Singer-songwriter Charlene Kaye, who just raised more than $30,000 via the social project funding site Kickstarter to complete her next album -- with more than $20,000 dollars raised in the first 5 days alone -- recently released "Human" as her newest single and turned to a trusted source to create the music video, her sister Liann.
"I've always been really into Greek Mythology, and one of the myths-- the story of Pygmalion-- had always stuck out to me," Liann Kaye, the video's director, told HuffPost. "It's about a sculptor who isn't interested in any of the women around him so he creates the most beautiful statue in the world and then falls in love with it. The Gods take pity on him and bring the statue to life but in a cruel twist of fate, the statue is too cold to love him back."
"I think this theme can be pretty universal too," she continued. "You sort of participate in shaping another person in every relationship you get into. Then when it ends, it's like, 'You took everything I gave you, you're a different person because of me and now you're leaving.' So I took that feeling, took some Greek mythology and voila!"
Charlene tells us all about the "Human" video, her musical collaboration with Glee star Darren Criss, and how she raised more than $30,000 from fans to fund her next album.
Tell us about "Human," both the song and the idea behind the video?
The song is the penultimate track on my first album, Things I Will Need in the Past. The song is almost 3 years old, but in releasing it as a "single" I see it as a sort of swan song to that old era of music before we launch forward into new album-land. It's a song about being so besotted with someone that your admiration crosses that line into idolization, and in doing that you inevitably set yourself up for disappointment by expecting too much from them in return. But it's also about having a relationship decay over time, realizing that it can't possibly work anymore because you've grown apart and you cant expect the same things from them that you used to because you're different people. Liann and I have both been in those situations, so...
How hard was it to get that white paint off everyone?
I don't know about everyone else, but it personally took me over an hour in the shower with an entire bottle of lotion and a mountain of Johnson's baby wipes to get all the stuff off. I was still finding spots of white spray paint on my scalp for weeks after.
Do you come up with the video ideas yourself, or does your sister (or others) help?
I help with the details while on set (I did help make 50 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for everyone on the cast and crew during the shoot), but for the most part I give Liann full rein to do what she wants. I trust her completely and it's really freeing to be able to let someone's vision unfold who you trust will totally deliver. She sent me the treatment and as soon as I read it, I was like, yes. This is going to be awesome. She's unbelievably organized and mapped and storyboarded the whole video out shot by shot, and I'm just continually amazed by her hard work and talent. Plus she's just fun to work with - she's got a great attitude and work ethic on set, and everyone in the crew likes her and genuinely wants to help her vision come to life.
What prompted you to do a Kickstarter campaign?
I found out about Kickstarter through friends and fellow musicians who have used it to fund their own albums, music videos, films etc. I'm a big fan of the website and how it's helped so many independent artists do what they love without a label or corporation backing them, and I pledge to projects all the time. I love the idea of this DIY platform where fans can be a part of helping their favorite artists making the music/art they want to make, free of constraints.
What was your biggest single donation?
The biggest single donation was $2500 for the blue cardigan Darren Criss and I both wear in my music video for Dress and Tie. It was actually bought by a lady who wants to use it to raise more money for charity, so I'm glad it ended up in good hands!
What was your reaction when you saw fans starting to fund it, especially the bigger ticket items?
I was pretty flabbergasted, and also like, "How do you have so much money to spend on me? Not that I'm complaining... Some fans were tweeting me saying they got part time jobs to raise money to pledge to the album, they were doing junkyard sales and babysitting...one person actually pledged the money she got from donating HER BLOOD PLASMA to the campaign. Insane.
When does recording begin, what sort of extras are you going to be able to do since you've recieved more money than you hoped for?
Recording will begin this fall, and I might just have to make those Charlene Kaye frisbees and kitchenware that I joked about now that we have the budget!! No, but seriously, we'll be pulling out the stops, making more music videos, and touring, touring, touring. I can't wait to get Animal Love on the road, I want the live show to be nothing less than epic.
What has this most recent tour been like?
The West Coast Tour we did was one of our most special to date. The fans in LA were amazing, one fan baked me cookies with little dresses and ties, others gave me hand-drawn portraits! I'm still not used to it...and we got to go up to SF and Portland, where we've never been before. The Pacific Northwest is absolutely breathtaking.
You have a lot of fans who came to you thanks to your collaboration and touring with Darren Criss, of 'Glee' fame. Did you see a huge uptick after he started on Glee/you released Dress & Tie with him?
Darren is a wonderful, life-loving, generous person, so it's no surprise to me that his fans share those same qualities as well. To have his fans find out about my music and support me too (and the music we make together) has been wonderful and extremely humbling, and I've loved meeting and talking with the fans at shows, they blow me away. I'm honored to be associated with him and his talent.
How did you and Darren meet and when did you make the transition from friends who played shows to working on duets together?
We met as freshmen at U of M (University of Michigan) playing at one of my very first open mikes. He was playing "I'll Make a Man out of You" from Mulan. After that I'd see him at all the same shows, and we just started hanging out and playing coffee shop shows together, which led to playing bigger shows together around town and collaborating more often. We're both staunch perfectionists, which is probably why we work so well together - we'll spend forever on a certain line or measure until it's just right. He's an extremely hard worker and cares a ton about everything he does.
What can we expect for the next album?
The new album is called "Animal Love" and in my mind, it's a concept album about how we as humans instinctively process the emotion of love, how it relates to our physicality, and how we are equipped to survive when it is lost. Sonically, it's going to have many textures I've never used before in my music before...we've been using some electronic sounds at live shows...some songs have a retro dancehall pop feel, others are going to be super grandiose and epic a la Queen and Rufus Wainwright. I can't wait to start work on it.
Where can people see you next?
I'm playing at the Folk Art Museum at Lincoln Square on July 22 (all ages), the Black Cat in DC on July 25 (all ages), Rockwood Music Hall in NYC on July 27 (21+), and The Fire in Philadelphia on July 30.
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