Kelsy Karter wants you to know that she is not the next Joan Jett. She is not the next anyone, actually. She is fully herself on and off the stage and is using that to her full advantage as a singer, songwriter, and well-rounded performer. She is spunky, self-assured, and rebellious without ever crossing the line. She is the self-proclaimed love child of Angelina Jolie and Mick Jagger. She is authentic, theatrical, and oh-so-very talented. She is Kelsy Karter, simple as that. Take it or leave it.
If directing your own music videos, touring with The Struts, playing a viral prank on the entire world, naming your dog Lennon, and giving people the middle finger for trying to alter who you are isn’t the epitome of rock and roll, I don’t know what is. Kelsy has done all of that and more to prove to both herself and the world that being a modern day rockstar is what she is meant to do – and what all of us need now more than ever.
I just saw on Instagram the other day that you posted something along the lines of a casting call for fans to be in your upcoming music video. Can you tell me more about that idea and how it is coming to life? Because I absolutely adore it.
So basically I have a song coming out next, after “Stick To Your Guns,” that is kind of all about individualism and basically owning who you are. I wanted the fans to be part of it. A big thing that I noticed with having a fan base now is that they definitely come to me and kind of inquire about how I am myself and how I basically don’t give a fuck. And the truth is that I do give a fuck. Everyone gives a fuck, but I just find a way to break through those insecurities and free myself, essentially. This song is all about that, it is about just owning that and I want the fans to hear that and feel like it is also their song. When I did “Harry,” I did like a fan version of “Harry” after the video and the fans kind of looked at that like, “Well, I’m part of the anthem now.” If you’re a Harry Styles fan, you became part of the Harry Styles anthem. I want them to feel like that with this, too, when they sing it and perform it. I want them to see themselves in it and have it empower them and make them kind of not give a fuck for a moment, as well.
Absolutely. You want your music to be all encompassing for both you and your fans.
Yeah, exactly. Because I get so many messages asking about confidence and all of that, so this is almost like me answering all those messages, you know?
Oh, for sure. You really do seem to have the greatest relationship with your fans between this music video project, the community text line you have with them, reposting their artwork, and so much more. How important, to you, is maintaining that relationship and keeping it on a more personal level than just an artist/fan type dynamic?
I don’t think mystique is like a thing anymore, unfortunately. At least for artists, unless you’re like Adele, where you can do an album and then go into hiding for five years. But even then, she’s connecting through the music. It’s so important to me, though, because I’ve literally built my success – the small the amount of success that I’ve had – I’ve built off of connecting with the fans. They’re the ones that listen to my music. They’re the ones that come to the shows. They’re the ones that, you know, do promo work for me on social media. So, it’s like this isn’t a one way street. It has to be a two way street and I would be nothing without them. It kind of reflects a partnership almost… we both are there for each other. They’re there for me in ways they don’t even know. When they’re down and they throw on my music, I make them feel better. It goes the other way. When I’m down, I go and see how they’re affected by the music and how we connect and act more like on a friendship basis, and that makes me feel better. So it’s just a partnership at the end of day. Yeah, they’re just my mates!
That’s just so wonderful to hear as a fan because you don’t always see that, so with you, who people can look up to as an empowering artist, having the bond is even more special.
Oh, thank you. That means a lot.
Of course! So, let’s talk a bit about your new song that is coming out so soon and has everyone, but mostly me, buzzing with excitement. What does “Stick To Your Guns” mean to you? Because I was lucky enough to hear it and I found that it is such an empowering song and an all around fantastic track.
Basically, a bit after the Harry tattoo situation, I had this perception from a lot of people in power that I was surrounded with that because of what I did, I would be down to do anything. And the reason that I did this Harry stunt was because it was completely in character for me, you know? It was cheeky, it was puckish, and mischievous. And that’s just like always been who I am. When 80 percent of the people that I know personally think it’s a real tattoo, that just validates that it, yes, was completely crazy, but it was also something that Kelsy would do. Then these new ideas that were being put forth to me were so not me and so out of character. I’m never going to sexualize myself or exploit myself or do anything that just doesn’t feel right. Like the Harry thing made me uncomfortable, but like in an excited way. That was an adrenaline rush, but these other suggestions that were being made were just something I would never, ever do. It was completely not me…. And it made me feel violated, essentially. You know, the 15 year-old me that was suspended from school because I would make the teachers cry, like that girl was inside of me kicking and screaming because it was just so against everything I’ve stood for. So I went home that night and it was a pretty fucked up day for me and I was just crying and anxious. The next morning I told my family about it and obviously being the kid, that’s like a horror story for them, as well, because they don’t want their kid to be put down. That’s a fear that every parent has with their kid being in an industry like this. And they basically just said, like, “We’re so proud of you for always sticking guns.” Like you’ve been influenced at times, everyone is when you’re young and new in the industry, but I’ve always kind of come back around to my own gut feeling. They were just like “We’re so proud of you for sticking to your guns,” and I had a session that day and basically went in and wrote that song about that. It was completely therapeutic.
It’s so inspiring that you want to own yourself and your work creatively, because sticking to your guns in general is important in anyone’s life, so what you’re doing and the way you’re putting yourself out there deserves to be respected by everybody. Not to mention that the fact that you’re putting this song out means that people can then relate to it in their own facets of life. It doesn’t even have to be the music industry.
Exactly. That I wanted people to know. It doesn’t matter what situation you’re in. If you feel uncomfortable, you have to remember that we have one life to live at the end of the day, so you’ve got to live it how you want to. No one should ever be made to feel like they’re forced into something or forced to be someone that they are not, which kind of goes back to the whole message that I want to put out that we were talking about previously. It might be the road less traveled, but it’s up to you to have at it. It might be lonely sometimes, but you’ll die knowing you did it your way, you know?