Calista Chats With TMI About Her Long-Awaited New Album, “Empress”

Hey Calista 🙂 You are gearing up for the release of your long-awaited new album, Empress What do you hope your supporters will think of the new music? & What do you hope they’ll get from hearing your new songs?

Hey TMI! I’m super excited to release the ‘Empress’ album! I’m hoping supporters will feel the music and story is a progression and evolution from my previous music. ‘Empress’ is a celebration of all things fiercely, fabulously female and I hope people will feel totally empowered after listening to it.

Can you tell us the backstory of the new album? Is it from a real experience?

‘Empress’ is a concept album that explores different powerful women from history, telling their stories from a different point of view. The album also addresses hardships women are continuing to fight globally. I wanted to explore the history of womanhood and what it means to be a woman today.

What does this album mean to you?

This album is 18 months of blood, sweat and tears. We’ve been totally free and explored the deepest realms of our emotions and creativity – it’s been a totally liberating rollercoaster ride and I could not be more proud of what we’ve created!

Can you spill any details on what your supporters can look forward to from you?!?

2020 brings much excitement! We will be touring the album and releasing the final ‘Empress’ music videos. We’ll be launching a very special crowd-sourcing campaign asking people to share stories about Empresses in their lives which includes a blog and monthly podcast. And, perhaps most excitingly, I am turning ‘Empress’ in to a stage show with phenomenal playwright Stephanie Martin. Watch this space!

What’s it feel like to be releasing your own original music?

FABULOUS! I was with a major and spent a long time pleasing people so now to be releasing this album independently with total control of the sound, image, everything, it is the most liberating feeling imaginable. Of course it’s a lot of hard work and we all have our moments of fear and total meltdown, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Will there be a music video for any of your new singles? If so, can you tell us about the concept of the video 🙂 

Yes! I’m super lucky to work with the most incredible filmmaking superstars Philip Reinking, Thomas Linton and Enya Belak Gupta. They are the core of Team Empress and we’ve made films for every release from the album, so far ‘Come to Mama’, ‘Ode to Genevieve’ and ‘Lady Cherry’. Working with such innovative, creative talent is totally inspiring and gives a whole new perspective to the music. The films take the songs to a completely new world and we are going bigger, bolder and increasingly bonkers with each film. The official video for the album release ‘Benzo Belle’ is like an epic 3-part Hollywood trilogy complete with circus-clad parallel universes and mind-blowing plot twists – all in a 5 minute music video! 😝

You can see all these lush films on my YouTube page:

https://www.youtube.com/CalistaKazuko

Is there anyone you want to thank that’s helped you get to where you are today? 

Too many people! Firstly my awesome musician parents for our wonderful, wacky childhood and for showing me how to totally SLAY a career in music! Ma and Pa were both very successful violinists and their pioneering work in Music and the Mind changed the world, they are my biggest inspiration for sure! My dear Dad, Paul Robertson sadly died in 2016 and this album is dedicated to him and being released to celebrate his birthday.

All of Team Empress for believing in this project and for pouring their beautiful bundles of love, creativity, time and talent. It is my total honour to work alongside them all.

Help Musicians UK for generously funding and supporting the album.

My partner in crime, the incomparable Guy Dagul for producing this album with me. We now share a musical love-child and will be forever connected (traumatised). 😉

Last but not least, my hero, my husband Pierre. He is my heart and soul and *insert the first line of any great love song here, it will definitely apply!*

What do you want your message to be towards your fans? What do you want your fans to take away from your music and shows?

I love to take people on a journey with my music and at shows, let them laugh, let them cry, let them think, let them try. Feel empowered, feel fabulous and most importantly LOVE YOURSELF (Guy’s meaning to life theory!)

Are you planning any shows to promote your new music?

Yes absolutely! We are planning a European tour of the album for Spring 2020 and a US tour in the Summer. Dates to be announced at the beginning of next year.

What is it like performing in front of your fans? 

Terrifying! No only joking. I used to get really bad stage fright but a great performer explained to me that we don’t perform for ourselves, we perform for our audience. Don’t worry about what they’re thinking of you, but instead concentrate on making sure they are having the best time possible. This changed everything for me!

What do you want your supporters to know that you think is important?

In 2018 I founded and launched charity based arts collective ‘Voice of Aiko’ with the mission of raising awareness and creating positive change through the power of beautiful art.

What’s something your fans don’t know about you?

I am obsessed with origami! My mum is Japanese and I find the art of origami totally meditative and fascinating. I am running a special series called “Super-kawaii origami lessons with Calista Kazuko and House of Kiyote’s George” exclusively on the ‘Empress’ app. George is the genius behind the stunning ‘Empress’ illustrations as well as all of my costume design and styling. He’s also a dear friend and a total blast! You can download the app at: 

https://calistakazuko.fan.direct

Many of your supporters are starstruck when they meet you Have you ever been starstruck? 

I played at Johnny Depp’s club in LA, The Viper Room. He wasn’t actually there I don’t think but I kinda felt his presence and stardom. What a legend, I love Johnny Depp films!

What do you want your fans to know if they ever see you in public? 

Day-to-day Calista is very different to the Calista in music videos – I’m a bit of a bum and a bit of a nerd, be warned!

Is there anyone in the music business you are dying to meet?

Fiona Apple – she’s my absolute favourite artist. She and her music are just totally inspirational!

Why do you think social media is so important for artists like yourself? 

We’re so lucky with social media to be able to share our music with the world and find a community online without the need of major labels or big money. On the flip side, it’s crucial that we can stay in the real world and not be sucked in to the pressures and superficialities of social media. The album track ‘Sick Like Me’ is all about the difficulties and dangers of a social media obsessed society. Just remember to take it all with a pinch of salt, post some fabulous pictures when you’re actually melded in to the sofa wearing a unicorn onesie (my general state!) If you’re receiving horrible comments online tell someone like a friend, parent or teacher and if you’re not feeling good when posting – take a break! It really feels great to take a social media break and turn your phone off from time to time.

What would you say is your biggest dream/goal right now?

Right now I guess is to keep making art that I’m super proud of that’s impacting people in a positive way. The most heart-warming fulfilment is receiving a message to say I’ve inspired someone or my music has helped someone deal with a difficult situation. Other biggest dream is to be the most awesome Mum one day (watch this space, mini-Empresses!!)

Any last things you want to tell your supporters?

Thank you so much for being a part of the Empress family! The album was fan-funded and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without everyone’s generous love and support. It’s this support that drives us to keep going and produce the most beautiful art for you, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! 

Thank you so much for having me, it’s been a total hoot!

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