After our review of Kat Dhalia’s “My Garden” album we had the opportunity to cut it up with the Cuban American songstress over the phone. Her larger than life personality is infectious. Check out our exclusive interview.
CorrienteLatina: I was reading your bio and it was saying that you started singing at eight years old. And I was wondering like at that age, what were you singing? Because I have an older daughter and she just sings Taylor Swift all day. So at that age what songs were you singing? Like, who did you idolize in the music business at that point?
Kat Dhalia: I was like- I’m a 90’s kid so when I was like a kid I was listening to Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, N’Sync, and like, that was my sh*t.
CorrienteLatina: Did you have a favorite song you would sing that was like your “mirror song”? Or not like YOUR mirror song, like a song you would sing at the mirror?
Kat Dhalia: I mean, I don’t know. It was like N’Sync’s, “I Want You Back,” and like Britney Spears’, “Oops I did it Again,” and Christina Aguilera’s, “Come on Over,”. When I was with my older sister; she was nine years older than me, she was into more of that cool stuff. So she would listen to 112, Usher, Next and artists like that. And so I kind have a strange balance of R&B and pop. you know, when I was by myself, so I’m like an eight year old. So all me and my friends are listening to is like Britney Spears and sh*t. And then, with my sister who’s nine years older than me, I’m listening to like 112, and Usher. But I loved them. And so I got a little bit older and I started listening to like my brother introduced me to Classic Rock, and like Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix, and like Janis Joplin and like The Shores, Dropkick Murphy’s and Sublime. And then obviously we’re in Miami so I listened to reggae. So I listened to Bob Marley, Damien Marley, we’re listening to Peter Tosh. And then, as I got a little bit older, I started getting into Jazz, and Blues, and Hip-Hop is always apparent everywhere. And you know it was a little mixture of everything. I was listening to everything.
CorrienteLatina: Nice. So you’re well versed in a lot of music it seems. What is it like to sit down and formulate a song? Do you got to like get the beat first? Or do you write lyrics first and harmonize and then kind of build the beat around it?
Kat Dhalia: Oh no. It’s usually like- I with my boys, and they play guitar and I just get taken by the guitar. So we just come up with melodies. Sometimes I just listen to a track and then I just go into the booth and lay down melodies, or maybe I just like freestyle some stuff. And it really all depends on how we approach it. I love all types of ways- all the types of ways that people approach music. It’s not typical that I just sit down and just write something in silence, and then put it to music. I don’t really do that. I really like to just listen to a tracks, and then there’s this one track that’ll move me, and it’ll make me feel the way that I’m feeling right now. And then I will go into the both and I’ll just like let it out.
CorrienteLatina: Do these feelings stem from personal experiences? I was reading that at a certain point you were living with your family in hotel rooms and things of that nature. Does that seep into your music or is it still just based on like the vibe that is going on at that time?
Kat Dhalia: The reason I make music is really about just the current situation. It’s whatever is current in my life. Whatever is on my heart. I am the kind of person that likes to bottle things in and literally the only therapy that I can get out of situations is when I- the only time I’m really, completely, completely, honest is in music. I think I need to work on that. So yeah when I’m- when I’m [singing] is when I feel the most honest and whatever is on my heart at the moment is what I will write about â€“ it’s not so much rehashing the past.
CorrienteLatina: Gotcha. You mentioned therapy. I can’t remember the interview you did, but you were talking about your music as therapy and about fans crying because your music affected them, and pushed them through, maybe, rough times. Is that kind of like a side bonus or is that like- you write, and it’s deep, and you feel like, you know what, I hope this helps somebody cope with whatever the situation may be?
Kat Dhalia: I do think it’s like the best reminder of why I do this. Because sometime I make music and I like, just do it, ostensibly for me but I think that it’s ultimately like when I write or do something it’s like you know hopefully this will actually relate to people. And people like really like this and they enjoy this. And makes people feel like I’m speaking to them. It’s not like the sole purpose of why I do it though. But then when I do go out, and I go on tour and I meet some people, and they’re really so immersed in music, it really is the best reminder of why I put up with so much bullsh*t. Why I put up with so much of the sh*t that goes on behind the scenes and you know I keep going because of that.
CorrienteLatina: So at 20, you moved to New York and came out with your first independent EP, Shades of Gray.. What was the biggest sacrifice in doing that? Was it monetary? Like, what’s the biggest sacrifice that you had to make? Was it kind of going out on the streets and pushing the actual product? What was the biggest sacrifice to you at that point, once your EP was done?
Kat Dhalia: My EP was done â€“ I think it was really just a money thing. I mean, I spent all my money. like the money that I had to sacrifice, right? I threw an album release party, I bought physical copies, I paid to put it up on iTunes and all that sh*t. I paid for a video and that was probably the biggest sacrifice. But I mean ultimately it worked out. You know, obviously. And it was really fun. Like I didn’t mind so much, you know what I mean? I spent so much money on bullsh*t â€“ this was the first time I was spending money on something that I believed in. And that’s what made it okay.
CorrienteLatina: Gotcha. So what’s the difference between working on your EP and now â€“ working on My Garden, which is backed by, a big machine? Do you still find the same kind of fun in it? Or is it a bit serious because it’s a bigger deal?
Kat Dhalia: I think it’s just as fun. If not, sometimes it’s funner [sic], because more people are involved. But at the same time it can get a little overwhelming, because again, people are involved. There’s more opinions in the mix. So you have to be aware of those opinions. But, overall, as long as you believe in yourself, be true to whatever it is that you believe in, you appreciate all the moments. And I have so much fun. I have so much fun creating new videos or creating new ideas and stuff to do. And just ultimately just being signed to a label is just like being signed to the bank, like being signed to a partner. It’s like, “Hey we’re going to back you. Okay. So this is what you want to do? All right we’re going to back you. We’re going to give you money. But at the same time we have some ideas too. Can we come in the mix? You know we’re the ones funding you, so- so … That is really what it is.
CorrienteLatina: Has there ever been a situation where they’ve been like “Hey you need to record this kind of song” and you’re like, “Dude beat it. That sucks.” And they like …
Kat Dhalia: Of course
Kat Dhalia: But that’s not like anything new, you know what I mean? That happens to everybody.
CorrienteLatina: Yeah that’s true.
Kat Dhalia: You know, again the other thing is, and sometimes people have ideas. Well they have ideas and they want you to try them. And, “Hey why don’t you try this and try that?” And sometimes you try, and you’re like well, you know, I tried. And sometimes it works out. And sometimes you try it and you’re just like, “No.” Or sometimes you just don’t even try it and then you’re like, “No I’m definitely not doing that.” When it comes down to it, I’m an open-minded person, I don’t mind.
CorrienteLatina: Almost like any kind of relationship, I guess, right?
Kat Dhalia: I don’t mind exploring different things. There are some things that I definitely won’t do, like something that’s like way too pop or something that’s like way too- way too anything, you know what I mean? I don’t like to be like in this little box, you know what I mean? So I like- I don’t mind trying a little bit of something, so long as it’s not an extreme of some type of other genre.
CorrienteLatina: Now who did you work with at- I know you mentioned Salaam Remi on one of the tracks. What other producers did you work with on the album?
Kat Dhalia: J. Dens, who did “Gangsta”, “My Garden”, and “Crazy”. Jon Levine did, “I Think I’m In Love Again”. Redwine did “Tumbao”. The Young Boys did “Saturday Sunday” and “Mirror”. The Julca Brothers did “Just Another Dude”. It’s definitely an array of production. But I think that it all kind of like related. I’m very particular with the way that I like my songs to sound. And I like working with all different types of people. And these songs just came the way that they did. And when we inked them it wasn’t like I wanted to be this one fit sound or just one producer I want to work with. It was kind of just like a mixture of everything.
CorrienteLatina: It does. And it definitely meshes well together. I was listening to the album for the first time, when it dropped on Spotify and I remember listening to Lava. And I’m listening to it and I’m like, wait a minute; I had to bring it back. I remember thinking – woah! This has like such a sexual undertone to it. Was that what you were trying to kind of convey? This whole like sexual undertone with the lava and going up the mountains?
Kat Dhalia: It was definitely very metaphoric. I was reading a book called Sex and Punishment at the time. And me and Salaam were at the studio, and we just wanted to go home, honestly, we were just so tired. And I was like let me just go in this booth and just try to finish this record. We had some ideas down, but nothing really. And I just went in and I just kind of free-styled some stuff. And it just ended up coming out super sexual. And I kind of, think that it has something to do with the book I was reading. But it’s all very discrete. You know what I mean? It’s nothing like overly sexual and not too obvious. I don’t like my meanings to be too obvious.
CorrienteLatina: What about the “Tumbao”? Did you feel you had to go back to your Latina roots, or was that something that you just want to do?
Kat Dhalia: I just felt like I just didn’t want to be put in a box as far as like being seen as a Latin artist. Like, “Oh you’re a Latina girl?” But I didn’t want to do any of that sh*t. I wanted to do whatever the f*ck I wanted to do. And that’s how the song was inspired. And it kind of just had it’s own tone to it. I got with this dude, Heny Puro and we kind of did a Spanish rendition of- you know, I mean like, more of like a- I did an English version with the Spanish hook and then- me and Heny sort of came together and we just did the whole song- like a whole Spanish version of the song. And we ended up keeping it. And it’s kind of like an ode to Celia, at the same time, you know, Tumbao. And say, “Okay. Yeah. I’m Latin and I know my roots. And yeah this is who I am. But at the same time I’m still going to be me. I’m not going to like succumb to whatever it is that you think I should be, or how you think I should act, or what [pitch] you think I should take.”
CorrienteLatina: Yeah. True. Now you mention earlier you went on tour. How was that experience? Was this your first tour that was based around you?
Kat Dhalia: Yeah it was. Actually it was so fun. We had so much fun and-
CorrienteLatina: Any crazy story-
Kat Dhalia: It was really special- Um, nothing too crazy on tour. We got one of the band mates to believe that another band mate ended up having sex with a male prostitute.
CorrienteLatina: That’s funny. That’s awesome.
Kat Dhalia: And so then the band mate that we got to convince he ended up serving the beans, the fake beans, the imaginary beans to our other band mate. And the other band mate didn’t say sh*t. So he’s believing this lie. And said the first band mate went and told him. And, “Oh blah, blah, blah you had sex with a dude last night, yo, what the f*ck?” And the other dude is like, “Holy sh*t!” for like-for the whole day. And it was just very fun.
CorrienteLatina: That’s awesome. So what’s next for you? You know, the album has just been released. What is on the horizon for you at this point?
Kat Dhalia: Tours through March. I’m super excited about that. I’m going to hit up so many more cities. 29. I’m doing FanFest in Phoenix. What else? On the 26th, this Monday, I’m doing The Today Show. There’s a lot of good stuff. There’s a lot of good things that are happening. And I’m really excited. Everything is great, you know I mean. Number one on iTunes, which is like, unbelievable. So everything is really great.
CorrienteLatina: Well congratulations on that. You really deserve it, because that album is really, really solid.
Kat Dhalia: Thank you so much I really appreciate that.
CorrienteLatina: Thank you.
Kat Dhalia: I’m really thankful to all the band and to everybody that, you know, went out and purchased the album. I hope to see you guys on tour. And thank you so much.
If you enjoyed the interview we did with Kat Dhalia please like and share.