Kelleigh Bannen: I think that the best way to sum up the journey is continuing to move forward. Anybody that has been in this business knows that it’s full of really high highs and sometimes really low lows, and just keeping one foot in front of the other and continuing to move forward...is the secret to success. And so for this particular EP, we took a risk in that I paid for it myself. We knew that we would probably be ending our relationship with the record label, and that was both sad and a happy occasion. I love those people and I'm sad that we had to say goodbye to each other but it's also a really amazing gift in that we get to move forward, on our own terms. This specific music, we were really focused on what we cut and how we cut it because we wanted it to be specific and very summer relevant and have a very identifiable sound. We felt like the journey of putting music out with a major label as a new artist that maybe didn’t get a ton of traction, you’re putting out a song every 18 months or so and fans have a really hard understanding what you’re about when it’s so disjointed. It was really important to us to be really focused and really specific about what we were doing on this project.
AJ: As you said, it’s a lot less disjointed than the string of singles was, and I feel like [Cheap Sunglasses] is a definite evolution from the singles. What would you say the biggest difference between this music and your older music is?
KB: So what's complicated about that and I totally hear what you’re saying, but to us, if you could hear the album that those singles came from, the singles were all on this continuum. And so it really is very similar to a lot of the music that we were actually making in that larger body that we weren’t able to put out. So to us, to me and my producer, my team, it feels like the next step but it doesn’t feel like a big turn away from that because we were able to see that body of 15-18 songs that we cut for the project.
KB: We’re looking at the next step. Right now we’re trying to figure out what music we can get back from the music that we made at Universal and we know what we want to go cut next. I don’t know yet if it will be another EP or if it will be an album that includes some of the things on the EP but we know what the songs are we just have to find out if we need to go re-cut them because we have to start fresh or if we’ll actually be able to get some of the masters back. A lot of it’s sort of up in the air, except the songs. We know what the body of songs is.
AJ: Why did you chose “Cheap Sunglasses” to be the title of the EP, and in a sense, the theme of this new era of music for you?
KB: So “Cheap Sunglasses” to me was a really personal song to write because it’s about standing up for yourself, and I think that's kind of the season that I’m in for myself as an artist. Not in an unkind or ungenerous way, but just saying ‘This is who I am’ and ‘This is what I believe in’ and 'This is what I wanna do' and the people that want to come do that with me are so welcome. You can come along for the ride. But it's kind of about drawing a line in the sand and standing up for yourself and what you believe in. And so that itself is symbolic, even though the song is about a romantic relationship, there's something symbolic about this entire move and this new chapter.
KB: I wrote that song with Jedd Hughes and Travis Hill (Scooter Carusoe). Jedd co-produced “Famous” and “Smoke When I Drink” and probably all the singles off that project with Jason Lenning and so he knew my wheelhouse sonically and so he was on that guitar lick that we ended up using in the music. For the most part when I go into a write, I’m a title girl. I’ve got a concept and this is the title. But with Travis, he’s really great in the moment of just kind of jumping and landing somewhere. And so with ‘Once Upon A’, we started with the verse and we were like could ‘Once Upon A’ be the title? And we went backwards and fixed so the chorus would land there like that. It was backwards writing.
As a musician, the thing that was cool about “Once Upon A” was that vocal that is the lead vocal, that was what we sang that day. That was my tracking vocal from when we cut it in the studio and usually you don’t get to use your tracking vocal because...it's not always the best vocal. [“Once Upon A”] is the edgiest and it's the most wild sonically and it's kind of untamed and it felt really appropriate that we got to use the tracking day vocal instead of a vocal that we sang a bunch of times in the studio weeks later.
KB: So Mickey Guyton is in there, and so is Emily West (America’s Got Talent). And then also Nada from the Bobby Bones Show and then it was just friends. It really was fun and it came about a couple ways. One: I’m paying for everything on this project and I don’t have a ton of money to spend on it so it was like we can pay extras who are actors or we can ask a bunch of friends to come over for free and be in the video and of course i feel really thankful that i have some amazing, beautiful friends like Mickey and Nada and Emily who were willing to be in the video. The song is also so fun and kind of kitchy that we felt like we needed to seize the moment with all these crazy pool floats that are happening right now. And we felt like it was the perfect excuse to do a really over the top scene like that one at the pool.
AJ: How do you plan to move forward with this? I mean hopefully “Landlocked” will do really well, but what are your next steps?
KB: What's cool about this project is what we’ve done is there's a video element for every song on this EP. Three of [the videos] are larger like “Landlocked” and two of them are what we're calling ‘One Takes.’ The “Once Upon A” video for example, the camera is on me and it's walking backwards and I'm walking toward it for the whole length of the song and there's no edit, just one long take. So that's the video element which will be huge piece of the roll out for this EP. There’s also two documentary pieces that are going to be released as part of the larger story. Every other week or so we’re releasing another piece of video content to support the EP.
*Responses have been edited for clarity and conciseness