By: Kevin Rolfe
Arizona-born, multi-cultural singer, songwriter, producer, and actress Kiana Ledé released her much-anticipated, soulful debut EP, Selfless, this past summer. You may have seen her on MTV’s Scream or All About the Washingtons on Netflix. Now you can see her supporting Jessie J. tonight (October 8) at The Depot in downtown Salt Lake City. I had the enjoyable opportunity to chat with Kiana leading up to the show. Here’s our conversation. Enjoy!
Utah Concert Review: How’s the tour going so far?
Kiana Lidé: Oh it’s amazing! It’s so much fun! Everyone on the tour has been amazing. And we’re traveling every day. Getting to see the world. It’s great!
UCR: I was really impressed with your story. You signed a record deal when you were 15. Which is pretty amazing. But that was short lived and you were back on your own figuring it out. But here you are with your great new EP Selfless and you’re on tour supporting Jessie J. What made you stick with it? Was music something you just had to do?
KL: I didn’t really have any other options. I didn’t think I was good at anything else. And music was something I knew I was good at. I couldn’t ever stop. I had songs in my head every day when I was in school. It prevented me from learning to the best of my abilities, so I knew school wasn’t going to be a route for me. It wasn’t really an option to stop trying to do music.
UCR: I’d imagine being dropped was heartbreaking. However, so many teen artists are stuck with that difficult transition going from teen star to an adult artist that people are taking seriously. Because of how things played out, you didn’t have to do that. You could come back as an adult and do things the way you wanted. Seeing how things are playing out now, do you feel like this might have been a blessing in disguise?
KL: 100%. When I first got signed I was kind of coerced into making really bubblegum pop music. And I knew that wasn’t the music I wanted to make when I was becoming an adult. So when they dropped me, yeah it was scary, but now I’m able to make music that I really love. And I’m able to tell my story, my more adult mature “been through shit” story. So yeah, everything happens for a reason.
UCR: So from the time you were dropped from your label until things started picking up for you again, what type of places would you perform to get noticed?
KL: I worked at the W Hotel in Hollywood. I got to be around the best singers in Los Angeles. I learned a lot both vocally and performance-wise working there. I did a lot of demo sessions, background gigs, and one-off shows. Really anything I could find to do music, I was doing it.
UCR: Did growing up with a strong mother help you navigate your way through the crazy music industry?
KL: Yes. 100%! The way my mom grew up she was taught to survive and was very self-reliant. I kind of chose that path. I had to figure out my own way at 16. She allowed me to do that. A lot of the skills she taught me were so helpful and pushed me further. I dedicate most of my career to my mother.
UCR: We’re in what I would say is an overdue time of women’s empowerment. I understand there is a certain expectation in your industry for women whether it be in style or in the music itself. How do you balance whatever those expectations might be with doing what you’re envisioning not only as a woman promoting that empowerment but as an artist?
KL: I’ve surrounded myself with people that understand that women are equal to and as powerful as men, and sometimes in some ways better at executing certain things. So I think I surround myself around great people that trust me to make my own decisions. They know I’m good at what I do, and the one who’s steering the ship. I’m the one who’s ultimately listening to my music. I’m the target audience. So I think they understand that and they listen to me.
UCR: Do you remember the first concert you ever attended?
KL: Yeah, Cheetah Girls! Cheetah Girls were the shit back in the day. They were so good! That was one of my favorite movies back in the day. As a young brown girl, I would watch them and think “ I can do this!”.
UCR: Do you remember your very first time performing in front of an audience?
KL: I actually do. When I was three my mom put me in a tap class and a ballet class. The tap class had a recital, and it was to “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” from The Lion King. I knew, even at three how much my mom was sacrificing to put me in these classes, so I really wanted to make her proud.
UCR: Is there an artist that you always make a point of seeing live in concert?
KL: Actually, Jessie J was always one of them. I always wanted to see her. I’m so lucky to be opening for her. I actually saw her live for the first time when we had our first show in San Francisco. It was incredible. I have always looked up to her. She’s one of the best vocalists and performers we have right now. I’ve always watched her performances to try to find inspiration. The thing about her is she’s so genuine. She just wants to heal people with her music. She genuinely loves to sing. I think it’s so beautiful. And you can definitely tell, it fills the energy in the entire room. So I always wanted to make it a point to watch her, and I just love that the first time I got to watch her I’m opening up for her.
UCR: What has been your best performance so far?
KL: (Laughing)Oh, I have one. This is going to be a weird answer. When I was performing at the Grove (in Los Angeles) a couple months ago, it was the first solo show I had done. I wasn’t opening for anyone, and everyone was coming just to see me. I was told that I had the most RSVPs I they had gotten for this concert series. It was incredible, everyone knew the words, and it was the most people I had ever scene coming just to see me. It was an amazing sight. I was told the day before that we needed to have alternate versions of the songs. Every song on Selfless besides “Ex” I say Fuck at least once. So I went up on stage and tried my hardest not to cuss. I made it three songs in and I got to “Wicked Games”, and I said (singing) “My whole fucking planet”! And they just cut my microphone. Cut the audio and everything! But everyone in the audience was still singing the song. They made an announcement over the loudspeaker apologizing for the use of profanity. The audience just started booing. (Laughing) It was the best thing I had seen in my whole life! I was really disappointed in myself, but I ended up taking pictures with everyone in the audience and coming to meet them and saying hi. Which I thought was an even cooler experience than singing the songs with me on stage. Actually meeting people and connecting with people was amazing. And I wouldn’t have had that opportunity normally. My mom actually came to the show and after I got off stage she came over with my agent and they were like “Oh my God that was such a rock star moment!”. So weirdly enough, I think that was my favorite show.
Kiana’s set starts at 8 PM tonight! To purchase tickets for tonight’s show click here!
Kiana’s EP Selfless is now out everywhere!