Kat Dahlia Interview: ‘My Garden’ Singer on Snakes, Her New Video + Surprising Song Inspiration [EXCLUSIVE]
Adorning her body with snakes is just another day on the job for Kat Dahlia, who fearlessly embraced her vision for her new 'My Garden' video.
But what do snakes have to do with her music? The singer stopped by PopCrush the night before the video was released to discuss the inspiration behind it, recall a few divine moments of songwriting and spill some details about her new album. (“The fact that it’s out, it’s almost like a relief,” Kat told us.)
Find out all of this and more in the interview below!
The ‘My Garden’ video drops tomorrow. I saw the behind-the-scenes sneak peek. Do you have an interesting story from filming that you can share?
I was really inspired by [the character of] Miss Havisham in ‘Great Expectations.’ And I felt like her character was so interesting. She was really glamorous and beautiful, but she was this older woman and really sad. But also crazy and living in this house alone. Everything’s untouched, and I liked that idea for the ‘My Garden’ video, of just like this really beautiful, glamorous, sexual young woman living in this house all alone and she’s invited you into her garden. So that’s where the inspiration came from, and I got with Garcia, the director, and we kind of built from there. And then we threw in some snakes.
At first I was really – I wasn’t nervous, I was stand-offish. I was kind of like, I was open, but I was definitely a little hesitant. But by the end of it, I was obsessed with the snakes.
Watch Kat Dahlia's 'My Garden' Video
Did you have them on you? Was this like a Britney Spears thing?
Well, they’re not as big as that one. There’s three ball-head ones and they are so cool, actually. Like, I actually really, really like them. I kind of want one now. After that, I was like, “Dude, they’re the chilliest things ever. They just hang.” I mean, there’s moments where they were cutting off my circulation and I felt like I was maybe going to die. But the snake owner came through and kind of got me out of the grips. I forgave [the snake] and put her back on.
We got so many cool scenes. I’m just excited to put a visual out there because it’s been so long. I love putting videos together, and I love just creating an image and a story. This is the first time putting out a video in a minute, since ‘Crazy.’
You cited Miss Havisham as an influence for the ‘My Garden’ video. Is there any literature that inspired your lyrics?
Sort of, in a way. I was reading this book called ‘Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire.” And it basically talks about the history of sex, and humans and sex, and women’s oppression, and the stupid rules we that we would have against each other and the silly laws that were created because of sex, and all of this stuff that always revolved around sex, right? Religion and all these things. It’s actually a really funny book and really good, so I recommend it.
I’m just excited to put a visual out there because it’s been so long. I love putting videos together and I love just creating an image and a story.
I was reading that and one day I get into the studio with Salaam Remi, who I did a couple tracks with, and we had this record called ‘Lava.’ But we hadn’t really finished it. I had a concept, we had some melodies or whatever. We were both really tired that night and I was like halfway through the book and we were so tired that night, we just both wanted to go home. He was like, “Yo, I’m just done. I’m just done.” And I was like, “Me too, I just want to go home. Let me just get in the booth” – I was being mad lazy – “I don’t want to write anything down, I don’t want to think about it. Let me get in the booth and let me see if I can start somewhere.” And I literally free-styled it, with his help. We started coming in together. It ended up coming out super sexual, with all of these discreet little symbols … In that sense, that book did influence me for that moment with that song.
As far as characters in novels and things like that, not so much.
In your Reddit AMA you talk about recording ‘Just Another Dude’ without having written it out first.
I basically just blacked out. I was just like immersed in so much emotion and one of my boys, one of the Julca Brothers that produced the record, was literally just playing the guitar. I was feeling a certain type of way and I was like, “Yo, I just want to go in the booth.” Again, “I don’t even want to write anything down, don’t talk to me. Just give me a minute.” Because they’re all trying to come up with concepts. I’m just like, “Hold on” and I just went into the booth and I blacked out and I did basically the whole song in just about that take.
We went in and I fixed up a couple of the lyrics because some of it was just melodies and jibber-jabber, but most of it was pretty much there. We just added a couple of things in and we kept it just with guitars. We didn’t want to add too much production to it. I wanted to keep it – I wanted to capture that magical moment, that moment where I just went in and you could hear everything I was going through right there at that moment.
I think if you add too much to something that doesn’t need it, you end up taking away from it. So if we added a bunch of sparkle and shine and production and drums and this and that, it wouldn’t have come out the same. And we tried it, we really did. It just didn’t work out … We kept thinking that it was so great that it need something, but the truth is that the way that it was was just perfect. Happy about that.
Does that happen to you a lot, where you can just pour out emotions, or do you find that it’s a little more thought-out?
It depends. It depends if I’m inspired, like something just happened to me and it’s so fresh in my mind. I can just go in the booth – usually I’ll go in the booth and work on melodies, but maybe some words will come out, but maybe not. Maybe things will start to take shape, but not really. It’s a lot of melody. But there’s some times where things are so fresh in my mind that I’m just so inspired by something. Some kind of experience or some kind of person of whatever it was. It’ll come out a lot easier, but I do really like to sit down and write and take my time.
Like ‘My Garden’ took me maybe like two or three days to write. There are some songs on the record that took a couple days to finish. It kind of depends on the circumstance, how I’m feeling. It’s just like everything, right? Are you going to have a good day at work or a medium day? What happened last night with your man? What happened before you guys went to bed, you know? Did he kind of roll over and give you the cold shoulder and now you’re wondering why and now the rest of your day tomorrow is going to suck because you’re wondering why the f--- he just rolled over. You know what I mean? It really just depends what’s going on.
I wanted to capture that magical moment, that moment where I just went in and you could hear everything I was going through right there at that moment. I think if you add too much to something that doesn’t need it, you end up taking away from it.
You’ve also talked about finding inspiration in the experiences you have with people. Is there anything you won’t write about or that’s off limits?
Of course! I know that my bar is set a lot high than most people because I do share a lot and I don’t really mind, but then there’s – you think, “She really shares so much” – but just think about how much there is that I won’t share. It gets dark up there. [Laughs] Sometimes I don’t like to go all the way there. But mostly, it’s like that iceberg. You see this top part and there’s this whole bottom that you don’t know actually exists. But it’s not a big bottom! It’s probably a bigger top and a smaller bottom that you don’t see. It’s like the attic. It’s a tiny attic, you can’t really stand up, you kind of have to crawl through …
How do you know when a song is done? Do you ever know?
That’s a good question. I’m kind of going through it right now, actually. I just recorded a song a couple days ago and we’re going through these mixes and they’re adding production and I’m like, “Ehhh, no, that’s really bad,” and then I start thinking, again, maybe the original was exactly where it was at.
I think, for me, I like to try a couple of things, see if these things work, and if they don’t, always knowing that where we started was in the right path. It’s trial and error, you know what I mean? Sometimes it really is just – ‘My Garden’ took me two takes and we just chopped up the two takes and just kept that there and I literally, there were no backgrounds and no harmonies or little ad-libs. It was literally one lead vocal and that was it. I felt like that was all that it needed. Sometimes, like ‘Mirrors,’ I felt like that was such a universally loving record and we worked on that for a couple months. Going back in and going back out, adding harmonies, taking away harmonies. That’s a good question.