Ones to Watch: Chloe mk
Chloe Kohanski went from writing songs in her Nashville bedroom to winning The Voice. Now, with a new genre in mind, chloe mk has tapped into who she is and what she wants to say (in her own words.) We hung out with the pop sensation at Milk LA and got the deets about her new EP Fantasy. The Capricorn queen filled us in about her journey as an artist and discussed the creative process that goes into her lyrics. Find out what gives Chloe all the feels by reading the full interview below.
When did you originally start writing music and pursuing it as a career?
Basically I started doing music when I was 18 – I had sung like my whole life and my parents thought it was cute, but nobody ever really talked about it as a career; it was more of a hobby. I really liked it, so I decided I was just going to do it.
After high school I decided I didn’t want to go to college, I just wanted to sing. Obviously that was pretty crazy, and I tried like three or four years playing locally and doing sessions. I also tried to write songs for other people.
One day, I got a call from The Voice and they said they were looking for a twenty-something girl from Nashville that isn’t country – which is pretty specific – so I was like “Ok.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about it going into it, but I knew I had nothing to lose and I pushed myself to try something new.
Talk to us about that journey.
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Going on the show was like being on a reality show. There were like 80,000 people watching me and asking who I was and people wanted to know my story. It definitely changed the creative aspect because all of a sudden I had to ask myself who I was and what kind of music I wanted to make.
When you are on the show you just do a bunch of covers; I did a lot of 80s songs which was really fun, but the experience really made me ask myself what kind of artist I wanted to be. I got to experience a lot of different elements that go into the performance: style, makeup, hair, stage presence. It was such a good experience and it helped me find a little bit more of my artistic personality. It’s not just sonic, but it’s more visual for me. I think it helped me get comfortable with the visual aspect.
Talk to us about your experience growing up in Nashville and how being there influenced you as an artist?
Growing up in Nashville definitely influenced (probably) every part of my life. I really grew up a lot, especially in my character. I am from the South and I feel like there is a charm about that, even if you hate it and fight it, “it’s still me.” I think that is a huge thing about my personality and, of course, my music.
I think Nashville really helped teach me how to write a song. It helped me put my feelings out there, and really say what I needed to say. There are a lot of people who want the same thing and it’s a smaller city, as opposed to NY or LA. The hunger for wanting something is so big, everybody is doing everything they can 24/7 and trying to be the best artist they can be, so I think the competitive edge helped give me that push. Being there was really positive and helped me know that signing is what I am supposed to do.
What is a day in the life for you when you go back home – some of your favorite shops, places to eat, and go-to’s?
Whenever I’m home in Nashville, one of the first things I have to do is go to the Southern Thrift off Charlotte Ave. It is definitely one of the best vintage shops; the best prices and I think you can find the coolest stuff in the city.
As far as food goes, I love Rose Pepper! I love Mexican food! I mean, Hattie B’s, I like chicken. I feel like when I go home I have to eat at my favorite places.
What was it like moving to Brooklyn? Growing up in a small town in Nashville and moving to the big city, did you have any experiences that challenged you as an artist? How did the overall transition affect you?
I feel like moving to Brooklyn was probably the craziest thing I have ever done. Before NY, I had never moved, I lived on the same road my whole life.
The people in my life that were the closest to me were moving so I was like, “I’m coming…why not? It’s time to just take a risk.” I have been there a year now and I love it! I got my people and my places. It’s really fun!
Talk to us about your new EP Fantasy. First off, congratulations! The EP is amazing, and all the songs give listeners all the feels. How involved were you in the songwriting process? Are all these songs coming from personal experience? Talk to us about the creative process.
I was involved in every step of the process from writing the songs to recording them, start to finish. For me, the creative process for the EP was 100% from my own experiences and my own brain; figuring out my way to tell a story. Basically every song is from my perspective and an actual situation that I have been in, but with a lot more drama and flare.
I’m only speaking about the things I’m experiencing in the moment. It’s feelings, it’s totally emotion and feelings based. Every song is like that. It could be something like crying in the bathroom to a dance song about crying in the bathroom; just challenging reality – that was what this EP was supposed to be about.
My producer is Peter Nappi and he is insane. Every song I wrote with him, there was a topliner; this person is essentially there to create the vibe and keep the energy going and momentum going with the song. This was really crazy because I had never made pop music before. We would just be in his apartment in front of his laptop and me with a mic just sitting on the ground writing these songs, creating “The Fantasy” if you will.
How would you describe your sound? How do you want your fans to identify with your music? What’s the vibe?
Internet Pop is a genre I coined; it’s what makes me different and it’s my “lane.” I was making “pop” songs, and it didn’t feel like there was a period after that, like there’s “another pop song.” I was getting into it and letting my emotions out; I am talking about real stuff.
I asked myself, “What would I call that and still be relevant?” I started thinking about how I’m obviously affected by the internet every day, just like most people are. The internet is like a melting pot of a million different things: what you feel culturally, politically, and in society, all the way down to like what fits you want to rock.
I asked myself, “what is that sound?” and I think it’s a mixture of all of that and what we are feeling, what I am experiencing and being affected by the internet, which I think is special about “this” time.
Let’s talk about your lyrics – would you say this EP was more introspective for you or more of a story to your fans?
I think there is a moment for me, every song, that I ask myself, “Do I really go there? Do I really say that?” Most often the first thing that comes to my mind is the lyric that people actually want to hear.
I don’t know why I have always felt like, “If it’s not my story to tell, then I’m not going to tell it.” What I want to do with my music, from the beginning and until forever, is to speak from my life and what I have experienced. I feel like that is the best way to make music that is relatable for people. As soon as you start to write for another reason, it gets lost. It doesn’t have to be like that. It can be something as simple as, “How do you feel today?… I Feel Good.” That’s literally a song on my EP. It asks people “What does it mean to feel good?” Does it mean to feel good with someone or to feel good being alone?
If it is introspective, it doesn’t have a gender. Every song that I have written is like that, there is no gender, it’s just all experiences. There is no construct, it’s just a feeling, it’s emotion. Nothing has to be said, because it’s just emotion. That is one of my favorite parts of writing this EP; it’s so special to me.
Talk to us about your tour with Sizzy Rocket – what were some of your favorite experiences? How was it to have fans out there singing your songs?
It was really crazy. I have never gone on tour more than like a week at a time and my girl Sizzy was like, “I need an opener are you down – like you are going to have to run your own track and figure it out.” I wanted to do it and figure out what these songs on the EP were like in a space with real people and not just in my head. I was just ready to put it out there and see what people thought. Every night, I just ran the EP from start to finish and people’s reactions were really positive; they were so excited to be a part of something so early on. It was so special.
I really only had one song out when I went on tour [“To Be Young”] and I would tell people I was going to sing it, and they would push through the front screaming to sing along. That had never happened to me before and it was amazing; people care and they are hearing it.
You have a bunch of visuals coming out with the EP – can you tell us a little about what’s to come?
I just released a visual for “David Bowie,” which is completely different from “To Be Young.” It’s way more of a story with the colors and the abstract visuals. It’s pretty futuristic, but I wanted to do the modern version of what David Bowie would do with a pop song right now.
I just feel like every song is kind of a single and could stand on its own, but they needed to be together because it was the first six songs I wrote. I feel like something like that is a moment in time and each song deserves its visual element. Maybe that is a little ambitious, but the songs need it!
DIRECTOR: Chelsea Esquibel
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Max Wilbur
PHOTOGRAPHER: Carolina Isabel Salazar
HMU: Samantha Fryling
STYLIST: Tiffany Constantini