Imagine working on your debut album, releasing it and then stepping away from your career. That was the reality for Kira May some years ago. She didn’t just take a break for the sake of taking a break though. There’s much more to the story of this experimental pop singer’s story. After hitting a reset button on her mental health, she resurfaced with a fresher outlook for her upcoming sophomore release, Sense. We talked about the break, the new music and the eye-catching video for her tantalizing single, “Muscle Memory.”
Kendra: After your 2014 debut, you made the decision to take a break and get help for anxiety and depression. Did you struggle with that at all, putting your career on hold?
Kira May: I felt like my career and my growth as an artist had been on hold for my whole life since I was too afraid to put my entire self into it. I knew that I would never accomplish the things I dreamed about if something didn’t change. Looking back, giving myself the time and space to work through those issues was the best thing I could’ve done for my art and for my personal well-being. I can actually make the work now!
Kendra: Do you feel like more people nowadays have anxiety and depression, or we’re finally at a place where it’s okay to talk about it openly?
Kira May: I think both – mental health is being discussed openly, and we have way more avenues through which to hear about people’s experiences. I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn that anxiety and depressive disorders are more prevalent now in places like North America where we are constantly stimulated and inundated with information. I’ve to be very careful about the amount of information I take in; I need to spend a lot of time recharging alone just to function in a world that moves with such rapid speed.
Kendra: Now let’s talk music. Seeing as you were in a different place mentally from your debut to now, how do you think Health compares to Sense?
Kira May: Health felt to me like a very enigmatic collection of songs. I was hiding within those songs; trying to make sense of feelings that I didn’t totally understand. I made Sense as I was seeing a therapist regularly and learning who I really was. A lot of this record is told while mid-battle against an adversary I’ve known since adolescence. I felt more courageous to talk about myself in an open way. Like I didn’t need to hide behind the songs in the way that I did for Health.
Musically speaking, I made Health with one other person (Charles Tilden) in the apartment we shared. The songs are solo performances for the most part. With Sense, I felt braver. I faced my biggest fear ever by asking more musicians and co-producer Sandro Perri to join me to create a bigger and more expansive sound. Sense is also heavily influenced by a single concept, and all of the songs connect within this story. I had the album title before I had anything else.
Kendra: The debut single from Sense is “Muscle Memory.” It is a song you’ve noted is about our bodies holding onto painful pasts. Were you ever worried that penning a song like this would conjure up bad memories?
Kira May: I find writing about my experiences actually quite healing. By exploring pain, I can make sense of it and learn what it means, what it was for, and how it actually makes me strong. Writing helps me to hold the pain in my mind. To thank it for everything it has taught me, and then let it go. Every time I sing the song it’s like simultaneously exorcising a demon but also lovingly embracing the demon and thanking it for what it has shown me.
Kendra: The video for this video is a little trippy. Whose idea was it for you to rock them eyes?
Kira May: Haha! The whole time we were shooting we were like, “What is this creepy thing we’re making?” That shoot was a blast! A lot of brainstorming took place between me, director Allison Johnston, artistic director Roxanne Ignatius and makeup/hair/FX designer Megan Fraser. We’d loosely talked about me wearing fake body parts. Then Roxanne made these amazing eyes—they even had eyelashes! I loved them because the character I’m playing seems so guarded and impossible to know, even though we get to see something deep within her bleed out of her eyes, nose, ears, etc. It was also an interesting experiment for me to spend the majority of the day not being able to see.
Kendra: Will you be playing “Muscle Memory” and others live anytime soon?
Kira May: I am planning a Toronto release show for May (no confirmed date yet). Plus, I am in the process of booking some summer dates.