BILLBOARD: G.O.O.D. MUSIC'S KACY HILL IS A FASHIONABLE & EDGY POP SINGER YOU SHOULD KNOW
G.O.O.D. Music's Kacy Hill is a Fashionable & Edgy Pop Singer You Should Know
Kanye West is an executive producer on her debut album 'Like a Woman'
After steadily booking modeling jobs for American Apparel, a then 20-year-old Kacy Hill caught the attention of Italian artist and Kanye West collaborator, Vanessa Beecroft. West and Beecroft were searching for nine trained dancers and three models to join 'Ye on stage during his Fall 2013 Yeezus tour and Hill was one of the women selected. After leaving the tour early to pursue music, West heard Hill's demo and immediately signed her to his hip-hop focused label -- Big Sean, Pusha T, and Desiigner are labelmates -- G.O.O.D. Music.
Fast forward three-and-a-half years. Since first meeting West, the emerging singer-songwriter who hails from Phoenix is slowly carving out her niche as a left-of-center pop singer thanks to her mesmerizing vocals and eye-catching style.
Before Hill headed to her album showcase at The Peppermint Club in LA's West Hollywood neighborhood on Monday (June 26), Billboard spoke with her about songwriting, female empowerment and pushing both musical and fashion boundaries.
What's your favorite part about performing?
Performing is my favorite part of the entire process because it’s the only real face-to-face contact where I get with listeners and people who are actually driving the music. I kind of have this love-hate, well, mostly hate relationship with social media because I don't know how to communicate my feelings and myself on the Internet fully. But, I think to be physically in front of people is kinda the best way for me to communicate what everything means to me and what my message is.
Tell us about your creative vision for your debut album Like a Woman. What’s the overall theme or message you want to get across to listeners with this upcoming project?
The biggest thing is that it’s reasonable to be a sexual being and to do things that make you feel good and require respect from people. A big thing is I wanted to feel like I didn't have to erase a big part of my narrative and who I am. When I started in music, I did American Apparel which was varying levels of undress, and it never bothered me, I wasn’t ashamed of it or anything. But, when I turned to music, I felt like there was this big push to start with a clean slate, and not to make that a focus of everything, and to be more modest. I realized over the past year that is just doing myself a huge disservice because it erases a huge part of who I am and why I did all of that, and why it made me feel comfortable and good. It's about doing things that make you feel good, without apologizing for them all the time.
Last month, you dropped two singles, “Like a Woman” and “Hard to Love” are about the challenges of relationships and relates to the theme of empowerment you just mentioned. Are all of the songs on your project that you wrote about personal experiences?
Yeah, they’re all very personal. I think it’s kinda the only way I knew how to write on this album was to make it really close to me. I wrote most of the album from 19 to 22, living in LA alone and who I was, and all of the songs are a reflection of that experience.
Walk us through your songwriting formula. How do you know if a song is complete or have a potential hit on deck?
There’s definitely something to the cringe test, I think when you write something, and there’s a part that’s just not right, it kinda just makes you squirm. I think the only way I can finish something is if I just let it go like ‘okay that just needs to be separated from me, and I'm not going to do any good by focusing on it anymore.' And I have no idea if something is a hit or not. (Laughs) But, I guess my goal clearly has nothing to do with radio or making the biggest record. I just want to make something honest, that connects with as many people as I can, and feels beautiful for me.
Kanye is listed as an executive producer on your debut album. What is it like to collaborate with him in the studio?
He didn't specifically collaborate on the music for my album, I had only been in a couple of sessions for Pablo a while ago, and it's just a completely different process than what I'm used to. He’s very collaborative and has a lot of people around him, and I'm introverted and don't like anyone in the studio.
Talk to us about the creative process behind this album.
I've been writing this album for three years, and it was done. And then last year, I put out a song called “Lion,” then had a meeting with Kanye, and he was like 'I hate this song,' and I was like 'cool, I kinda do too.' He helped me find the driving force behind reproducing the whole album, set me up with some people like DJ Dodger Stadium (DJDS), who produced a lot of the album with me and Stuart Price. I was already working with Stuart Price, but we redid a lot of production he has done so far, and then (West) set me up with my stylist who helps me with some creative direction. Once I had that, all of the visual elements finally clicked for me and came from there. And I think a lot of the messaging came to me; there’s a lot of building, unbuilding and then building again.
Your music video for "Like a Woman" was quite captivating. What was it like shooting that visual?
I wanted to work with those directors for a while, they’re called J.A.C.K., this amazing French duo, and I've seen their work for Christine and the Queens a few years back and was obsessed. It took a few years for me to be on the music video cycle, and once I was able to shoot music videos, I knew I wanted to work with them. They connected with me and wanted to know what my vision was, and I told them I wanted to make things that we're really feminine, and had these sexual undertones, but were also sexual in a way that it is uncomfortable and a bit unconventional and something you're not used to. So they came up for the treatment for the “Like a Woman,” and I think it’s so, special.
G.O.O.D. Music is a hip-hop focused label, and you’re also one of two ladies (alongside Teyana Taylor) holding it down on the roster. Specifically, with your single "Like a Woman," which DJ Mustard produced, is not the usual trap instrumental fans regularly hear from him. What is it about his hip-hop sound that you were initially drawn to?
He tweeted at me, a few months before and said he wants Kacy Hill on his album. I initially said no just because I wasn't sure how I would live in DJ Mustard’s world, and then I agreed a little bit later because I think it's good to try different things and branch out. He has a lot of good ideas, and during the session, Terrace Martin was in there playing keys, and I think Terrace Martin is an incredible musician, so I was super stoked he was in there. It was just one of those happen chances that turned out well. I think even if I go in a session with someone who seems like a funny fit, I think there’s always a way to compromise and find something that fits in both worlds.
On top of singing, songwriting, and modeling, you also have a background in classical music. What other creative mediums are you drawn to and would like to experience next? Why is that?
I just want to do everything (and) just let things happen as they happen, and I think that’s the best way to live my life because everything feels natural when it comes around. I think that there are opportunities that open themselves at the right moment and want to take every opportunity I can.
Let’s talk fashion. How would you describe your style?
Boyish -- I don’t wear dresses a lot -- I like suits, oversized things, and items that are minimal.
Who are some of your fashion influences?
Cher and Rihanna because they both are kind of in their times, been driving forces for both the fashion and music worlds. And I think both have been wonderful at testing boundaries and pushing what is normal and what people are used to seeing especially regarding what it means to look feminine and dress femininely.
What are some of your favorite clothing lines? Any emerging brands that you've got your eye on?
Big fan of Balenciaga, always like Gucci -- I think everyone likes Gucci now, but that’s because it’s incredible -- like Alyx and Y/Project. I think Alyx, Balenciaga and Y/Project are some of the coolest, industrial but kind of sleek looks right now and it’s very fun. I like when you throw it (clothes) on and look kinda messy and boyish, but also you can't pay rent. (Laughs).
What do you like about Alessandro Michele’s work with Gucci?
I think it’s incredible; he revitalized a brand in the most amazing way, and I think it’s very special, artful, and it’s insane how much of a movement he’s created with Gucci.
How would you compare your everyday style to performance wear.
It's pretty similar, but for performances are a bit more elevated and shiny. I feel most honest and comfortable when my performance wear is something I would just be able to wear in the world.
Now that it's officially summer, what are some of your fashion staples?
I really have a problem with just not caring in the summer, but my staple is sitting on the couch with no pants on. I'm a big fan of anything I can throw on and go out in, and wear the least amount of clothing possible.
Speaking of warmer weather, what's your summer beauty tip?
Drink a lot of water and wear a lot of sunscreen. I recently got turned onto Kate Sommerville's amazing sunscreen that is a spray sunscreen and makeup setting spray -- I don't wear makeup -- and the idea of rubbing screenscreen on my face is annoying. I'm a major sunscreen believer and just drink a ton of water and moisturize the crap out of your face.
What are your thoughts on the relationship between music and fashion?
I think it's amazing and very cool because I think music survived by having some visual element to it. I think fashion is the natural way for expression, and have always been complementary pieces. This might sound weird, but musicians are the kind of cool trendsetters out of everyone in the entertainment world, and I think it's kind of always been that way. The idea of a rock star is that you're always cool, influential, test boundaries, and just push buttons and that's what it is to be a musician.
How do you push boundaries with your music or sense of fashion?
For me, it's about my message: I want to push boundaries as far as what a woman is allowed to express, regarding sexuality, and what I'm allowed to say what I want and need. And the way I express myself to the world: I like the idea of talking about sexuality and looking a type of way in the public eye and also demanding respect and wanting to be a human and being multifaceted. Feeling sexy and not having it drowning out what I have to say.