KTJ & CARLY are a soulful sister act aiming to take over the music industry. In addition to performing, they have taken their musical education seriously, with KTJ focused on piano and production taking pre-college courses at NYU’s Music Production and Technology and Carly immersing herself in an intensive at Carnegie Mellon University. Their debut single “On My Mind” immediately draws you in with their honed vocals melting over the melody as the slow, rhythmic groove builds to a hypnotic falsetto-layered chorus.
I got the chance to talk to them about what made them want to start making music together professionally, the story behind their debut single “On Your Mind”, what they’re currently nerding out about and more! Keep reading to see what they had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you both first got into making and performing music.
KTJ: We have been making music ever since we could talk, and started taking music and acting classes seriously at a very young age. We always knew this is what we wanted to do. We’ve both performed in many plays and musicals growing up, and by the time we were 13, we started writing songs. We learned more and more about songwriting growing up and fell in love with music production. Since then, we’ve been growing in our craft and writing and making music together.
What made you guys want to come together and start making music together as KTJ & Carly?
Both: We have always been making music together since we could move and talk. The music making has always been there. As far as what made us come together and make our brand was with the help of Sera Roadnight. When we showed her what we were going for with our brand and what we wanted to achieve, she really helped us kick it off. She has been such a blessing and we would not be here today without her. She has helped us show the world who we are as artists.
I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. So if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?
Carly: I would say our sound is unique and hypnotic. I have a hard time describing our music with genres in the first place. Our vocals are very smooth and rhythmic, while our production style is very upbeat and different. Together, they combine to make a mixture of sounds, catchy and meaningful. Our songwriting, on top of it, is very real and very truthful. That is the whole point of songwriting — telling the truth in a story. That doesn’t necessarily mean the song is based on a true story, but more so telling the importance and truth within a story, whether it be made up or it’s a personal reflection. It is also interesting because our lyrics and production often work as antonyms; happy sounds and sad lyrics, vice versa.
Going off of that, who are some of your musical influences, both individually and as a duo?
KTJ: We have many musical influences such as Galantis, Labrinth, Diplo, Flume, Disclosure, Billie Eillish, Finneas O’Connell, Post Malone, Chance The Rapper, Tyler The Creator, Tame Impala, Beyonce, Ariana Grande, Fleetwood Mac.
Let’s talk about your new single, “On Your Mind.” What’s the story behind this song?
Carly: Usually the stories in our songs are made up, but this is a true story. KT had been in a relationship that wasn’t stable and everyone near her recognized it. Eventually, after everyone told her, she understood this person was wrong for her. We wrote this song as a timeline. Particularly, the same one as that relationship she endured. The way that we deciphered the song was the first verse addressing how they are drawn to this somebody, who is enigmatic yet pleasant, and the desire to know more about them. However, it is hard for them since they still have trust issues from past relations. Then in the pre-chorus, understanding their hunch was right; that person was all along a distraction from what is important. Then the chorus, the second verse, through the end work as a timeline through this single thought process. Someone starts fascinated by their distractions and then they come to find out what they are: a disturbance and self-centered. They are people who think that everyone benefits when they are around when in reality they only hold you down.
But in all honesty, it’s about anything the listeners want it to be. It’s up for interpretation. This song is about relationships, it’s about the wonder of the unfamiliar, it’s about magic, and it’s about toxicity.
I always love hearing about the songwriting process so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into what it was like specifically for this song.
Carly: When we write songs, we typically start off with the topic or idea that we have and then delve into the music and songwriting. It is ALWAYS the story before the final product. That is how everything in life is. We experience first, then we relay our stories. Our songs are typically either about something that is currently affecting us, something we relate to, something someone we know is going through or just made up stories in our heads. This time around, it came from a more personal space.
Something I’ve always been curious with songwriting is how topics come to mind. Did you know what you wanted to write about going into the song session that birthed “On Your Mind” or did it just come about organically once you were in the session?
KTJ: It just depends on the situation, and who we are writing with. When we write together, it’s different because we know everything about each other, so it’s very personal and deep. It is like we aren’t afraid to poke the bear. Emotions can be a hard thing to handle sometimes, but since we are so close to each other, we can be open in our writing.
“On Your Mind” was actually one song that we knew going into [the session] since it was a personal matter. It was almost like a ‘write’ of passion. It was yearning to be written about; I had to have that emotional release. So we wrote it. We usually just talk about life and hangout until we acknowledge something great that we all really stick to/vibe with and write about that. So the topic is first, then the songwriting and music making comes second. Sometimes if I’m alone just jamming out in my free time, I don’t think of anything going into it; I just start freestyling my thoughts and chord progressions, and once I read it over after a first go, I figure out where its coming from and finish the topic/story with Carly if I think it has potential.
Were there any major changes made to “On Your Mind” once you got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?
Both: Yes definitely. We are always open to changing our sound and there were many different times that we tried something completely new. And if it didn’t work out, we would try something else. If you would’ve listened to the draft we had a month before recording, you would be shocked at how different it is. The lyrics changed a lot in the beginning, and the production was changing nearly everyday. The song has developed a lot since the beginning. We learned so much along the road, and we are super proud of it.
You guys are still relatively new to the music game. What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years?
Carly: We have a bunch of shows coming up. Hopefully, we would like to go on a tour soon. This year, we will proceed to release singles and continue to perform as much as possible. Shortly, we will issue an LP or EP and continue to branch out our sound.
Our goals and objectives for the future as artists are to know people. I feel that a lot of artists are difficult to relate to because they don’t appear human if that makes sense. They are so hooked in this glamour atmosphere that it’s hard for people to connect to them. It’s not real. That’s our final intention as artists: to be authentic. To be honest, genuine, and deep and inspire people through our music. Our music is always up for interpretation. All art is, of course. We want people to feel moved, to feel understood, or maybe just to feel joyful, sad, or content. For example, I listen to music to connect to the lyrics and use that as an outlet or an escape. We want people to feel that they can escape the harsh world to our music. The best moment is when you can find a song, and it’s almost like it is speaking directly to you. That is what we are aiming for, for our music to be a harbor.
Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
KTJ: I feel like we are both really weird individuals so everything we nerd out about is essentially everything, if that makes sense. We love nerding over old classic movies and musicians like Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, and classic 80s/90s movies like Pulp Fiction, Sixteen Candles, Ten Things I Hate About You, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Goonies, Stand By Me, and Now & Then. We are both big Marvel nerds, but Carly is a mega-Marvel nerd [laughs].