Kaili Kinnon: ”I have been unbelievably impressed by Estonian artists”

29. April 2019
Eveli Paalberg

Kaili Kinnon is a singer, songwriter and collaborator from Toronto, Canada. She has Estonian roots which she is very proud of. The singer has a background in classical music but her soul belongs to writing her own music and embracing her own voice and the uniqueness of it.


How has your stay here in Estonia been?

So far it has been wonderful. We went directly to Kuressaare and ever since it has been an amazing experience. My family is from Kuressaare so it was very special.


What has changed since you were last here?

I was actually here last summer so what I’ve heard, Punane Maja has changed (laughs).


You have a great perspective from a distance to see Estonian music scene. How does it seem? How would you describe it?

I have been unbelievably impressed and inspired by the artists I have the pleasure of hearing and meeting over the last year. Last year there was and event in Toronto called Estonian Music Week and there were so many artists from Estonia and honestly [it – editor] blew the minds of everyone in the audience. Kadri Voorand and Erki Pärnoja are my favorites in particular for their wonderful unique music.


How would you describe your own journey as a musician? You have a background in classical music, right?

Yes. Actually I started singing at a very early age. I went home, put on some CDs and started dancing and singing and I just loved it. So, when I was 17 I took my first singing lesson and the teacher asked “Have you thought of doing this like full-time?” and I was like “How would I do this?” She suggested me to go study opera and I did. I studied opera for five years but all of that time I was also singing pop and rock, like Led Zeppelin and stuff like that. My last opera role was singing a role in Italy and we had like 12 hours of rehearsals and all that time I woke up extra early to write my own stuff. So after that I realised that my heart and soul was really excited to explore the craft of song writing and perform my own music with my own uniqueness. Then I was in a band for a while and then I went solo and it has been a wonderful journey and a challenge to make my way.


What are the biggest challenges?

I think sometimes when you are alone in this and as a solo artist you are [alone – ed], the challenge can be not always not knowing how much you can ask for help and not knowing how many people are willing to help. There are very many of them. Also, I am doing it all on my own – I am a digital marketer, a project manager, manager. That can be hard but people close to me are very supportive.


You have been writing a lot of music but you do not publish that much.

No I don’t publish much (laughs).


How do you pick the songs that will be displayed on public?

There have been couple of ways. First, I wrote absolutely massive amount of music. Most of it was not supposed to be heard by the public, to be honest. Then, with the help of some mentors I kind of chose a couple and since then I have used that model that I write a lot and then let people in to tell what they think. Then sometimes I just have a feeling about a song. You just really want people to hear it. Like this song called Tenderness which I actually started writing here in Estonia last summer. I knew I wanted this to be released and look, it only took nine months (laughs).


When you write so much music, where do you get your inspiration?

I think all over the place. There is a great quote by Picasso: “Inspiration exists but it has to find you working” so my motto has been just to wake up and write and see what comes. There are days when music finds way really quickly, there are days when you just change one chord, but that has been my process. I also have a list of inspirational things in my phone. So it’s kind of a blend of work and inspiration. I have been really open to what catches my eye.


Many musicians say that they are more inspired by negative or sad emotions. What about you?

I think there’s a lot of truth in the fact that it’s maybe one of the easiest places to write from because when you are sad or negative or angry, there is so much energy. For example Tenderness was a very happy song in a long time that came to me because maybe that emotion was so strong in that moment. Fair number of my music is sad. It’s just the reality of that feeling. Obviously there are more than just happy or sad emotions in our lives.


You have moved from classical music to jazz music. Do you think it is important for a musician to define oneself by a genre?

I think I’ve been told that it is important. I feel that I am in a place where I am still exploring and really want to be open for whatever genre a song needs to exists in but I think I am more and more becoming centred in blue jazz inspired pop.


Let’s talk about your music videos. They are quite minimalistic. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the videos. Just one sentence about what it is. I think it gives a lot of space for interpretation. Would you please share the story behind such an approach?

Thank you! Come Be Near video is one of those and with that we wanted to create this like 1960s vibe, like this, lots of frames on top of each other. Then, when we made it, it was really fun. We made it with a white sheet. We made it together with my parents who own a production company. When I posted it to social platforms I said that it will be the silliest video you will ever see from me because I have been seen as a serious person but I’m actually not that serious.


You mentioned your parents. I’ve read that they have quite the music collection. What about yourself? Do you also collect records?

Yes, so one of the difficulties of choosing a genre is that I love everything. Most musicians will say that. So yes, I do have a very wide range collection of music. I listen to a lot of different styles.


Any current favorites to recommend?

There’s an artist from Canada called Begonia that I really like. She’s an amazing singer, has a powerful voice. Long favorite of mine would be Nina Simone… Who else? I like Bulgarian music, their choir music.