Artist In Focus: Kale

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Hiya, Festers! Welcome to the first official post of this season’s blogs. We are excited to keep y’all up-to-date with Fest artists, vendors, adventures, things to look forward to… So here we present a series of Artist Profiles! Keep an eye out for a new artist to be featured every week, who will be playing on either Friday or Saturday of the Fest. We will sit down with the artists to discuss music, inspiration, folk, the Fest, anything that we think will add to the wonderful experience that will be April 24th and 25th!

We are stoked to begin our Artists In Focus series with a wonderful band from RISD, Kale!

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Tell us a little bit about yourself! Where are you from? What brought you to Providence?

I’m from Korea, I moved out here about eight years ago. I came to Providence on my own when I visited RISD. I was walking around — I like not-so-crowded places — and saw the trees and small buildings. I like the people, too, it’s like a small, packed bubble with more students around! I was on RISD beach, and the weather was really nice, and I was sitting there and said: “Yeah, it’s cool!”

When did you start Kale? 

Kale was my name when I went to high school in California! I decided to be Kale. On the first plane to America, the person who sat next to me was trying to figure out my Korean name. Then we tried to come up with an English-sounding name, so I thought that Kale was cool! Then, later on I found out it was a vegetable… Now it’s kind of a superfood all of a sudden, right? So maybe it makes more sense now!

I started Kale as a band this summer. I usually play on my own — it’s more like a project when I play with other people.

Do you think that RISD has impacted your sound or music in any way?

Yeah, yeah! I started playing when I started going to school here. I ended up living on the music floor, where people had instruments and things like that. So I started borrowing guitars and learning a bit more there! I knew how to play before, but I think that’s where I started playing more with friends, and making music together.

How would you describe your sound?

I like playing a blues rock sort of thing, if I’m playing a full band. But that style can get a little shallow — it is sometimes more powerful to hear one person singing and playing guitar, than listening to many people in one band.I tend to focus on singing and what I write, rather than the guitar playing I like playing something fun, something new to enjoy in the moment and forget about what else is going on.

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Do you have a particular process of writing music?

Sometimes I write first, sometimes I play music and try to figure out the lyrics… so it really depends! I try to think about how the things that I write about are not what people would necessarily say. I try to write common, everyday sentences, but in a way that even I would refuse to say it in a normal conversational context. So the lyrics are simple enough, but at the same time, people are more drawn to listening to the music, rather than just hearing the words.

What are some of your favorite original songs?

I liked the ones that I played at the show! I like my newer songs better. If I had one that I wrote yesterday, I would probably like that one better than the other ones. I think you can only get better, you know, you just do more, and things get piled up into something better.

How would you say your style has evolved?

I listen to Bob Dylan a lot — the music style is very simple, but the way he plays it is really intense. I don’t get inspiration from him so much nowadays, but that is how I ended up learning the guitar! Simple chords, simple songs that everybody knows.

So what musicians do you draw inspiration from now?

Now I try to listen to Mac DeMarco, an interesting Canadian guy. Or people around me playing. I think live shows are a lot better, you can’t really learn certain things from just listening to audio files. It’s better to see how they play, rather than what sound it’s making at certain times. I like artists who don’t really stick to one type of music. I listen to Cream, Rock Band Boys… I like 70s music, I enjoy that a lot!

Do you have a favorite musician who you have seen live?

I don’t have favorite artists, but the one good show I went to was Neutral Milk Hotel. Neutral Milk Hotel was really, really powerful on the stage. I still don’t know much about them. I knew they stopped playing for a really long period or something, but I saw them in Iceland. They’re coming to Providence on the same tour! I was there with my friend, and we ended up going to see them without knowing really anything about them. But it was very heartfelt! Then I found out there was something going on with the main singer, and they stopped playing for, like, ten years. So that was a memorable music experience recently that I really enjoyed!

What drew you to play at Battle of the Bands and at the Folk Fest?

There’s a difference between Brown and RISD in the music scene. The music scene is not that big at RISD, it’s more of  music clubs and open mics and things like that. There is really no history of people playing music after the 70s and 80s, like the Talking Heads. After that nothing really happened. And I know that Brown has a really long history of music events, like Spring Weekend and the Folk Fest. The music events are what everybody knows — it becomes a national thing! I think it’s pretty amazing how music is treated so differently here, so I am more drawn to this type of audience at Brown.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Kale! Be sure to check out more of his music on his Facebook page, and come see him play with Big Jim & the Sisterwives on Friday, April 24th at the Folk Fest!

PS. Check back soon for more artists and inside info on the Fest! Folk yeah!