Interview: Highland Kites
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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
In my 20s, I ended up getting severely ill, I found out later it was late stage Lyme disease. I came very close to dying and during this whole time I would think about what I wanted to do with my life if I got better. In the moments of feeling a bit better I would learn songs on the piano, I started taking lessons during my recovery and within 6 months did my first show. Going through what I did gave me a lot of perspective and drive. Additionally throughout my illness I leaned heavily on art, and all my favorite musicians. It brought me happiness and escape to listen to my favorite artists and SO much inspiration to be able to do that for someone one day.
I actually can't imagine my life without music in it at this point. I'd probably have pursued art of some sort or started some line of soaps and skin care that I sold at Farmers Markets, or had a farm with goats and chickens and sold eggs and goat cheese. Haha. I'm obviously obsessed with making things.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I love nature, I love to hike with my husband and my dog. I like to do random creative art projects with my sister just because. I spend a lot of time with my family. I like exploring and finding food and coffee gems around the city. I feel like the more I immerse myself in life and interacting with people the more creative I am. I had some intense writers block during part of quarantine because I honestly felt too disassociated to create. It's been wild coming out of that.
How long has your band been around?
Over 7 years! Insane to think about.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I grew up and started the band in Los Angeles. I think being exposed to so much talent, art and community really shaped me as an artist. I grew to love helping artists, the community and before Covid was starting to put on shows here in Nashville as "Night Light Sessions" where we would book independent artists from around the city and play in an intimate setting. I loved it so much and can't wait to get it started again. When I was in LA a friend of mine started an organization called "Treehouse" that ended up really taking off, and it was all based on supporting other artists and creating an environment where an artist can be heard. Seeing how much the community really needs this type of thing inspired me to create something similar here in Nashville.
We moved to Nashville late last year. We love it here. The community is incredible and the talent is very inspiring.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
Highland was the cross street I grew up on, where all my friends would meet when we wanted to go out on some adventure. Kites just came from my memories of flying kites with my dad as a kid, and that feeling of childhood hope and freedom. The name was meant to have a free feeling to it, like being released from pain and finding that kid in you again.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
My favorite show we ever did was a release show in LA for our EP "I'm Not Weak". We worked really hard to put it on, did everything ourselves from renting the venue to hiring someone to do lights. We rehearsed for months and put our hearts into this show. We also did a raffle and got to give people these beautiful custom painted jackets based on the lyrics of songs from the EP. (Done by an incredible local artist, Christina Olivia). The show was packed, they had to stop letting people in at one point and opened the door so people could listen from outside. The whole thing was so wonderful and surreal. We felt so supported by our community and were incredibly grateful.
Worst show... I don't know! Haha. We've done 6 tours across the US and have had our share of weird and sad shows. But I try to just learn from these experiences and move forward. If I had to pick I'd say a show we did in New York. We had a terrible AirBnB experience and I ended up sleeping on a very unclean couch, not sleeping for 2 days, getting a massive allergic reaction to bed bugs in the apartment, and being so sick and tired that I locked myself in the bathroom before our set just laying there crying. Haha. It was completely insane. After this show I bagged up all my clothes and threw them away (because of the bed bugs), we then drove to Austin for our last show of our tour and had one of the best shows on the tour. I definitely slept for 2 days when I got home.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
I love DIY shows! They have honestly been my favorite so far. In LA we used to love playing at The Hotel Cafe.
We have big dreams to open up for someone at the Ryman Theatre one day...
If you could play any show with any lineup who would be on the ticket?
Oh my gosh! There are so many artists I would love to play with. My absolute dream would be playing a show with The National, Sharon Van Etten and Boy Genius.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
You have to almost have a stupid amount of confidence to really go for this. Always learn, listen to people successful at it, ask questions and stay true to your goals as an artist. It takes hard work. Don't let the idea that some people just "go viral" on TikTok fool you into thinking it doesn't take an immense amount of work, dedication and being able to get back up again when you fail. I know people who seemed to just suddenly "blow up" and they have been working for YEARS at their dream. Social media can give you a false idea of what it actually takes.
So, if you really want to pursue this, make sure you love it, and understand what it takes. If you can't enjoy the whole journey, it's not going to be a fun time.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Take your goals seriously but don't take yourself so seriously. If it doesn't make you happy it isn't worth it.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
It's always so hard to answer this but I always end up answering the same thing. Our song "I'm Not Weak" was written at a turning point in my life where I felt like I let go of a lot, and started to grow into myself as a person. I gained a lot of strength just writing that song. For many years it's been the closing song in every set we play and I don't know if that will ever change.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I'm Not Weak and a song called "Humiliated" are requested more than any others! They are on opposite ends of the spectrum but both very fun to play.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Life, other inspiring art and music, nature, feelings. I always try to capture a feeling or idea perfectly in a song, I haven't done it yet, but I'll keep trying to. When we write I generally bring a bare bones song to Neil, who then adds drums, bass pedals, we do samples from my synths into his Roland to add texture and fill out the sound since we normally play as a 2 piece. We just work on it until we reach a point where it feels done. What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music? Hope, inspiration, consolation in knowing someone else has felt or feels what you feel. Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
We are lucky that we get along with each other, if one person doesn't like a part, we work on it until we both like it. We work together and don't play weird games. We both tend to joke around a lot and have fun, and I think that helps. If there ever is a slight disagreement we just talk it out until we both understand and agree with what we're doing. We help each other out and listen if one of us is going through something or feeling a bit defeated or bummed out. We just work on being a team.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up? We have a new song coming out on 21 April (Long Road) that we are SO excited for. We want to start doing more online shows, and hopefully, real shows will come back soon and we can start playing out again. (We really miss it)
Otherwise, we are writing and planning out an EP release, maybe a couple more singles before that happens.