Buzzing with gratitude and pride fresh off the release of her debut album “Missing Person,” rock n’ roll artist Kelsy Karter sat down with the editor of KCPR to discuss the album and her journey to this point.
Karter first shot into the media’s eye back in 2019 when she falsely tattooed Harry Styles’ face onto her face as a way to promote her single “Harry.” Since then, she has gone through a lot in life, relationships and ended up where she is now, which includes an exciting feature in Rolling Stone about her song “God Knows I Tried” and “Missing Person” being their recommended album for the month of November in their print issue.
“God Knows I Tried” was the first song Karter wrote for the album and is one she is most proud of.
“Liquor store and God knows I’m very proud of because …. I wrote so much of [them]. Like you’re writing … you might write more of some songs, you might write less of [others] or you’re less a part of the production process,” said Karter. “And those two songs, I was a part of every process. I wrote all the lyrics and they’re very true to me. I’m not a mathematical person, but if I was to look at music in a mathematical sense, I think that Liquor Store on Mars is like a mathematically correct song.”
“I’m not a mathematical person but … I think that ‘Liquor Store on Mars’ is like a mathematically correct song.” – Karter
Her song “Liquor Store on Mars” is a part of a story within the album. It follows “Catch Me if You Can,” which is about Karter running away from a relationship and it has an interlude poem that discusses the emotional post- break-up state she was in.
What is interesting about this poem is that it actually happened to Karter. She was in a coffee shop when a man came up to her and gave her the advice she eventually ended up writing about.
“It was a really weird, kind of obscure experience. I was just going to be sitting there smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee crying behind my sunglasses and he asked what was wrong,” said Karter.
This break up inspired other tracks on the album, including the one that was the most difficult for Karter to write: “Villain.” The mere mention of this song brought Karter to tears during the interview. The song depicts how Karter felt the need to be the villain in her break up with her ex.
“I’ve played the part of the bad guy in different situations. I’ve always been the edgiest one in any group of friends or the bad one in a relationship just because I fall in love with goodness. I’ve always liked good boys and good people, which makes me seem like the bad one in the relationship,” explained Karter. “I felt like I had destroyed him … So I just put my hands up and was like, ‘Alright, well, if this isn’t gonna be a two way street, I guess I’ll just take the blame for it.’”
This candidness is something that is very unique to Karter and her work. Other artists write about their personal experiences, however Karter goes a step further and sings about topics that are more taboo such as anxiety.
Karter began to write about her battle with anxiety and depression after her dad recommended it as a way to make her feel less alone since so many other people experience similar things. Having music as a creative outlet allows Karter to work through her feelings and connect to her audience.
“I didn’t sign up to be a role model. I never wanted that. But when you’re in the public eye, you kind of take on the responsibility of you’re going to affect people one way or another. If I can control just a little bit of how I can affect people, I will,” said Karter.
Building this bridge between herself and her fans is what is most important to Karter. When she started out, Karter did what she did for her family as a way to give back to them. Then as she progressed in her career she realized her purpose in music was her fans.
Karter, since hitting her stride, has consistently focused on her fans. She opened up her Depop to them and sent them signed cards and merchandise with their orders and created a fan music video for the song “Love Me or Hate Me” where she highlights what makes each one of them unique.
“I can’t do what I do without fans. I realized that this is a very unique relationship that you have. They lift me up when I’m down and hopefully … my music helps them out when they’re down. It became really important to me to do this for them,” said Karter.
Karter was able to assume this role because of who she is as a person.
“I’m a natural born leader. There was this responsibility that I feel like I have now too… because not everyone has that spirit in them. If I can inspire someone to do something that they may be too afraid to [do], then I think I’ve done my job,” said Karter.
“But, I’m not Amy Winehouse. I’m Kelsy. Let’s think of something new” – Karter
This spirit Karter possesses is what got her to where she is today. Growing up Karter was a theater kid. However, once she discovered music was her calling she knew the rock genre was it because it is what she loves.
Despite her passion for rock, Karter faced difficulties in entering the “boys club” the genre is infamous for and had to combat comparisons to other iconic artists.
“Everyone was trying to kind of make me the next Amy Winehouse. I get it. I’m a little white Jewish girl with an accent that grew up on jazz music. But, I’m not Amy Winehouse. I’m Kelsy. Let’s think of something new,” said Karter.
Karter then went on to combine her roots and what she loves.
“I went through this insane cathartic depression, essentially, [and] I came out the other end of it discovering myself … I was like, ‘I’m gonna make rock music. That’s what I want to do.’ I come from musical theater. So I want to pair punk rock with musical theater. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, at least I’m doing what feels right,” said Karter.
That’s exactly what “Missing Person” ended up being: the marriage between rock and theater. Since debuting her album, Karter has performed a live stream concert and continues to promote her work, her message and dedication to her fans over the past month.
After its release, Karter reveals what she wants her fans to take away from her creation.
“I want them to feel equal parts vulnerable and bad*ss at the same time, because I think that we can be both. I don’t think you have to be one thing,” said Karter. “That’s something that I tried to show in my music and in my who I am is that I am this edgy girl but I’m also completely soft and mushy. I cry every f*cking day and that’s okay.”
Click below to hear the full interview in detail and to find out more about where Karter came from and what her plans are for her next steps.