FYIG Chats With Singer/Songwriter Kailey Prior

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a queer singer-songwriter, recycling/sustainability enthusiast, Brandi Carlile fan, and an unapologetic cheese-lover. I live in Brooklyn, was born and raised near Boston, and while I am a Boston sports fan by blood, I have no actual knowledge of anything sports-related and am proud of it.

You’ve been singing since you could talk. Was music always something you thought you could make a career out of?

Yes and no. I’ve always known music would be an integral part of my life, whether I was writing, teaching, or performing it. It just took me a few false starts in different directions to figure out exactly what role I wanted it to play in my life. I’ve been a music teacher and flirted briefly with the idea of a career in musical theater, but I fell in love with the ability to tell my own narratives on my own timeline and it became clear that I wanted to focus my career energies on writing, recording, and performing my original material. There was also a fleeting moment around the age of 13 when I thought I would be a lawyer, but thankfully wiser minds prevailed.

You can play a total of 20 instruments which is astounding. How did you find the time to learn so many and which ones are your favourite to play?

I started taking violin lessons when I was 6, joined the trombone section in fourth grade, and then swapped out violin lessons for piano lessons sometime in middle school. I was a horrible student and never practiced, but ended up developing a pretty good ear as I was forced to sight-read and fake my way through my weekly lessons on various instruments. Once my piano teacher realized I was much more likely to learn songs that I could sing along to, she started giving me more vocal-centric material to learn, and I eventually swapped out piano lessons for voice lessons. I taught myself guitar with the help of a few friends, partners and a lot of Brandi Carlile songs, and continued to write on both piano and guitar throughout college. I spent a few years as a music teacher at a fun “mommy and me” style music school, where we played a different instrument each week for the kiddos. It was like working in a candy shop but all the candy is instruments and you get to learn them all! The only two that eluded me were the flute and the cello. I love both of them but am for some reason still unable to play them with any grace, and have an insane amount of respect for anyone who can. In terms of favorites, the guitar is my go-to for writing and performing and will always be a big love. Trombone is one that I’ve been playing the longest and is the most fun to improvise and play around on. (I also love bonding with other band geeks over having played in the brass section.) Double Bass is newer to my list, but it is so big and satisfying to play, it’s definitely up there as a favorite as well.

How would you describe your musical style?

Sara Bareilles meets Brandi Carlile, with a Joni Mitchell twist. Expect folky yodels, wordplay, and some rhythmic anomalies.

You just released your latest single called, “Assume”. What can you tell us about this track?

I get extremely tongue-tied during confrontations, especially when I’ve got to speak up for myself to an authority figure. After a frustrating string of such encounters, I wrote “Assume.” The lyrics sprung from all the things I couldn’t bring myself to say in person. It’s the musical equivalent of giving someone the finger with a huge smile on your face. It’s not about holding onto anger or resentment towards someone who has wronged you by making assumptions that were way off target. It’s about liberating yourself from accepting the blame for someone else’s shortcomings, celebrating your strength rather than their weakness. All the songs on my upcoming EP We’re Okay are empowering in their own ways, but “Assume” is certainly the most joyful anthem on the EP.

You’re preparing to release your debut EP later this year called, “We’re Okay”. What can audiences expect from this set of songs?

All five songs on the EP came out of my attempts to find my voice after a series of toxic relationships with partners, jobs, and myself. They’re a pretty musically diverse collection, ranging from “Sleepwalker,” the emotional piano power ballad, to “Little Bird,” an intimately introspective moment over a very minimalistic landscape of strings, to the more boppy “Assume,” with harmonized yodels and a full drum set chugging through the track. All five songs, however, grapple with the same concepts of self-discovery and self-love. “Assume” kicks it off right in that high of finally recognizing you are worth more than your situation and having decided to do something about it. In “Through,” we continue to celebrate that newfound freedom and independence while acknowledging the scars that have been accumulating. “Sleepwalker” reflects back on the numbing and enchanting mindset of constantly “persevering,” and encourages anyone who is still pushing through the darkness to realize there is always a way out, no matter how unbelievable or impossible it may feel. “Not a Tree” acknowledges that self-discovery is an ongoing process, and not something that may ever be “complete.” As long as you are being true to who you are in that moment, you’re doing just fine. The EP concludes with the intimate and vulnerable “Little Bird,” pointing to those broken parts and sore spots we spend so much time hiding, encouraging us to lean into our dark corners. It’s ok not to be ok. You’re not alone. The final lyric of the track, “we’re okay,” is the inspiration for the EP’s title.

What can audiences expect from one of your live shows? Do you have any coming up?

Yes! I’ll be playing a show at Rockwood Music Hall on 6/15 at 6pm to celebrate the EP release. At my live shows, many feelings are felt both on and off stage. You’ll hear a plethora of seriously stellar dad-jokes, and you’ll most likely be invited to serenade my girlfriend with me as we all watch her blush and/or try to hide behind her camera.

What do you hope people take away from you after they listen to one of your songs?

I write music to process my feelings and experiences, and I hope that people who have been grappling with similar things feel seen, supported, and less alone.

What advice would you have for aspiring singers/songwriters?

Don’t overthink it. Don’t get caught up in what’s “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.” As long as you are creating something that is meaningful to you, you’re killing it. You’re the only one who can say what you need to say, in the way you are able to say it, so don’t waste time trying to write what you think people want to hear.

What’s your life like outside of music?

I am queer, and I am a professional organizer with Horderly, which means while I am proudly “out of the closet,” I also end up spending a lot of time literally “in the closet” (and in kitchens and bathrooms etc.) helping people declutter and organize their homes. I’m a TV addict, I love reading, and I’m scared to bike downhill.

Let the readers know where to find you online.

Follow @kaileypriormusic on Instagram and Facebook for show and release announcements, videos, and pictures of my girlfriend. You can find my released music anywhere (Spotify, iTunes/Apple Music, etc.) and some additional unreleased tunes up on Soundcloud by searching for Kailey Prior. Or, head to my website to see and hear everything at once: www.kaileyprior.com