Kerli might come to lunch wearing massive chunky heels, white-blonde hair extensions down to her waist and carrying a rhinestone teddy bear, but don't assume that the Estonian singer is a cookie cutter version of someone like Lady Gaga or Katy Perry. Just watch her video for her new single,"Army of Love," and you'll get an idea of what we mean. From her kooky-cool dressing to her spacey electro-pop sound (she calls it "bubble goth"), the 23-year-old is an explosion of creativity that's about to take over your stereo. Is the world ready for Kerli? We're about to find out.
Take us back to the very beginning-how'd you get into music?
I grew up in the forest, in a small town of 5,000. From the very beginning, I had decided that music was going to be my out. I learned about this talent show on TV that was basically the Estonian version of American Idol. So I lied about my age, went on the show, and won. I think my story is about working really hard and dreaming really big.
Did you know what type of sound you wanted starting out?
I was 14 years old at that point, so not really. I remember they told me I had to pick a song for the competition, and I had picked all these alternative songs because I was this kid with piercings and stuff. So I came in and they were like, "No, we've already picked a song for you," and they assigned me “Like a Bird” by Nelly Furtado. But now it's totally different, and I write, I produce, I make my own outfits.
How do you come up with the concepts of your videos?
For the “Army of Love” video, I went back to Estonia for 3 weeks and rented a basement and made 50% or more of the costumes and props.
Why do you like making your own clothes?
I feel like Estonia, the sky is so low and the people are much more close-minded than in America. So when I came to the U.S, I had a massive explosion of creativity and felt like I could do basically anything I want. With every video I make more and more and more stuff.
And you created your whole look, too, right?
Yep. I do hair, too.
Is it your real hair?
[Laughing] No. You wish!!
How do you feel when people try to compare you to other musicians?
I hate it. People generalize music by how you look, and I don't like that.
Where do you shop?
Oh my god. I shop everywhere. I love to shop online, Ebay is like heaven for me. I shop at a bunch of dingy stripper stores. Oh, and Ross. I love really cheap things, because then I customize them.
In terms of music, who do you listen to?
I don't really listen to pop at all. For music for me is such an intense experience, I sometimes listen to really weird ambient stuff that buzzes for 15 minutes. For my latest record, I listen to a lot of choir music, like Enya and also ‘90s cartoon-y stuff like Aqua to get this soundscape that's a little bit ambient and a little bit anime.
-- LIZA DARWIN