Story / Mikhael Agafonov
Production / Erica Russell
Makeup / Eric Vosburg
Hair / Ryan Austin Kazmarek
Styling / Jonatan Mejia
Being a pop star may look easy from the distance, but let’s be real for a moment: It’s never as glamorous as you’d like to think it is. There are expectations from the fans, from the label, from yourself. Now imagine being a pop star with a unique vision and never-ending flow of creative energy. Add some Northern European blood into the mix and worldwide exposure and you get a truly one-of-a-kind artist who is constantly re-discovering herself, whether she’s penning songs for the likes of Demi Lovato, making goth-EDM collaborations or working on her own EPs. That’s Estonian wonder girl Kerli.
She’s an artist one may be tempted to place somewhere between Bjork, Lady Gaga and Imogen Heap, but who’s arguably been a standalone figure on the music scene since her mid-00s debut. She’s been involved with some L.A. big shots, released a major label album in 2008, but these days splits her time between the forests of Estonia and the big buck studios of California, working independently to make sure her vision remains intact. Ahead of her independent third album debut, we caught up with the ever-enchanting visual artist (as she likes to call herself) to discuss fairy tales, always traveling with one way tickets and connecting with nature.
Last year you left L.A. and moved back to Estonia. What made you return? What are the pros/cons of living in LA, and pros/cons of living in Estonia?
I made a pretty radical life change and moved to the woods to make art and live by myself for nine months. It was the kind of soul death/rebirth that I desperately needed and I regard this time as the most spiritually connected experience I have ever had… I’ve also started to spend some time in L.A. again. I always travel with a one way ticket and just feel it out since there’s always someone I’m tragically missing. I love both of these spaces—the forest is where I go to cleanse and receive and the city is where I go to project and push forward.
Bodysuit, The Blonds. Ring, We Who Prey.
Is it true that you discovered Bjork music on a metro station in Russia? Coming from Russia myself, I know the feeling.
Yes! Someone sold me an illegal copy of Best of Björk in a subway station in St. Petersburg when I was 14. I’d say that this criminal had excellent taste in music and I love him ‘cause being able to stumble upon something that spoke to me on such a deep level, I feel like it really gave me something to live for.
Your musical style has changed dramatically over the years. What influences you the most during this ongoing shift?
I like to morph a lot, both as a human being and as an artist. It’s all about tapping into energies, stories and feelings. It’s exciting that we are these capsules; that we can harness and channel anything we can imagine. Also, I’m so happy to be in this space as an independent artist right now where I don’t have anyone interfering with my vision. It’s precious to operate from a place of self-reliance and personal truth.
How many hours a week do you spend in the woods/nature?
When I’m in Estonia, I almost never leave the woods. Last time I was there for a month and left twice. It was kind of insane.
What’s your favorite fairy tale and why?
Old, dark, Eastern European fairy tales. I had this book called The Magic Flute when I was little and it had all sorts of dark stories in it. I still have it and still love it. I’m definitely looking for more mystery than your usual princess sitting around in a tower or sleeping for 100 years until the prince comes. My heroines turn into a wolf at night and rule dimensions.
How important are/what kind of dreams do you get? And do you ever get nightmares?
I do dream a lot and pay a lot of attention to symbolism, both in real-time and dream-time. I think my most precious dream was one where my animal totem came to claim me. It was so crazy and vivid but it’s kinda sacred so I don’t wanna talk about it too much. As for nightmares, I get a lot of those too. Usually it’s about someone abandoning me.
Why is creating your own visuals so critical for you as an artist?
To me, it’s not like it’s just important: I consider myself a visual artist just as much as I do a musical artist. The sound and the picture are inseparable, so that’s why I direct the videos, sketch the characters and hand make a lot of the costumes. It’s all a canvas. I have never had a stylist, and I don’t have a creative director.
What makes you feel empowered, whether in the studio or on stage?
Surrendering control and judgment and being completely present.
Where are you right now, what are you up to and, most importantly, are you having a good day?
I’m currently in LA, sitting here with my cat Trouble, who says hi. I did a little tarot reading this morning, now answering your questions and then spending the rest of the day making music. I’d say it’s an average day but I’m trying to keep the attitude of gratitude so I guess I should say I’m having a wonderful day—blessed to be healthy and surrounded by wonderful people.
Where do you store all your stage outfits? I always imagined you having this extra castle just for all the great items of clothing you wore over the years.
Ha ha, that’s funny ‘cause I do have an extra castle in the mountains of California. Me and my friend Roniit renovated this house up there and turned it into a haunted fantasy mansion, basically. I used to live there and all my crazy things are still there.
With regard to your song “Diamond Hard,” how many diamonds do you actually own, if any? Why did the image of a diamond inspire you?
I do not own any diamonds… My ex-boyfriend gifted me some diamond jewelry like 10 years ago but he was the kind of man who would ask for his gifts back when we would fight so when I left him, I left the diamonds on the bathroom shelf as a “fuck you.”
On a separate note, “Diamond Hard” is about true strength. I wanted people to put their headphones on and just tap into this intense, red-colored fire energy. Like fucking nothing can stop me. And fucking nothing will break me. And the harder you hit, the harder my skin gets until I turn into a monster. Because not everyone deserves a lover. I got so scared of this song when I was working on it. I had to turn all the lights on and play something nicer to shift the energy.
It’s actually rather unique for an artist of your caliber to only release one full-length album. Do you think that the era of the full-length albums is dead and singles and EPs are the best ways to share music?
Well, I regard Utopia to be an album as well because I created it as an album. It was the label that decided to release it as an EP. Personally, I love the concept of an album. It sums up an era. But I also see how the fluidity of releasing more stuff more frequently can be refreshing and just keep the energy going.
What’s are you currently listening to?
I’m usually just listening to something super mellow, like a Tyco or an Aphex Twin album. I can’t listen to music very much… It’s too intense for me.
Dress, Omen PR. Choker, I Still Love You NYC.
Dress, Crescala PR. Necklace, Ayaka Nishi. Collar, Geoflora Jewelry.
SEE MORE KERLI IN LADYGUNN’S #14 POWER TRIPPIN’ ISSUE !