11/14/2011: "Exclusive interview with Nicole Kehl"
Nicole Kehl was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and has been living in Los Angeles, California for the last five years pursuing her career in the music industry. She has been singing professionally for over 10 years. In addition to being a solo artist, she has done background vocals for Sisqo, Lena Katina (ex-t.A.T.u.) and now Rihanna.
Nicole Kehl was first mentioned as Lena's background singer (together with Nadia Christine Duggin) at Lena Katina's fan meeting of May 29, 2010. One day later, Lena Katina debuted her brand new solo efforts with her band at the legendary Los Angeles club Troubadour. Nicole also sang with Lena in June 2010 at Pridefest in Milwaukee and in September 2010 at 1015 Folsom, San Fransisco.
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In December 2010, Nicole was chosen as background singer for Rihanna and is now touring Europe with her.
We are at our favorite restuarant, Rihanna music is playing, and in front of us we have the beautiful and talented Nicole Kehl, who you all know as Lena's background singer. Tonight, she is performing as Rihanna's background singer at the sold out Loud concert in our home city, Arnhem, The Netherlands.
Nicole was so kind to meet us for lunch and agreed to answer some questions!
Interview by An Boatman and Odette Vermeulen (November 9th, 2011)
With Lena you only did three gigs in the US, but with Rihanna you are now touring the world. How does it feel to see all these different places and perform for thousands of people?
Nicole: Performing for thousands of people is amazing. It's such a rush, so amazing. But the gigs that I did with Lena were really amazing too, especially the Pride Festival, that was even more than the Rihanna crowd. There were like thousands and thousands of people, so amazing. But yeah, the traveling is fun. I don't really get to see that much of the different places, because we are kinda just in and out. The places I have seen so far have been amazing.
How are you finding life on tour? Could you tell us what an average tour day looks like?
Nicole: My day basically consists of walking up on a bus, walking into the venue to my dressing room, and then I get ready, walk on stage, do a show, and then I walk back onto the bus. That's basically, honestly what I do. Unless there is a day off, then I go to a hotel and explore the city I'm in and have a good dinner, hang out with people and friends if they are in town or something like that. It's been a really busy tour though, she does about five shows a week, so that's not a lot of time off. But it's exciting, it's fun.
Is working with Rihanna very different from working with Lena?
Nicole: Yes! It's different in so many ways. Lena's music is so different than Rihanna's music. Lena's fans are different from Rihanna's fans. It's just everything, but they are both really great in different ways. I mean Rihanna is more like a business, because she is so popular. She is so massive, so it's really like I'm going to work. It's like a very successful business. With Lena it feels more like family, which is good. Both things are good to have, but it's definitely totally different.
Could you tell us more about how you got to work with Lena Katina?
Nicole: Actually, the way that I got the Lena job was the same way that I got the Rihanna job. Exactly the same. It's very interesting. I go to a music school in Hollywood, and there is a man at the school who basically gives out auditions. He gave my information to Sven, because Sven was looking for background singers for Lena. I got the call, did the audition, and that was it. It was the same way with Rihanna. Kind of interesting, but really cool.
Before the audition, did you know who Lena Katina was? Did you know any t.A.T.u. music?
Nicole: I knew who they were, but the only t.A.T.u. songs I knew were All The Things She Said and Not Gonna Get Us. That's all I've ever heard. So I kinda knew, but not really. I had to learn one of her solo songs, Just A Day for the audition and I thought her music is so good.
What do you think about Lena and her music?
Nicole: Love it! I adore her music, I think it's so different and cool and it fits her, it fits her voice and her style. I love her music.
What is your favorite Lena song?
Nicole: Hmm, it used to be Just A Day, but now I really like Never Forget. I really, really like that song.
You and Nadia did three shows with Lena. How was that?
Nicole: Ah, a dream come true! I love Nadia and I love Lena, so performing with them was so much fun. We just had good energy, we had a good connection with the three of us, and I think Lena really liked having the support of female singers. I feel like from when I got hired to now, Lena's voice has gotten so much stronger, and she's super confident. I feel like Nadia and I have kinda helped with that. It feels really good to know that you've helped somebody get better.
Any funny stories or anecdotes about your time with Lena?
Nicole: Uhm, well here is one story. We went out one night to a club in LA, the band, Lena, me and Nadia, and I was having a really good time. Afterwards I was a little bit sick and Lena took care of me. She was so sweet, she was like a little momma bear. She was holding me and made me lemon water. She just took like five lemons and she was squeezing all this lemon into the water and was making me drink lemon water. It was so funny, but I felt better the next day and I was like "Thank you for the lemon water!" She's sweet, she took really good care of me.
Last year you auditioned for Rihanna. Was that because Lena wasn't doing any performances?
Nicole: Yeah, I got the call for the Rihanna audition and I didn't know if I should go, but then I talked to Sven and asked if there were any shows coming up. He said that he wasn't a hundred percent sure, so he told me that I should go to the audition, because it's a good opportunity for me as a singer to expand and work with different artists and see what else is out there. I think if I would've been doing more shows with Lena, I wouldn't have done the Rihanna audition.
What are your plans for the future? Are you planning on singing with Lena again?
Nicole: Yes, if she ends up doing any shows or tours or something, I'd love to sing with her again. As far as my future, I'm still on the Rihanna gig until next year and then I really want to spend some time on my own music too. I've been working with Sven Martin and some other songwriters and producers, and I'm writing my own music, I play the piano and the violin, and I'm learning the guitar. I want to get my own thing going too at the same time.
I read your blog that you moved to Los Angeles five years ago to pursue your music career. Could you tell us a bit more about your career? When did you find out you wanted to sing, what steps did you take, and what have you already done in your music?
Nicole: Actually, in January I will have been in LA for six years. My gosh, I can't believe it's already been six years. I moved to LA by myself when I was, I don't even remember how old I was, but I came alone. I just wanted to be a singer so bad, and I woked in a restaurant for awhile as a hostess. Then I just did some recordings, I made a little album and did a mall tour. Yeah, it was like a cheesy thing. After that was over, I went to music school. I studied keyboards, vocals and music business. I just started auditions for things like Lena, I also did a small tour for Sisqo in Europe and I was just starting to open myself up to being more than just an artist, like an actual working singer, seeing the world, getting paid, learning and getting all this different experience, so I think moving to LA was probably the best thing I ever did. I love LA, it's my home now. I miss it.
Are you already working on your new album?
Nicole: Yeah, I am. Actually, I have a Christmas album that I have just finished and it was produced by Sven. There is a Christmas single (Christmas Crush) online now, it's available on iTunes. I have a blog like you said and I have a single that Sven and I recorded just before the Rihanna tour started. We also recorded a music video for that song, which will be available soon. It's different, it doesn't sound like Rihanna music, it doesn't sound like Lena music, it's very much my own thing, which is cool. I can't wait to share that with everyone. I don't have an album yet, but I'm slowly working on music, making the right decisions and making the right music.
Thank you Nicole for the interesting interview. We wish you all the best for your future career and hope to see you again soon!
Buy Nicole's single "Christmas Crush" on iTunes!