Rising R&B artist Kelly Kiara declares romance “hopeless” on her debut mixtapeHopeless Romantic, and yet, the singer-songwriter and creative visionary is nothing but full of hope.
Inspired by art from a young age, Kiara grew up in Leeds, England, listening to the Motown records that belonged to her father and allowing the voices of singers like Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey to fill her creative mind with passion and drive. After years of penning hits for artists like Mabel, Ashnikko, Era Istrefi, and Gorgon City, the breakout star is on the verge of showing the world her own hypnotizing ability for telling stories about self-love, heartbreak, vulnerability, revenge, lust, and regret through perfect, unfiltered, R&B poetry.
Radiant in confidence, talent, and self-assuredness, Kiara as an artist is just as real as Kiara the person. “I am so incredibly proud of myself for pouring myself into it so vulnerably, something I struggle with,” she shares about the making of the mixtape. Opening up about heartbreak, what she’s sacrificed to make her debut record, and explaining exactly how she handles her creative focus, the about-to-be superstar spoke with EUPHORIA., as she pulled the curtain back on herself for the world to see, clear as day.
Vulnerability, love, authenticity — all words that sum up Hopeless Romantic and all words that simultaneously sum up Kelly Kiara, artist and person. Those three things are often what make people search for love again, even after it left you broken, and so while Kiara is a hopeless romantic, just like her brand new mixtape, she still reminds listeners that through music meant for worldwide attention, hope doesn’t run out.
Why did you decide to make Hopeless Romantic a mixtape and not an EP?
To me, Hopeless Romantic is more than an EP, it’s a culmination of emotions and heartache that have dominated and defined my life story for the past two years. All true hopeless romantics have made mixtapes for someone or themselves with someone in mind; that’s what love does to us, makes us channel music as a form of communication or release to our emotions. That’s why Hopeless Romantic is a mixtape.
Before you began making music professionally, you were posting videos of yourself singing online. Was that more of doing it for fun, or was it because you absolutely needed someone to perform or sing for?
I actually was doing it because I was desperate to stop working 9-5 jobs! I was always in trouble at work for being late or not being able to follow the rules, so I struggled with feeling like a failure. I always wanted to make music my career and at the time, singing online was the only opportunity I had.
Did music have a strong presence or influence during your childhood?
Yes, it started with Disney songs and being encouraged to sing along, then it progressed to listening to my dad’s Motown, Phil Collins, and Celine Dion CDs on a weekend in the house. Singing, being loud, and being silly were strongly encouraged in the house, which opened my mind creatively from a young age. I would come home from high school and play “Lady Marmalade” on my CD Player every night until I could sing and deliver it identical to Lil’ Kim, Christina, Pink, and Mya. The influence music had on me, shaped the way I think and gave me confidence in all areas of my life. It gave me self-worth and purpose.
What’s the story behind, “Down 4 U?”
“Down 4 U” is a story of me falling for someone with unreciprocated love and feeling burnt and hurt by them. It’s about the intensity of anger I felt about being lied to and not getting the love returned, which I deserved. It takes a lot for me to open up and be vulnerable and when I felt overlooked, it turned me cold, and “Down 4 U” captured the emotions I was feeling at the time.
You were a songwriter for other artists before you released a song yourself. What’s the most important part of the songwriting process for you?
The most important part of songwriting whether that’s for me or someone else being in the room is making sure my energy and mood are in the correct space. It’s super important that I live my life true to my identity and true to my values, it’s important that I work every day on “filling my cup” through reading a book, painting, connecting with nature, or trying something new because all that positivity I’m absorbing can then filter out through my music and touch people which is what it’s all about.
If someone were to give you a mixtape, which songs or artists need to be on it in order to win your heart over?
The dream mixtape to win my heart over would include Harry Styles’s “Adore You,” Astrus’s “She Wonders Why,” Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” and Jhene Aiko’s “The Worst.”
“No Going Back” is such a feel-good song of yours! What inspired you to write it?
“No Going Back” was the first song I wrote when I started creating my mixtape, which at that point had no name or identity. It’s a story of two people falling in love and making a decision to suppress their emotions out of fear that they will become out of control to the point of no return if they’re not careful. But love doesn’t care if it ruins your plans or breaks your boundaries. That’s the irony of the song.
The R&B flair is so strong in your music, especially on the mixtape. It’s consistent and does an incredible job of sonically telling your story. Do you have a love for R&B? Where does it come from?
Thank you, it was a conscious process to make sure everything felt coherent, which took months of tweaking and perfecting through song choice as there were so many songs created in the process of making Hopeless Romantic. R&B is my first love and my inspiration for this started through listening to my dad’s Motown records, then growing up as a teen listening to Ashanti, Mariah Carey, JoJo, and Mya. I always desired to emulate the divine femininity they projected with a strong message.
What song are you most proud of on this mixtape and why?
I love every song on the mixtape and how they all collectively tell my story, but I have a soft spot for “Girls Like Ü” because I wrote it about myself and every other girl who doesn’t want to fit the mold of being well behaved or what society tells them to be and just wants to feel “free” from judgment.
Where does the title Hopeless Romantic from? Do you think it’s a good thing to be a hopeless romantic? Do you think “hopelessness” helps you believe true love is out there, even when it’s been hard to find?
“Hopeless Romantic” refers to how I view my heart. I am an optimist and sometimes delusionally positive, so I will give 100% of myself to something or someone until it becomes hopeless. But hope doesn’t have a timeline or expiry date for me. I don’t think it’s a good or a bad thing to be a hopeless romantic. You just have to be prepared to learn from what hurt you. I believe love is all around us. It just doesn’t always come from one person, or another person at all. Love never hurts us, people who don’t know how to love or receive it hurt us!
What do you want listeners to walk away knowing about you after listening to Hopeless Romantic?
That I sacrificed everything to create it. Love, security, stability, happiness, you name it, I sacrificed it.