There’s not many teenagers that boast far-flung inspirations from Ozzy Osbourne and Nirvana to Madonna and Selena Gomez, but one precocious soon-to-be-star was honing her melting pot of influences into her signature alt-pop sound – uploading early song iterations to Soundcloud and Instagram at just 15.
Introducing rising star KIITA – named after a character in Alice in Wonderland – who has since made waves with her introspective songwriting and powerhouse vocals.
Her 2020 EP “Bayard the Bloodhound” is out now, including the lead track “Thinking About You” – a simmering ballad with languid production and the artist’s dreamy sombre vocals.
We caught up with KIITA and talked early inspirations, her songwriting process, and her DIY lockdown shot visuals…
American has been under house stay for nearly 6 months now, how has this impacted you and what have you been doing with this time?
I have spent a lot of this time to positively impact my mental health. I’ve been writing my thoughts down a lot instead of putting them into full songs – when I’m alone for a while I feel the need to talk to myself and writing always helps. Writing isn’t just a job of mine, it’s a full on mindset I have and even when I don’t have my laptop out in front of me my head is filled with scrambled words and music notes.
Living in Columbus Ohio, just 17-years-old, and still in high school, how have you already signed with such an iconic label like Epic?
Honestly it has been a journey and I wouldn’t change it for a minute. I have my ups and downs and I think that’s good because I can always write about it in the next song. I’m so grateful for everyone In my life and only hard work shows through. On the other hand it is difficult sometimes since I am so young and I still have to deal with school, sometimes I feel like I’m living two separate lives but for now that’s okay with me, it’s just a journey.
When did you start to feel like you were a singer-songwriter? How did that process start?
I really started to feel like a singer-songwriter when I was a freshman in high school at 14 years old. I used to sit in my bedroom for hours just writing my thoughts into melodies but it wasn’t until Chris Anokute found me that I started to believe in myself. I was going through a lot of issues at the time and music was the only thing that helped.
Which musicians influenced you to start singing and writing? Who is currently on your radar that we may not know about?
Well from the very start I listened to a lot of rock bands in the car with my father, some being Led Zeppelin, ACDC and Lenny Kravitz. Also some female artists that inspired me from the beginning were Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. At the moment, though, I’ve been listening to a lot of Blink-182 and Lill Peep. Overall, I mostly listen to alternative music because it puts me in the best mindset.
How did you decide on the name KIITA?
It’s really not a huge story at all but it was art class freshman year and I thought it would be funny to have the nickname Sarkita. Later on when I was releasing my first song I had just changed it to Kiita.
We first heard of your song “Temptation” and were shocked to learn you were so young with such depth to your lyrics, what influenced that song? Did you write the music for it too? You mention suicide and pills in this, what advice do you have for people struggling in this way to help them?
One of my friends had committed suicide, he had a drug problem but was loved by so many people. One of the most genuine human beings I’ve ever met and that song is dedicated to him and everyone who has a special place in their hearts for him. My producer Danny score had written the music behind it which fit perfectly and I couldn’t resist the moment I heard it. My best advice for people struggling with drug addiction is that time will heal everything, no matter the struggle and the pain… one day you’ll look up in the sky and realise life isn’t all that bad, and if that hasn’t happened, you just need to be patient.
Your latest EP is titled “Bayard the Bloodhound” – tell us about that name?
It’s focusing on the dog Bayard from Alice In Wonderland. When Alice shrunk herself she saw Bayard 10 times as big as herself. I was trying to communicate that no matter how big the struggle you have, you can deal with it. Some things turn out to be worse than better but at the same time you’ll never be at your high if you don’t go through your lows.
“Thinking About You” seems happier than past songs, but still has an aching feeling too, is this a continuation from previous feelings or something new? What inspired this?
This is from previous feelings about a boy, we had been in a relationship that went downhill but I still loved him. It was a tricky decision but I chose myself because I needed time to heal. That song Is dedicated to the good times and all the bad times we had, no relationships are as squeaky clean as they can look.
In “Love Lakes” you sing “you build your walls too high and my floors are built underwater” what does this mean to you?
This song was about a boy who did me so dirty and I don’t think I could ever forgive him…and I am all about forgiving people. He had built his walls so high, as in he didn’t trust people easily, while my walls or “floors” are so low that I trust people too easily, and that’s why we didn’t work out in the end…but it was for the better.
“Straight 2 Hell” has a pop feel yet the words obviously indicate someone hurt you or someone you care about, tell us about the style and story here?
It was a boy who had been lurking around in my life ever since I was 13, he hurt me so much when I was younger I started taking drugs and self-harming myself. Of course I don’t blame any of that on him because it was my choice but he really made me feel empty and stranded, I had no other option I thought. At this point 4 years later, I have grown into such a better person and he will never hurt me again. I wish him the worst in the nicest way possible.
Share your process of making music with us, what is the most important thing to you to help you create?
Well I usually sit down in my bed and go into a dark headspace. I believe it’s healthy to sit down and think about all the bad things that have happened in my life. I will start from what I’m feeling right then and if that doesn’t work out I will go back into past feelings. Sometimes I can’t find the right words and I give up too easily but I always go back an hour or so later and try again. The most important thing when writing music is probably the message, if it doesn’t have a good message then it’s not a good song in my opinion.
Do you have a daily or nightly practice that helps you?
Yes, I usually get ready for bed or just go straight to my bed after a long night out or a good sleep and just go through everything I have ever worked on. I will listen to all my EP’s and past, unreleased songs to get a good start and to feel accomplished. I also will shuffle play my music library and see what comes on, sometimes I get the weirdest inspiration.
If you could collaborate with any artists in fashion, film, fine art, or music who would it be and why?
100% would collaborate with the artist Joji – his songs speak to me in a different way nobody else has before, I also have his lyrics written all over my room.