From record label fallouts and community college to being admitted to the University of Southern California, junior artist, Kristiane, is breaking into the music industry.
We sat down with LA native, Kristiane, to learn more about the struggles and lessons that one encounters as they try to pursue music. This past August, she released her single: I Can’t Tell.
Can you provide some background into how you got into music?
I first started writing music at 11, really consistently writing at 15. I grew up with a shitty keyboard that I would write on for five hours a day just to stay busy. People at school would tell me stories they’re going through and I would write songs about it and send it to them. That’s how I got into songwriting. It was therapy.
What is some advice you have to people your age trying to get into the music?
Put yourself in every situation possible. And if you don’t believe in yourself, then no one else will. You have to sell yourself. Working in music is talent, drive, and who you know. There are a million people better than you, smarter than you, more talented than you, prettier than you, and skinnier than you. You know what I mean. You have to learn how to package and sell yourself. Marketing is so important. You gotta know your brand and style.
What is your brand then?
I try to be the most authentic version of myself. I am who I am and people are gonna like it or not. My music, at least, is definitely more alternative rock-esque with that raw feel. Some inspirations for that include Mitski, Amy Winehouse, and Phoebe Bridgers.
Can you describe your songwriting process?
I’ll wake up with ideas and melodies that keep me inspired. Writing down lyrics in class, sitting in front of a piano for hours, and working off of song titles all fuel my creative process. The repetition of it all has really helped me avoid writer’s block because I just am constantly working upon my daily inspirations. If I don’t write every day, I feel anxious. That helps drive my daily work and commitment.
What made you want to be a creative writing major while pursuing music?
When I applied to USC, I was working at an independent label and I learned that you don’t need a degree in anything music to work in music. You just don’t. I wanted to do something more practical that could give me more options if I don’t end up working in the industry. But honestly, being a Thornton School songwriting minor has been so beneficial for my mental health and actually being able to study things I’m passionate about.
How do you navigate finding people to work with while at school?
I always suggest that you work with people that you can collaborate with. Not for pay or anything but just someone that has talent and chemistry that you can vibe with. The pretentious and privileged aspect of the conservatory music-type school can get competition in the way of collaboration.
How do you choose what music to release?
It’s honestly really hard because I got around 100 songs that I could post, but I hesitate because I wonder how they are going to be received as the message, PR, label backing, are all so important. My EP did really well because it had the label backing with around 500,000 streams which was really good for where my career is at. But it got deleted due to the fallout with my old manager. And now I see I Can’t Tell with significantly less streams but to me it is a far more complex song and authentic song. Finding validation for your work at this stage can be very difficult. You’re always trying to straddle the line between keeping your music authentic to yourself but also wanting it to be relatable to the listener.
What is the inspiration behind I Can’t Tell?
It all started off just playing an electric guitar in my studio apartment last summer. It’s about a conversation with my boyfriend that was along the lines of “I can’t tell if you hate me.” It all stems from feelings of insecurity and worthlessness in a relationship while being raised to feel one certain way about yourself. I Can’t Tell is me navigating tumultuous aspects of self hatred.
You’ve talked a lot about the struggles of entering the male-dominated space of music. Could you share you experience trying to break into that industry as a young female artist?
Growing up under a single mom, I’ve learned the importance knowing my worth and rights,. But in that environment its so easy to be manipulated and have people make you feel lesser. You just have to prove yourself and take gender out of the question. The only way for people to take you seriously is to have that mix of talent and drive while not taking shit from anybody. When I was 17 years old working in the studio, I would have 35 year old men come in and hit on me. Even with that predatory shit you kinda have to just look past it and have your goals in mind. Have tunnel vision and thick skin. People are gonna try to devalue you and you just gotta follow your internal moral compass.
You mentioned you were signed by a label but had a falling out with your manager. Could you elaborate on that?
He had personal stuff going on that got in the way of both his and my career, which ultimately led to a falling out. We haven’t talked since and it’s something I’m looking to move past. I feel confident in my worth and trying to build a better and healthier relationship with a label and manager in the future.
Stay tuned for a new song and possible show in December. Currently, I am pitching and selling songs, hoping to get signed by a label soon.