Written by Hannah Goldberg
Rising alt-pop sensation Kings Elliot has been busy over the last few years launching an exciting career. The London-based singer/songwriter emphasizes the impact of mental health and is known to be open with her fans (known as “Sick Puppies”). She even hosts livestreams on Twitch called Sick Puppy Comfort Club where she discusses struggles with her fans while playing games. In an interview, Kings Elliot and I discussed her career in depth including her recent tours, her creative process, and the impacts of COVID-19 on her journey.
Hannah: So, you were born in Switzerland, and you’re now based in London, correct?
Kings: Yeah, my mom is actually half British so I always grew up visiting England. But I did grow up in Switzerland. As soon as I could, I saved up money and moved to England to pursue music.
Hannah: You started releasing music in 2020. Could you talk about your journey up until that point?
Kings: It was a crazy journey to be honest. When you release songs for the first time, everyone always feels like you just started but you’ve actually been doing it for a while. For me it was years of part-time jobs. [I was] doing like four jobs at the same time trying to keep myself above water trying to live, make music, and find the songs that I really want to put out there. I’ve been writing songs since I was eleven years old. It was kind of a long road. There were some ups and downs and moments like “I don’t know if this will ever happen for me.” It was in the middle of lockdown where I was like “I have to put something out because I’m gonna go insane.” I wanted to put something out in the world, and I just did it independently.
Hannah: How did COVID impact the start of your career, especially choosing to release your music for the first time during lockdown?
Kings: I was still working, I needed the money. I managed to still write a lot of music because the whole world kind of went quiet, apart from working a few days a week. In a way it was good for me creatively, and I could just really focus. I would just go to work, go home, and make music. That was kind of the thing that created the first EP.
Hannah: In your career, how does mental health play a role in your creative process?
Kings: It’s a huge part of the songs I make because I write most of my songs about the things that I struggle with, that being a diagnosed borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and panic attacks. Because I deal with these things, they take over a lot of my life, i.e. friendships, relationships, work, anything. They affect all parts of my life. They cause me a lot of distress which flows into my music. A lot of my songs are about that. My first song “I’m Getting Tired of Me,” I already felt like that before COVID more so because I had more triggers with people around and all that. But in COVID, it was like more people could relate to it because they are stuck with themselves.
Hannah: You just recently went on tour with Stephen Sanchez. How did that come about? How was the transition with your creativity and your mental health being around people and on the road?
Kings: I did my first tour last summer with Imagine Dragons. I have terrible stage fright and obviously during COVID I didn’t have to worry about that. As soon as the tour started, I was like “OK, now is the time to sing in front of people which I love very much but also it’s my biggest fear.” On the tour I would have lots of panic attacks and it would take a big toll on me because obviously your body almost goes into overdrive when you have panic attacks. It lowers your immune system and you can get sick. The first tour I did was quite difficult. I think towards the end I was getting better, and I really enjoyed singing to real people in real venues. It was insane because I would immediately get that connection with someone. I would go out after the show - also on the Stephen Sanchez tour - I would go out after the show and meet the people that were in the audience. It’s really beautiful to get that personal connection. It gives me such meaning and such purpose, especially the times where I’m filled with self-doubt like “Should I just give up on everything and bury myself in the duvet?” Even if it’s one person. For the Stephen tour, I literally started talking to him on Instagram almost a year ago because I found his song and went to see one of his shows in London. We met, and we just hit it off. We got along really well and I invited him out on stage when I was on tour with Imagine Dragons. That was the second time I saw him, and we sang his song “Until I Found You” to a whole stadium of people in LA. That solidified our bond. He watched my show and had never seen me live before. He said, “I love your stuff.” I am inspired by the fifties as well so we have some common ground. He was like “Oh my god, I want you on my tour.” He literally told his manager and his agent, “I want Kings Elliot on the tour,” and that’s how it happened.
Hannah: Thinking about the emphasis on how much the connection with your fans means to you, do you think about the relationship with your fans while you’re creating your music or is that special with your live performances?
Kings: I think it comes as soon as you share the songs. It’s kind of a selfish process I guess. When I’m writing the songs, it’s all about what I’m trying to get through in my head. As soon as you start thinking “What could someone else think? What could they feel?” Then, it’s not authentic anymore. The more I do what I go through and then I sing it to people, that’s what they connect with. And I found that the most with “Cry Baby Cry.” I wasn’t even gonna sing it on tour, and then my manager was like, “You should sing that on tour,” and I was like, “Ok. I’ll do it for the first few nights and see how people react.” That’s a song for my fourteen-year-old self, my inner child and what I went through. It’s really emotional for me, but I didn’t know if anyone else would connect to it. It seems that those songs are the ones that mean the most to people. Whatever they go through, they can identify with what I went through. That’s really beautiful I think.
Hannah: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
Kings: When I’m in the studio and stuff and I write a song, I don’t pick something and try to make something like that. I really wanted to make my own sound. It’s dangerous to be inspired by things that are modern. Whenever you try and be inspired by something that’s happening now, by the time your song comes out, it’s kind of gone again. I was really inspired by Lana Del Rey growing up because I was like, “This is so moody and vibey.” That’s totally my vibe. In my school they would always tell me, “You can’t just sing sad songs.” And I was like, “This is what I want to do. This is my heart.” When I heard Lana Del Rey, I was like, “Ah. You can do this.” It’s melancholic. When I discovered forties and fifties music, that inspired me. Me and my producer, halfrhymes, who produces all of my songs, in lockdown we made a bubble. He had a spare room, and I would just stay there. We didn’t break the law, we just stayed together for like weeks. We were just doing shit and recording samples to make it unique, so it’s nothing that’s already out there. I just want to make something that’s different.
Hannah: What does your day to day look like now? What’s next for you?
Kings: At the moment, I’m going to the studio a lot. I’m trying to finish new music. One thing I struggled with when COVID ended was that suddenly, I was never home. I was just always on the road and traveling. When I’m on the road, I barely have any time to make the music. I did say to my manager, “I really need time now to make new music.” I don’t want to rush and do it quickly; I really want to spend time and make it. So that’s what I’m doing now. I want to have the next few songs ready, and the next EP, and get the vision for the whole thing. That’s my priority right now, and playing festivals in Europe, UK, Switzerland.