Kiri T: Hong Kong’s Music Goddess

Twinkle’s Lane

February 23, 2020

Kiri T has an amazing way of making you dance with her music. Her style ranges from soft to strong and that is amazing. Coming from Hong Kong, this singer is definitely set to be the next big thing. 

In this interview, I go into some details regarding Kiri’s music,her style, and the meanings behind her songs.

ME: You’ve come a long way as a singer. When did this musical journey begin?

KIRI: I’ve always liked improvising on the piano since I was a kid, but I guess my musical journey started when I was first signed to a music publishing company when I was 14. I emailed my demo to my music hero at the time and we’ve been working together ever since!

ME: The first song I listened of yours, weirdly enough, was on Instagram, as I typed Sugar and Brownies, and got a recommendation – Rise and Shine. Clicking on it, I was immediately hooked in. Dazzling music, and an amazing voice…. It was brilliant. So what was the inspiration behind the song Rise and Shine? How did the creation of this song come about?

KIRI: I’m so glad you found the song! I wrote Rise and Shine when I was living in New York. I just moved to Brooklyn from Boston at the time and everything was so fresh and exciting to me. I liked reading in hip coffee shops and shopping at vintage boutiques in Bedstuy and Bushwick, watching Hip Hop acts and Neo Soul bands at night… walking from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the Brooklyn bridge…. This song is kinda like an encapsulation of my first year in NY; what NY feels like to me. Time was slower back then.

ME: Looking you up on YouTube revealed to me a brilliant mixture of songs. I was enraptured, to be honest. The lyrics of Psycho caught my eye. No doubt, because it was the lyrics that I could definitely relate with. Is it based off your real life moments?

KIRI: Absolutely! It is what I feel most of the time… This song is a lot of things.

I used to have really bad “phone-bia” and I find it intrusive when people just call me up without texting me beforehand (unless it’s an emergency)- which is where “… it doesn’t mean I’ll pick up your calls… Don’t try to hit me up without an online reservation” came from.

I was never a super outwardly social person, I’m the kind of person who prefers chilling at home watching netflix in my pajamas, then going to a party and having fun (hence “It’s too much for me to get outta bed…”). I actually feel more lonely when I’m surrounded by people (unless I’m watching/performing at a concert) and I have difficulty socializing with strangers and public speaking. I used to feel like this trait was working against my career because being good with people really goes a long way in this industry, but now I just try to make art about it.

And as a freelance music producer, “Burnt Out, Strung Out, nothing’s off the clock. Work, grind, hustle” is definitely the story of my life. As I see the gig economy getting more and more popular, a lot of freelancers, especially of the millennial generation and beyond, would resonate with this. The freedom to set your own schedule and goals is great, there are indeed a lot of flaws to the traditional ladder-climbing human resource model, and the way we quantify work efforts. But same as everything else in human history… we always manage to turn something well-intended into a shit show. Instead of doing what it’s supposed to, the gig economy has left a lot of low paid independent contractors vulnerable and unprotected. I don’t think the idea of a gig economy in itself is problematic, I just think when a good thing is run by humans without

proper rules and incentives, people at the grass roots tend to be most vulnerable and exposed to abuse.

ME: Most songs begin with mesmerising instrumentals that allow us to “catch vibes” before the lyrics start. What is your process of making music?

KIRI: My process of making music varies depending on my mood. I jot down lyrical ideas on my phone whenever I’m chilling in cafes or during commute (a lot of my songs began that way). But for sugar types my intention was to make “vibey” music, so I started most of the tracks by setting up a vibe by designing the sounds and composing the chords. I go to songwriting sessions with other songwriters and producers a lot too, sometimes we come up with a song from scratch by just jamming different ideas with each other in the session and by talking about life.

ME: I Don’t Believe in Closures is a song that’s true for many people, even though they’d rarely say it, especially for younger people in their teens. What gives you the inspiration to make music?

KIRI: For me, there are many kinds of inspirations. Some songs are like my diaries, others are just vibes I feel like creating, or challenges I set for myself. Music is inseparable from my life therefore making good sounding songs have always been my source of joy. I do feel most passionate when I’m telling my stories through music; I feel like it’s easier for me to tell my truth through songs than speech.

ME: We all have our favourite songs of a singer. I have my favourite songs among yours, though I would have a hard time choosing. What about you? What are your favourite songs among the ones you’ve sung?

KIRI: I guess I always like the newest thing I release… So it would be ENEMY (which was released on Feb 17).

Written and produced by American Golden Globe winning songwriter Jimmy Harry, Daniel Chu and myself, ENEMY is conveyed from the perspective of a battered girlfriend in an abusive relationship. The song soars with protest overtones, ringing bells from HK’s ongoing fight for human rights against its tyrannical ruling class, bringing forward the duality of domestic violence and the structural violence we see in modern society.

Over the past year, I’ve seen my city crumbling down, the rule of law walking towards dereliction, a whole generation and class disenfranchised by the oligarchy. I mean, I’ve always known the city is dying, but seeing it failing before my eyes is tough. Every night I go to sleep thinking how did we let this happen right under our noses all these years.

The different bodies of government are supposed to keep power in check, and they became the very instruments to keep power INSIDE of the hands of a rich few: the Communist Party of China, and for people who are privileged enough to be optimised into winning in this twisted culture. And how did we let it happen? How did we become so gullible and blinded by short term economic booms and prosperity? I believe it is our duty as a citizen to fix this, and one of the ways I do it is to create art about it and amplify our message through lyrics.

ME: What are your future plans for your musical career?

KIRI: Good question, I used to just want to be heard by a lot of people, and “make it” in America. But now I don’t know. The earth might cease to exist in the next decade, if not it’d be a tumultuous era anyway. So I just wanna make art that is true to myself and work on being a better human being for the world.

ME: And last but not the least – before I can still stop myself from bombarding you with a million other questions – what advice would you like to give to beginners in the music world?

KIRI: If you are passionate about making music a career, keep a habit of writing everyday, record demos regularly, no matter how bad you think they sound, no matter how shy you are about it. Songwriting is not a magical process, everything can be your muse if you practise enough. It’s just like everything else. It takes practise to finesse, and if you don’t practise for a long time it will show. I recommend writing with other songwriters regularly, no matter how talented you are you can still learn a lot more from other musicians.

Kiri sure knows what she is doing. She knows what she wants to do. She knows what she has done.

So go search up her new release Enemy and give it up for KIRI T!

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