There are so many part-time musicians in this world, so many bedroom, laptop artists that wish they could be doing what they love full-time. But, they just "can't do it." Their "circumstances don't allow it." At least that's the story they keep telling themselves. See, the truth is, there are two types of people in this world: those who dream and wish for a life doing what they love, and those who refuse to settle for anything less.
"262 days ago, Paul and I quit our day jobs to put all of our energy into making music. Although it hasn't been easy coming up with 5K every month to pay our mortgage/bills, I haven't regretted a single day of it - I finally feel like I'm creating something I can be proud of - music that matters, music that makes me (and hopefully others) happy. 263 days ago, I didn't have that. And I realize now that I'll do ANYTHING to keep this going." - Kawehi (via Facebook)
Kawehi is a self-proclaimed "Songwriter, Singer, Southpaw, Shit-talker, Musician-who-walks-like-a-trucker ... and avid looper!" located in LA. She self-releases her gorgeous, evocative, loop-filled pop tunes via Bandcamp and Soundcloud. And she's the latter type of person. She's not content to idly wish for her dream of making music full-time, she's making it happen, and quite successfully.
Her song "GGUU" was featured on episode 30 of the podcast. It's a mellow, ambient pop track that has a lush production that massages one's ears into submission, like much of the production on Kawehi's work. It's also an excellent introduction to her incredible songwriting ability. As I said in the previous paragraph, her songs are "evocative." The definition of that adjective is "bringing strong images, memories, or feelings to mind." Listen to "GGUU" below and you'll see exactly what I mean. She has a knack for capturing her memories, what she sees, and especially what she feels, and communicating each in such a way that the listener experiences it as well.
Kawehi is also a true DIY artist, in a way that could only exist in 2013, the time of Kickstarter. She has successfully funded her last three releases through the site. Her EPs vol. 1-3 have each received three to four times as much funding as the original goal and the two released so far have been stunning examples of her creativity and ingenuity as an artist.
Her first EP, POP, contained six of her well-crafted songs and offered such creative incentives for Kickstarter backers as handwritten thank you cards and personalized cover songs, all the way up to a BBQ Dinner party at her place or a private show at the backer's house or even via a Google hangout.
It was on the POP EP that Kawehi recorded a very unique cover of Britney Spear's song "Criminal", and the video of her recording this cover, in her unique way, ended up getting picked as a staff pick on Vimeo, giving Kawehi some much deserved online exposure. Check the video out below, and you'll immediately understand why Kawehi calls herself the "Looping-Queen."
Inspired by the success of the "Criminal" video, on her second EP, VOX, Kawehi was even more creative with not only her Kickstarter project, but also her songwriting process. The EP was entitled VOX after the oft-used abbreviation for "vocals" because Kawehi recorded each song on the EP using only one instrument ... you guessed it, her voice! She also named the three songs on the EP after the three backers who pledged $200 for its completion.
Not only did this unique and interactive approach to songwriting garner Kawehi the following needed to fund the EP four times over, it also resulted in one of her best songs to date. One anonymous backer who gave a $200 "song title pledge" told Kawehi to name the song after whomever she wanted and gave her free reigns as to the subject matter. Because of this, she ended up doing some research online and named the song after Neda Agha-Soltan, a 26 year-old woman who died by a fatal shot to the chest by Iranian authorities during the 2009 election protests.
In the song "NEDA" off of VOX, Kawehi delves into darker and heavier subject matter than she ever has before in addressing this tragedy. The lyrics are emotionally devastating in their poetic description of what Neda's last moment's must have been like:
You know you're screwed when you're walking on shells
and fire's burning like a demon from hell
In your lungs, to your tongue
When a teacher does his best to protect
but still a bullet finds its way to her chest
she said, "Burning, I'm burning!"
Feel the earth rumble no one's safe -
on the streets of Tehran
It's a powerful song about trying to un-silence a voice that was silenced in the most tragic way possible. The video that Kawehi and her husband/producer/videographer, Paul made for the song is also powerful and brilliant, although not for the faint of heart, as it contains the video of Neda's death that went viral online back in 2009. A bold move by an incredibly talented artist that continues to push herself.
The VOX EP as a whole showed how much Kawehi is improving as a songwriter. Not that she hasn't shown tremendous talent since her 2009 album Songs From My Apartment (which "GGUU" was from), but you can definitely see her growth as a lyricist and songwriter on this latest EP.
The other two songs are "LUCY" and "MARK". The former is addressed to a Kickstarter backer's newborn baby girl, and it's a loving, beautiful ode to childhood innocence. The latter is about Felix Baumgartner's recent supersonic jump, a topic requested by the Kickstarter backer the song is named after. "Mark" captures the exhilarating-beyond-belief feeling that Baumgartner must have had standing, literally, on top of the world before his plunge and frames it as a metaphor for falling in love and taking that emotional plunge. Three songs, three very different focuses, one voice, and the result is incredible.
For her next EP, Kawehi is continuing her outside-the-box approach to songwriting, this time by recording the entire TOY EP on toy instruments. It hasn't been released yet, but TOY has already been funded for triple the original goal!
While none of the songs from the TOY EP have been released yet, I'm very much looking forward to the result, "a grown-up EP made with childish things." I'm sure we will see Kawehi push her artistic ability even further and her talent increase even more because that's just what she does. That's what happens when you're willing to take a risk to follow your heart and do the thing that you love.
When you have the attitude that you're going to make it work no matter what, that's when you discover what you're really capable of. Kawehi is showing the world that she's capable of being a successful pop artist with a large following, without a record deal, from the comfort of her own home. She's setting an example for every other unsigned artist out there, showing them all what is possible when you refuse to settle for anything less than the life you want to live.