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Offline C4AJoh  
#1 Posted : 21 June 2022 22:54:14(UTC)
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In Conversation with KARA ROMERO
Presented by Half-Moon Music // Interviewed by Ashford York // Photographed by Erin Canterbury
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Tuesday 21st June, 2022

The story of Kara Romero is a bit of a strange one, she’s been around the industry since her debut single “My Poison Ivy Lips” was released in 2012 when she was just sixteen years old and her career since that debut has been fraught with inconsistency. She didn’t follow that debut single up until three years later, she’s got all the trappings to be a megastar but for a number of reasons, the momentum just never quite kept on going. In terms of accolades, she remains wildly inconsistent, her only record thus far 2016’s “Do I Have Your Attention Now?” peaked at number one but in terms of singles she has often received critical acclaim but the commercial success has again been relatively underwhelming, her highest charting efforts “Same Old Tears” and it’s follow up “Perish” both peaked at number two all the way back in 2016 and since then has on average milled around the fifth spot on the charts in a period where productivity within the industry was at its lowest and chart positions were often inflated due to that lack of productivity. She has also released two E.P’s “Raising Hell” (2017) and “The Therapy Sessions (Vol. I)” (2020) which both peaked at number three. She tried her hand at acting in 2016’s indie drama “One Final Memory” and managed to pick up an FCA award for Best Female Artist back in 2020. So it’s difficult to gauge where she sits at the music industry table, showing signs of major ability and receiving brief moments of true critical acclaim. But perhaps her inconsistency’s and outspoken nature have held her back in some way.

At the age of 25 she’s just released the lead single from her upcoming sophomore album which she hopes to release in 2022, that single titled “Signpost” is one that she’ll no doubt be hoping will spring her momentum forward as she heads into the summer with the intention of dropping more music from the upcoming record over the coming months. Notoriously reclusive it’s an intriguing prospect for me to get the opportunity to fly out to her home state of New York and discuss the plans that are in place for the coming months as well as getting the opportunity to talk to an artist who has rarely given interviews and indulged in that promo aspect to a professional career that almost demands it. She’s had stints in rehab, is an advocate of therapy and has by her own admission fucked up on more than one occasion. She’s a free spirit that lives life on her own terms, doesn’t have a filter which evidently informs her decision not to speak to the press so much but interestingly has been vocal on a number of important issues facing the world at large, mostly notably on her 2016 single “We Are One” which tackled acts of terrorism and mass shootings, inspired by the events of the mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina and the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, France as well as many others that occurred around this time.
That song was then reworked in 2020 in a track titled “Are We One?” which featured Jay-C and Stephanie Fierce, penned in response to the George Floyd murder in the summer of that same year. Among these two protest songs, she has also been seen on the streets of her home state of New York marching for various causes throughout the years and continues to be an advocate for a number of causes within her local community.

I meet this Rap and RnB hybrid artist in her Brooklyn apartment, understated and low-key, devoid of the obvious trappings of a modern day artist. There are no gaudy high-class products on show, no Gucci or Jordan’s. No clinical, cold décor, no marble counters on her kitchen tops and spotlights strategically placed. No pretentious art hanging on the walls. It feels, dare I say it. Like a normal 25 year old New Yorkers apartment. She pours me a drink and closes the balcony doors in order to shut out the street noise. She glances over at me quizzically with a furrowed brow, “You’re a west coast dude, aren’t ya?”, I nod in agreement and simply say, “Arizona”. She thinks for a second and sits herself down in her chair, legs crossed like a fourth-grader, “I’m considering it. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. Get me some of that Cali sun, ya know?” she says with a smile as she lights up a cigarette. “Alright, let’s fucking do this.” She says as she makes herself comfortable in her chair ready for our conversation;

First of all, I’d just like to say thank you for opening up your home to me for this interview, I know you’re notoriously reclusive when it comes to these more intrusive interview pieces. But those are the ones that are often the most intriguing for myself as an interviewer. Is there a specific reason as to why you tend not to do many things of this nature?

Kara: Nah, there’s not like one specific reason. And I know I get labelled as a super private person but even that’s a little bullshit to me. Like if you listen to my music you get to know plenty of who I am. All the dark shit and the important stuff that I believe in. I get into some of the fun shit and even some of the freaky nasty shit too. I’ve just never fully embraced that side of my career where you have to do a shit load of press before you’re about to announce something and build hype and everything. I guess I always felt like it lessened the work but I think I was probably wrong about that, I think you can find that balance. I just always felt like maybe some artists in the past have been a little too reliant on that element. But I understand it, it’s how you play the game and I think my own attitude has changed over the past couple of years where I just kinda think “fuck it” now and open myself to all kinds of things that I probably pushed against a lot in the past. I guess I always just felt like if you have to have some big sideshow to garner extra attention every single time you release something then it’s a little overkill. Maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve made a career out of failures. Who the fuck knows, really?

I get it, it’s not totally unusual, I feel like it’s a decades long battle that artists have. But in the world of modern streaming and having everything at your fingertips it’s perhaps more necessary than ever before to do whatever you can to garner extra attention with every single step. There’s so many different branches in the industry now that the artist are becoming salesmen themselves.

Kara: Dude, you’re far more articulate than I am. I couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying. I think with the evolution of social media it’s becoming so much more calculated and manipulated. You’ve got to have a viral moment or a trending moment just to have a chance of success. Even the big indie successes are often a product of marketing and military planning. I’ve had an inconsistent relationship with my label over the years, but I can’t fault them. I’ve never once had to have a conversation with them where it makes me question my own authenticity. They’ll talk roll-out plans and stuff like that but that’s just essentially which tracks I’d like to consider releasing as a single and which order I’d like them to be released. Thankfully, I’ve never heard them say the word TikTok in any meetings that I’ve had with them. They picked me up from day one and I might not be with them for my entire career but I will always ride with those guys over there.

What is your relationship like with Just Record at the moment, from the outside looking in it’s been one of huge loyalty.

Kara: They signed me when I was still a kid. Like if you can deal with the teenage version of me and put up with all the shit that I brought to their door then you know you’ve got real ones behind you. I’ve been at that label for seven years now and really should have produced a lot more for them but they’ve never pushed it and they’ve backed me up when I’ve needed it. Through rehab and therapy and long fucking hiatuses, personal issues and all that nasty shit and I’ve never even given them that one big hit that makes it all worthwhile. I have a deep love for that label, TJ is my fucking guy and deserves a lot more respect from this industry than he currently gets and Jay Rock is the heart of that label, never stops grinding. I will fuck with those dudes forever, I will always have their back because that shit is reciprocated. Whether I stay beyond this next album is up in the air right now, we’ve not had that conversation and I would understand if they let my contract run down and not keep me on the roster. My deal finishes once I release my sophomore album and whatever commitments I have following that. Cards on the table, I want to stay with Just Record. I ain’t about looking around and playing labels off against each other to get the best deal, if they want me they know where my loyalty lies.

It’s refreshing to hear that, in this modern world where money talks and a free agent is major real estate that you’re not looking to entertain offers. Some would say you’ve always been on the periphery of stardom but have always just fallen a little short of that very elite group. Do you think that affects your status in the industry right now?

Kara: I don’t know. I’ve never felt lesser than anyone but I’ve never felt higher than anyone either. It’s not really about making sure I get a number one single every time I drop a new track. For me it’s about being as creative as I can and having a career that I can look back on with pride and a sense of accomplishment. Over the years I’m sure that I could have hired a bunch of writers and producers and put out generic hit songs regularly but it’s not about that for me. I want everything that I do to feel authentic to myself. I want to make sure I have my handprints all over the shit that has my name on it. Whether one hundred people listen to it or one hundred million people listen to it. I’ve never been around that top status in the industry, people will try to tell you that there’s not a hierarchy but there definitely is. I’ve never been around that level, I’ve not had that consistent momentum nor have I had the desire to either.

You have returned in some ways with a brand new single however, “Signpost” being your first new music released since 2020’s collaboration with Stephanie Fierce and Jay-C. We’ll touch on some of your previous work a little later, but early on it looks like the general reaction to your new track is a positive one. What’s the story behind “Signpost” for those that don’t already know?

Kara: I think it’s one of those ones that wears it’s message on it’s sleeve. It’s pretty obvious when you listen to the track what it’s all about. It’s just basically covering that feeling of confusion in a world of open relationships. Like, let’s get real with it. If you’re a young person you’re gonna come across these feelings at some point in your present dating life. We’re a generation of fuck buddies really. We coined the phrase and embraced the idea. That’s where shit gets a little complicated though. So this song pretty much about that feeling of not knowing exactly where you both stand, taken from a perspective of someone that understands that they’re not putting a label on things which opens the door to you both being open to fucking around a little. It basically tackles the idea of people in that sort of relationship but being in different headspaces, one thinks although they’re not official, the way that they’re living is pretty committed to each other and the other is in the mind space of believing that they’re not official, so it’s essentially an open relationship and the can fuck around. It’s taken from the perspective of the one feeling the hurt but honestly it’s no ones fault, it’s a lack of communication when all is said and done.


Perhaps a little personal, but does the inspiration of the track come from your own experience?

Kara: Oh yeah, one hundred percent. It doesn’t hurt, I’ve been on both sides of the experience which is why I think I have the understanding that although the track takes a specific side of the story, it’s no ones fault. Both of us were just at different stages and weren’t clear about where we were at. I mean if I had known at the time then I could have had a lot more fun but it’s just one of those ones that you move past. But honestly, I’d say it was more of a statement on how difficult modern dating can be. Obviously using personal experience to get that message across in the track, but I don’t want the track to be a pity party sort of thing. I wanted the music to move back and forward in pacing to hopefully change the mindset of the song, if the music was slow throughout then it would have been one of those foetal position, floods of tears jams. But the pacing and later section of the song gives it a little feeling of empowerment. We’re gonna drop a remixed version of the track in the next week with Bellows that’s gonna give the song a different perspective too which is pretty fucking sick.

Oh interesting, so that’s not even been announced yet. We can expect to hear Bellows on the track or is he just producing a remixed version of the single?

Kara: He’s jumping on the track, he’s gonna be adding a couple of verses to the song which give it a different perspective. It’s a really fucking fire take. But it just pushes the whole idea that there are two sides to every story. He’s a pretty single-minded dude and was so ready to get himself on the track. He didn’t really have to sell me on the idea, I know how he is. He stepped up to it and fucking delivered for me, like he has done a ton of times since we first met. I vibed with that dude from day one and he’s helped me out a real lot over the last few years and I’ve carried his shit for him when he’s needed it to. Although got it fucking made with Orion right now, he’s looking at other things he can do too. I think it will be a whole other level when he starts doing his own shit but he’s got that wave to ride with Orion for right now.

Sounds like an ideal match for the track working with a rise artist making moves. Can we expect many more collaborations on the upcoming album or is it something you’re keeping closely guarded?

Kara: I’m not able to say specific names right now, but there’s a bunch of collaborators on the album. I think maybe four on the standard length record and we should have another three on the deluxe. We’re still not fully signed off on the record just yet, so that could all change if someone wants to fuck around with some ideas. I don’t tend to stick to a rigid plan, even the Bellows feature was never in the planning. He was running his mouth off so we thought we’d put that shit to record and see what he could really deliver. With the other collaborations we’ve got down so far, they’re all fucking giants in the game right now. In my opinion they’re the best of the best and with everything we’ve done, it’s been a perfect fit. I made a bold choice, that I probably can’t talk about right now that I think will probably get some people talking. But I don’t fuck around on sides and all that shit, if I vibe wit you then we vibing simple as that. For me, it’s about the outcome and getting it right for the art.

Interesting, you’re being very cryptic with your response there. I like that, it feels like you’re leaving us some bread crumbs and you know I can’t resist in following them. I know you can’t say who is on the album, but could you say some names you’d be interested in working with in the future?

Kara: That would be a pretty big list. I mean, Rum and Coke. They’re not on the album and I’d like to think if I reached out to them they’d at least hear me out cause we on that vibe. But down to the respect I have for their ability I just ain’t on their level and that’s not me being humble, because I can hold my own in most situations like that but they’re on a whole other platform to me. One day, I hope but I ain’t there yet. Gotta say Billy is a similar situation, he’s on a specific level that ain’t where I’m at right now, but it’s another one that is on that list and I think we’d create the sexiest, moodiest fucking track together.
There’s a bunch of names though, I could reel them all off. Payton is fire but I’m not sure our styles would mesh well but it would be wild figuring that one out on a track. Orion as a group would be an obvious one. I’d work with Steph again in a heartbeat, Jay-C too. That ain’t a one and done collab with that dude, for sure. Someone outside of the box like Ryan Ross Hernandez would be fire, we could figure out the nastiest bluesiest shit and I’ve got mad love for that dude covering “Are We One?” at the FCA’s. I’m down to try anything in the studio if the feeling’s right. But there’s a whole load of names that ain’t on the album right now. Maybe ya’ll can figure out who is on the album from that.

Okay, so no firm details on who is or isn’t on the album. But let’s talk about the album for a minute. It’s been a long time since your debut, we’ve had a teaser a couple of years ago with the E.P but it felt like that had a very specific theme. How far done are we with the record and what can we expect from it in terms of content and sound?

Kara: I’d say we’re pretty close to the finish line with the record. Maybe like seventy five or eighty percent done. The majority of tracks are fully recorded and fully produced and mixed and locked in ready to go. But there’s like four tracks that we’re finishing up and still figuring out and a couple that we need to get vocals down on pretty soon. I think we’ve got a solid number for the track list right now of around fourteen as a standard edition and maybe another four to six for the deluxe. But since we’re still on that studio time, finishing up other tracks we’re always messing around with other ideas and trying to finish half-written songs so there’s always a chance that we may need to make some last minute additions.
We talkin’ real human emotions from top to bottom on the record, it won’t have a specific theme like the E.P was based on therapy sessions and battling demons, this one will touch on those ideas on a couple of tracks but it will be way more about life as a whole, relationships, addictions, fame, family, nostalgia, depression, happiness, partying, fucking. We’re going the whole nine yards.

Just looking back historically on your music, you’ve delved into a bunch of social and politically themes and your feelings on that sort of thing. The most obvious ones being gun crime and the black lives matter movement. I know you’re very into standing up and making a statement for what you believe in. Could we expect some major political and social statements from the record?

Kara: Honestly, I don’t think there’s much of that on the record at all this time around. Not by intention but it became clear early on that I was writing a lot of these songs from a very inward looking position. It was clear that this one was going to be a personal record for me and more specifically about myself. Shit, I know there’s so much that has gone on over the past couple of years in the world that I could have written about, but I think because we’ve all lived through it I didn’t want that to be the focus now that we’re hopefully at the end of that moment in time. Honestly, I don’t even think there’s one single reference to the pandemic or quarantining or isolation in this record and I think that’s what I needed to do. To step out of that moment of time and think in different terms.
It's not to say that I don’t have the passion to write and sing or rap about these matters that are relevant to the world as a whole right now, it’s just not the vibe of the record and would have felt forced to include those type of songs in. That’s not to say that I won’t find a reason to write and record about something prevalent to the current times that I feel is important and want to shine a light on. I can always just release something separate from the album if I feel it’s that important and there’s still so much fucking shit going on in the world. If we’re talking wars or climate or the idea that we could see the end of Roe v Wade in 2022 which I still cannot fucking process in a non-aggressive way let alone have the composure to write a song about it.
But it doesn’t mean I don’t feel strongly about these topics, I’ll lend my voice to anything that I strongly believe in and I’ll continue to support causes that are close to me. I feel blessed that I have a generally young audience and I get tagged in so much positive shit that they’re doing, at the end of the day that’s the next generation coming through and I’d like to think that this next generation coming through have that passion and that feeling that they can make a positive change. I think previous generations haven’t felt like they can be heard in the way that this next one coming up feels. That is one thing that really fucking excites me, going forward.


Okay, so you’ve stated that the album’s main theme is more personal to you. Your own struggles and your own battles as well as the good times and not so good. It’s pretty clear to anyone that has seen your career stop start since your debut that you’ve had your battles and this was made very public with your E.P “The Therapy Sessions (Vol. I)” a couple of years ago. Care to elaborate on some of those tougher moments?

Kara: I came into this industry at sixteen in 2012 which was such a fucking different time just in terms of total insanity. It was such a competitive time from a music career situation, my debut single I had a fucking backing band with me and it was this attitude driven alternative rock track because that was the big thing at that time. I wanted to be part of that scene and so you try and give off that energy and act like you can really fucking hang, nothing ever phases you and you can keep up with all the crazy shit that they’re all into. The reality for me was that I was sixteen, I couldn’t deal with any of that and I know that now and a whole lot of shit that I went through in the years after that period of time stems from that three year period of trying to play rockstar and keep up and not say no. That’s the sort of realisation that came from the therapy sessions years later. That’s basically where the problems all came from, maybe not having that role model to guide me and also not knowing better or not being mature enough to handle myself the way I acted like I could.

But that’s a pretty dark situation to be alone in that world at sixteen, that’s got to be scary?

Kara: I had my dudes in the band, but we were an independent act that got a little bit of buzz around us and they weren’t there for the best intentions of each other. They were there for their own personal goals. But yeah, getting onto these touring festival bills and opening slots. It was a lot of travelling and experiencing a lot of dark shit for a sixteen year old. A lot of those people aren’t around the industry anymore and I ain’t calling specific people out because I was more than open to that world and those experiences but I think it’s good that they’re not active anymore. Twenty-something year old guys and girls that are comfortable and encouraging taking all kinds of drugs with a bunch of sixteen and seventeen year old kids trying to navigate this industry is not a trait that should be rewarded with hit singles and platinum awards. It’s not a clean industry by any stretch these days, but I think it’s a safer place to be for those starting out now than it was back then.

That’s horrific to consider it on those terms, assuming your own situation mirrors a lot of younger artists of that time too. That’s got to be the beginning of the addictions and those later battles that you came through?

Kara: Look, I’m not a perfect person by any stretch and I went along with all that shit and I know I bugged the fuck outta some of those guys and girls and put myself into some of those situations. Again, I ain’t calling anybody out. It’s how fucked up the industry as a whole was back then. Everybody was doing what they had to do to survive in a time when it was the most competitive animal. But that’s absolutely where the issues all came from. I’ve done the therapy sessions and the rehab stints and I’ve done all that shit privately and away from the spotlight. I’ll make the statement right now, I’m not sober by any understanding of the word. For the most part it’s booze and weed. If I’mma take a trip out west with my people then we might go for a little psychedelics. If we’re partying then we’re a little more open to other stuff. It’s a little different than how it was in that three year period starting out, I didn’t know why I was doing all that shit back then. Now there’s a specific reason that generally centres around the mental aspect, maybe to take the edge off or to help me deal with difficult emotional situations. Then there’s all the medicated shit but that’s a whole other fucking sorry story.

Not condoning anything, I think we’ve all been to Joshua Tree and tried shrooms. There’s always gonna be some sort of harm in that lifestyle but it seems a lot more controlled than previously, certainly a lot less dangerous than snorting a line backstage with a rockstar at sixteen years old.

Kara: I feel as in control of my life now than I ever have been before.

It’s a positive way to end things today, but just before we wrap up. What does the rest of the year look like for Kara Romero?

Kara: Whoever knows, the plan is to roll-out a few songs through the summer. Album drops a little later and touring on a major scale. Honestly, I miss performing in front of a crowd and I’m planning on jumping on a huge tour that’s gonna keep me on the road for some time. Can’t wait to get out there and fuck around with some real ones. Everything’s been fucked for a long time, I feel like we need to live it up a little now.
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