Chase: “All right everybody, this is Chase March and we are lucky enough to have Kellee Maize on the phone. You can download this interview for free, stream it with the player below, or continue reading. So, how’s it going Kellee?”
Kellee: “It’s going great. Thank you.”
Chase: “I’m really excited about having you on the show because I first caught wind of you when I was looking for female rappers online for a show we put together on International Women’s Day.
I saw your video for ‘Third Eye’ and I was really blown away by it. I was really impressed with it. It’s a little bit different than what a lot of people might be expecting from a female MC because you have this spiritual essence that you portray in a lot of your music. I was wondering if you’d like to tell us what that is about and where that comes from?”
Kellee: “It’s kind of my way of life. I, more or less, write about what is present for me at the time, whenever I am writing. I try to be connected to my spiritual, higher self. It’s been a huge part of my life for the past ten years or more. I’m really just writing from what I am learning every day and what I living every day.”
Chase: “Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process, about how you go about writing your songs?”
Kellee: “I would say that it’s different every time, every song is a little different. Generally, the process is, 70% of the time, I get a beat that I like from a producer, or sometimes we actually buy beats online, it depends. And I will just sort of listen to it, over and over and over again, along with all of the other beats that are in my catalogue at the time.
Something happens. Maybe I’m driving to it or I just have it in my head for the rest of the day and something will just spark. I’ll think of a line or two lines, sometimes even 16 bars or 32 will come out from the middle of nowhere. That happens pretty frequently.
Once that happens, then I will sit down with the shell, the one verse, the hook, or something like that, and construct a song and write to the rest of it.
It’s somewhat of an editing process. A lot of what you hear when you hear the completed song is really the first draft. It was kind of what came out. But sometimes once I put it to the beat and I record it, I might switch things up, or changes certain words, realize my diction was a little off, or I’ll want to really focus on a certain idea that wasn’t mature enough in the first draft.
Most of the time, I am writing as fast as I am thinking. It is somewhat of a freestyle in a way. It sort of all comes out.
I write pretty consistently in notebooks. I’ll just be sitting there and out of nowhere think of a bunch of bars, a melody or something like that. I’ll type it in the computer of write it in my book. Once I’ve done that, I go back to it, review it, maybe memorize it, and then I’ll go look for a beat that specifically will fit that melody so that I can re-create the melody a little bit or re-create the way that I am spitting it to the beat.
That’s probably the two main ways. My preference has been to write with a band like I have done in the past. I really love that process of working with live musicians. But, given the status and state of my life and all that I’ve been doing in the world, it’s been a bit of a challenge, at least until this point, to work with a group of live musicians all at once. It’s really do to scheduling.
There are tons of talented musicians in Pittsburgh but they’re all really busy. So, for now, I am just working with me.
Once one of those two ways happen, I record it to the beat and then I work with my recording engineer and my mixing engineer, who is usually the same person, to finalize it, put on some effects, change up the beat, rework the beat or whatever to make the final song. We usually will then send it to get mastered depending on what we are using it for, and then it goes out the door.”
Chase: “You do a lot more that just music. You have a whole foundation, don’t you?”
Kellee: “I started a company about five years ago. It’s more or less female owned and operated, although we do have men that work with us also now. We`re a marketing firm and we`re all sort of activists at heart. We are all into raising awareness or creating positive messages.
We started to really promote independent artists, musicians, and filmmakers, and very quickly realized that we couldn`t really sustain ourselves off of that so we became a full service marketing firm. We work with all kinds of different clients, locally and nationally. We`re still a small outfit overall. We work really, really, really hard to do what we do.
It’s all non-traditonal marketing. We don’t do radio or TV or anything like that. We do online marketing, event planning, and event marketing. We’re all event planners by trade, sort of speak. We also do Facebook and run accounts for different clients and stuff like that. As well as street teams, we will hire different girls or guys to go out and promote different products and become brand ambassadors for all kinds of different things.
It’s definitely like my little baby that is kind of walking and running on its own. I’m just watching it grow, slowly but surely. It’s pretty cool.”
Chase: “That’s awesome! It’s nice to see you’re focused on females as well. Quite often female rappers get overlooked or they don’t get the kind of recognition that their male counterparts do. It’s a shame to see that because there are so many amazing female rappers out there and they are just not getting heard. So it is nice to see you putting some force behind that.”
Kellee: “Yeah, I’m trying. Trying different things. In a way, the business is spiritually based. We don’t necessary use it in a public fashion but in the way we run the business and how we talk to each other and how we deal with issues or problems comes from a spiritual perspective.
My music is something we all felt excited about promoting and seeing how people would respond to it. It’s been pretty awesome so far.”
Chase: “One of the interesting things you do, is give away your music, like all of your music. I know some people do a mixtape and then an album, but if you go to your website, you can download all of your music for free. That is quite different from what most people tend to do.”
Kellee: “We’re trying to do what nobody else does. That’s one of the ways that we determine what to do next, like, ‘Okay, what’s nobody else doing?’ The record industry has completely changed so our main goal is to just give it away for free.
For me, as an artist, I love the idea of it being accessible to everyone. There is not any kind of roadblock for them to listen or have it in their possession. I love that idea. It was a hard decision to come to because as an artist, I have to value my work, I have to get paid for my time and my work, but at the same time, I was so psyched about the idea of having it for free.
It became somewhat of a marketing strategy at the end of the day, because I think when people resonate with something, it doesn’t usually happen until they’ve been exposed to it. You don’t buy the car without test driving it. The same thing goes with new music, like you’ve never heard anything like it before.
You need to get yourself centred into what it is you’re listening to. By giving it away for free, I’m giving them that opportunity and the people that dig it, dig it, and people that don’t, don’t. Hopefully IO can build a community of like-minded people who do like it. And then eventually I’ll be able to sustain myself selling a song a month or touring, that kind of stuff.”
Chase: “That’s an interesting model and an interesting way to take it. I know that you have recently released a few songs with ‘Pay with a Tweet” where you put it on Twitter, ‘I just downloaded Kellee Maize and you can too,’ or something like that. That’s another good way to get the music out there.
It’s interesting to see how you are using the Internet in all these novel ways. The other thing is that your music videos are very well producing. It’s amazing to see that you can have that much quality to them when you give away your music for free.”
Kellee: “We’ve just been really lucky with everything. For me, this is much bigger than music or money. What I talk about in my music, I’m dead serious about it, or alive serious about it. I really am. I believe that there is transformations going on in the planet and it is very important for humanity to take it to the next level.
So, yeah, we’ve been creating visuals, free music, and all of that kind of stuff. It’s really important, we thing, to getting it out there and people paying attention to it. If you look at blogs, or people like yourself who are interviewing me or paying attention, the videos are really, int 80% of the time, seem to be what initially got people’s attention. Once we realized that a video was what was making people pay attention, we got really serious about it.
The cool thing about Pittsburgh is that is is really inexpensive to live here. If I told you what I live off of every month, you’d probably laugh. It’s a great place to live, and the cost of living is so low, and there is so much opportunity here, and there’s so many talented people. A lot of movies have been filmed here. We are covered in colleges and universities.
So there is all kinds of young, aspiring people like myself that have the same vision that I do. They want to get their work out there. They want people to get their message or see their artistic integrity get out in the world so they are willing to work with me for incredibly cheap prices so we can make it happen.
I barter like it’s my job. I really think that it is something that anybody can do. It’s just a matter of committing that this is going to happen. It’s all about creating reality and saying, ‘Okay, this is what’s gonna happen, and I’m gonna focus on the work that will make that happen, and it’s all going to work out.’”
Chase: “That is really cool to see. I know a lot of people say, ‘This is the way you gotta do it. And I’m gonna charge $20,000 dollars for a music video and I’m gonna charge this and that.’ Well, why can’t we work together to get the same vision out. It;s cool to see you combating that kind of thing and really making it work.”
Kellee: “I’ve created all kinds of new friendships and the videographers I’ve worked with. Everyone in all of my videos are friends. I’ve created a community out of everything.”
Chase: “Nice. It’s time to spin one of your tracks. I really love ‘Third Eye.’ It’s one of my favourites. I want to spin that for sure and then come back and talk to you some more.”
Kellee: “Sounds good.”
Chase: “All right, so this is ‘Third Eye’ by Kellee Maize off her album ‘Aligned Archetype.’ Daddy J drop that track and we’ll be right back.”
Come back tomorrow to read the rest of this interview, or you can stream it with the player below to hear the whole thing right now.
Thanks for tuning in.