In Conversation With Kaelin Ellis

“The journey itself is the goal,” responds Kaelin Ellis on how he keeps his creative juices flowing after being on the scene for over a decade. With his new project, ‘You Are Here, Start,’ Ellis reinforces his profound knowledge of musical expression, creative integrity, and energy alignment.

Entirely recorded in August 2021, Kaelin Ellis refers to the new album as a palette cleanser,’ representing open curiosity and trying different things. ‘You Are Here, Start is the result of a symbiotic collaboration between like-minded musicians and a gentle reminder for people to start their endeavors from a blank slate.

As a creative himself, Kaelin Ellis keeps learning and discovering new realms and outputs for his creative energy. With ‘You Are Here, Start,’ he wants to give grace about the obstacles of making the first step. Featuring names like TOBi, Duckwrth, Anomalie, Lophille, Kenny Mason, Ellis puts together a musical body of encouragement.

His astral drive and curiosity reach beyond the music world as he always searches for new mediums. In addition to all the studio hours he locks in, Ellis enjoys interacting with his community via his Twitch streams. He describes it “the most beautiful investment of my time.”

As he returns from his mini tour in LA, New York, and D.C., celebrating the release of ‘You Are Here, Start,’ Kaelin Ellis shares his two cents on creative wisdom, keeping an open mind following in the footsteps of his musician father.

What is the album you can’t stop listening to at the moment? (Besides yours haha)

An album that I can’t stop playing at this moment is probably the last Chris Dave and the Drumheads album that has been on repeat for the last year or so. So, yeah, it would probably be that outside of my own.

How did your journey with music begin? What was the first instrument you felt drawn to?

My journey with music began when I started in church. My dad was a musician and a songwriter back in the 80s and 90s. He grew up in church, and I followed behind him. Everything I know about music came from him. My first instrument was the drums, and I’ve been playing drums all of my life. In high school, I started to expand to piano, guitars, and other instruments.

Have you always felt like music will be in your future, or have you tried other arenas first?

I’ve always felt like music is a great component of my creative output, but over the last five to six years, I’ve recognized that my curiosity in creativity wasn’t just limited to music. It also extended to art, movies, and other forms of entertainment. For instance, the first painting I fell in love with was a Wassily Kandinsky painting, and it amazed me to realize that he was inspired by music. I didn’t know you could be inspired by music to create other forms of art.

How many hours a day do you usually spend in a studio? How does your day in a studio look like?

My average studio day starts at 7 a.m. I stretch, pray, work out, have breakfast, and drink a smoothie. I check emails, and from around 12 to 5 p.m., I’m in my studio room creating something for the day. If I have a Twitch stream, which I do on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays at 5 p.m. Eastern, I’ll go live and create with my community, filming the entire process to upload to YouTube. By around 10 p.m., I close the studio down and end the day with rest, ready to repeat the process the next day.

Are you able to pinpoint what usually sparks the first idea for a song?

Inspiration for me comes from life and the experiences it brings. Right now, I’m in a joyous state because I just came off tour, so the music I’m making has a lot of energy. If I were going through something heavy, it would show up in the music. So, life itself is what inspires me now.

How would you describe your sound now compared to the early days of your career?

My sound now is more musician-oriented. I understand the language of musicians better, but before I learned to play other instruments, I understood feeling, emotion, and how to communicate them. Compared to 10 years ago, I play more instruments now, but I find myself going back to the old methods of creativity that worked back then. The difference is that I’m curious about different styles now.

Could you elaborate on what triggered you to scrap ‘It’s Been A Minute’ and start all over?

Since 2022, I’ve had two to three different projects I was working on because I was inspired by what life was giving me at the time. Life felt like it was going through a lot, and I needed to make sure what I was saying was exactly what I wanted to convey. This new project was perfect for that time. So, I scrapped ‘It’s Been A Minute,’ but I often revisit scrapped projects in the future.

Did you have any idea what you wanted your new album ‘You Are Here, Start’ to sound like before getting into the studio?

I had no preconceived notion of what I wanted the new album to sound like. I had these songs for three years, and there was a pre-made energy behind them. The music made back in 2021 was a creative burst, and it gave me time to become the person I needed to be to present this body of music. I didn’t have titles for most of these songs. There were 18 songs, cut down to 10, and these 10 perfectly represent where I am right now.

What are the predominant themes conceptualizing ‘You Are Here, Start’?

The project is about starting where you are. All the songs and features represent places in my life over the last three years. Despite successes and failures, creating the life you want begins with starting where you are. The album is an infinite loop allowing people to begin from a blank slate. Starting is often the biggest obstacle for creatives, and the album emphasizes that if you want to begin, you have to start where you are.

You’ve been on the scene for more than a decade. How do you keep your creative juices flowing and when/where do you feel the most inspired?

Lately, I’ve been more inspired by talking about music with others who love it. Realizing that our perception shapes our reality made me challenge my limiting beliefs in music and creativity. This curiosity and the desire to do more keep me going. The journey itself is the goal.

Having released eight albums, you’re showcasing musical evolution from album to album. How does ‘You Are Here, Start’ compare to your previous albums?

‘You Are Here, Start’ is like a palette cleanser, featuring different styles of what I can do. The album represents open curiosity, trying different things, working with different people, and challenging collaborators to try new styles. A good example is Iman Europe, who crushed it with ‘Masterpiece.’ I’m happy with the result and realize I can explore more genres if I choose to.

On this project, you work with an impressive array of artists including TOBi, Duckwrth, Anomalie, Lophille, Kenny Mason, xar and many more. How do you hand-pick your collaborators?

A lot of my collaborators and I have a similar approach to life. We all met at the perfect time to make these records. All 10 songs were conceived in one month, August 2021. My team picked sessions with artists I wanted to work with, and everyone was on the same frequency as me at the time. These features came from genuine connections, and we didn’t force anything.

You’ve embarked on a recent mini tour to celebrate the release of your new album. How is it going? Could you share anything about the set you prepared for this special leg of shows?

The shows in L.A., New York, and D.C. were like testing grounds to see what I could do live. My setlist includes music, remixes, and mashups I’ve made over the last six years, played differently each time. Including new album stuff makes me happy, experiencing the energy from people who know the records. L.A. was sold out, Brooklyn was almost sold out, and D.C. was amazing. Meeting people from my community was the best experience, giving me leeway for future shows.

What do you think this chapter of ‘You Are Here, Start’ will symbolize for you in the future? What will this period of life remind you of?

This period will remind me that despite setbacks, you can always begin where you are. Even though I went through a lot a few years ago, everything I have is perfect and necessary to expand on. This period reminds me that I have everything I need, I just have to expand on what I have.

Could you also tell us how you began streaming on Twitch? What would you say could be the biggest takeaways from your streams, for you and your fans?

I began streaming on Twitch during 2021, suggested by a friend to go live with my community and create music with them during the pandemic. It was a way to connect with people supporting my soundpacks. Starting in December 2021, it has been the most beautiful investment of my time. Despite hardships, connecting with my community is more important than anything else.

You often work with brands like Ford, Sephora, Mercedes-Benz. How does this creative process look like?

I treat everything as a blank slate, and these brands don’t want me to be anything I’m not. They just want me to be who I am, which is enough. These brands like the music I make, and it speaks to what they want to accomplish. Every brief or opportunity allows me to continue doing what I’m already doing, confirming and motivating me to keep going.

Can you share what is still on the agenda for the rest of the year?

For the rest of the year, I plan to do more live streams, create a community project with my Discord community, and make more art. I might revisit an album I started at the beginning of 2023. In a few years, I hope to look back and see this album, tour, and other activities as stepping stones for where I’m headed.

Follow Kaelin Ellis On Instagram

Words: karolina Kramplova