Go in-depth with electronic music’s newest muse, HALIENE!
You’ve heard her voice all over for the last few years but 2017 has HALIENE’s name all over the new releases. You can find her featured on many tracks with various artists from ATB to Illenium. With emotional lyrics, HALIENE showcases strong songwriting and a powerful voice. Her music often hits me in the heaviest of places but lifts me up as well.
For many fans, her work with Gareth Emery and Standerwick on “Saving Light” proclaims the emotions within her creativity. Her earlier works under her legal name, Kelly Sweet, ingrained me as a fan of her music. During EDC weekend, I received the chance to chat with HALIENE about her music, collaborations, and so much more.
See HALIENE singing live with Illenium & Said the Sky at EDC LV 2017 Below!
Congrats on an amazing performance with Illenium & Said The Sky at EDC Las Vegas this year. Is there a difference between performing on stage at festival versus a nightclub?
Thank you! Last night was super amazing. It was my first time playing at EDC as well as Nick’s (Illenium). It was a blast up there, and there was so much love in the space. That’s what I love about Insomniac Events, particularly EDC. It is so focused on kindness, PLUR, and treating each other with love. I love how Pasquale had signs that say “Love and care for each other” everywhere. It is beautiful.
The fact that fans are the headliners too! The show is all about you guys, and we are there, a part of creating that joyful experience and we are all in it together. Last night was almost like singing at a church. There was so much love pouring out. It was beautiful.
The difference between festivals versus a night club is that they are usually outside and your crowd is much larger. The energy coming from the crowd is that much more intense. It is wild and amazing but at the same time, it is also the same. After all, it is just us and the music; the songs that we love and we wrote. Through singing, a beautiful exchange of energy.
What’s the best way to pronounce HALIENE? I remember you posting that it’s alien with an H. Can we confirm what the proper pronunciation of HALIENE is?
I love seeing how people pronounce it. If you’re English, such as when I first met Gareth Emery, he was like Hay-lee-ANNE. I’m like, “First of all I love you guys. It’s HALIENE [Hay-lee-en] but you can say that way too if you want.” It’s pronounced HAY-lee-en, like alien with an H, yes.
“Saving Light” debuted for the first time last year at EDC. Did that put any pressure for you to sing this year? You are also performing with Ferry Corsten at EDC if I recall.
We’re not doing “Saving Light” live tonight as far as I know. That’s not in the plan. Gaz is super busy with his TV show, CVNT5, making it impossible with his schedule to do a sound check and everything. It’s not happening this year but it’s going to be amazing anyway. I hope he is going to play it. I don’t know his set. We’ll see. It’s going to be fun.
Ferry Corsten is going to be epic! I am doing three songs tonight from Blueprint, and I think he is doing a mostly Blueprint set. We are going to have a blast!
Did you write the lyrics first when you were making “Saving Light” or did you have the melody and you were just looking for the right lyrics?
Gaz [Gareth] had a partial track that he had created with Standerwick which lacked lyrics and melodies. Just part of that riff. I came to the studio with Matt, KARRA, and Roxanne Emery at Gaz’s house. Gaz was supposed to write with us that day but he had a tour crisis going on that he had to handle. Just the four of us wound up writing the song together in his studio. It was one of the first times I spent a good amount of time with Roxanne and she was like, “Let’s write a song about suicide.” I was like, “Okay, that’s kind of dark but I don’t want to write a really depressing song.”
My whole goal is to bring more love and light to this world through my music, encourage people, and encourage togetherness. Coming out of dark places like I have got me thinking, “How can we spin this?” We wrote the lyrics and melody in about an hour. Wikipedia says 55 minutes. I don’t know if it’s exactly 55 minutes but we can roll with that.
Matt went to the piano and started playing the chorus. That’s how we wrote the song really, to the piano. Gaz came in, I sang it for him right there, and he was like “Whoa! I already hear everything in my head. This is a really special song.” I think we all knew from that moment on that we had a special song. We were just really blessed and honored that we wrote it.
We’re going to be releasing an acoustic version; it’s in the works now. I flew up to Vancouver two weeks ago. I recorded it there with a choir, the St. James Music Academy. They learned the song and we recorded their vocals. I sang live with them and Matt played the piano. We’re putting it all together in the next coming months. It’s really special. It’s such a cry worthy moment because they’re the cutest kids. They’re such rockstars.
One of my favorite songs you did as Kelly Sweet was “Gravity.” I remember a couple of times playing “Fire & Ice.” When Gareth started playing ”Saving Light” it was this whole other experience completely. Would you say that song was your “coming out song” as an artist, or “the new you?”
“The End” with Seven Lions as HALIENE was probably more the first thing. “Saving Light” was the stake in the ground because it is really special and straight out my heart. It was really incredible to work with Gareth Emery on that one; he is amazing. I would definitely say “Saving Light” was a huge step forward for HALIENE of knowing where we’re going.
Your vocals are featured the most in Blueprint. Have you listened to the entire Blueprint album?
Oh definitely, I go running to it. I also worked on a lot of the album. I wrote some songs even though I don’t sing on them. Some of the songs that Eric Lumiere sings, I wrote. And Ferry came to LA for multiple trips. We spent days each trip, sometimes three or five, in our studio working on the whole album. Since I do all the voice overs of Vee as well, I am intimately familiar with the whole thing.
It was a really interesting and different experience to be a part of an entire album, especially a concept album. Usually, when you are working with producer-DJs, you get a track sent to you. I’ll write a vocal over it, or I write a vocal and I send it and they build a track around it. Both ways happen, and you don’t meet until you play live, or they’re in town for a show and you come prior to a song’s release. You get to hang with them and meet them for the first time. It was very different and quite refreshing to work with Ferry one-on-one for months on the whole album. I hope I get to do it with other producers.
How long did it take for you guys to work on Blueprint together?
Ferry had been working on Blueprint long before he came to us obviously. I think he came to us in late 2016, either October to November of last year. It just came out here in May. I think he was probably working on it for a year and then over six months with us.
When you were working on Blueprint, were you mainly a vocalist, or did he want both songwriting and singing when collaborating?
We first met Ferry over Facetime. He told us he was looking for a song writing team to round out the songs he was working on. He had a couple completed and some half-finished ones. He had the overall arc of the story in place. He was looking for songs to fit into that story.
After hearing the story, we were like “WOW! I think “Wherever You Are” could be perfect!” We sent over “Wherever You Are,” which I had written months prior. He called us up stating “This is 100% perfect, and it’s one of the things I am looking for! I also need like five more songs.”
We started from there, writing “Piece of You,” finished up “Here We Are,” and then wrote “Your Face.” It was all built on each other. When Ferry was in the studio with us, we would discuss the voice overs. Matt (Steeper) was like, “Kelly has done voice-overs.” I have actually done a handful of voice overs, and a lot of radio interviews, so I am very familiar with how to use the mic to do the “Acting Talking” thing. Ferry provided the opportunity for Eric & I to do the voices of Lucas & Vee respectively. I was excited to do it. We just built on each other. It was a very collaborative process.
That’s interesting since “Wherever You Are” is one of my favorite songs off the Blueprint album and the songs were done in a reverse order.
Ferry wrote the general story first and knew where he wanted to have songs as the story flows. Since the album meanders through the storyline and then a song, he didn’t necessarily write the songs in the final order. The story came first and the songs came and filled in. He found the correct people to sing each track or to write them and collaborate with from there.
You’ve released artist albums under other aliases. Can we expect to an album from you as HALIENE?
Absolutely! When I first started in music, it was under my legal name [Kelly Sweet] and I was signed to a record label at like 17. I toured with some legendary acts like Paul Simon. I got to open at some beautiful venues.
When I was 18, I heard my music in an elevator and realized this is not what I love. It is not where I want to be, so I started to find what I love. I started delving into my favorite specific sounds; what kind of bass sound do I like? Why do I love this particular synth sound? I found I loved electronic music. That was sort of a new thing for me. That was right about the time “Frou Frou” came out; around 2008 – Guy Sigsworth and Imogen Heap. It just blew my mind.
That was the direction I took. I want to do it a little differently, and my voice is a little different from hers, but there is a similarity there. I went after that sound and produced an Electro Pop record under Kelly Sweet called Ashes of my Paradise. I took it my label; before Ellie Goulding was out or anything. I just saw where we were going as a consensus. Musically we were headed to this electronic phase. I finished the record, showed it to my label, and they just didn’t get it. They were like, “What… what is it?” I was like, “OHMYGOSH! You guys can’t see where we’re going?!” and so I took my record back, left the label, and six months later Ellie Goulding came out.
My first music festival in 2011 was Coachella, and it might have been the first year they had the Sahara tent. I pretty much lived in that Sahara tent. It was like coming home. I thought, “I’ve found it, this is where I need to be”. I saw Nero and Madeon and was so inspired. I knew where to go then.
I always tell people that are coming up in music, “Since there is so much music out there: Find a need that you only you can fill”. I saw a spot for a voice like mine and knew that it could be really fun going for it. Ever since, I have been pretty exclusive to dance music except for my side project, Tremble, which is basically a downtempo Massive Attack style thing I do in my time off. I work with two amazing songwriter/producers, Ajax, and Haywire. No – Different Haywire than the one that is on Monstercat (Haywyre).
I am heading toward HALIENE-only original material; probably the latter half of this year, maybe August. I’m going to start writing for that, and I think we will have an EP in early 2018.
Have you decided if this will feature more on your vocals, or everything production related? Are you doing everything on your own? Are there collaborations with other artists?
I have some collaborations coming out. It is going to be exciting for the rest of 2017. Every song that I sing, I wrote. You can always count on that. I never only sing. I always write the lyrics and melody as well.
Is that personal choice for you as an artist, or is it how it ends up working out?
I feel like… it is kind of what I bring to the table. Part of what I do is more than singing; I write the songs as well. That’s a huge part of my artistry.
So, the album will just be you?
HALIENE will be just me, yep! We’ll work with some really epic producers but I think it will just be me. We may work with producers that don’t have a DJ name. There are some talented people in LA that don’t DJ; that just like to produce. I will be working with them, and maybe we can bring some other people in as well – who knows! We’ll see what happens; just going to be really fun. My favorite is combining some acoustic elements with electronic elements. It’s going to be from another world. It’s going to be awesome. I have the vision in my head.
What brought on the decision to start working on your own album this year rather than wait for the future?
When I make records or albums, I have to wait for them to tell me they are ready to come into the world. It’s really strange. I had made music and writing songs for other people but I didn’t feel the call yet. For the last several years, it was sort of like seeds were planting, you know what I mean? I wasn’t ready to delve into making an HALIENE album or EP yet in the past. It just wasn’t right.
I think for creative projects it’s very hard for me to just be, “Today, I am going to write a song for myself and I am going to make an album.” Creativity moves as it pleases; some days you write a song and you’re not feeling it. You can’t just sit down and do it. It comes to you through you. Albums are like waves. You have to wait for the wave to come and it’s been calling for me for at least several months now. Now it’s time. I’m ready. Let’s do this.
When your EP comes out, you’ll probably be doing your own set of shows. Are you going to bring in your imagination from your childhood, as a little bit of something to experiment with?
It’s going to be something from another planet. It’s going to be different but I don’t want to say too much. I have to just finish the songs first. I have a vision in my head.
You’ve been deeply affected by bullying and the death of family members. You’ve also stated that these experiences have influenced your music. Can you share in what ways these negative occurrences have affected you and your music?
Absolutely, I lost my parents in late 2011 and early 2012. One after the other. 6 months apart. They both had cancer. I was very blessed to be with them both during those times. I was with my mom during the last few months before her passing. I went right to my dad and did the same thing over again.
I took care of them which was a really intense time obviously, but I have so much gratitude that I was able to be there with them and have that time with them. I would obviously say it brought a lot to my music. As my favorite quote by Kahlil Gibran, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain.”
For me, pain has not been an excuse not to do anything. You know I could have been like, “Well I’m an only child. I just lost my entire family so I’m not going to do anything with my life.” Instead, I see it as an opportunity to connect to people who have also lost someone and find healing. To share more love with the world. It has brought more of a capacity to create and to bring light, love, and joy into the world for me.
It definitely comes across in your music, which carries your emotions well. I’m pretty sure I know some people who have cried just because of how a track touched them so deeply inside.
That’s beautiful. That means everything to me.
So how did you get into singing?
I’ve always been singing. I used to say, back in the day, that I didn’t choose music, music chose me. Honestly, I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t singing. My mom said that I came out singing and that I was singing before I could say real words. It’s always been what I wanted to do. There was never really any other thing where I felt, “Oh maybe I’ll do that.” I always knew where I wanted to go, and here I am. I’ve just been on one track all my life.
Did your parents inspire you to go into music?
My dad was a jazz musician so I grew up listening to him play piano and singing jazz standards with him. I was four when I did my first performance, my dad played piano for me. I have the video. I sang, “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
My mom was an artist. She was also a very creative type. She loved music. I think where my love for electronic music comes from actually is mostly her. When she would clean the house, she would listen to Delirium and Enigma – all this interesting electronic music – and my imagination would go wild. I’m an only child so I would just be imagining all these really cool scenes and characters. It was really funny but I think it awakened my brain to all these incredible sounds.
What would you say was the hardest part about this journey towards where you are now?
2011 through 2013 were the hardest parts of my life. Definitely the darkest time of my life because of losing my parents. I was also in a long relationship that broke up right after that, and I left my record label. So much at once just cleaned out my life.
This is kind of what “Saving Light” is about. There were times when I was questioning what was left to be alive for after so much loss. It felt like I was in a desert of my life. It was through electronic music, going to music festivals, connecting with people and seeing what was happening in the culture and actively being a part of it, that brought me back to life in a way.
It brought me to where I am now. I would definitely say that I ended up where I am because of those years. My first festival was right in the heart of that really dark time. While I was being carved out and my life emptied, things were also being built. It’s a beautiful dichotomy in that way. Now is one of the best times of my life. It’s been black to white.
You’ve garnered many fans; personally, and off the internet. If you could have a message for them, what would you say?
Keep dreaming. I know a lot of people say that. Never forget how valuable you are. You’re made of gold, and even though it may be very dark just trust that you are being led… so keep shining your light.
Finally, what is your favorite type of pizza?
So, here’s the sad thing: I don’t eat dairy. However, I love goat cheese and goat products like goat yogurt and goat milk ice cream. Some people think it’s weird. Lately, I’ve been really digging goat cheese, pepperoni, and mushroom pizza because before when I ate dairy that was my favorite kind of pizza. Pepperoni, mushroom, goat cheese, no regular cheese.
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Featured Photo Credit: Jessica Pelphrey