Published January 16th, 2017
To define Kelsey Lu would be her honesty. Her music is this eclectic combination of soul, gospel, blues. classical and contemporary pop that on paper, shouldn’t exist. There is no other artist even attempting this chimera of sounds, let alone mastering it. Yes it is unusual and it is unorthodox but most of all – it works and it reflects her attitude towards music, that being it’s entirely an expression of her emotions, who she is as a person and those around her in her community.
“I want to continue to grow and not have the same show twice. I build a relationship with my instruments and they’re a part of me. It’s hard not to separate from that. Classical music in general is something I grew up listening to so it’s something I feel will always influence me.”
Kelsey Lu’s childhood reflects her avant-garde sound. Born in North Carolina, Lu’s formative years were spent surrounded by religion, community, music and family. Growing up in a Jehovah’s Witness household, her parents, who both as musicians, encouraged her to take up music with their encouragement leading Lu to study classical composition from age six. Despite this musical household, it was anything but bohemian with Lu not actually allowed to spend time with children her age after school and in turn, studied the bible and spent time within her religious community.
Lu eventually left everything behind to further her study at the North Carolina School of Arts after receiving a scholarship and it’s here she started to explore her own personal sound. Flash forward to Lu now at 27, where she has since defined her unique expression and caught the attention of Dev Hynes and True Panther record. Despite this newfound popularity, Kelsey Lu still maintains to her roots – an ideology that is rare in any art form these days.
“With my music, I’m always trying to encapsulate a sense of emotion. I suppose that maybe subconsciously my experience with religion has influenced me but I feel more influenced by the idea of the community and the sense of love rather than religion itself.”
An aspect of Kelsey Lu’s personality is her familiarity towards community. Growing up in a background such as hers, she was surrounded by community and now being involved in a music scene and with a record label such as True Panther, she is once again surrounded by community – an ideology she holds dear.
“I relate to True Panther records and those around me because we’re all doing what we we love to do and we’re on each other doing it. We’re in the same kind of world together.”
However, the reality is that this world is falling apart. As described by Lu, due to gentrification, numerous long standing venues that have traditionally supported local artists and the associated venues have begun to close down to make way for housing developments. It’s the same story for London, given one trip to see the local artist Sansa where clubs, that once supported the underground scenes are now being replaced with housing. However, despite this hurdle, it doesn’t stop Lu or those around her.
“What is happening in New York is really upsetting but I feel it’s having a positive effect. Because of this adversity, it has pushed people together more to find other avenues in order to perform and create. People end up working together to find those avenues. It’s brought everyone together.”
Kelsey Lu is anything but your modern typical artist. Her approach to her music is entirely personal, yet her desired effect is utterly empathic. From speaking to her, there was no great desire to “make it” in the industry but rather, just to merely create, to grow and to influence her community around her, making Lu not only a rare exception to music nowadays, but also a motivation and an inspiration.