vacation) be and why?
Hawaii. I’ve only been there once, but I have never felt more alive, at peace, at ease or experienced so much joy from a physical place on this earth. At least not yet. I love the ocean. I love the island mentality. And I have always believed (and heard) that people there would really dig my music and vibe.
Q: If you could give a little piece of advice for new or aspiring musicians what would it be?
Wake up every day and ask yourself, what can I do to move my career forward? Then do it! Is it going to be writing a song? Booking a show? Updating your mailing list? Getting on twitter, Facebook or YouTube? Whatever it is, just do it and be consistent about it. Oh yeah, and don’t EVER give up or take no for an answer. If music is your passion, then that’s what you should be doing with your life. Period.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
The first single off my EP is available on iTunes and the music video can be seen on YouTube. It’s a song called “Crazy Glue” written on my very first writing trip to Nashville with Shelly Fairchild and Phillip Lassiter and produced by The Futuristics. Check it out!
Editor’s Note: Naia Kete’s unique vocals mould effortlessly with her songs spine tingling pop-reggae inspired songs. We’re sure you’ll be hearing a lot more of Naia Kete!
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