Man on the Beat: Kelsey Wild

Jeremy Gordon

Kelsey Wild is not just another college singer-songwriter-pianist – she’s a college singer-songwriter-pianist at your school. Marvel at how her soft-spoken voice transforms into a strong, assertive alto devoid of jejune collegiate aloofness once she’s on stage at Evanston venues, such as Bill’s Blues. The Communication freshman, who’s been playing live since high school, shares her feelings on performing, being compared to Avril Lavigne and how it feels to play in front of classmates.

The Weekly: What kind of songwriter do you think you are?

Wild: That’s a hard question. It’s hard to look at my own music from an unbiased perspective and say exactly what it is.

The Weekly: What would you like it to be?

Wild:What would I like it to be? I would like to be considered … I don’t know, I guess the easy genre would be singer-songwriter or like, indie or something, but I don’t even think indie is a genre. You can be metal and be indie or you can be anything … it’s hard. I guess I would just like to be looked at as an artist (laughs).

The Weekly: Do you ever try to pattern yourself after an artist?

Wild: Influences are great and you can write a song with certain influences in mind, but then you want to go back and change it as much as you can to make it your own, because you don’t want to draw too many comparisons to something else, or otherwise you’re just going to be “the girl who sounds like…” Ideally I would like to be someone who can create my own sound, whatever that may be, and I’m still figuring what that is.

The Weekly: What’s the worst review you ever got?

Wild: I haven’t gotten any harsh reviews, really, but then again I’m not that well known (laughs). I’m not well known enough to incur the wrath. There was one, I was like 16 and someone compared me to Avril Lavigne and I was embarrassed by that. For the most part things have been fairly positive.

The Weekly: How do you reconcile being a student versus being a performer?

Wild: They’re very separate, but it’s always been that way. When I was in high school it was separate, and it was even more separate, I think, because everyone had known me for so long. I grew up in this very small school where everyone knows each other, and as soon as something changes it’s very noticeable. Up until when I started playing music, I was just like, “book girl.” I was very shy. When I started playing, that became my thing. “Piano girl!” Again being labeled. Coming here, I don’t know if it has to be this way, but I’m just very private about writing and stuff. I get squeamish (laughs) if people are there while I’m writing because it’s kind of hard to sort through things. I get distracted easily. I have to have a little bit of time during the day to practice and get in the zone.

The Weekly: What about seeing classmates at shows? Does that ever happen?

Wild: It’s definitely a different dynamic. During a show you just get in the zone because the expectations of your behavior are different. You’re expected to go entertain and put on a show, and it’s a lot of fun. Shows are great because it’s where the two worlds are allowed to intersect. Coming back into the classroom actually is a little awkward because I’m not up on stage. I’m not performing … for me, performing is not my strong suit. I enjoy it and I would like to get better at it, but it’s not why I play.

The Weekly: Are there things that you find uncomfortable?

Wild: Especially starting out, I was not comfortable at all playing piano in front of an audience, but also on some level it was rewarding to connect with these strangers, these people in the audience, which is why I kept doing it. I’ve gotten better; you start looking at things you need to improve on because you want to make yourself a better performer and musician and part of that is being personable. I’ve gotten better but I’m not Elton John (laughs). I’m not putting on a Broadway show. It’s hard. It’s hard but it’s fun. It’s probably easier for other people.