Raised in the East Bay area of San Francisco by an opera singer father and a cellist mother, Kadhja Bonet was brought up on a diet of classical music and trained in violin and viola from an early age. After a brief time studying film in her teens she soon returned to music, teaching herself how to play guitar and sing, with her first single ‘Tears For Lamont’ arriving at the end of 2014.
‘The Visitor’ was originally released in the autumn of 2015 as a six-track EP, but was recently picked up and re-issued as a debut mini-album by Fat Possum. Written, arranged and produced herself, with some assistance from Grammy nominated producer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist Itai Shapira, ‘The Visitor’ is a flawless initial statement from an artist who comes fully formed yet with so much potential.
Containing a celestial blend of classic soul, orchestral pop, jazz, R&B, folk, funk, psychedelia and electronica, all tied together by spellbinding vocals, her music is simultaneously evocative of the past and the future, leading to comparisons with Minnie Ripperton, Roberta Flack and the ‘future-soul’ of Hiatus Kaiyote. The almost suite-like five-minute title track featured here is perhaps the best example of her many talents.
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Kadhja Bonet was kind enough to speak with GIGsoup about her recently re-released debut, its title track, her influences and what she has planned for 2017.
How has the reaction been to the re-release of ‘The Visitor’ just over a year after its initial release?
Well, I don’t think a ton of people heard it the first time around. It was hard for me to re-release it because I wanted to be performing new things. Emotionally I want to be evolving, looking ahead. But it was good to work with Fat Possum to gain new listeners that can accompany me on the next leg of the journey.
What’s the meaning behind the title track and the album title itself? Is there a concept tying it all together?
‘The Visitor’, both as a track and as a body of work, is intended as an inner discovery journey. The character of the visitor is the highest form of our true self that visits from time to time. This character haunts you, as you are made aware of the discrepancy between who you are, and how you’d like to see yourself. You are like a Venn diagram that wants to become a single circle. How do you achieve that? I’m not sure, but I think by allowing that inner self to visit more and more frequently, and call you out on your shit, instead of pushing it away out of fear of failure.
Your music blends multiple genres, can you take us through your evolution as an artist? Who have your main influences been along the way?
I don’t intentionally blend genres or influences. There is plenty of music I love, but I think the music I hate is perhaps a more powerful influence. More freedom is allowed by having a few ideas of what you don’t want to sound like than a few ideas of what you do want to sound like.
How did you end up working with Itai Shapira? Also, are there any plans to release more experimental R&B together as Genesea?
Itai is my life partner! He likes to help on my solo project by assisting with engineering or bass playing. He plays guitar in my live show so I can focus on narrating. He’s super supportive and I am spoiled by working with someone who knows me so well. Perhaps most importantly, he knows to give me tons of space and let me do my thing. Most people I tried to work with always wanted to superimpose something over what I do, take hold or control of it and go somewhere else. I am quite shy so I’m lucky to have someone in my corner that I can be open with that I don’t have to butt heads against. Genesea will have much more, but it’s difficult to juggle both projects. I think once I have put out my next album I will have more time to focus more on our joint project.
How does your music currently translate into a live setting?
Most of the time for budget reasons I’ve been doing pretty stripped down set ups. It’s a different experience than the fuller arrangements of the recordings. It also changes show to show. Sometimes I’ll play with five people, sometimes just Itai will accompany me.
What can we expect from Kadhja Bonet in 2017? Are there any plans to tour the album? Are you going to be working on any new material?
I’ll have a full album out in 2017 and will be doing some touring in both Europe and the US.
‘The Visitor’ is available now via Fat Possum