Kacy Hill: "Pop Music Is A Dangerous Thing If You Try To Ignore It"

You’re not going to find a debut album with a vision as strong as Kacy Hill’s Like A Woman this year. The G.O.O.D. Music signee has crafted a record, executive produced by Kanye West, that deals with womanhood, self-identity and sexuality in a poignant, pristine way. From the incredible visuals to the elongated, careful songs, Hill has made a tightly packaged LP with the confidence and direction of an artist on her third or fourth effort.

By being open to everything, Hill is making music that devours every genre and churns it out as something totally knew. With the help of LA producers DJDS (Kanye West) and Stuart Price (Madonna, Robbie Williams) she’s delivered something that’s both accessible and challenging. Hard To Love delivers a soaring, melodic chorus while serving up lyrics like, “String all their lies between our faces.” On title track Like A Woman she asks, “how do you love?” through elongated, fragile vocals.

It’s unmistakably individual but also taps into pop music’s catchiest tools. That becomes the direction of our conversation as we talk over the phone while she’s driving through LA. Hill is all about embracing the popular while still focussing on your own individual identity and as our chat and the record proves, it’s possible to do both and remain “cool”.

First of all congrats on the album. It must feel like a long time in the making?
Thank you. Yeah, it feels kind of crazy to have it done and so close to being out.

How long ago did you properly start working on it?
I got signed a little over three years ago so I really started working on it right after that. It’s been a solid three plus years.

In that time was there ever a point you hit where you were like, I’m never going to finish this?
Umm, probably every week in the past year. It’s been so surreal to have it done. In the last year I called my manager at least once a week and said, “this is the end. I can’t do it, I can’t finish it.” And then he tells me to go do something so I go do something and then I’m better.

Was there a point you remember when you knew what the direction of the album was going to be?
I think once I started to redo production. I reproduced a couple of songs with DJDS and then that kind of all came together and I was like, “yes, yes, yes, this is what it is. Now I have a frame of mind for the rest of the album”.

What I love most about the record is how there are so many different collaborators that you wouldn’t necessarily pair with your music. DJ Mustard is particularly interesting on Like A Woman. Was that fun for you to move into other worlds and test the limits?
Yeah. I think writing the album, for the most part, I didn’t know what I wanted. I wrote and worked with a lot of different people and then in finishing the album I knew DJDS were the right choice and they were going to smash it over the park. It was really just DJDS and Stewart Price that finished it with me. They all really go together. They are all in a really similar world where they can do this cool, minimalist, electronic thing. Stuart loves minimalist, cool electronic stuff.

DJDS are my favourite producers and their work on Kanye’s The Life Of Pablo was some of the most memorable. How did you strike up a relationship with them?
First off, they’re incredible. We had a handful of mutual friends so I did something with them first and then I met with Kanye again a little bit later after I first worked with them and it came about through someone else that Kanye recommended I work with. I finished the album with them and it was just right. We instantly clicked and it sounded great. They did an amazing job.

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The lyrical vision for the album is very strong in terms of the femininity and sexuality. Did the thematic direction of the album come before the sound?
I think the songs ended up being about similar things because it was a focus in my life. I think I was spending a lot of time either, focussing my time on one person that I knew wasn’t going to work but I just needed to spend my energy on a person. I was either doing that or spending time on my own and thinking what do I need to do to be alone? What is it to be lonely. A lot of that has to do with figuring out yourself and what it means to be with another person and be with yourself.

I really love something that you tweeted earlier this year. You replied to someone and said, “good pop music is really, really beautiful, don’t forget bout that.” There’s a common misconception in 2017 that pop music is superficial but is it liberating for you to embrace the idea that things can be melodic and poppy and be really important?
Yeah, I think it’s also this really silly idea now where you can’t be cool if you like popular things. Or if everyone likes something you can’t be cool if you like it too. But there’s a reason that certain things are universally likeable and appealing. They’re good and they’re good for a reason. It’s just about not being too cool to admit that you like something.

Do you feel like the people around you who were working on the record shared that same ideology about embracing pop culture?
Yeah, I think I worked with a lot of cool, very knowledgeable people in music that have either...Stuart has worked on some really excellent pop records, notably Madonna. Working with DJDS and writing a lot of the record with Oscar, we were always listening to different things. I’m not limited to just listening to cool shit or just listening to cinematic stuff. It’s like everything and I think pop music is a dangerous thing if you try to ignore it.

I like hearing that you grew up with an alt-rock background and then branched into this G.O.O.D. Music world. What drew you to the label?
I think it was more so that I was drawn to the artistic vision of people on the label. I think that with everyone on there, there’s kind of this attention to aesthetic and I think that they hold value in making really good art. It’s something that feels driven by passion so that’s what drew me to the label. It was also cool for me because I’d been on tour with Kanye and it felt like it was a full circle kind of thing.

One of the things they do really well is focus on individual identity rather than genre and I also think that’s something profound on your album. It’s a Kacy Hill record. Was that important for you to carve out your own identity?
Yeah. It’s less of a conscience decision and more of, this is what it ended up being. I was really conscious to not listen to one type of music and not have one specific inspiration. That’s just what ended up coming from it. It’s about not being stuck on one thing. When people ask me about my idols or inspiration, I literally can’t think of one. It’s a culmination of everything I’ve listened to.

That comes through very clearly on the record. I’m interested to know if it’s hard when you fall in love listening to something to move on and not get stuck on it?
I don’t think so. I’m easily distracted anyway. The only time it ever happens is if I’m really in love with a song and then I go into a writing session and get the melody stuck in my head. Other than that I can pretty easily get distracted and do something else in 30 seconds.

The visual aspect of the album is something that’s very important. Did you start thinking about that side of it before you even completed the album?
I thought about it but it didn’t fully click until the album was done. I needed to have this moment to sit back and look at it. It’s like when you’re painting a mural. You spend three hours a day on an eyeball and then you have no idea what the whole thing is. And then you step back and see what it is. It was like that. You’ve gotta step back and figure out what the whole thing should look like.

You obviously have an understanding of what the lyrics are but when you go and make a music video, is it weird to analyse them and figure out what they mean to you?
No because I don’t think I take it super literally. A lot of the time it’s a feel or a sentiment. The message behind everything is less about analysing exactly what I was talking about...it’s really easy to go back to that feeling and try and capture it.

You’ve done plenty of modelling in that past. Was it a really nice part of putting out your own music to have your own image and style out there and do what you want to do?
Completely. I feel like I’ve discovered this whole new degree of control that I didn’t know I was able to have. It’s very exciting for me.

The visual for Hard To Love is incredible but how long did it take you to srcub off that paint?
Well, great story. When we started in this big house outside of London, we finished at 1 in the morning. I went to hop in the shower and all the water turned cold. So I was like, this is not gonna work. I went back to the hotel and I was so over it, I soaked in the bath and scrubbed myself and ordered a room service salad.

Like A Woman is out tomorrow.