Kira Kosarin skyrocketed to fame in 2013, playing “Phoebe” in Nickelodeon’s The Thundermans. Since then, music, touring, and exciting projects have kept the multi-talented artist incredibly busy. Funny action-comedy indie film Supercool, with Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Short – are one of the many projects that keep her momentum going.
“Music is the way I make sense of the world,” Kosarin recently shared with INLOVE Magazine. “It has been, since I was four years old, watching my dad play piano in the living room and hearing my mom harmonizing from the kitchen. Since I couldn’t figure out how to write a diary in seventh grade, I wrote songs instead. My first boyfriend, after high school, introduced me to his world of EDM, trap, modern indie R&B/soul, and rap. I spent every minute between filming scenes in my dressing room with a guitar and a notepad. Since I finished a six-year run on a TV show and didn’t know where to go next, music caught me. The music industry is really, really hard. It threatens to suck the joy and innocence out of music at every turn, but at the end of the day, nothing is ever going to change the fact that it’s the language I speak most fluently and the lens that brings this world a little more into focus for me.”
In October, Kosarin heads overseas where she’ll be performing new music in Blackpool [England] and Germany. “The Nickelodeon international team is bringing me out to Europe for the first time as an artist, rather than Nickelodeon talent,” she explained. “I couldn’t be more grateful for their support in this transition. Shout-out to Lindsay Tracey, you’re incredible!”
Sari: Looking back, do you have a favorite memory from your time on The Thundermans?
Kira Kosarin: A lot of the special moments from working on “Thundermans” happened offset, promoting the show or network in other countries. I got to see so much of the world, thanks to my time on “Thundermans.” Weeks in Malta, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and the UK especially held so many special experiences for me.
Sari: You recently released your debut album, Off Brand. What inspired the title?
KK: During my time working for Nickelodeon, it was a common conversation that the things I did, said, wore, and posted, were expected to be “on brand” – meaning, a positive reflection of the company and its specific values. I loved that role and took it on dutifully while working for the network, but after production ended, I started to realize I was holding myself back by not allowing myself to grow past that guideline. I write music about my life as a 20-something in Los Angeles, which isn’t always going to line up with the image that’s been created of me over the years. This album was me permitting myself to respectfully, but firmly, finally be a little “Off Brand.”
Sari: How did you choose which songs to include on the album?
KK: I had a collection of around 20 songs I’d written over the years that I considered for the project. Last year, I went on tour with all these songs, [and] performed different combinations of them. After every show, I spent hours in the audience getting people’s thoughts, feedback, and favorites. Getting to hear what songs people really related to was invaluable, and I used those amazing conversations with audience members to decide what to release.
Sari: You incorporate a lot of hip-hop and R&B into your music. Who are some of your biggest influences?
KK: I grew up loving a lot of the late ’90s, early 2000s R&B: Destiny’s Child, TLC, Usher, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu. More recently, SZA, Frank Ocean, H.E.R., Kehlani, Tyler, The Creator, Childish Gambino, Chance The Rapper, Jacob Collier; the list goes on and on.
Sari: Is there a musical artist that you dream of working with?
KK: Jacob Collier. His musicality is unmatched. Also, 6lack is my dream feature. Or Big Sean. Or Blackbear. I’d also love to write with Mike Posner on a mountaintop with a couple of guitars. Bryson Tiller. Jeremy Zucker.
Sari: What is the biggest difference for you when you shift gears between singing and acting?
KK: Considering the amount of overlap between the careers, it’s remarkable how different the skill sets and mindsets they require are. As an actor, the job is to be malleable, flexible, to use your skills to serve someone else’s story. As an artist, the job is to create, define, and articulate your own story, sharing it the best way you know how. At the end of the day, they’re both just types of storytelling, but the day to day execution is vastly different. The creative headspace is also unbelievably different, at least for me. Switching back and forth gets tricky, but it keeps things interesting.
Sari: You come from a very musical family. Both of your parents were Broadway performers. What is the best advice you have gotten from them?
KK: That the art that is the scariest to share is the art most worth sharing. Honestly, I haven’t really taken that advice fully up until now. I’m trying. It’s hard to serve yourself up to the searing personal judgment the world loves to deliver. My new music is much more emotionally vulnerable, and quite frankly, I’m terrified to put it out. I’ll get the courage to share it with the world soon, but I’m also trying to be gentle with myself and protect my energy.
Sari: Off Brand is a very empowering album that inspires confidence. What do you hope listeners take away from your music?
KK: Thank you, that’s great to hear. I wrote this album in a period of my life where I wanted to have a lot more confidence than I did. This album was a feat of trying with all my might to encourage the strongest, most self-assured part of myself to come out and play. I hope listeners come away from the album feeling a little stronger, maybe a little sassier, maybe a little sexier, maybe a little more willing to speak their mind.
Sari: Even after being a successful actress, and then getting into Stanford University, you chose to focus on your passion – your music. Was it a difficult decision?
KK: It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Going to an Ivy League school was a goal since I was young, and I was so excited to get accepted. However, something deep inside me knew I wasn’t ready to give up on pursuing this other equally challenging, but perhaps more creatively inspiring career endeavor. I had to do a lot of soul-searching to decide why I had wanted to go in the first place, and what I’d be giving up, and what it would mean for my future. At the end of the day, I decided to allow myself to cherish the victory of acceptance, but to respect and trust my instincts to stay in Hollywood, to take the work ethic I would’ve applied at Stanford, and channel it into the several professional endeavors I’m working towards: being a recording artist, acting, writing and developing a series, writing and directing my own visual content for music, directing TV, learning how to produce my own music, playing more instruments and getting stronger in musical theory, writing music for other artists. Essentially, I decided to build myself my personal university experience using the incredible tools at my disposal in L.A., and the teachings and generosity of the successful people around me. I don’t have any regrets. I want to keep learning, and right now, I’m able to do that in my career, so I’m happy. I keep the option of going back to school in the future open, even if it’s not at Stanford University.
Sari: What advice would you give to other people who want to take the unbeaten path to pursue a career they’re passionate about, but maybe are afraid to?
KK: I don’t know if I’m in a position to tell anyone what’s best for them. There’s no way to know the right choice, and certainly not before it’s been made. Weigh your options, have a backup plan, fuel your soul but prepare for the possibility of things going in unexpected directions. I’ve seen people who attribute their life’s success to university experience, like my dad, and people who took the uncertain route to eschew an education to pursue a passion at a younger age, and were very successful in their chosen field, like my mom. I’d say, trust your gut, be willing to make the scary choice, but be prepared to back it up and know the work that comes along with it.
Sari: You also joined the cast of “Light as a Feather” for the second season. What can you tell me about your experience?
KK: I’m so beyond grateful to be a part of this show. I became a huge fan after watching the first season; it’s a really strong show. And every single person who works on that set is just wonderful. It’s a great environment, and it shows in the work. It’s got just the right amount of spook factor to quench your Halloween season thirst for suspense, without being too kitschy or gory. I’m so invested in the story that I actually didn’t read any scripts beyond my character’s last episode because I wanted to watch it unfold in real-time when the new season premiered.
Sari: Lastly, is there any message you want to leave with the readers?
KK: Speak up. Now more than ever. If you have any way to be an ally, or a support system, or a voice for change for someone who needs it, DO IT. I don’t care what your cause is. Any bit of positive change you can possibly inspire is worth your time and energy. Be kind, be strong, be open, and willing to learn and accept when you’re wrong. Be genuine. Be vulnerable. Be compassionate. Listen to those who don’t have a voice. Fight for good. Please. Fight for good in this world, in the way only you can.
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