Interview with Katja Glieson

Art forms including music, dance and literature have a wonderful way of breaking down barriers and generating discussions around topics that are often otherwise tough to face. Using music as a vehicle for change, Katja Glieson has been able to speak up about her life experiences while raising awareness and support for numerous community projects and organisations. 

Congratulations on the release of your new music video for ‘I Would Kill’. How are you feeling now that the video has finally gone live?

Woohoo! Thank you so much! I think I had mixed emotions. I was very nervous because by writing, recording and releasing this song, I was literally throwing all caution to the wind. This song is extremely honest and vulnerable. But I am so pleased there are some people that can relate to it. But I think there is a lot of bravery in letting people know how messed up you truly are.

I Would Kill is a catchy pop track that carries a universally relatable message with lyrics such as ‘I would kill to lock up this feeling, to chain the pain but I don’t have the gun.’ Does performing such a personal song like this help you release tension or does it bring back bad memories? 

Well I am so glad that I am not alone in these thoughts and feelings. Performing the song live is very emotional. It comes from some of the darkest moments of my life, so I never know if I will get through the entire thing or have an emotional breakdown. It actually is therapeutic for me, especially because I can truly connect with others that have felt the same way. So we are all in one big group therapy session haha.

Your previous music videos have often featured props and backup dancers, whereas your latest release is intimate and hints at deeper meaning. Who was the creative mind behind this concept and who helped your put it all together? 

Thank you for watching my stuff! Nice of you to notice. I think, in this song, I just wanted it to be me – the real me. We spend a lot of time alone then we deal with these kinds of emotions. I Would Kill is raw and intimate, so it makes complete sense that the video reflects that. I had a skeleton crew of 3. Some of my very good friends that not only are great at filmmaking, but also made me feel comfortable opening up and being emotional on set.

Earlier this year you performed a stripped back version of your song Ride The Wave with Juliano Hodges accompanying you on didgeridoo. What was your reasoning behind this arrangement? 

I have always had the idea to have a track with a didgeridoo. It is a beautiful and spiritual instrument. Since having it in my track, I realized how many people had never even heard of it before! It’s so cool that I could introduce them to an instrument I grew up learning about. It is pretty standard that pop tracks be adapted to some kind of acoustic version. Usually with a guitar or keyboard. But I wanted to feature the didgeridoo. It was a lot more difficult than I anticipated because it’s a very limited woodwind instrument. It doesn’t keep tempo and only plays one note. Juliano is a gem. He picked up the didgeridoo and just played it out of nowhere! Since then, he has been learning all about the beautiful instrument and how to play it.

You’ve dreamt of being a singer/songwriter for years and have even mentioned your aspirations to be like Sandy from Grease. However, having the confidence to perform on stage hasn’t come easily for you. What’s your advice for overcoming anxieties associated with stage fright?   

How do you know so much about me? Haha! Man stage fright is no joke. I know that superstars like Sia still suffer from it. It stems from insecurity and fear. It’s a long process, but the best advice I could give is to breathe deep, feel the fear and make yourself do it. Perform anywhere and everywhere. Get scared, fail, make an absolute fool of yourself and journal. Make it your mission to get better everyday. The funny thing is, being onstage isn’t the issue for me, it’s the build up before and the crash after you get off the stage.

You’re from Melbourne, but now reside in LA. What has been one of the most difficult challenges faced as an independent artist since making the move across the Pacific Ocean? 

The most difficult thing for me, is finding people I can trust. This town has the ability to make or break your dreams. It is hard moving away from your family and friends, and then being in an industry where there are people out to lie, cheat and steal from you is really difficult. There are a lot of sensitive artists in Los Angles that end up being hermits because of how easily we allow ourselves to trust people and then get taken advantage of.

Through reading your blog posts and listening to numerous interviews, it’s clear that you’re not only a versatile and energetic performer, but also a very mature and down to earth young woman. You’re involved with a variety of projects and organisations that raise awareness about animal cruelty, health and wellbeing, equal rights, human trafficking, bullying and homelessness. How important is it for performers like yourself with a large online presence to engage their audiences in discussions about such topics? 

It is absolutely my responsibility to use my voice whenever and wherever possible to make a change in the world. As a recording artist, I observe the world, I observe my experiences in the world. I then interpret them through music. It’s like speaking the language of emotions. I try to take every opportunity I can to help bring awareness to things I observe in the world. Thank you so very much for the lovely compliments. I cannot begin to tell you how much it means to be understood.

Your song Shooting Star has been used as part of the Doctors Hospital of Augusta #LiveYourHealthy campaign. How do you stay mentally and physically healthy, especially while travelling? 

I am so excited! I just got back from the Relay For Life in Augusta, where I got to perform and talk about the #LiveYourHealthy campaign. Doctors Hospital are working tirelessly to help spread the word about this movement. When I am traveling, I bring my resistance band with me, for slight toning. I always have my yoga pants and sports bra ready right beside my sneakers. I will always make time to go to the gym, or to do a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) session in my hotel room. Being active daily, even if its 20 minutes, makes such a difference. I feel clearer, less stressed and end up having more energy. Watching funny puppy videos on Youtube is also extremely therapeutic.

Five fast questions for five fast responses:

  • If you could hike any mountain in the world, where would choose to go? Mount Fuji in Japan.
  • Who is your favourite Jazz musician/composer/performer? Nina Simone!
  • Do you own a reusable water bottle? I own many and always use them
  • Which line of Shakespearean text speaks to you the most? “O Time, thou must untangle this, not I; It is too hard a knot for me t’untie.” – Viola, Twelfth Night
  • Have you ever seen a platypus in person? Yes, at the Melbourne Zoo!

You quickly rose to fame in 2014 after collaborating with Whitney Avalon as part of her Princess Rap Battle series on Youtube. As a result you were fortunate enough to attend VidCon in Anaheim last year (a super awesome multi-genre online video conference originally conceived by Hank and John Green aka The Vlogbrothers) for a live meet & greet with fans. What was it like being a part of such a massive event? Did you have the opportunity to attend any of the panel discussions or meet any of your favourite Youtubers? 

VIDCON was mental! I had absolutely no idea and was so not prepared for how massive it is. I got to meet so many amazing people. Both fans and creators get to communicate on the same level. There was no hierarchy. Everyone was just making friends and catching up. I got to hang out with my mate King Bach, and my buddies from the boybandPhase Five. I also met a whole lot of new people. Both creators and fans. Next time, I would love to perform and bring my entire show to VIDCON’s stages.

Your website is very comprehensive full of photos, videos, blog posts and behind the scenes footage. Social media has also acted as a vehicle for you to connect with your #SpecialAgent fan base. How integrated is your everyday life with your online presence and do you feel as though your sleep patterns have been compromised or altered because of your ongoing dedication to keep everyone in the loop? 

Sleep? What sleep? Who needs to sleep?! Haha! I LOVE chatting to #SpecialAgents. They are beautiful individuals who have connected with me through my music. They became fans and quickly have become like family. We are just a bunch of people that encourage each other and we are there for one another. Social Media is an absolute daily necessity for me to stay connected with them. #SpecialAgents have been with me on my music journey for so long, they have helped me get through some of the most difficult experiences in my life. I love watching our family grow. Their hearts are so full of love and they embrace everyone who joins our team. I try to keep my website as up to date and easy to use as possible.

What does the rest of 2016 hold for you? 

I have so much to share this year! I am super excited to see who connects with I Would Kill. I also have a cool video for my didgeridoo inspired Ride The Wave song, that I can’t wait to release soon! I am constantly writing and producing music. I hope I get to continue growing and learning. I look forward to performing live a bit more.

Finally, what’s something you would tell your twelve-year-old self? 

“I know you don’t believe me, but you are actually allowed to follow your dream. There’s a reason why you love doing it, so don’t listen to anyone, just commit to getting better and better.”

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and best wishes with your future endeavours! 

THANK YOU so much for really taking the time to get to know me and for all the lovely, thoughtful questions. Much love, Katja.


This interview was first published here on 5 May 2016 for Amnplify.

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