In 2016, Kelello broke into the music scene as ‘MsKelle’ and produced a track titled, Mr. Mean which was followed by her EP Brazen Soul.
Now an artist with an authentic sound and name, Kelello is back with a new offering, Ice Cold, which she dropped in November 2019. Take a look at this exclusive Glamour interview with the songstress where we learn about her growth, what inspires her music and even her personal style.
Who is Kelello? How would you describe yourself as an artist and individual?
I am the middle child of 3 born to Sotho/South African parents. I was born in Bonn, Germany. I have lived in 3 countries in my life; Germany, South Africa and England and in their own way, all represent home to me.
I am creative at heart. Other than music I love to draw and cook – yes, I believe the latter is an art. I love travelling and immersing myself in other cultures and exploring perspectives different from my own. I am passionate about female empowerment, socio-economic development.
As an artist. I am an artist, vocalist, but I think I identify first as a songwriter.
The industry is physically and mentally demanding. What keeps you balanced, focused and grounded?
I have always been results-oriented, so I love to see a project finished, that is often enough to keep my eye on the ball. But the industry is tough and it can be really demanding not just physically with the late-night studio sessions and gigs but also, emotionally because you do have to put so much of yourself into your music. It requires a level of vulnerability that can sometimes leave you feeling drained after a long session. There are three things that keep me sane; family – including friends who become family-, food and exercise.
Family & Friends: This business is one where being sure and certain of outcomes come few and far between, I am lucky enough to have a great support system made up of a close-knit family and a tight group of friends. They are always in my corner. They keep me motivated when that wanes and are usually the source of my inspiration.
Food: I have been interested in health and wellness for many years. I was pescatarian for 15 year and adopted a plant-based/vegan diet a couple of years ago. I believe, what you put into your body will impact you in all aspects. The psychological link is one that fascinates me. I find that when I eat well, I have more energy, emotional strength and focus.
Exercise: I also believe in exercise as a stress reliever. I practice Pilates a few times a week which is not only physically demanding but calming and, in some instances, meditative.
From starting out as MsKelle to re-inventing yourself as an artist, what 3 key pieces advice to anyone considering a career in entertainment & music what would it be?
Firstly: Make sure you love what you do, this industry is not for the faint-hearted. There will be more reasons thrown at you to quit than there will be to stay the course, so you have to love what you do. It has to be more than the accolades in whatever form they come.
Second: I would suggest you find the right people to work with, people who will push you to be a better artist and to dig deeper.
Third: Try to get an understanding of the aspects of the industry that are outside your purview. Although you are a creative, there are many moving parts to being able to be a ‘professional creative’, the more you know the more control you can have over your career and also the less likely you are to fall prey to being taken advantage of. Sometimes it can be as simple as using the internet as your guide, there is a lot of information out there about various aspects of the music industry or the business of music.
What can we expect from you in 2020?
You can definitely expect more music. My album will be out in the first half of the year and from that, you can expect some very interesting and unexpected collaborations. I am really enjoying stretching myself as an artist and exploring different genres and its been a fun and cathartic experience. I will also be performing a great deal more in 2020. As an artist, I love nothing more than seeing and feeling how people are responding to the music I make.
What is the message that you want your audience to take from your latest release?
ICE Cold - is about heartbreak and betrayal. It speaks to the fact that heartbreak is never liner. I think we all know what heartbreak feels like and I hope the song is a reminder that its okay to break, to fall apart, to be hurt. It is also okay to be confused, in denial and feel totally out of control and lost. It’s also okay to allow yourself to stay in that messy space for as long as it takes to heal. I believe there is beauty and strength in vulnerability and I hope the song illustrates that.
Besides yourself, who are the up and coming artists you think we should be looking out for in 2020?
I have been a huge fan of a female local artist called LPS for a long time. She is a phenomenal vocalist and I think 2020 will be her year!
In terms of culture and sound which artists do you draw inspiration from?
I have always been inspired by female artists and my music collection has always reflected this. Thinking back to artists that inspire me, I tend to list the influence of female vocalists and songwriters.
I was born in Germany and spent my formative years there. My parents played a lot of music in the house, a mix of jazz, soul, Motown, local ‘Afropop’ and Afro-Jazz. I was inspired then and now by the likes of Anita Baker, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight and Brenda Fassie. But growing up in Europe, I also would watch a lot of European MTV, so I was also inflicted by 90’s pop, R&B and rock music; Skunk Anansi, 4 Non Blonds, Gabrielle, Aaliyah, Eternal, En Vogue, Mariah, Brandy, Natalie Imbruglia, and Monica…. I could go on.
But it was during my early high school years, now in South Africa, that I started listening to singer-songwriters Sarah McLaughlin and Jewel who clearly spoke to my teenage angst and really sparked in me the desire to write as a form of catharsis. Since then I find myself drawn to female musicians who do things a little differently and push boundaries.
All this to simply say, my musical tastes and influences are diverse, and I think this is reflected in my music. It is safe to say that my sound is always soulful at its foundation but I love to explore and play with genres.
How would you describe your fashion sense or style?
I lean towards classic silhouettes. I am inspired by European, specifically British fashion. Day to day I choose comfort. You are likely to see me in pants (I love a cropped or straight leg), a loose fitted shirt and a blazer – usually with the sleeves rolled up- or a fitted dress... with a jacket. I like simple clean lines and a pop of colour. Victoria Beckham is one of my style icons. By night I am a little more experimental and like to play with colour.
What are 3 of your go-to summer looks for 2019?
Belted loose-fitting dress.
Cropped pants, t-shirt, Oversized summer blazer.
Shirt, I love shirts all year round. Soft and flowy with a great print in summer, with a good pair of jeans.
Who are your style icons? Local and international.
Rochelle Hulme, Jeannie Mai, Victoria Beckham.
Do you have a skincare routine/ritual you swear by, what is it?
I have dry sensitive skin, although I am not prone to breakouts, I am prone to areas of dry skin especially in the winter months. I have always kept my skincare routine simple but my main focus is hydration. In very severe winter weather, I have been known to cleanse and moisturise at night and follow that with a slathering of Vaseline to seal it all in. I wake up with baby soft skin.
I wash my face every morning with a mild, hydrating face wash and I do believe in using a face cream that includes SPF. Where that fails my foundation will have an SPF. I am a firm believer that removing make up every evening is very important no matter how exhausted one may be – on those nights, cleansing face wipes for dry, sensitive skin are my go-to – otherwise, my night-time routine amounts to cleanser, toner, moisturiser. Once a week I will do a sheet mask, usually, it’s one with hyaluronic acid.
What are three things you never leave the house without?
Travel size makeup bag. (will always have mascara, lip balm(s), shade of lippy, eyeliner)
What is your current go-to happy song?
I’ve been listening to Garage Classics by DJ Spoony this month and a song with the Sugarbabes called ‘Flowers’ always puts me in the best mood.
Besides music do you have any other passions or talents?
I love cooking, baking… and eating. I’m a self-professed foodie and being vegan leaves you with less options in Johannesburg. So, when I can’t find a new vegan restaurant or menu, I love trying new recipes and trying new plant-based alternatives. I’ve fallen down the vegan baking rabbit hole, I’m baking something at least once a week.
In terms of formal education and perhaps another career path, what is it or would it be for you?
I didn’t study music at school. I hold a Master’s degree in Development Studies. I knew I wanted to do something that would allow me to make an actual tangible difference. Initially, I wanted to get into Child Psychology but, I was drawn to Socio-Economic Development. So, if I was not making music, I would be quite happy working in the NGO sector.
Check out the official audio for Kelello's track Ice Cold, which she dropped in November 2019 below.