By Ilana Kaplan
25-year-old VÉRITÉ has been kicking ass as one of this year’s rising pop songstresses. The New York singer-songwriter has managed to remain under the radar to some degree this year with her pseudonym. VÉRITÉ – also known as Kelsey Byrne – has been making music for years in a variety of bands, but this is the first time she’s truly been pursuing it on her own and under this moniker. Byrne recently released her debut EP Echo, which featured gorgeous, breathy vocals on the heartbreaking “Strange Enough” and feel-good “Weekend.” Although VÉRITÉ played a slew of shows during CMJ, she only played her first at the Westway back in September 2014.
We spoke with Byrne about her favorite ‘90s rock tracks, waiting tables and what’s to come with The Chainsmokers.
Did you always know you wanted to be a musician?
Kelsey Byrne: Yeah! I was one of those freakishly intense children since I was a very young kid. Absolutely.
What did you grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to ‘90s alternative-rock radio. In my town where I’m from, it’s 92.7 WRRV in Orange County, New York. I listened to everything from Nirvana to Matchbox 20, the Goo Goo Dolls and Third Eye Blind. I was definitely a child of radio.
So, which musicians have influenced you the most?
So many! I think from the beginning, definitely Nirvana and The Cranberries. I think they’ve influenced how I see the energy of the live show. I want to bring as much live energy as possible. In a genre that’s alternative, electro-pop, it’s really easy to play everything electronically. It’s awesome and everything always sounds really great. For me, I have my band I really love. My cousin is my bassist.
Is there a side of your story that hasn’t been heard? Something you maybe haven’t talked about in interviews?
I don’t know. Right now, especially this month, it’s just been insanity. We put so much work into this body of music and this slow release of everything – one-by-one releasing the tracks. I have a bunch of music that hasn’t been released yet. Then there’s music I have to write catering to that, rehearsals and shows. It’s a lot of interesting stuff. I’m homeless and waiting tables right now. I’ve been waiting tables for 10 years. It’s second nature. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to quit. Right now I’m getting to the point where music is making me busy enough that I have to work less. I’m not going to turn down music things to wait tables. We joke that I’m going to work there once a month to keep my hat in the ring.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YINBaE2TTI
Did I see on your Instagram that you’re working with The Chainsmokers?
You did. I guess, I will continue to. They are the nicest, and apparently they like me a lot. I’m writing a feature for a track. It won’t be them producing for me, but me singing on a track. It’s funny. A lot of the shit that has happened, happened randomly. They reached out because they loved “Weekend” and asked to hang out.
On that note, what was the story behind the “Weekend” video?
The “Weekend” video was this collaboration – because I tend to gravitate towards abstract and dark visuals. I met Kenny and he was so amped on the storyline. I was like, ‘let’s do it.’ It’s funny because “Strange Enough” was super alternative-leaning and much darker, while “Weekend” was a more ‘bumping’ track. Bumping, what the fuck is that word? It was interesting to see the audience it attracted. I feel like I’m straddling alternative-pop and pop. People were obsessed with [“Weekend”] it was kind of odd.’
How do you feel like you fit in with this new wave of female pop singers – the girls that are re-defining pop, like Ryn Weaver, Naomi Pilgrim or Betty Who?
I try not to feel intimidated. I tend to be super-analytical, so I’ll watch and notice what other people are doing. I’ll be like, ‘we’re doing this differently or this differently.’ I’m all about badass women killing shit. Not literally murdering stuff, but pushing boundaries. I see a lot of talented women around me doing so well, writing phenomenal music and being individuals. I feel like we’re all headed in the same direction, but my goal is to have a very specific lane that I’m in and to maintain who I am and what I’m trying to do and not really focus on any of them. It’s very easy to look at Ryn Weaver and look at the production value of her live set. Or look at BANKS and how cohesive all that stuff is and be like, ‘I don’t compare.’ It’s a new mind-set that I’m in ‘go-mode.’ I’m just looking forward and working my ass off. The results are kind of awesome.
Have you worked in the music industry before?
No. This is my first experience working in anything legitimate. I was in this band Radial, but they just changed their name. They’re in a transition phase. I was playing with my cousin Matt Politoski who has a project called Animal Flag. They were always writing, but nothing ever felt right for me. This was the first time the tracks feel like exactly what I want to say. For the first time, I get it. I was really slow to figure that out, but it feels good to now have a vision.
I saw you at your first show! You were great.
Thank you. It was crazy and phenomenal. It was definitely a rollercoaster. It was our second, third, fourth and fifth shows as well. It was definitely kind of getting comfortable and used to things. At the Santos Party House show, we actually blew out all of our gear. I blew out the fuse on my keyboard. My bassist blew the fuse on his pedals. We literally took the keyboard off-stage and played the set. It fixed and it didn’t blow out the circuit board. So long as I don’t have to buy another expensive keyboard, we’re good – four dollar fix [laughs].
Do you have another EP that’s going to come out before an LP?
I don’t know. I just know there’s going to be a lot of music coming out, but it’s been good to release everything unsigned. It’s been really nice to see the reaction of the hard work m and my team put in with the resources we have. The resources that I have are nothing compared to the resources a lot of people have to move forward. It gives me hope for when we have a bigger mechanism behind it.
This interview originally ran on BYT NYC December 12, 2014