Courtesy of Kiki Holli

Los Angeles-based artist KiKi Holli has a lot going on, like a lot a lot. Along with singing and songwriting, KiKi is also a musician, actor, and playwright. A couple weeks ago, KiKi released her dreamy new single “Sun Playing Tricks” in collaboration with Grammy-nominated producer Ethan Allen. We caught up with KiKi to get an inside look at her music and her influences (including theater!).

Showstopper Magazine Online: Hi, KiKi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your music?

KiKi Holli: I write soulful indie-pop with intricate emotive storytelling that hopefully guides the listener into a captivating and cathartic experience. I am an empathic person and always come from a place of deep feeling in my work. 

I do my best to create beauty and vulnerability in my music. I often focus on themes of connection, healing, personal growth and living in the moment. You know, Amor fati—love your fate, love whatever is in front of you and embrace the moment. I know what it’s like to have your heart broken, to feel shattered or to lose one of the closest people to you in your life. I hope that somehow my music brings comfort, and helps leave the world a little bit better than it was before.

Currently, I am collaborating with Silver Lake-based, Grammy-nominated producer Ethan Allen (Ben Harper, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Tricky) to create these landscapes of music. We have a lot of fun together in the studio and I hope that joy translates to the people who hear it.

SMO: How did you get started in music?

KiKi: I have been singing since I can remember, and started writing songs when I was a teenager.  I worked on a film that brought me to Los Angeles. I did some film and television work as an actor, starred in a movie musical, did a lot of plays and sang at various venues. 

While I was working at University of Southern California Film School, I received a small grant to develop my musical about Dusty Springfield. I performed the show at USC, and then it ran at the fabulous Renberg Theater, part of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Then I decided to take it to New York City. Forever Dusty was an awesome success Off-Broadway and we had coverage in Reuters, Entertainment Weekly, NY Times, Associated Press—lots of cool places. As great and challenging as that experience was, when the show ended its run, I felt like it was time to focus only on my original music.

I worked with a couple amazing producers and learned a lot by working and writing with them in the studio. Then I met Ethan Allen and things really clicked in a way they hadn’t before. I thought that now was the right time to start releasing my original music. Ethan has worked on a few of my songs and I feel strongly that they are in a good place and ready to be out in the world. 

I have been singing since I can remember

SMO: How would you describe your sound?

KiKi: Soulful music woven with intricate emotive storytelling for hopefully a captivating and cathartic listening experience, with an eclectic musical aesthetic. I draw on inspiration from my extensive theatrical background, as well as from iconic artists such as Prince, Dusty Springfield, The Cure, Stevie Nicks and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

My producer and I work on crafting a unique sound that is beautifully vulnerable and nurturing. My focus is to have my delivery be genuine and even empathetic, because I have been there. 

SMO: Who inspires your music?

KiKi: It’s tough to name your influences all in one interview. There are more than this and I am continually inspired, listening & learning new things every day. 

Prince is like my church and I listen to him daily.

Dusty Springfield. I just love her on so many levels and am very grateful I chose her as a character study/muse in my life.

John Lennon, and The Beatles in general. I love who he was as an artist and songwriter.

David Bowie, for his artistry, his originality, his voice, his songwriting, and his performance. He was a great music businessman. Go see Moonage Daydream, you will be filled with inspiration!

The Cure. Just everything about Robert Smith really. He makes my heart ache.

Stevie Nicks—the goddess of rock 

Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Siouxsie is a badass of epic proportions. I feel like she is the architect of goth.  

Debbie Harry and Blondie. Just an amazing band and Debbie is a stunning talent both as a performer and a songwriter. I just wanted to be her. And she came to the opening night of the Off Broadway musical I created and starred in, Forever Dusty. And I got to meet her. It was an amazing moment.

I have been listening to a lot of Chaka Khan and Donna Summer lately. They both achieve musical perfection in their genres. They are the Queens! 

To my core, I am a performer. I feel most comfortable on stage in front of an audience. It is where I feel most myself and most alive.

SMO: You have a passion for (and a degree in!) in theater. How does your knowledge and passion in that art inform your music?  

KiKi: Theater is life for me. It is the study of life in so many ways. Reading plays, delving deep into characters, helps you to understand the human condition. Theater is my outlet and helps me stay sane in this often dark world. I am grateful beyond words for what theater has done for me and my life. I think it would benefit everyone to take an acting class, read a play, get in someone else’s skin for a moment. It helps you develop empathy for your fellow humans. 

I have had the incredible good fortune of working with some of the best acting teachers in New York and Los Angeles. I lost my dear friend and acting coach recently, Alice Spivak. It was sudden and during COVID. She taught me so much. I miss her every day. I have also studied with legendary acting coach John Kirby for many years. He is truly one of the greats and I am blessed beyond words to have him in my life. They both have passed along a deep respect and love for the craft of acting and performance. 

To my core, I am a performer. I feel most comfortable on stage in front of an audience. It is where I feel most myself and most alive.

Being a trained actor, singer and performer informs everything I do with my art and my music. I think that my training has given me the freedom and fearlessness to share a state of vulnerability, to live in that place, and to have the ability to communicate that feeling to the listener or the viewer. Maybe it helps them or touches them in some way. Emotion is so incredibly important in our lives and humans need an outlet for their emotions. That is what makes music and performance so special—it gives the audience that cathartic experience, and they are able to experience heightened emotions. 

SMO: Your new song “Sun Playing Tricks” just came out. What inspired that song?

KiKi: The sun endlessly fascinates me. Without it we don’t exist. We literally revolve around this flaming ball of fire, a star. And if we were slightly out of our orbit, the earth would go flying into oblivion. The history of the sun worship intrigues me. The Sun Goddesses, and the monk orders who worship and chant to the sun. 

“Sun Playing Tricks” is a sultry fever dream in a mirage of lost love. It is a journey of self-discovery when you think that everything is lost, you’re looking for answers, everything can feel like it’s against you, even the sun. The sun can be our savior or it can be our downfall. Just like some of the relationships in our lives.

I came up with the hook and kept singing it over and over again. Then Ethan Allen, who produced the track, happens to have a lot of amazing things in his studio including a lot of books. One day I started reading William Blake and some of the imagery in the lyrics came out of there.

Art and music heal. Find your creative outlet, whatever that is for you. 

SMO: Do you have a favorite line from the song? 

KiKi: I like the whole second verse a lot because there is resolution at the end, all you need to do to find a cure for your despair is sing into the desert air or scream at it if you have to.

Tears of the Angel King I see

The devil’s trick possessing me

The Pink moon now will guide my sight

And no more will I pray for night

My wounds of love as arrows may pierce my side

But I will keep riding on until I heal my pride

Like all things begin and end

The sun will set and souls will mend

Find the cure for my despair and   

Sing into the desert air 

SMO: A favorite moment from bringing it to life?

KiKi: Just being in the studio and writing it with Ethan Allen. It’s such an incredible gift every time I am in there with him. Also, when you find the right phrase that finally fits into the song it is an awesome feeling. It’s like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together. Very fulfilling. And getting to read more William Blake—that was pretty cool. 

SMO: What are you hoping people take from “Sun Playing Tricks”? 

KiKi: That no matter how difficult things get, to keep in mind that life is an illusion. We are just a small part of this massive universe. Even though everything we do is significant and important, you also have to keep in mind how vast the universe can be, that we are truly all made of stardust, and if you just pick yourself up and keep going, no matter how bleak things seem, there is always hope. Amor Fati, embrace your fate, whatever that fate may be. Easier said than done but something to aspire to. There is always a cure for your despair if you just reach out, there is always a way out. You don’t have to carry it all alone. Art and music heal. Find your creative outlet, whatever that is for you. 

SMO: It seems like you enjoy capturing specific moments with your songs. How would you describe this “moment”? 

KiKi: I think it’s about lost love, the love you thought you couldn’t live without. The love that leaves and you so devastated that you feel like the entire universe is plotting against you. Then you realize that you have to go on, you have to find a way to live. If you don’t give up, you will find there is a way to go on. Love continues to be reborn in the most mysterious of ways because love is truly all there is. 

SMO: Is there anything else you want people to know about you or your music?

KiKi: My hope and prayer is that my music helps the listener feel better or puts them in a different state of mind or makes them feel more uplifted, or just puts a smile on their face. That’s what my favorite artists do for me. It is my dream to do that for someone too.

“Sun Playing Tricks” is streaming now on major music platforms.

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Veronica Good has been with Showstopper Magazine since 2016. When she isn't keeping you updated on the latest trends, she is at home with her many pets or probably playing The Sims 4. Veronica has a BA in English and an MA in writing from Coastal Carolina University. She is also a writer of fiction and poetry, and her work can be found in Archarios, Tempo, and Scapegoat.