Monday, April 10th, I had the amazing opportunity to speak with Kings Elliot, a Swiss-born and London-based pop artist, who just recently was on tour with Nashville-born artist Stephen Sanchez. We spoke about the creative process behind being a musician, what being a musician means to Kings, and what it's like being a touring musician.
You were just on tour recently. What was the experience like?
Kings: I was on tour for five weeks, I think, all across North America with Stephen Sanchez, so I was his opener, and it was pretty insane. Like, we had a show almost every single day, and so I had to travel and play a show every single day. We had like three days off, so it was intense. I feel like after doing that I can do anything. Before the tour, I was really scared and didn't know if I could cope, but I did, which for me was a huge thing; that you can just do anything if you really...I surprised myself, to be honest. And I loved it, y'know, the fans were incredible. Stephen's fans are incredible, and I felt very connected to them. Every night I would go out after the show and meet them and have a connection, and I'm so grateful I got to do this. It was incredible. When you're on tour, it feels like a bubble. It doesn't feel real, so when you come home, it's like... "What..." Like, I'm on another planet, but I loved every second of it, it was really wonderful.
With you not being from North America and going on a North American tour, were there any places you went on tour that you'd never been to previously?
Kings: I've only done. like. three tours in my life as a support act, and the first one was last summer with Imagine Dragons, which were also in North America, so most of the places I went, I had already had been to with Imagine Dragons, although there's some we didn't do with Imagine Dragons. And one of them was Nashville, so I was really excited about playing Nashville and New York because with these stadiums, you go to the places outside the big cities, so I guess that's what I did with Imagine Dragons. And then, with Stephen, we did some of the cities I'd never done before. New York and Nashville were two of my favorite shows, so that was incredible. I had been to some of those places before.
How has where you're from influenced your music and style?
Kings: Hmm... you know what, I don't know! I mean, I grew up in Switzerland and obviously, I'm half-British and live in England. The main thing that's influenced me is speaking both languages; I always had English as, like, my, I guess, second, or like my emotional language, cause it's what my mom spoke, and I always wrote songs in English; so other people in places I grew up in didn't have that, I guess. They would mainly speak German, and English is like a second [language]. So that's the one thing that having my mom being an English person helped me with: songwriting. 'Cause I always wrote in English, even as a little girl. I moved to London when I was like, 20, and that's when I really discovered myself. Then I worked with a bunch of producers (mainly one), and we really hit it off, and that was kind of how I found my sound and who I am, how I want to sound like.
Was your recent first headline tour?
Kings: Yeah, it was like a mini tour and it was my first! I did Berlin, Switzerland, London, and the Netherlands, and I think that was it, so it was like a small, mini-tour. It was incredible. It was so cool because I've been the supporting act [for] a lot of those tours, so doing my first, little one myself was very special, and knowing that the people are there for you, it's a whole other thing, 'cause it just feels so special and connecting with everyone i's just like...I don't know, I loved it. It was really incredible.
You released a single for the game The Callisto Protocol, was the creative process behind that any different from making music for yourself?
Kings: It's a little bit different because I felt, like: "let's really push the boat out with the production." I already had a loose idea of the song in my head before the game approached me, and I was like: "Oh my god, that would really work for the game," but I was on tour when this happened, so me and my producer/co-writer had to do it all remotely, which normally I don't do because I work better in person, but because there was a deadline, I was like: "Okay, we need to get this done." We did the whole thing remotely, so that was new. I recorded stuff on my phone. It was just voice notes because I didn't have a microphone or an interface or anything where I could record something. It was just to get the demo down. We just had to do it on my phone and then he stitched it into the song. We did it all while I was away, and then when I came back, I was actually really sick. Obviously, you can imagine after a seven-week tour, you'd immediately get sick, so I did the vocals completely sick because there was a deadline, but we managed to do it, and it sounded really good. We got to extend the deadline a little bit because the first week I couldn't do it. There was a tight deadline, and we had to do it remotely and production-wise, just be more courageous. Like: "Let's make it really orchestral and dramatic because it's going to be on a video game!" I think that really freed up the barriers. It was freeing. But I wouldn't do something that isn't what I'd do for myself, because it's still obviously my name and song. I love to play it live--it's so fun. In London, we actually did it with live strings.
How did you get into creating music?
Kings: I always had the urge to write my own music even when I was like, eight or nine, I guess. Whenever you start writing words. I wanted to write my own words to songs that already existed, so I always had that urge and I don't really know where it came from because none of my family are really musical or anything. I mean my mom sings at home, but that was the extent of it. I just always really wanted to write my own music [about] whatever I was going through. Like when you're 10 years old and a friend pisses you off at school, I'd wanna write a song about it! So that's kinda where it started, and then when I was 14 there was someone else who was like a rapper in my school, and there was someone he knew who was a producer, and they were the only ones in my town who knew anything close to that, who I then started making music with and I made a whole album as my school project. It was just always something I wanted to do, and I don't even know where it came from! Then, it just developed more and more, so I took it more seriously. But it's just always been part of my life.
What do you do to get over writing blocks, or to get inspiration?
Kings: I mean, I haven't had like a writing block, but there's always things I want to talk about. Something I want to say because I don't really make stuff up, which probably makes me not that creative, I guess! I have to write about things that I go through because I go through a lot emotionally. I'm very emotionally volatile and I feel a lot of things. I feel like I maybe feel things more intensely than the average person. So, to me, there's always things I want to say and that I want to work through and write about. I don't have many times where there's nothing that I want to say, but also, I'm constantly writing. What I do have is, like, I get into the studio and I'm like: "Let's write a song today," and then I'm like: "What do I want to say?" I like to always kind of write things down, so when you do get to the studio and you have something you want to write, you have something to kind of pick from, so so far I haven't had any sort of block like that. But I think that working with people that are inspiring and talented helps with that. I think collaboration is key because if it's just me by myself, I wouldn't be able to do that. But if you work with other people who are inspiring, things will always come out somehow.
Between either people you know or musicians you listened to growing up, who inspired(s) you?
Kings: I listened to a lot of old-school stuff, like stuff from the 50s and the 40s because I love these like really nostalgic-sounding old records. I just love how they sound and how magical the melodies are. So I listen to a lot of that, and it really inspires me. I also love Lana del Rey and just sad songs, and the fact that someone like her is so unique and has such a unique career is really inspiring. I have a very collective taste. I feel like I listen to so much, but usually, when I'm writing, I feel inspired by very vintage-sounding songs. I've always felt like I've had to push myself because it's very easy to give up on music, because it's hard, and I'd almost given up many times. It's just the need, my personal feeling, that I need to do this is what's always kept me going.
How different is your life now that you're making music professionally compared to when you weren't?
Kings: I mean, I feel like I was never not making music, but now it's very different because I can do it all the time. Now it's my job. And it's just all so much better. Before, music was just that: I had to do it all in the evenings or the weekends, and I had to do a hundred other jobs, but now I get to do it all the time! And that is so freeing and so amazing. I don't put myself under pressure in a way that's like: "Oh, this is my job now. I have to..." It's more like: "Oh my god, this is my job, I get to do this and not have to wait for the evening or till the weekend, I can do it every day now." I don't know, it's kind of the same, but just better. And I don't know life without making music, because I always did it, even if it was on a small, shitty scale. I've only been doing it as a job for a year. so it's very fresh for me, but I just think that I had to fight so hard to do it, so I feel very grateful and doesn't feel worse to me in any way. I just want it to last, so I'm gonna keep going.
If you weren't making music full time, what other career would you have pursued?
Kings: I think...that's hard, because that [music] was my only option. Nowadays, I think I would be doing something with animals because I love animals very much. I definitely would be into animal rescuing and having my own sanctuary and rescuing animals. That's my second calling after music.
Are there any states in America that you haven't been to that you'd be interested in touring or even just traveling to?
Kings: My obsession was always with New York. Ever since like 16, New York was my biggest obsession, and now I've been there so many times and my label is there. I get to go so often now, so that was my #1 dream, and then my second dream... I've been to so many places! With that seven weeks of the tour, I feel like we've been everywhere! Where did I not go.... We went to Nashville... We didn't go to Miami, I don't think, so that would be cool! I would like that one.
Before the Imagine Dragons' tour, had you ever been on a tour that was that size?
Kings: Yeah, that was my first tour! The first one I ever did was going to f*cking stadiums with Imagine Dragons! It was crazy! I really struggled with my stage fright. I was having panic attacks left, right, and center, and it was really difficult, and I didn't really get to see much of the states. When I'm on tour, I don't really get to see much, because I'm traveling a lot and when I have anxiety, I can't really go out and explore because I'm just trying to get through the day, so I'm just laying on bed and trying to get through... I don't see much because it's so anxiety-infusing. There are so many places I've been to on tour I want to go back, to be honest, to actually experience because I haven't been able to actually see much of it.
Check out our Kings Elliot gallery right here!