[EXCLUSIVE] keshi Talks Growth And Changing His Direction
For some, jumping from one end of the career spectrum to the other isn’t ideal, and sometimes it just won’t work. But for keshi, it’s something he knew he had to do.
Born Casey Leung, keshi has an eye for music and his songs will definitely get you hooked. Simple, yet so in depth — from the production the melody and the lyrics. His love for music had a unique start when he was 12. “I was a really big fan of a show called Drake and Josh it was this sitcom on Nickelodeon,” he starts to explain to me, and we both agreed that we loved it, “You know how Drake plays his guitar right? And he always got all of the girls and everything, so my dream in high school was to sorta be just like Drake. He was a big motivator for me to pick up the guitar.”
He asked his grandfather if he could borrow his guitar because when keshi asked his mum, she said no. “I asked my mum if I could have a guitar to learn how to play it but she refused, and said that I would just pick it up and drop it after a couple days of playing around with it like it’s a toy or something.” Such a mum thing!
But with the guitar he got from his grandfather, keshi taught himself how to play and the rest is history.
Well, sort of.
We spoke to keshi about how his career change came to be and why it was important to him to make that change.
Who were your first music influences?
The music influences kind of changed along the way, but I went a lot with whoever I was listening to, it was a bunch of different kinds of music that my friends at the time were introducing me to. Bands like All Time Low or Never Shout Never were really popular with my friends back then. So I would listen to them and I would want to make covers and then slowly it sorta evolved to like a Jason Mraz, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer type of song writing and listening as well.
I read that John Mayer was the biggest influence for you, do you feel that affected the way your music sounds?
Yeah [he is]. There was something about John Mayer’s songwriting that really resonated with me when I was younger. I heard the song called “Stop This Train” for the first time and uh, I remember feeling like I wanted to write songs like that — write songs that really move people emotionally and songs that were honest lyrically. So after I listened to John Mayer, at that point, I just went through his whole discography and like really really try to get him and understand why he did that. But yeah, I credit him with starting my path on being a songwriter.
I know people describe you as this lofi hip-hop artist but how would you describe your sound?
I wouldn’t quite say lofi hip-hop, I mean I listen to a lot of it and lofi hip-hop definitely lent me its tools in terms of productions and it taught me how to produce on a computer but I think I would describe my sound as more alternative pop. Because I feel like I like to branch out into different genres and borrow the sonic sorta aspects from everywhere. Just things that I like listening to, I don’t really stick to one particular genre. So I think alternative pop would be a good way to describe it.
Is there a reason you don’t want to stick to a certain genre? Do you feel it blocks your creative process?
It’s not so much like I feel it hinders the creative process, as much as I just like so many different genres of music. I feel like the feeling of being moved by music is never really stuck to a particular genre y’know. I just love music, I love listening to different artistes and different songs and when something moves me I immediately kinda snap and think “Oh, like how can I do something like that?” I feel like my music is a marriage of all the different music that I like listening to.
What goes into your sound making process?
Well, actually it’s so different now. I feel like as I’ve grown as a producer, and a writer. I feel like I have just so much more tools at my disposal now at my home studio. I just moved into it, I love it! It’s like my little haven. It can start with anything now, it used to start pretty much always with the guitar, used to be always exploring the fretboard and kind of listening to something different or cool.
Usually I play something by accident and I’m like “Oh, that’s really cool.” Then I stick it in the computer then put some beats on top of it and everything. But now I feel like it’s gotten stale to me personally, not that it sounds still but just that it seems a little bit boring to me to just start out in the same way. So I’ve learnt piano in the past 3 months and like I’m learning how to like start with that and incorporate first or maybe start with the drums first or like the bass first.
So now it really is just y’know up to the creative process. Usually it starts with one instrument, put it into the computer, flesh it out on the beat and then from then on I’d start writing and getting melodies together.
What’s your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is real life experiences and the stories that I hear from my own friends and their real life experiences. I feel like it’s really difficult for me to write about a situation that doesn’t exist so more often times than not I had a deep conversation with a friend about something that has happened. Sometimes they’re relationship-based but sometimes they’re just real life-based. Get them down to something that they need to talk about, then I’ll write till it’s done basically. If we have a conversation at like 11pm, I’ll stay up writing till 3am. So yeah, just real life.
Did your previous career affect your view on working in the music industry?
I feel like I say this a lot. I was actually very unhappy working as a nurse. I felt like I was on a path that wasn’t for me. That I was just kinda picking something and going with it, just so I can have a job. I would come home from work and I would start producing on my laptop and I would make something really cool, and I’d sit back and think like “Man, like I’m good at this. Why aren’t I doing something that I’m good at?”
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the career was perspective, I feel like I learned a lot about life, about how different people are actually, I used to think that we’re all like so similar. Like we are but we’re all also different in so many ways. I’ve learned to really appreciate having something to come home to. And something that I’m passionate about and that I love doing.
So in terms of how that affects my work in the music industry, I feel like I’m a pretty self-contained artiste where I do so much of it by myself I don’t think that you know having a different career affects that in a certain way. I just love making music, if anything I’m grateful now. I get to wake up everyday, go to my home studio where I have all my play toys– my guitars and keyboards– and I just write endlessly. I love it. Sometimes I can’t believe how my dreams came true like this.
I just love making music, if anything I’m grateful now. I get to wake up everyday, go to my home studio where I have all my play toys — my guitars and keyboards — and I just write endlessly. I love it. Sometimes I can’t believe how my dreams came true like this.
Do you have any advice for people who are struggling and are sticking to a path not meant for them?
I feel like for me the dissonance was so strong that I think that if I ended up not being able to be signed, I would’ve pursued it anyway. I don’t wanna be irresponsible in just throwing out advice like this — I had a very good safety net and all but I think in the end, people work hardest when they’re doing something that they’re passionate about. I would say to chase your dream and do everything you can to make them come true cause when they do, it’s unbelievable. It’ll make you happy and I can’t believe how lucky I am.
How do you think you’ve grown musically over the years?
It’s so interesting for me personally to see how my music has changed from back then to now, and I feel like it sounds fuller. I’m learning as a producer that there’s more to just the things that I was kinda doing in the beginning. You can literally just do whatever your mind thinks of, you have to figure out how to do it.
Can you tell us a little bit about bandaids?
Oh, bandaids I think is one of my most full record — like I had the opportunity to get into sessions with other producers and kind of learn what kind of techniques they used to incorporate it into my own sorta process so I feel like I’m kinda putting the tools at the forefront here. And in terms of writing I think I’ve written some of my most sincere lyrics to date, and it’s kind of about changes that I’ve been going through in my life. Like going to LA to a recording studio, moving forward in life and kind of hearing my other friends’ experience of moving forward in life too. Bandaids in the end is about being better and it’s about recovery after — skeletons was such a wounded record yknow and bandaids is still vulnerable in that sense but it’s about going forward.
Biggest message you want people to take from your music/record?
I hope that the listeners can feel some sort of sense of being better as well. ‘Cause I feel like a lot of my music is about vulnerability and being hurt but I didn’t want everything to feel like there’s absolutely no hope left. So it is a record that’s about having hope at the end of the tunnel even though it’s hard at the moment, so I feel like that’s such universal relatable ting that everybody kinda just goes through.