Get lost in the rhythmic sounds of Kalpee’s “Lessons” as the artist talks looking to past mistakes as the foundations for his growth.
Self-reflection and growth from past mistakes have served as the inspiration for some of the biggest musical hits. Aiming to continue on with this legacy is the talented artist Kalpee as he contemplates his past and looks to the future on his explosive track “Lessons”. Vocals steeped in longing and emotion are blended with the care-free sound of Jamaican sensation Mortimer as the track’s sentiment of “every day is a lesson” rings out, establishing the motivational and experience-driven messaging of the track. Production laced with shimmering percussion and twang bass guitars also features, culminating in a dance-worthy sound. And, with the track’s accompanying music video set against the luscious hills of St Andrew, the song’s serene-yet-uplifting sound is furthered by scenes drenched in culture.
“I feel as though in life we’re taught to look at our mistakes as a negative thing and that can make us lose sight of the blessing, which is a lesson,” explains the artist when speaking on the meaning of his new track. “This song for me is an awakening into who I am now as an individual, finding the lessons in my shortcomings and moving on to bigger things in life, open-minded to every experience along the way. The entire team behind this song are all people who keep trying to push not only themselves but their countries forward, through music, we felt it important to express our patriotism, cause that’s the energy that we thought was needed.”
Following on from the warmly-received release of his latest single, the musician sat down with Wonderland to discuss inspiration, the exciting work being born out of his project The Island Stage, and his future plans.
Check out our interview with Kalpee below…
Hi Kalpee, how are you doing?
I’m actually really good, thank you. Can’t complain at all, just got back to the UK so I’m excited about all the possibilities ahead.
How has the last year been for you? Have you faced any challenges musically?
This last year was a mixture of everything, it was definitely challenging but that’s allowed me to learn so much and really take me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been travelling a lot which means having to spend tons of time quarantining, so I’ve had to find ways to work in different environments and make my setup more portable to work in any space, including setting up vocal booths in wardrobes! I’ve also been collaborating a lot and working with other artists on their projects, so that’s helped me to expand my ear as a producer and also not feel so isolated.
Can you talk us through your musical inspirations? Where does your love of music stem from?
That love for music has always been there, to be honest. I’ve been singing since the age of 6 and it’s a passion that’s just grown over the years. As a child, my dad used to write my calypso’s which I would perform in competitions. Calypso is a style of Afro-Caribbean music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago during the early to the mid-19th century and then spread to the rest of the Caribbean Antilles and Venezuela by the mid-20th century. Its bouncy beats and tuneful melodies often serve up serious topics in their lyrics, this is therefore organic in my own music.
I was also inspired by whatever my parents listened to growing up, so a lot of RnB and reggae and now that music is so easily available to listen to on platforms such as Spotify or Apple, every genre has had an influence on the music that I make today. Music is like therapy to me, it’s medicine, so I’m very careful with the energy that goes into it, I have a lot of respect for it.
Congratulations on the release of your new track “Lessons”! Can you tell us a bit about the new tune?
“Every day is a lesson”, is a mindset for me. I feel as though in life we’re taught to look at our mistakes as a negative thing and that can make us lose sight of the blessing, which is a lesson. This song for me is an awakening into who I am now as an individual, finding the lessons in my shortcomings and moving on to bigger things in life, open-minded to every experience along the way. The entire team behind this song are all people who keep trying to push not only themselves but their countries forward, through music, we felt it important to express our patriotism, cause that’s the energy that we thought was needed. The initial idea for “Lessons” came while working with my brothers, The Anmls, in LA. I’ve worked with them so much now to the point where we’ve developed a sound between us, blending all of our influences myself from the Caribbean, Richard Muñoz originating from New York and Faris Al-Majed from Florida with Middle Eastern roots.
The track also boasts a feature from artist Mortimer. How did you know he was the right collaborator for the track?
Fast forward to heading to Jamaica, to work on and perform on The Island Stage. I met an incredible artist who I’ve followed for a while called Mortimer.
I’d never seen him perform live before and when I heard him, just him and an acoustic guitar, it raised my pores. The sound and the messaging in his music inspired me and I knew he had to be on “Lessons”. We reached out to him and his team with the song and he was immediately a part of it, expressing his appreciation for the message behind “lessons”. The energy that Mortimer injected into the track was undeniable and I’m excited to continue to work with him.
You shot the stunning visuals for the track in the hills of St Andrews, Jamaica. What was that experience like?
Always a good experience meeting and working with new creatives, I got to see new parts of Jamaica in the hills, which I always appreciate. The vibe on set was relaxed so everyone had a good time, full of jokes and stories. That was only my second time being in Jamaica, and although Covid curfews prevented me from fully experiencing it, I met some amazing people and built new friendships, so I’m very much looking forward to going back.
I also got to work with a phenomenal group of creative women while in Jamaica, which is where the visuals you see come from including with creative director Lindsey Lodenquai, (who has worked with some amazing people including Koffee and Protoje), photographer Destinee Condison, stylist Anna-Lisa Guthrie and designer Troy Oraine.
I hadn’t worked with an all-female team before, especially in the Caribbean, not through choice, but the opportunity never presented itself, so when Lindsey reached out I was so humbled that I asked her why? She responded:
“I was so excited to find out you were coming to Jamaica because I’m a fan of your music and aesthetic – your sounds is so smooth but still vibrantly reflects a sense of our Caribbean identity. I really wanted to highlight the coming together of two West Indian islands, especially since you launched The Island Stage, which is why I created the concept of a shoot “Kalpee x Kingston”, where the hero shots present a Trinidadian artist standing boldly in front of the Kingston Habour and the downtown cityscape – but shot from the Palisadoes which is an iconic peninsula that connects one of the most historic Jamaican towns to mainland Jamaica. I chose to work with an all-female team because I love feminine energy in creative spaces and I knew that Kalpee being an ambassador for Girls I Rate would be open to it.
You have also set up the amazing project The Island Stage that aims to give a platform to West Indian artists. Can you talk us through the project and what inspired you to start it?
The Island Stage is a platform dedicated to bringing music of the Caribbean to the forefront of the international music scene with an aim for Caribbean artists to come together and showcase their musical heritage. The concept came about in 2020 when we were given the unfortunate news that SXSW was cancelled due to the Pandemic. When the announcement was made that the festival would be going online, as an artist from Trinidad who had been invited to perform, it posed the question as to which promoter show would suit best. This is when my manager and I realised that there was no promoter solely dedicated to music from the West Indies. With this said, we spoke to SXSW about curating a show who were fully supportive from the onset and then to a few other artists such as Tessellated who had also been invited to perform at SX. Fast forward to just 3 months later, the first-ever show was captured in Jamaica and successfully launched at SXSW 2021 as part of this year’s online festival on March 19th 2021. With Covid playing havoc with us constantly, the challenges were stressful but so worth it with the final lineup including, Mortimer, Tessellated, Sevana, Khalia and Kadiya Macdonald who hosted the show alongside myself in Hope Gardenes Zoo in Kingston. The Island Stage continues to grow and will now be touring in 2022 with SXSW having announced us as an annual physical stage in Austin Texas, and many more dates already in the diary across the world. It’s an exciting time for Caribbean artists to stand strong together.
Throughout your career, you have received recognition from the likes of BBC 1Xtra and Official Charts as well as working on tracks with stars such as Stefflon Don. What has been a career highlight for you?
I think it’s gonna have to be meeting with SteffLon Don and vibing with her in the studio. That was such a dope experience, she’s so chill and down to earth and that was so refreshing to see for an artist on her level. Working with Steff only came about after I got grounded in the UK at the start of the first pandemic lockdown laws, which is when I really had the time to study my production skills and record my EP “Feel Good Playlist Vol1”. Seeing the belief that Steff and her team had in a track that I had created in a bedroom in London, as well as having the opportunity to speak to her on a real in regards to being an artist really gave me the belief to continue to grow.
What is next for you? Do you have any projects that you are excited to start working on?
I’ve been working on loads of new music for myself, taking my time, listening to old works too that sometimes get forgotten. So more releases, more visuals which I always get fully involved with and more growth for me. I’m also working with other artists on their own projects too. Songwriting and producing really helps me stretch my skills and pushes me into different creative spaces which I love as I’m not bound by my own musical insecurities – which is a thing for most artists. Now here in the UK and with live shows starting soon, I’m really excited to start performing again and to connect with actual physical people in audiences. I’m so grateful that music pushed through the pandemic and that digital shows allowed us to connect with so many, but nothing feels the same as sharing my music and the energy behind it with a physical audience.