A Conversation with Kaliné

Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, singer Kaliné has made both London and New York her home. With her easygoing aura and ethereal voice, Kaliné has always taken the DIY route with her road to stardom — leaving her to be one force to be reckoned with.

What was it like for you growing up in Lagos, Nigeria?

Growing up in Lagos was so cool. My family and I moved quite a bit when I was younger from one borough to another and that created an adventure for my siblings and I. I loved my schools and made some great friends whose friendships I still have to this day. Lagos was alive, as it still is, very vibrant, full of potential. It seemed a lot safer then and of course being younger I was much more carefree. I remember going to loads of parties, having sleepovers and enjoying my childhood immensely.

You then spent some time in London and later in New York — how did those two big cities influence your art?

London influenced my art in terms of being more focused at it. Because I moved away to boarding school there, it was a new experience and music became something that I could escape to when I was homesick or generally wanted some alone time. I started writing songs when I got to England and took formal vocal training and so England definitely represents the start of the exploration of my art.

America became the place where I would then find myself and hone my skills, build my genre and figure out what kind of artist I wanted to be. By the time I got into Berklee College of Music on a scholarship, I was ready to take things to the next level, fearing nothing and being more focused on my practice routine, my writing, production and working with other people to produce great art.

When did you first get started in music?

I went into my first studio at the age of 17 when I was featured on a song with 2 Nigerian artists — Ruggedman and Faze. That song reached number 5 on the Nigerian charts at the time and I had no clue who I was or what I was doing at the time! Prior to that though, I started classical piano training from the age of 5 and went on to learn the violin and work on my voice after that.

How have you progressed since your very first song?

Things have changed drastically. I actually wrote my first song in England for a music project revolving around a man going off to war and leaving his wife behind. Don’t ask what kind of experience I could’ve possibly had to write a song like that… Regardless, maybe it will serve as a great theme song for a film someday!

Who are your main musical influences?

I doubt I would be doing music if I never picked up Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album when I was 8. Emeli Sande, Emily King, Solange, Robert Glasper and Fela are all major influences as well.

Why did you make the decision to return to Nigeria?

I wouldn’t say I’ve ‘returned’ per se. I come back to Nigeria quite often because I see several opportunities for artists here and I am also seeking to be more relevant in the African music industry. I sort of live between New York, London and Lagos.

Being an artist is difficult, both physically and emotionally. Who are your main sources of support and mentorship?

My family is a great support system and I have a number of mentors and friends that I constantly seek advice from.

What has the support been like from your fanbase?

Immense. So grateful to have followers and supporters who encourage the work that I do. The hope is that they will be inspired enough to follow what the purpose for their life is because they see me do it too.

One thing I admire you for immensely is your ability to take control over all aspects of your brand — I’ve seen you direct your own music videos, style your own photoshoots, and manage all your social media accounts single-handedly. How do you do all of that on top of making music, and why do you think it’s important to do so?

Thank you so much! The truth is, something always suffers. When I focus on the business side of things, the creative side suffers and vice-versa. I have a manager now and an assistant to help with a few of the burdens, but as an artist you still have to juggle a lot of balls if you want to be in control of your messaging and branding. I’ve realized that as much as I want a great team, I also love to be able to make decisions for myself and implement what needs implementing. Independent artists will soon become the more successful artists in the future because we will own all our own stuff.

What’s next for you?

My EP comes out this summer and a few other exciting projects to do with film and TV, so stay tuned! Thank you so much for the support.

If I weren’t afraid I would… deep-sea dive
I wouldn’t be where I am today if… I didn’t know God
I’ve been listening to… Chance The Rapper
Kids these days… don’t really know what a childhood should feel like
I look and feel my best when… I’m doing something fulfilling
When no one is looking I… dance in my underwear
Traveling… is the greatest form of education that should be explored more often