You've probably heard her voice in dance music but there's far more to her than just that. Kaleena Zanders is a singer/songwriter involved in many genres. We were lucky enough to interview her (by the way, it was a fun interview)! Check out a snippet of the interview on our IGTV / Youtube or read the full interview below.
Tell us a little bit about yourself (where are you from/ based, etc.)
I am a singer/songwriter and I do music mostly in dance music and it's been great and amazing. I started off in a kind of like rock and funk but then moved into dance music in 2015. That's what I do mostly. I'm from San Jose, California, but I live in LA. I have been living here for a really long time.
What made you transition from rock music to dance? Just happened by chance. I was actually kind of taking a break cause I was just kind of over it. And then one of my friends called me and he was like, "Hey, There's a DJ looking for a singer. Would you be interested in like ever doing that?" And I was like, okay. So I went over to SNBRN's' house who was the DJ and then I recorded vocals for like 30 minutes. And then left and then went back. And it ended up becoming the biggest song that I ever did in dance music. I actually found you on the Moon Boots album. How did that actually go about? I had a writing camp for an awesome publication for dance music, Mixed Mag, in Woodstock in New York and we got to be at the studios that David Bowie recorded his album and stuff like that. It's really, really cool. We just got along and we were jamming one night and a little bit of wine and that just came out. So it was, that's literally how it was born. He's such a good musician. I'm really, really thankful that we were able to do that. He's a really cool guy.
That's really dope. What is something you’d like to change or bring to the music industry that sets you aside from other upcoming or established artists? Something(s) you think the industry needs? I don't necessarily want to change anything, but I think just by my existence as a black woman doing dance music, you don't really see too many. Also, I'm a singer too and a performer, so that's something that you don't see as much. I'm not seeking to change it. I just want to keep existing in it as like a black woman. There's Unique. She's a really awesome Jersey club DJ and then you have Kylo and just a few of us doing what we're doing.
Do you have a certain era that you pull musical inspiration from? I like a lot of jazz music, to be honest. I like Etta James, she's more blues. But Ella Fitzgerald, and the 30s. I feel like I was reincarnated kind of, but into dance music. I have my voice, it's very soulful.
If someone were to like look at your discography, they would see that you've been involved in dance music. So what is like your creative process in regards to working with other artists? When I work with other artists, it varies. A lot of times I like to be in the studio to build tracks together cause I love producing. If I'm making a DJ track, it's usually with them and then I'll build the top line a little bit and then go home and write it. If it's a song for me, there are various ways there's a lot of like collabs and writing together with other people to get a really strong song. And then sometimes I write for other people too. I've been doing like a lot of K-pop stuff. You always get the best songs I feel like when you're working with other minds, you know? I think the last time I've written a song myself was maybe last year, to be honest? But it's way better to bounce off of other people. No one should be ashamed of that. It's awesome. That's why we're doing music, it's to be with each other and geek out.
What's something people don't know about you? I feel like everybody knows everything about me. I'm pretty open. Well, I'm scared of spiders. Okay. I don't think many people know that. I'm really, really scared of spiders. I like dry heave sometimes over like weird stuff, weird smells.
What's next for you? A show is coming up at the end of the month, which I'm really excited about because I'm really trying to take this journey as a solo artist and take it as far as I can. I performed some solo shows in the last couple of months that really made me think that I gotta keep doing this shit. And I got two songs that I'm trying to release in the next two months and one with a music video. And I'm really, really, really stoked songs. They're a bit different from dance music, but it's okay I feel like everyone's releasing everything nowadays.
What are you currently listening to? (List artists or a couple of songs) I'm currently listening to this song called Skin by LUME. I just keep listening to it on repeat. I heard it on Apple music and I literally listened to it every single day, like all day. It's weird. You know, you become obsessed with songs, and then you just like listening to it all the time.
Don't forget to check out Kaleena Zanders on Instagram!
Interview by Dreina Bautista. Photos by Michael L. Garcia, Stephen Dietrich, and Lauren Lopez.