Bella Kalolo

By Maegan Johnsen

The soulful Bella Kalolo performed last week at the Festival Of Colour in Wanaka.  Maegan Johnsen caught up with her and found out some more about the talented songstress.  

What adventures has your music been taking you on lately? What have you been up to?

Gosh, I've been writing an album in between the gigs. I get little breaks and I literally have to make myself sit down and write, otherwise I just want to rest all the time. So the album is on the go and we're releasing an E.P in the next month or two.  I'm working with my good friend Aaradhna on her stuff. I helped her open for Paul Simon this weekend in Dunedin, so that's where I am at the moment.  I'm going up this weekend to see her again and we are going to write a song on Friday. This will be my first collaboration with my own stuff.  In a couple of weeks we go to New York to meet and mingle with the Universal Republic people.  I've been to NY before but this time I'm staying in an actual hotel! When you stay with your friends they know all the good nooks and crannies. I'm looking forward to living the good life over there. I'm just looking forward to the ride!

As a recording artist, how important are live performances for you as a platform for your music?

I think they are just as important, if not more important than the actual recordings that are being sold on iTunes and in record stores.  Live shows are where you get to know your audience and with that you are better able to cater to them more readily on the spot. I feel that I can read the audience a bit better now too. It's nice to get in front of a group of people who enjoy your music or people who haven't heard of you before who have just come along for a bit of a nosey.  The music is there for the taking and for people to enjoy.

When you are writing your material where do you find your inspiration?

Just a small generalisation but I would have to say the world!  I fill in all the gaps with the stories that come by my window really.  There are the things that I go through and that my friends go through, it's about making them fit a certain storyline in my mind.  With this album it's crazy because I haven't really set the tone yet but songs are coming anyway. It's really nuts because I'm not a soppy love song writer but there are songs that end up going there and I'm like 'Woah!' I ask myself do I pull it back or do I just stay in the moment and make it an honest moment.

In terms of your career as a musician, what is the best advice you have ever received?

If there's anything I have been given over the years it's to just learn your stuff.  I've worked on TV shows and free-lanced where you have to sing on the fly and if you know your stuff inside out you will never be at fault and you will keep getting hired. Original music has been awesome because if you forget your words on the spot you can make up an extra verse and that's OK because no one knows any better!

If you could sing with anyone dead or alive who would it be?

Oh Gosh, Stevie Wonder. Totally!

What music are you currently listening to?

I'm listening to Emily King at the moment. She's a wonderful singer songwriter out of New York. I have her track "Georgia" on rotation in my phone. I am in love with it!

How do you hold onto yourself in an industry that is renounced for telling artists who they need to be in order to be successful?

I've felt over the years that I haven't been anything other than myself and if I've felt myself changing I have actually put a stop to that. I have never had to have any friends or family tell me to pull my head in.  I've held onto myself because I've always remembered that the main reason that I'm doing this is for the betterment of someone's life. It's about them being able to go home after a hard day and put on a CD. I've always had other people at the forefront of my mind.  I just think that you shouldn't take things to heart and I've found that out through these years working in the music industry. You can't hold onto stuff because it takes you over. You literally have to chuck it over your shoulder and go on, even if it hurts for a little bit.