Interview: Elly Kace Flawlessly Combines Opera And Pop For An Emotional Concept LP

Let's paint a picture. Let's say you close your eyes and imagine you are at the opera house ready for a night of beautiful music and story telling. It's dark. Slowly the lights rise, becoming brighter and brighter until the stage is lit. As the curtains are pulled back and the music begins, you are blown away by the angelic voice before you. Now, open your eyes. As you do so you realize you weren't at the opera house but you were indeed at home, listening to Elly Kace's new captivating and beautifully written concept LP.


Already an established and acclaimed opera singer, Elly Kace's winding and award winning career has found her performing across the world. But with her latest solo album 'Nothing I See Means Anything', Kace breaks free from the traditions of spending her life studying, for something boundary-pushing and easily danceable.


This LP in its entirety was written as a way to cope with a mix of emotions ranging from anger and sadness, to happiness and celebration. Kace used her experiences through yoga and meditation as a way of finding structure and inspiration for the writing process of this album, which she will discuss more in depth during our interview.


When listening to the tracks on 'Nothing I See Means Anything', you will go through and experience each emotion alongside Elly Kace, as she sings meaningful and beautiful lyrics. Her vocals, combined with dreamy instrumentals, will take you on a journey of sadness and happiness, love and frustration. Listeners can't help but be captivated by what they are experiencing when becoming fully immersed by the LP, as it grabs you and holds you tight, comforting you when times are hard.


This album is a perfect representation of an auditory experience of yoga and mindfulness and Elly Kace hopes that people will use it as such. We got with her for a little more in depth info about where she's come from, how it has shaped her projects, and what has inspired 'Nothing I See Means Anything'.


INTERVIEW


FITT: You began your career as an opera singer. What was that transition from opera to pop like for you? Was it easy, or harder than you thought?


ELLY KACE: It is such an interesting mixture of easier and harder. It feels natural because when I was a kid I sang in different styles and wrote music all the time. It also feels easier in the physical act of singing, classical music can make me very perfectionistic and not having that pressure felt liberating, but it also brings analysis paralysis. I’m used to interpreting other people's words and music, and now I have space to be and share myself. What do I sound like when I am being raw without answering to anyone else? That is challenging and I’m still watching it continue to unfold. It is also definitely a challenge to fight my learned skills of projecting things to the balcony of a theatre all the time! For a few of the more intimate tracks, I had to literally curl myself in a ball on the floor with the microphone to get into a more personal and less “performative” space as an artist. Also the song off the LP, “I” in particular just emotionally puts me on the floor like that. My lungs are trained to send sound far, but pop lets you play with such delicate close colors. It is a new sort of discipline to have to refrain from hiding in my training and show up with a completely open heart at the same time. But I love being pushed and jumping into things I fear. Not like bungie jumping but ..with music.


FITT: Are you wanting to build off your early success, or start anew, building a new brand for yourself?


ELLY KACE: I don’t know honestly.. I’m really excited to find out! 'Nothing I see means anything', or NISMA, has always been about showing up as authentically as I can and trusting the people interested in participating in that with me. At first I was making it just for my own healing, but as the record grew and I built my team, it became obvious this new expression of me was shining through, and I wanted to honor that by making a new space for it. Hence; Elly Kace. Fun fact- my papa was a professional wrestler on tv in the 50s and his stage name was Johnny Kace, so the name has quite a legacy attached. You can find pics of him with a blonde handlebar mustache on google! Basically, this process has reconnected me with parts of myself that want to stay alive and loud now. Elly Kace is this expanded, more complete and honest expression of me, but still contains my whole life and experience as Elyse Kakacek, soprano. It's all about radical self acceptance. So the “new brand” wasn’t premeditated or maneuvered, it sort of happened naturally as I listened to who I really am. I think it will be really fun to see who this concept album resonates with and if my classical fans get curious about NISMA or if the NISMA fans become curious about my classical stuff. The whole goal is to connect via intentionality and get real regardless of any category, so my fingers are crossed there will be some discovery involved for everyone.


FITT: Tell us what it's like being an artist based in Brooklyn. Are there preconceived expectations of you to succeed in such a large city?


ELLY KACE: I love Brooklyn. I feel so inspired to create here surrounded by so much variety of experience and SO MANY CHARACTERS. It's funny, I remember my fiancé asked if I’d be cool to live in Brooklyn when I was moving here from Chicago and I was like “Never! it’s too far from auditions and the Met”. But then I came to visit, and from the moment I stepped off the 2/3 at Grand Army I just knew in my bones it was my place. There is a dash of a bohemian lifestyle vibe here that really gets my creative impulses going. (I’m Czech so anything that feels bohemian has this ancestral deep pull for me, that may be mental, but it FEELS real!) I am a pretty serious yogi and meditator and something that’s been really clear for me through the creation of this project is that it is not really mine. So "succeeding" hasn’t been so much on my radar as showing up and doing my best for the art has. I believe the record was expressed through me and I really hope it gives something to others. I am going to do everything I can to give it its best shot but, at the end of the day, my goal is to offer something meaningful to people and I’m at peace with that!


FITT: What inspired this concept LP from you? Can you go more into depth about its conception?


ELLY KACE: 'Nothing I see means anything' came out of necessity for my mental health. I was starting my first European audition tour as an operatic soprano and had to flee Italy at the start of the pandemic before singing a single audition. At the time I was feeling excited about the prospect of a European career, and then to experience such a world-changing, death-filled thing instead was really difficult. They literally had refrigerated trucks holding bodies a few blocks from my apartment building at one point. Just before leaving for Europe, I had completed this life changing yoga teacher training at Lighthouse yoga school where I began a daily chanting and meditation practice. I started obsessing over my daily Sanskrit meditations and these two phrases from the book- A Course in Miracles: “Nothing I see means anything” and “Bless them all” as this sort of intense coping mechanism. I could not stop thinking about those ideas. Looking back, it was probably an unhealthy level of obsession, but I don't know who I'd be today if I hadn’t gotten lost in it. I was definitely depressed and sort of intuitively started writing and expressing what I was feeling as a healing thing for myself, in front of a microphone. Honoring each emotion and allowing it to fully express itself is something I have learned as healing practice through yoga and meditation, so that was a big part of where this was born, and letting myself sing it took it to a new level of catharsis. I had no other reason to sing. I started improvising vocal loops dissecting each syllable in those two phrases. Mantra is a powerful practice because the sounds resonate in our bodies, music also literally gets in your cells, so I got meticulous about the vocal meditations driving the rest of the writing like a secret medicine. They became a tool for me to literally vibrate each self-accepting sentiment into the physical bodies of whoever listens as well as myself. Each track started to take on its own emotion. "Nothing" is anger, "I" is sadness, etc., cycling through a whole pain cycle and landing in joy and celebration. Each emotion expressed gets us closer to clear perception, and the ability to love whatever is happening in the present moment and meet it. By honoring our baggage and feelings, we can release and move forward to something else. The rest is sort of history! I could talk more about this all day but I think it will be even more interesting to hear how people react to it. I am really looking forward to that.


FITT: There is so much diversity in sound on this LP. Was that intentional or did it just come naturally as you had so many ideas flowing through you?


ELLY KACE: Yes! It all happened naturally and sort of ties back to the way I was writing. Since the vocal loops were the backbone, everything was rooted in these individual emotions, and for me that drove the bus over any particular style. Every single one of the tracks contains meditative vocal loops as part of the instrumental texture, me playing Tibetan singing bowls, healing cacho seeds and secret whisper tracks of yogic breath exercises that evoke different energetic states. So the healing sounds and experience is woven into the fabric of the whole album. But anger sounds dark and intense, so that is what "Nothing" turned into, while clarity sounds light and fresh, which is why "Anything" lives there. Even if each song CAN stand alone, this LP was designed as a long form cathartic experience as well, shifting from curiosity, to anger, to sadness, to confusion, to frustration, to clarity, to love, to sad realities, to celebration.


FITT: Tell us what it was like to be able to work on this project and release it pretty much all by yourself.


ELLY KACE: I feel greener than Kermit the frog most days and still I am so grateful. I had this cute idea when I started that I would release this within 6 months. I am so far outside my comfort zone and am learning so much! I have sobbed, stomped, skipped and cried tears of gratitude. I have had larger feelings than I have felt in a long time and I would not change a single bump I hit along the way. It feels really good to be the person making decisions that serve the art instead of the person taking orders and always on eggshells. That said, I actually think the thing I am most proud of is the community that has gathered around this record, and I could not have done it without them. Every member of the team has shown up with their best work, full hearts with nothing but patience and support for me and this project. Community is everything, and its weird that I still have not met many of them in person yet. Even if I am the person making all the big decisions, I have felt so far from alone in this, and that has just filled my whole cup.


FITT: What can expect next from Elly Kace?


ELLY KACE: Well, if all is safe and possible, I am planning an outdoor release party in the near future as a collaboration with a small live chamber orchestra called The Curiosity Cabinet conducted by Whitney George. I am so excited at the idea of performing this record live if the virus cooperates, so stay tuned for dates! Also, I am writing a ton! I am an Aries with lots of cardinal energy and I also LOVE to work, so naturally to nurse my impatience waiting for NISMA to release, I jumped right into a few new projects. I don't want to share too much yet because the situation is still developing, but definitely eyes peeled!


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