Making it in today’s music industry is no easy task. In addition to talent, it takes hard work, determination and unrelenting drive. Los Angeles based pop artist Katja Glieson is a shining example of what is obtainable when you aren’t afraid to invest your heart and soul to make your dreams a reality. Hailing originally from Melbourne, Australia, the songstress is an exciting new voice on the pop music scene. With a passion for music that can be traced back to her earliest years, the rising hit-maker is poised to make a big impact with her soaring vocals and positive message in 2016. She recently released her official video for “I Would Kill”, which continues to turn the heads of critics and fans alike. If Katja looks familiar, there is a good reason! This star on the rise got her first break playing Princess Elsa in YouTuber Whitney Avalon’s viral first Princess Rap Battle. In addition, she partnered with Doctors Hospital to release “Shooting Star” a song about healthy and empowering relationships, cementing herself as an anti-bullying and healthy living advocate. She has continued her YouTube success with powerful video renditions of Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande and through her newest solo release “Ride the Wave”. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Katja to get an inside look at her blossoming career. In the interview, Katja discusses her passion for music, her growth as an artist, what fuels her creative fire and much more!
What are you first memories of music in your life?
Wow! First memories are obviously my mum singing me lullabies when I was really little. Music was always so comforting to me. Mum and I would sing Elton John’s greatest hits on Sundays while we cleaned. And I think the most prominent was watching Grease over and over again pretending to be Sandy.
Going all the way back to the beginning, how did you first start getting involved with the arts?
First I started dancing. My sister is an actress and at the time was doing dance class. She is just so beautiful and talented – I wanted to be like her. I started dancing when I was really little – I think I was 2 & 1/2. I then joined the choir at school and loved singing.
What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice?
I went through a few difficult stages in childhood. I was clinically obese and hit 200lbs, I stopped dancing because I was ashamed of my body so I was often feeling quite sad. I didn’t really have many friends growing up, and music kind of became a best friend at school. Whenever I was going through something I would journal it, but then journals became poetry and poetry was added to music. Over time I’ve been experimenting with different sounds and genres from music theatre to jazz to pop. I find music to be a really fantastic, healthy outlet for my emotions.
Who were some of the performers and people behind the scenes who helped to shape the artist we see today?
My first mentor was my uncle who unfortunately lost his battle to liver cancer. His last words to me were “please don’t ever stop doing music. It’s the one thing that can heal the world.” I will never forget it. Then in school I joined community theatre and a children’s touring company. I started working with writers/producers in Australia and made little trips to the dreamland of LA. I sometimes have to pinch myself to make sure I’m actually here!
You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?
I gotta be honest with you, it has not been easy. I kinda came out here on my own. It’s very hard to find people that are really there for you and people that you can trust. But I always come back to the fact that music heals. It’s a universal language. It helped me and it’s my responsibility to share it with anyone open to the experience. I can’t really do much else haha.
You played Elsa in the YouTube Princess Rap Battles video which came an online sensation. How did you initially get involved with the project and did you expect it to become the hit that it did?
Oh my goodness! It’s insane! I did the first little indie Princess Rap Battle. We all were just there because it seemed like a fun experience! And I was so interested in the concept of the comparison between Disney’s first female role model and its most recent. How the times have changed. I’m so happy it’s brought so much joy to so many people.
What were the biggest challenges on that project?
Haha, the heat on the day of the shoot was pretty intense! I felt so bad for some of the other girls in multiple layered gowns. It all went pretty smoothly!
You recently released a video for your single “I Would Kill.” What can you tell us about the song and what it means to you?
‘I Would Kill’ is a song very dear to my heart. It’s raw, honest and real. It’s about acknowledging how screwed up you a really are when you’re stuck in an addictive cycle. It’s about being blatantly honest with yourself no matter how painful the truth is and how crazy you feel for admitting it.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music?
It’s all based on emotion. I will sometimes come up with a lyric or melody and record it on my phone. Other times I will just play with music and find a beat or a chord progression that makes me feel something in particular. It simply grows from there. Some songs are finished in a night – others take months or years.
You have released some great covers of some amazing songs. To you, what do you look for a song you cover from another artist?
Thank you so much! I love doing covers. I like putting my own lil flavor or spin on someone elses awesome work. I just look for a melody or lyric that makes me feel something. I base everything on feeling. Sometimes that is NOT a good thing! [laughs]
What is happening in regards to a release album release? No pressure!
[laughs] Goodness an album? Wow that would be a dream come true! I’m still independent running on my own self-funding so a full length album can be costly. But an EP? Maybe? I do have a lot of songs and I’m constantly writing more.
You grew up in Australia but now call Los Angeles home. How have those two places impacted you and your music?
I feel that music is now so international it’s wonderful! I was so pleased I got to incorporate the indigenous Australian musical instrument, the didgeridoo, into my track ‘Ride The Wave.’ One of my friends actually plays it, so when we do acoustic sessions and live shows, he comes in and plays it. It’s so beautiful.
How do you feel you have most evolved as an artist since you first started professionally?
Leaps and bounds. Other than being dedicated to putting in the work everyday, I feel just experiencing life has helped me evolve. It helps me relate to others and share my experiences and perspectives so others don’t feel so alone.
As an artist, so many things can be said about the current state of music. What excites about the music today?
The endless possibilities. Mixture of genres, collaborations, remixes. The fact that I can share my music and not have to be answerable to anybody!
Where do you see yourself headed musically in the future — with short and long term?
I hope I get to tour a bit more and perform live for more people. Nothing beats the live experience. That’s where I truly come alive. There’s an amazing exchange of energies that cannot be replicated over the Internet, television or radio. Who knows? I have let go of expectation and simplified it to the desire to ‘grow and improve’ every day.
What is the best way for fans to help support you at this stage in your career?
Just by coming with me on the journey. Following social media and interacting. I love it. I livestream everyday on live.me (username ‘katja’) and my other social media is usually under @katjaglieson. I make it a priority to interact with the expanding #SpecialAgents who are just a group of amazing people that have a mission to make the world awesome with all their individual talents.
I know you lend your voice to some amazing and very deserving causes. What is closest to your heart at this point in time that we can help shine a light on?
Thank you! There are so many! I just got back from Atlanta from the “Relay for Life.” Which was so inspirational! I’ve been working with The Doctors Hospital on their “Live Your Healthy” campaign and they invited me to perform my song Shooting Star for their campaign and at a live show during the Relay for Life event. I met so many warriors and survivors. I also really love The Beagle Freedom Project. They take in Beagles that have been used in laboratory testing and give them homes. I cannot praise them enough for all the work they do.
What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey so far?
Get yourself a good lawyer! Haha. I’m kidding. I think the lesson is trust your own instincts. Always check back in with how you are feeling about a particular person or situation. If you have a bad feeling about it, do not be afraid to say no!
Thanks for your time, Katja! We wish you all the best and can’t wait to see where you go next!
Thank you again. I really enjoyed chatting with you!
Follow Katja’s continuing adventures online at these locations:
Apple Music: http://katja.la/katjamusic