Diva Kai is one of Chicago’s little secrets. She’s an up and coming singer/songwriter best known for her fusion of folk, rock, and indie-pop music. Her soulful tunes are written from her own personal life experiences. It is because of this that she is able to connect with anyone who lends an ear. Diva Kai’s music has something for everyone. So, if you’re looking for good music, something unlike the rest, then you must take a listen to the musical styles of Diva Kai. She’s definitely an artist to get to know and listen to.
A few days before her upcoming show at the Elbo Room, on Thursday (July 28th), The L Stop got to have coffee and talk a bit with the soft-spoken artist. Just after coffee, Diva Kai performed two songs for us, which we were able to video record. Get to know Diva Kai, and be sure to check out her show on Thursday at the Elbo Room.
The L Stop: You have a unique name. Is there a story behind your name and how it came to be?
Diva Kai: There is a story. When my parents were dating, one of their first dates was that they went to a French film called Diva. It’s the story of an opera singer who didn’t want to have her voice recorded. It’s an interesting movie. It was done in the 1981.
TLS: How did you get into music?
DK: Well, I had done theatre since I was very young. And, I was doing musical theater. I was inspired by a girl I saw playing guitar and singing. I went to an arts high school for a couple of years. I was studying theater there, and I saw her perform. It inspired me to start learning an instrument so that I could sing and play an instrument at the same time. I had, also, been writing from a young age. Actually, my friends and I used to go out for recess and, while all the other kids were playing, we would write poems and songs. It’s been something that I’ve loved for a long time. It was a great form of expression for me. It’s something I can do by myself and, also, with other people. It’s just an amazing feeling, for me, to be able to sit alone and write something and to just create.
TLS: You, also, play the harmonica. Are there any other instruments you play?
DK: Well, guitar is my main instrument. And then, I dabble on the piano, banjo, and the ukulele.
TLS: Do you use those instruments in your music?
DK: Not yet. Just the guitar right now.
TLS: With a background in theater, do you still do anything in that field?
DK: Not at the moment, but I would like to. I would love to do it again.
TLS: Where are you originally from?
DK: I’m from Iowa. I was raised in a small town called Monticello.
TLS: What brought you to Chicago?
DK: I came here for school, to Columbia College, for music.
TLS: So, you just stuck around after that?
DK: I did. I went back home for a couple of years. And then I came back last year.
TLS: Where is one of your favorite places and/or venues to perform?
DK: I had a great time at Good Island Wrigleyville. That was probably my best show yet. I liked how it was set up. The sound system was great, and the lighting was awesome. It was just a really warm crowd, a very responsive crowd. I have another show there on September 10, a Saturday, at 9pm. A trumpet player and a drummer will accompany me. Corrine Mina will be playing the trumpet, and Kat Fitzgerald will be playing drums. I, also, have my upcoming show at the Elbo Room, this Thursday. I’ll be playing with Corrine, the trumpet player.
TLS: I saw that you performed with OutLoud Chicago for “Barefoot Ballad.” How was that? How did you become a part of that?
DK: It was great. Basically, Adam Guerino asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. That’s how I got involved.
TLS: What type of music or artists are you listening to these days?
DK: I’m a huge fan of Florence and the Machine. She’s so talented and has so much energy. I love to see that in a performer, someone who just let’s go and connects with the audience, and can keep that energy going throughout the entire show. I, also, started listening to a band called Broken Bells. I like their work. They’re like indie-rock and instrumentational. I like bands with a lot of instrumentation, like Belle and Sebastian and Iron and Wine. The Decemberists are really great. I like electronic music a lot too.
TLS: Do you see yourself ever performing with anyone in those genres, like mixing your style of music with a completely different style?
DK: I definitely see myself going in the direction of exploring a lot of different styles. I would like to be as versatile with my music as I can be.
TLS: Do you have any albums that are out or that you’re planning to release?
DK: I, actually, was just proposed the idea of being signed to a record label. So, things are still in the process. But, I will have an album, to make a long story short. I will be signed to a label soon, and then I will have an album. You can listen to my music at www.reverbnation.com/divakai.
TLS: Is Chicago an inviting city for indie artists trying to make it big?
DK: I think it is. It’s a great place to get started. It’s really easy to meet people who are welcomed to hearing your music and open to working with you. I mean, I’ve had really good experiences meeting people, meeting really friendly people. I think Chicago is a pretty warm city.
TLS: When you’re not making music what do you like to do?
DK: I enjoy journaling, being outside, and spending time with friends. I really like to be in nature. It’s so great that the lake is right here.
TLS: What would you say is your favorite thing about performing live?
DK: That’s such a hard question. I love everything. I love how I feel. I love the energy and the adrenaline rush. I love being able to connect with other people, and share my own experiences in hopes that other people can relate to some of the things I’ve gone through in my life.
TLS: Do you consider yourself an “out” artist, or is that something that you don’t want to be labeled as?
DK: Oh, I’m out. Definitely. I think that it’s very important to be out in this industry because I think in the queer community people need role models. I know that when I was young I looked for that in songs. I would look for artists that were queer, or I would even listen to see what pronoun they were using when the woman was singing about another person. I think that too many people try to cover it up. And, if that continues to happen, then being gay will never be seen as something that’s normal. It will always be marginal until a lot of people can start coming out and be open about it.
I would really like to inspire people who are not out, people who are having a hard time coming out. I would, also, like to inspire female musicians who are afraid of playing music because it is a male dominant industry. And, I think that there are a lot of females who are discouraged. I was discouraged a lot from doing music, and it’s just something that you have to just stick with. If it’s something that you love to do then you just have to trust that and stay with it. So, I would like to be an advocate for the queer community and for females.
TLS: What can your fans expect from you and your music in the near future?
DK: Shows. After the album is released I am planning on doing a tour to promote my music and the album. It’ll probably be a Midwest tour. You can find any new music and upcoming shows on my ReverbNation page.
Diva Kai live @ the Elbo Room
Thursday, July 28, 8pm-9pm
$8 / The Elbo Room / 2871 N. Lincoln Ave.
Diva Kai feat. Corrine Mina will be performing an acoustic set. Don’t miss out Diva Kai’s inspiring musical fusion of Folk, Rock and Indie-Pop! Also playing: The Head, Rufus J. Fisk, and The Banana Convention
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Growing up Erica knew she’d be one of two things: 1. A lesbian 2. A writer. Lucky for her, she turned out to be both! After graduating from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Creative Writing, she moved back to the Midwest. In Chicago she found a community, a home, and her wonderful wife. Besides writing for The L Stop, Erica spends her time script writing. She hopes to, one day, write and produce good quality films and plays. If you ever see Erica around, feel free to say hi. She loves meeting new faces.