When listening to Chicago-based singer Lili K speak, it's easy to imagine her melodious vocals filling a dreamy jazz lounge; her soulful, R&B-tinged style evokes memories of Motown artists and contemporary acts like D'Angelo and Lauryn Hill alike. The 10,000 spoke with Lili K about her creative influences, her struggles as an independent artist, and her upcoming album.
Exclusive Selects: Lili K for Master & DynamicOctober 31, 2016
Your music is extremely soulful and heartfelt, with hints of jazz R&B intermixed. What forces have shaped the creativity found in your sound?
I was raised almost completely on Motown. My earliest music memories are singing along to Gladys Knight, The Jackson 5, and The Spinners. As I got older, I started singing in the gospel choir at church, and when I was about twelve, I was introduced to jazz by my vocal teacher at school. Hearing Ella Fitzgerald totally changed my perspective on singing. When I got to high school, I got really into neo-soul (D'Angelo, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, India.Arie, Musiq Soulchild, etc.) Using Limewire helped me find everything I'd been missing. [Laughs.] So as I started to fall in love with different genres, I broadened my songwriting to include all of my influences.
You were the first Tidal "Rising" artist, and Chicago Reader recently named you the "Best Jazz Musician" in their annual "Best Of Chicago" poll. What advice do you have for aspiring artists that want to make it in a genre that's slightly less mainstream than rap, pop, or country?
Stay true to yourself and think long term! It's so easy to get caught up in chasing a trend or changing your sound to do whatever's most popular at the time. However, trends change; what's cool today may not be cool tomorrow. So focus on what YOU love and what you want to put your all into. When it comes down to it, people just love good music – no matter the genre.
Also, be patient and don't compare yourself to other artists. Not all success comes overnight, even though it may seem that way. Put in the hard work, focus on your goal, and define what success means to you. Your career path is going to be different from everyone else's.
As an independent artist, what struggles have you faced, and what have you done to overcome these hurdles?
I love my independence as an artist; I make the music I want to make on my own terms. However, there are definitely struggles. One of the biggest hurdles as an independent artist is funding your career. For the longest time, I had to work a 9-5 job that I hated while trying to build my career as an artist. I was getting four hours of sleep a night, I was eating poorly, I was super unhealthy. BUT, all that work allowed me to fund my passion. And eventually, that work led me to become a self-sustaining artist. If this is what you want, the stress and the sleepless nights are 100% worth it. Building the right team is also crucial to an independent artist. It's important to find people that are truly in your corner, but aren't yes-men. You need honest, real, hardworking support.
You're working on your latest album. What can you tell us about this project?
My new album is called Planet of Flowers, and I'm SO excited about it! It's my sophomore album (following my debut, Ruby) and it shows immense growth since my debut. Planet of Flowers is different from anything I've done in the past, as my band and I are writing it together. Although this album is still heavily rooted in jazz and soul, we kind of threw genre out the window in our writing. We've incorporated rock, reggae, funk, R&B... really a little bit of everything. It was a super liberating experience to write without constraints.