Singer-songwriter Kris Angelis is known and loved for her unique folk-pop sound and her strong song-writing. She’s quite the accomplished artist as well, earning a number of awards including the 13th International Acoustic Music Award for Best Female Artist, LA Music Critics Award for Best Female EP, and she was named a finalist of the 2016 International Songwriting Competition. I got the chance to talk with her about what influenced her sound, the inspiration behind her new single “Photobooth,” her love of running charades and so much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
How old were you when you first started making and performing music?
I mean, my mom said I was [doing] that before I could talk. I was just singing and I started being in choir when I was very little and just got kind of the performing bug just from doing little, like Christmas pageants at school. When I discovered Hanson, this is kind of funny, but when I discovered Hanson, I was like, “Wow! They’re so young and they’re doing it so maybe I can too.” And I started learning how to harmonize with my sister and I was probably like eleven.
Was there a specific moment or would you credit Hanson for making you realize music is what you wanted to do for a living?
Yeah, I think so. That’s when I started sort of writing with my sister and harmonizing with her and my friends. And then Brandi Carlile a little bit later. Funnily enough, I saw Brandi Carlile opening for Hanson.
That’s so funny.
Yeah [laughs]. And then I was like, “I want to be her.” And then [I] was fortunate enough in my life to sort of become friends with the band, Brandi Carlile’s band, and get to have the great schooling that was watching them as I was sort of becoming a singer-songwriter myself. So I learned a lot from them.
I was going to ask you if you had gotten to see Hanson when they were touring, but I guess you did. Did you see them just once or more than once?
Oh, I don’t know how many.
So you saw them a bunch then?
I really like that your music has such a unique sound. You talked a little bit about Hanson and Brandi Carlile being influences, but if you were to describe your sound without using genre names, how would you describe it?
Without using genre names?
Yeah, without using “pop” or “country music” or whatever else.
Yeah. That’s a good question. I should figure out an answer to this question [laughs]. It would be love songs with an organic feel. [laughs] I don’t know, like a lot of my songs are kind of love songs that stem from kind of heartbreak, but they still have some hope and empowerment in them. Soundwise, without using genre, a little bit of an electronic kind of element, but with an organic base, like acoustic guitar strings, real sounds.
Let’s talk a little bit about your single, “Photobooth,” which dropped on Friday. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind that song.
Yeah. Okay. So I’ve always thought that photo booths were really romantic and fun because they’re kind of old-fashioned, black and white. You go behind a curtain and have little spontaneous, fun moments. I always thought it’d be fun to write a song about that concept and also the fact that you can capture these moments and then that’s all that it is. It’s actually based on a true story; the whole song is real stuff that happened to me with this person, who I was at a party with, and we danced and we went to a photo booth and [kissed] on [the] cheeks and [had] a little moment. It seemed like the beginning of something and then it turned out that it just wasn’t. It turned out kind of sad for me. But then we still have this moment of that beginning; all of the imagined future that I had in my mind for us is captured in that picture. But then that’s all that it is. It’s just a picture.
In terms of writing this song, would you say that exact moment inspired “Photobooth” or was it just a jumping off point and you were like, “I’m looking to write a song and this will be a cool idea. Let’s write about this?”
Yeah, it definitely was something that I had thought about a lot. A lot of times when I write songs it’s because of something that has been going around and around in my head, something that I’ve experienced. I kind of write it down in my little journal or my little notes [app] on my phone and I write down little snippets of concepts or a line that I’ll think of. Then when I sit down to write a song, it’s like, “Okay, I’m going to make this into something.” So it was like that.
Are you someone who always has to write by yourself or do you like collaborating with others? How does that work for you?
I don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure that out myself. I actually have been doing a lot of co-writing and I really do like that because it brings a whole other flavor to the proceedings. It takes me out of my comfort zone a little bit. But then there are certain times during that process that I sort of feel like I need to just shut off and be like, “Wait a minute. I’m going to go into my head for a minute and try to figure out the lyrics.” Or we’ll start a song and then I’ll go home and work on it and then come back and be like, “Okay, what do you think of this?” So it’s definitely a hybrid because I really like working with other people and sometimes it’s magic. You get in the room and you write a song in a few hours and it’s awesome. But then sometimes, I do need the alone time. It really depends too on like how personal it is, because if it’s something that had been really weighing on my heart and I’m just like, “I need to get this out in the song,” I want to write that by myself because if, if someone comes in and they start messing with it, I’m like, “Wait, wait, wait. But that’s not what happened and that’s not what I need to write.”
I was reading a little bit about you and I realize you’ve won quite a few awards for your songwriting. Is there one award in particular that stands out as the most meaningful or one you were kind of surprised to receive?
Yeah, I won the National Acoustic Music Award for Best Female Artist and I was really surprised. That was really cool. And that was actually for my song, “Heartbreak is Contagious,” which was a co-write with Alexander Cornellian and Morgan Taylor Reed, who are really awesome artists and producers. Those songs from my last EP, Heartbreak is Contagious, three of them are co-writes with those guys and Morgan produced them and they were really fun. Like that was one of the biggest, my first real experience with co-writing and it got me out of my comfort zone, like the whole time I was terrified. I was having a panic attack every day in the studio like. “Oh my God. Is this my sound? I can’t do it.” And then they were like, “Sing higher” and I was like, “I can’t do it.” They were like, “Yes, you can,” just really pushing my boundaries. It really broke me out of my shell as a singer-songwriter. So I’m really grateful for that experience and it opened up a lot of things.
Who are some of your musical influences when it comes to songwriting?
There are so many, but the ones off the top of my head right now: Ingrid Michaelson, Regina Spektor, The Lumineers, The Head and the Heart, David Gray, Ray Lamontagne, Elton John.
That’s a great list. There are some great artists on that list. Is there a track of yours, whether it’s “Photobooth” or one on your last EP that you feel best represents What can people expect from you for the rest of 2018? Do you have any plans to release another EP? Something else this year?
Yes, so “Photobooth” is the first single from an EP that I’m releasing this summer. It’s going to be five songs and I’m almost done with it. I’m still writing the last one and recording it. So that’s why I don’t have an exact release date yet, but that’s going to be coming out probably in August. I do have a release show that’s like my birthday slash release show on July 21st at The Hotel Cafe, but that’s going to be kind of like a… if you come to this show then you’ll get to have the CD but it’s not going to be released to the public yet. That’s what I’m planning on as far as releases for the rest of this year. I’m also going to be touring in Germany in September and hopefully, I’m going to be doing some touring of the west coast at least and hopefully the rest of the US for the rest of the year as well.
Oh cool. Have you ever been to Germany before?
I have. I went in 2014 and did this same tour. It’s called “Songs and Whispers” and it was really fun. So they invited me back and I said yes.
That’ll be so much fun. I just have a few more quick, fun questions. Which artists are you currently listening to on repeat right now?
I don’t know who that is. I’m gonna have to Google him.
I don’t even know if he’s still doing music because I found this album of his that I think came out in 2010, maybe a little bit later. But I am obsessed with it. I listened to it on repeat literally. I want to find him. I’ve been trying to find him online so I can be like, “Will you write with me?” [laughs] But I haven’t been able to find him yet.
Like not even a Facebook or a Twitter? Like nothing?
The only thing I can find with him is on Reverbnation, but I don’t know if he even checks it or not. I haven’t found him on Twitter or anything.
He’s like a ghost. He just lives with his music and that’s it.
Totally. An amazing vocal ghost.
Interesting. I’ll have to check him out regardless. What do you like to do for fun when you’re not making music?
Well, speaking of Talk Nerdy With Us, I play Dungeons and Dragons and all kinds of nerdy board games like Pandemic Legacy. Have you heard of this?
I have not.
[laughs] I basically just like playing a lot of nerdy board games. Also, running charades, which is like a really competitive team running [challenge]. Like it’s charades but you have to get through a list first and there’s actual running involved and yeah, lots of stuff like that.
Oh, I’ve never even heard of that. I thought you were just talking about like charades league or something like that. That’s so interesting. Is that something you and your friends created or is it an actual thing?
It’s an actual thing. We didn’t create it first. I think it might’ve started in LA with a bunch of nerdy theater kids. But I’ve been playing it with my friends for like eight years; we get together and get really serious. There’s like tournaments and stuff [laughs].
Wow. I’m going to have to Google this.
Yeah, look it up. I think if you look it up, there’s a picture of Nathan Fillion that pops up because he plays.
That’s so funny.
It’s funny because I recently sort of became friends with Jon Huertas from This Is Us. He was also in Castle with Nathan Fillion and so I’m like, “Bring him to play,” because I love Firefly and Castle and all that stuff. I mean, someday it’ll happen I’m sure.