“Don’t hide, you don’t have to be someone else“
Krista Monica is an Indonesian singer-songwriter living in Sydney that I have been following for a little while, and is someone who brings really strong flavours of jazz and soul into her musical world. After noticing she had her debut single ‘Mind‘ ready to be released, I asked to sit down with her and discuss what her journey in music looked like
How have you been during isolation, has it been okay so far?
Yeah, this year has actually been a good break because I’ve been able to really focus on my music. I’m used to working everyday, but right now it’s just two or three days just teaching, and I actually feel really good. I feel like I have just enough money to get by, but I have so much more momentum to my music creating which is so fun!
Yeah, that’s good, I think especially because you can’t go out much, you don’t spend the money as much
Basically just rent and food!
Exactly! What do you teach, and how long have you been a teacher for?
I teach piano and vocals, and I’ve been in Sydney for almost two years, maybe one and a half. I came from Indonesia, and I was teaching music there too, but I had never taught in English before
Wow, was that a challenge for you to learn how to do?
I think it was not as bad as I thought! The students understand me pretty well, and I showthem how all the technical stuff works, plus most of my students are kids anyways
Yeah kids might be easier for that. Did you do much music while you were in Indonesia?
Yeah so, I actually started music when I was in high school, which to me isn’t very early on, but that was when I decided, OK, this is what I want to do. It was something I really wanted to focus on, more than actually finishing high school because that just felt like a waste of my time!
So that was it, and everything turned around when I decided to pursue music, and I would practice the whole day when I was at home
That doesn’t feel like a late start to music in my opinion
Yeah, I think I just felt like I wasn’t the greatest at a lot of things like piano because I didn’t start when I was young, but I did work my ass off when I decided to become a musician! And then I went off to study music at Uni in Sydney, so it’s been a bit of a roller coaster
Yeah for sure, what made you decide that you wanted to do music?
I’m not even sure to be honest, I guess I grew up in the church and that’s why I’ve always been singing, but it didn’t feel like serious singing. When I was in school my teacher approached me and he said he wanted to tutor me in music , so I started learning with him, and then he said I should learn how to do songwriting. So highschool was the first time I did any writing, and I started performing more and more and realizing that I was having so much fun with it. I loved being able to put my story into my music, and I was actually understanding how music worked
I think that that’s great that you were able to find that enjoyment kind of early on compared to a lot of songwriters. I didn’t learn how to write songs until I was in second year Uni! I didn’t even know you could write songs! So when you moved to Sydney, did your songwriting style change very much?
Yeah, it did! I’m still changing even now, and I feel like everyday I’m changing because there’s a lot of music that I like! I like jazz, soul, and RnB, but when I’m gigging in Sydney, most of the songs that I do are pop/country, and dance. I think that affects my songwriting a lot. Now I just want to write dance music all the time because it’s so fun! I never did that before because in Indonesia it’s not a popular genre, but it’s definitely an area that I want to write in in the future
So how did you decide that you wanted to do the kind of music you have with your first release? How did that come about?
I think my first release is kind of interesting. I actually already recorded an EP in Indonesia with a band but it’s more like hardcore jazz, that’s what I grew up with and I study music, so I love that kind of stuff. When I was writing in school it was a little bit too intense; like constantly changing chords every second basically! I recorded that record in Indonesia this year, but I feel like it’s just never perfect, and I get frustrated because I just feel like it’s not the sound that I want. Or maybe I’m writing really hard songs that are hard to nail. I was getting really frustrated with that recording, and I decided ‘you know what, I’m just going to write lo-fi music’!
Basically I don’t have much money right now so I’m just going to start with lo-fi. Just starting simple at the start. The producer is one of my friends from Indo, and we do everything mobile over zoom. Recording into separate places has been really interesting, but it’s honestly a pretty quick process. There’s not much in the songs, so I just show him the chord, and tell him he can do whatever. He came up with the arrangement and everything in two weeks, and then we started recording. It ended up taking about a month to complete
Wow, so you did the whole thing during lockdown?
Yeah, when we were able to have up to five people in a room I could go to my friend’s studio and borrow their mic for a really clean recording, and then I could operate logic by myself at home. I understand a little bit about production, but I’m not confident enough to fully produce by myself
Yeah, and it’s good to have those skills because if you can bring a producer the general sound you’re going for, then they can make sure to create something that’s actually what you want instead of them just guessing. I think those production skills are really important for songwriters because otherwise you’re just giving the lyrics and the chords, and then the producer is creating everything else and you can feel a bit disconnected from the finished product
I like that this first track is lo-fi, and I don’t think it’s so far out of the jazz world. It’s not like a rock song or a pop song with no jazz influence. I think that you can really comfortably do more jazz in the future and it will make a lot of sense, but I know exactly what you mean about being frustrated with the recording not coming out the way you want, especially with something like jazz, because there’s a lot of pressure for highly produced neo-soul jazz music to be absolutely perfect and it’s very intimidating when you can’t get it to a place you’re happy with. So do you feel like you’re much of a perfectionist with your writing and with your music making?
I’m not sure, but I think I’m becoming more of a perfectionist. When I did my first recording I wasn’t think about it in that way at all, but once you put money behind it you realise that it can be better and you don’t want to rush anything
Yeah, that’s true. And it’s good to decide to wait a little bit and put the money behind it instead of just releasing stuff that isn’t very good because you rushed; it’s good to be patient in that way. I was going through your Instagram and you do lots of covers and videos on YouTube, how has that helped you as a musician?
I think that when you do covers you’re showing people the way that you sing, and your interpretation of the music. You’re not going to sounds like the original artist and you don’t want to try to be someone else, but the covers have helped me understand music better. It’s not the main thing I do, but it makes me happy
Yeah, and it’s really fun as well! Yeah. But I think it definitely builds a framework of the kind of music you will write and release, people see that you’re doing lots of soul jazz covers or doing stuff in a certain way, then they can expect that from you in your original music. And in terms of content, you don’t have the pressure of having to write a new song every time you want to put something on YouTube!
Yeah, you can just keep it going. People want to see consistency in music, so I try and post every week no matter what
Do you feel like doing covers has helped you figure out the kind of music you want to make as well?
Yeah, I definitely get a lot of influence from the covers I do
So for your release, was the team around you people that you knew or was it mostly people that you had just sourced from random places?
I think everyone who contributed to it were friends of mine, and this is my first release so I had no idea what to do! I know all about the music and that’s it, and I don’t really have an eye for things like videos and photo marketing. I was so blessed that I have so many talented people that wanted to help me out with that side of things
Yeah, it’s great! I think, especially when you’re doing music there is a lot of pressure to do everything, and you might end up feeling not as happy with it. Are the people you worked with people from Uni?
Mostly from gigs actually! I do gigs and we share around out socials and people get in touch. I do a lot of collaboration from social media connections, and I think it’s really important in sharing who you are
It’s such a good tool to have. I think sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming
But you can try and use it as a tool to help you, you can get a lot out of it. Let’s go through this new track of yours ‘Mind’, what’s that song about?
I want everyone to be able to relate to my music, but this song is about a past relationship of mine. The first verse is talking about being close with someone and talking with him or her every night, like before you sleep and sometimes you’re already half asleep, but you don’t end up together. By the second verse you’re really close, and you become the first person to know everything about them, their projects, their music, everything, but you still don’t end up together and you don’t really know why
When you’re writing a song like that, do you feel a little bit anxious about releasing something that feels really personal?
I want to relate to everyone when I’m making music, so I don’t make it too personal anyway. I know there’s people that inspire me to write the songs, but it’s always just one part of a bigger picture. It’s never really been personal for me, so I don’t mind sharing it. Yeah. The more people can relate to it, the better it is
Yeah, that’s true, everyone wants to make sure that they’re making something that’s relatable, but do you write much as a way to process your own emotions?
Yeah, and I had a really tough relationship in January, so I’ve written a lot about that. When I have strong emotions I always put them in my voice memos, and I take my writing book literally everywhere! I have so many that it’s a huge waste of paper
No it isn’t!
I’ll have 5 songwriting books but write only three songs from it
When you write stuff down and you turn it into music, it can really help you get through those feelings, so it’s not a waste!
That’s true, its good for my emotions and mental health
What do you want your listeners to walk away with in this song?
I guess that it’s okay to be sad. All the tears that you have can be made into diamonds- you can make something good from your sadness. This is a really chill song, and I never really think people are going to cry or feel too deeply about it. Like, it’s unfortunate that we can’t be together, but it’s not the end of the world! The end of the song gets really musical, so jazz, so experimental, and that’s the crazy side of me coming out. It’s not all about the lyrics for me, because I really care about the music. It’s a balance of bringing in the heavy jazz that I love, and also making it relatable
Yeah, and sometimes when the music has a heavy jazz flavor, it’s hard to know what the song itself is trying to communicate with the lyrics because it can be a bit distracting almost. If you could collaborate with anyone who would be?
Billie Eilish would be a really interesting person to work with, also someone like Bruno Major would be great. I love to listen to the songwriting, so a band like Coldplay would be great to collaborate with too
Yeah, those bands are all quite different, what is it about those three different groups that inspires you?
I think they are just so honest, and they don’t pretend to be someone else, that’s the thing that I really like. I don’t like to listen to Bruno Major for the whole day, but when I listen to him, I feel so much of his emotion in his writing. I want to be an honest musician as well when it comes to writing
Yeah, I think that’s important as a songwriter because it can be easy to want to put on an act or a performance, but it can feel very disingenuous, and I think that listeners can tell when you’re doing something that isn’t authentic to you.
What’s next for you and your music?
I think for this year I’m going to stick with the with the lo-fi stuff. Lo-fi is just jazz plus a beat! I’ve been writing jazz songs and adding a beat and suddenly its lo-fi! Maybe it makes jazz more modern or easy to listen to it? But I really like the fusion of jazz and beats, and I just want to combine the jazz elements with modern music
It’s great to bring in those different influences from different genres and to make something that really represents you. What do you want your music to communicate to people overall?
I think when I write I don’t really think about it, because it’s all about what I’m feeling. I want to make people happy so that’s a big goal of mine. Being vulnerable is good, I always cry, like I’m crying all the time! Maybe I’m a bit sensitive but when I talk about my passions its really emotional for me. I think I’ve always been like that
Yeah, I’m the same! I think that’s a good message, especially with isolation and lockdown, I think people are going to really struggle to go back to normal life. So that message of wanting to express being yourself, I think that’s really important
Yeah, and I just want to tell people that it’s okay to be vulnerable and express your emotions, and it’s important to just be true to yourself. Don’t hide, you don’t have to be someone else
You can find Krista Monica’s music on the socials below