“I wrote down the initial lyric idea on a plane ride back from LA to New York, right when quarantine hit. Like, going into the epicenter of the pandemic after my life essentially imploded,” VÉRITÉ (Kelsey Byrne) says of “Younger Women“, a track she’s just released today. While it’s safe to say that no one has managed to navigate the past few months unscathed, VÉRITÉ had to cancel tour dates, ended a relationship, and (essentially) had to restructure her whole life. We got caught up about it over the phone recently, and she told me about how she’s used this time to commit to learning the ins and outs of self-production, the fruits of which we’ll hear on her forthcoming EP, New Limbs: Volume 1, which is set to be released in October.
So how’s everything going?
Everything’s good. I snuck away from the city for a few days to go upstate.
I’m so jealous! A couple of my friends have gotten out of town. It’ll happen for me one day; I don’t know when, but I’m so ready.
Are you in the city?
Yeah, you gotta make it happen. Even if you just take a train down to the beach, or even up to Connecticut beaches, it’s very, very worth it.
Yeah, it’s weird, I feel like I was doing sort of okay when we were actually under strict-ish lockdown, but now that it’s this nebulous in-between, that’s what’s making me feel the craziest. Just seeing everyone around me responding to this in different ways has been strange. Going someplace that’s not New York (which is already bonkers in summertime) is definitely critical.
For sure, for longevity.
Totally. So this whole experience has been nuts for everyone, but I imagine especially for you, what with having to cancel tour dates and everything. Can you take me back to the start of when things started to get real re: the pandemic and restrictions?
Yeah, it was a strange position to be in. I knew the tour was going to get canceled before we started, but I think when you’re on tour, it’s one of those things where you have so many people relying on you; I wasn’t in a position where I could just cancel, based on the contracts I had signed etc. We had to wait for promoters and states to cancel, so it was very high stress, just knowing the end was coming, and having conversations in the band about contingency plans. I’m really glad the decision was made for me (in a way) once we got to the West Coast; we played our first show in California, a sold out show in San Diego with really great energy, and that night they essentially shut down the whole West Coast, meaning the whole next week of my tour was canceled. And then it was just a mad dash to get everybody home, get the van and the gear back. It was a little insane, definitely jarring. I look back on that period of stress and I don’t envy it. I’m happy that things have kind of leveled out.
That’s good. And it’s good that you weren’t the one who had to make that official call, because I think a lot of people were struggling with that, not wanting to be the ones “raining on the parade”, essentially. What was it like to have this unexpected downtime? How did you restructure your day, your life, etc.?
It’s interesting; my whole life made a really massive shift at the same time as quarantine started. I exited a relationship, I had to change homes, so there was a three month period where I really had the ground beneath me crumble. It really forced me into a different kind of structure, really just to stay sane, because so much had changed. I think for me, it actually wound up being a really positive thing in terms of my daily routine and schedule; it really motivated me to be autonomous in how I create, and I’ve been doing much more production. I wrote two of these songs and produced the majority of them on my own. I run three miles a day now, I can do a pull-up. Shit like that. So I think I’m really focused on keeping my internal house really clean, and just putting one foot in front of the other and staying really present. I think when you’re constantly touring and moving forward, that can get lost.
Absolutely. I wanted to ask you more about self-producing, too; how does that manifest when you’re at home (I assume at home, or maybe a studio space) and you’re having to make all of these decisions on your own?
I co-produced my last record and executive produced the one before, but I think the process has always been that I wasn’t the one at the helm, right? I wasn’t the one sitting at the computer running the sessions. Mostly because that’s not where my expertise lies, and there were people who did that better, so I let them do that better, and I did what I did best. But I think this circumstance was like, “Oh, I have all the tools,” or the ones I didn’t have I went out and got. And it was this sense that I was just going to wrestle with it, because I know how to do this, and I’ve been doing this, it’s just kind of taking a different role. Like, I’m the one committing to this drum sound, and I’m the one crafting the sounds. So I think it was a lot of wrestling, sitting and playing the same thing over and over again until it felt and sat right. Now I feel much more confident in my abilities, but it’s just a process, and I think I never really allowed myself to sit and learn it. And now I have so much fucking time to sit and learn it.
How does that affect the process of experiencing potential self-doubt, or wanting to over-edit, over-analyze? How does having the extra time to sit with it affect you, and how does being at the helm affect your confidence in the songs you’re putting out for other people to hear?
It’s funny; half of this EP was made in collaboration with other people, and most of the initial ideas were created before quarantine. They were finished in quarantine, but they were created back when the world was “normal”. “Younger Women” and “I’ll Take the Blame” were written by me alone in a room, I produced them out to like 60-65%, and then I brought on Aron Forbes who really elevated my ideas and helped me push the ceiling on them. But I think that those two songs for me are mine. That’s how I feel. So it’s not necessarily a question of self-doubt; it’s like, I sat and meditatively played them for hours and hours on end, working out what lyrics went where and how melodies fit until they sat and fell right into place. Then once they fell into place I knew they were right, and there was no more self-doubt. It’s also just like, you have to commit. I think so much of creating and releasing music as an artist is recognizing that I’m always going to do better. I’m always going to look back on any body of work and realize that I made a bunch of mistakes and that I can improve. Great is the enemy of really fucking good. I’m just trying to share as much as I can without limiting myself.
Absolutely. Now, obviously the future is incredibly unpredictable, but I think a lot of people are hoping we take this time to rethink our current industries and institutions and come out of this with better versions of everything. Speaking to the music industry, specifically, (which, again, is very volatile at the moment) what do you hope it’ll look like on the other side, apart from it still being viable?
I think that this is a test of people’s ability to adapt and be resilient. I think that this is an opportunity to find new and innovative ways to connect with people, rather than looking at the landscape and being defeatist and saying, “I can’t tour, I can’t promote, we’re done.” I think it’s really crucial to sit and survive this, and then figure out how to thrive, and connect with fans, which I’ve been trying to find meaningful ways to do. Also, how do I become autonomous as a creator so that I’m not dependent on all these other people meeting in person to continue to make music? I think the one good thing (hopefully)…there’s always this pressure as a musician to move to LA, because that’s where the music industry is, and I’ve always been a New Yorker. I’m a New Yorker for life. And now I’m just like, I never need to move to LA. I get to stay here and create remotely, and build my production empire in my small apartment in Greenpoint.