Los Angeles-based indie-pop vocalist KiKi Holli is a master of emotive storytelling, weaving soulful melodies into her music. Drawing inspiration from her theatrical background and iconic artists like PRINCE, Dusty Springfield, and Bowie, Holli’s sound is uniquely eclectic. Her songs, rooted in vulnerability and nurturing, explore themes of connection, healing, and personal growth, reflecting her genuine and empathetic delivery born from personal experiences.
“PRETTY BOYS” is such a catchy and empowering anthem. Can you share what inspired you to write this song and what it means to you personally?
I love that you think that PRETTY BOYS a catchy and empowering anthem! Thank you. Songwriting is an interesting process and songs can come in many ways. The idea for PRETTY BOYS came to me when I was walking around my neighborhood in Los Angeles. There aren’t a lot of walkable neighbourhoods in LA but Silverlake happens to be one of them. Someone had spray painted PRETTY BOYS in neon blue on a wall and I just went, “That would make a great song title.” For me the song was written about freedom, heartbreak, and self-expression. It’s not too serious, and it’s a fun dance song. The lyrics are about having your heart broken and not letting it get the better of you. You must keep going and live your life, especially on the dance floor. Celebrate who you are, exactly how you are right now.
The track has been described as a fusion of pop and dance with universal appeal. How did you approach blending these genres, and what do you hope listeners take away from the music?
Great question. Finding a good hook is key to the songwriting process. I think once you find your hook, you can build the rest of the track more easily. Working with a twice Grammy-nominated producer (Ethan Allen) who just happens to be that kind of genre bending talent really helps too! The dance floor has been a sacred space for me. I love dancing! When you have a good DJ spinning and a good crowd, you can dance for hours. Ethan and I approached the track with this in mind. We wanted people to be able to move their bodies. There was something that already existed in the song in its raw form, but Ethan really helped tie those elements together to help give the song it’s fusion of pop and dance.
Your signature vocals really shine in this song. Can you tell us about the creative process behind recording and producing “PRETTY BOYS”?
I appreciate you saying that my vocals really shine. Thank you! I have had PRETTY BOYS in my back pocket for a while. At the time I came up with the idea, I was working with a producer/songwriter friend, Patrick Avalon. We created the track and I wrote a melody line and some lyrics. When my EP CHEMICAL LOVE came out, we had an amazing Release Party at The Hotel Café in Los Angeles. I put together this incredible band and we played PRETTY BOYS live. Ethan who produced the EP was there and was able to hear it. When we were deciding what to work on next, Ethan was game to take a pass at PRETTY BOYS. Ethan has incredible talent. He is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer. I am in awe every time I work with Ethan. We were listening to Donna Summer, Diana Ross and Dua Lipa among others for reference when we went back into PRETTY BOYS. We wanted to bring in a disco feel and those elements into the song. We already had the incredible horn track on there which was played by the master saxophonist, Louis Van Taylor (Ray Charles, Kool and the Gang). There are live drums on the track played by the phenomenal Keith Larsen. Ethan also programmed drums. I think that really brings a special element with both live and programmed drums happening. The vocals were fun to record because we were able to add some incredible vocal parts and harmonies. I loved recording all of it, although I do sweat when I am doing harmonies because Ethan is a real stickler for parts. Haha! Ethan’s production is always impressive and innovative.
“PRETTY BOYS” encourages self-expression and confidence. How do you hope your music will inspire your audience to embrace their own unique versions of a “Pretty Boy”?
PRETTY BOYS is a fun song and I really hope that it gets played in the clubs. I hope that people have a great time dancing to it. That’s really what it’s all about; self-expression, fearlessness and embracing your confidence. I hope it encourages people to be their own version of a PRETTY BOY because it matters what you think of yourself, not how the world defines what a pretty boy may or may not be. Some of the lyrics are, “cages that you put me in, I’ll always break free, I’ll always win…” and “My heart may break but you know I’m unbreakable…now you know you can’t steal my heart.” No matter how much to try to put us down, or put us in our place, we will always rise and fly the rainbow flag because pride is so important and love is love is love.
You’ve received acclaim from various publications, including Rolling Stone France and Earmilk. How does it feel to have your music recognized by such well-respected outlets, and what impact has it had on your career?
It feels truly amazing. I am very proud of what I am putting out there right now. I have worked very hard for this moment and have been on such a strange and wild journey with my music. I feel like we have been fortunate to hit on a creative stride with Ethan. He’s a very inspiring person to work with. I truly feel like we are living through a musical renaissance, and LA is one of those cities at the center of it. I don’t think the general public have quite caught on to all of it yet but I have faith and hope that they will. My hope is that the notices that KiKi Holli is getting in places like ROLLING STONE and EARMILK will help me reach a wider audience because you are only as great as your audience. If you like the music I am creating, I’d love your support. Please turn other people on to KiKi Holli. You can find me at www.kikiholli.com. All my social links are there.
You worked with Grammy-Nominated Producer Ethan Allen on this single. What was it like collaborating with him, and how did his expertise influence the final sound of the song?
Working with Ethan Allen has been a gift from the heavens and I feel very grateful that our paths have crossed. I am continually blown away by his talent and ability to be as consistently creative as he is. He juggles a lot and has many clients of different styles. He’s worked with legends in the business like Mavis Staples, Ben Harper, Tricky, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Tim Finn, Meg Meyers, Luscious Jackson, The 88, Patty Griffin, Gram Rabbit etc. and his current band ASHRR is phenomenal. Ethan has been instrumental in bringing more modern elements into PRETTY BOYS that helped move it into the current landscape. Being creative can be a messy process but Ethan often makes it look easy.
In your journey as a pop singer/songwriter, what have been some of the most significant challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome them?
The most significant challenge that I have faced is continuing to find funding. It’s not easy to figure that piece out. I have gotten lucky with a couple of artists grants and a small investment from an investor. I am still struggling with this part and figuring out how to keep it all going. We are currently and actively looking for a label to work with and it looks like we have some good meetings coming up, fingers crossed. The other piece is dealing with the “new normal” in the business and the expectation that streamers set suggesting that an artist release a single every 4-6 weeks to keep your numbers up and active. It’s challenging to have to create a whole new campaign, new photos, new cover art etc. every 4-6 weeks. Lately, I have had to tell myself that the singles will come out when they need to come out. To be on that kind of schedule as an independent artist can be very stressful and I have been prioritizing my mental and physical health more lately. I am grateful that writing the songs and having the creativity is not the roadblock to releasing music. I have two more songs ready to go right now and hundreds of ideas that are already in a good place. Recording in the studio is my happy place, as well as being on stage and playing live. I love connecting with an audience and feel most at home there in a lot of ways. It would be lovely to have some more help with the ad/marketing, radio, social media etc. and just focus more on producing good music and booking more live shows to reach a wider audience and more hearts.
Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations you can give us a sneak peek into? What’s next for KiKi Holli?
We already have an amazing song finished and out to be mastered. I am super proud of this one. I think it has the chance to have a great life. Potentially we could sell it to another artist who currently has a wider reach. Or maybe it will help me get some label or publishing support, which would also be amazing! What’s next? I am just going to keep writing music and get as many songs out there as I possibly can while we are in this creative period. Just riding the wave and staying focused.
Finally, as an artist who empowers through music, what message would you like to send to your fans?
I would just like to send a big thank you to anyone who is listening to my music or has given us some press attention. Your support means the world! I guess the message would be, whatever gets you to love and sharing that love with others, is what you need to focus on. Get out there, get to the clubs or to see live shows. It’s so great that we can all do this again after the pandemic! Dance, sweat, live because we all have an expiration date and you don’t know when yours is coming. I have lost some incredible people in my life way too early. Appreciate what you’ve got, live in gratitude for what you have and most of all have fun! Fun is the fabric of life. Oh, and please test your drugs for fentanyl. Do not take any pills off the street, you can’t tell the difference. Google it and spread the word. It’s incredibly important. Peace, love & rock n roll!