Bilingual Collaborations May Be The Wave, But For Kali Uchis It Comes Naturally

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Kali Uchis is coming down with a cold. The Columbian-American, neo-soul singer is the headliner at the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia on Monday night (Oct. 15), which is a part of a new concert series with Verizon Wireless’ rewards program, Verizon Up. But with mug of tea in hand, she still maintains a smile and an aura of excitement about the night’s event.

Verizon Up’s series bridges the gap between artists and their fans, allowing both parties to engage in an intimate setting. By paying their monthly bill, the program allows wireless customers to earn and redeem credits that will go towards exciting, customizable experiences, which includes VIP access to your favorites tours and concerts, as well as other deals.

Kali Uchis is just one of many artists who has teamed with Verizon Up to create one-of-a-lifetime opportunities for customers and fans alike. “A lot of times you don’t have the opportunity to do that yourself on tour,” Kali told VIBE of interacting with her fans on an intimate level. “It’s already so much stuff that you have to be doing. So I’m grateful to be able to do that.”

The singer is wrapping up her tour in support of her debut album, Isolation. The project, which dropped in April 2018, boasted Kali’s soothing vocals and innovative aesthetic of mixing crisp vibes with multi-genre beats, and bilingual vocals. Ahead of the concert—where she performed hits singles like “Tyrant” and “Nuestro Planeta”—the singer spoke to VIBE and other journalists about the Spanish collaboration trend, confidence, and whether awards shows matter in 2018.

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VIBE: We live in a digital space and Verizon Up is creating an intimate experience with stars like you and your supporters. What are your thoughts on bridging the gap between you and your fans through this opportunity?
Kali Uchis: I think it’s bomb. It’s amazing because a lot of times you don’t have the opportunity to do that yourself on tour. It’s already so much stuff that you have to be doing and put into it. So, I’m grateful to be able to do that.

Do you have any plans to create more bilingual or primarily Spanish-singing projects, especially in this era of bilingual collaborations and success?
Yeah, I still go to Colombia a lot, so I work with people over there when I go. I grew up Spanglish, so I grew up speaking both languages. So when I write, I would transition between both languages. It’s not something that I don’t really think about so much, like I’m going to make and an all-Spanish song or do this particularly for this trendy thing that’s happening with music right now. For me, music and Spanish is always going to be there when the trend is gone.

Your music videos are vibrant, innovative, and weird in a good way. They don’t always get the credit they’re due. With the VMAs just passing and the Grammys around the corner, do those type of accolades matter to you?
I never really did until just recently after Isolation came out just because I feel like now, I’m going into that stage in my career where I’m like okay, I still consider myself a young artist, but I’m not just starting anymore. I have my first album out, now I’m ready to f**k some sh*t up. Obviously, you’re going to want to still be able to grow as an artist without selling yourself in a way that is not comfortable to you. You don’t want to be a fraud, but at the same time, of course you want to be recognized for your contribution. Thinking too much about wanting to be this person’s legacy or I want Grammys, it kind of blocks your blessings from getting those things because you shouldn’t be making music for those reasons. But yeah, I would like to be nominated for a Grammy.

 

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What’s one of the most memorable moments performing thus far?
Probably last week we did the Hollywood Bowl, which is really amazing because I never performed with an orchestra symphony before. I was in band when I was little. I played piano and saxophone, and I always wanted to be in orchestra. I have a really big appreciation for instruments and orchestra, so it was cool.

As far as someone who named your project Isolation, which would suggest that you might be an introvert, but at the same time, you look forward to meeting your fans. How do you balance the two?
You learn to adapt, especially with this thing that I’m doing. Being an artist, you have to talk to people so you learn how to communicate and how to express yourself. I didn’t used to like to talk to a lot of strangers or be able to open up easily to people. It used to take me a couple of times being around someone to fully be myself. I feel like that’s something you have to grow out of. Obviously, you’re always going to be nice to your fans because these are the people that gave you your career and support you. And you owe the people who support you everything. You naturally just get happy when you see them.

How do you resist instant gratification, especially since we’re living in a digital phase where it’s easy to compare yourself to what’s happening around you?
When you come to the understanding that literally everyone has their own path and their own journey—sometimes you might think that people got things, but you don’t actually know what they had to do to get there or how long they been putting that in the process, or how many people are behind it. You can’t really compare yourself to everybody else’s sh*t.

Are there any songs on Isolation that have great significance to you?
All of the songs really. Probably “Killer” just because it’s the song that I wrote the longest ago. I wrote it when I was 17.

How has that song evolved since you were a teen?
It’s evolved a lot because when I wrote it, I just wrote it on a keyboard with a sh*tty microphone. Then when I moved to L.A., I brought it to a lot of producers because it never went away from me. It always stuck with me in my little selection of demos. So I just brought it to a bunch of people to see who could bring the life that I wanted it to have out. And the Dap Kings ended up being those people because their style is old soul, and I wanted the song to have an old soul vibe.

Is that why you decided to put it on Isolation?
No, honestly, I hadn’t connected with the Dap Kings at that point. I had the demo, but I probably made five different versions of that song with five different producers. And I was just like, this isn’t right and I would just scrap it. I was actually thinking I’m never going to find the person who really gets this the way I need it to be gotten. So I found them.

What does the notion of home mean to you?
Honestly, I just keep around certain things that make me feel at home. Yesterday I was telling my friend I want to go home, and they’re like, ‘you mean to the hotel?’ I just call everything home naturally because I feel like anywhere that I’m at I’m going to be at home because I’m with myself. So that’s home to me, just feeling at peace with yourself and keeping things around you that make you feel good and that’s it.

For more information regarding Verizon Up’s program and benefits, visit the website here.

READ MORE: The Cosign: 7 Things You Should Know About Kali Uchis