Karin Ann. Image courtesy 3amRecords.

At just 21 years old, Slovakian musician Karin Ann is already making waves in the music world with her debut album, through the telescope, set to release on May 10th. Known for her fearless approach to addressing complex themes such as love, identity, and mental health, Karin Ann brings a refreshing authenticity to the alt-pop scene. Her music, a versatile blend of folk, rock, and gothic disco, draws inspiration from iconic artists like Mazzy Star, Stevie Nicks, and Hozier, showcasing her ability to traverse diverse musical landscapes with ease.

Karin Ann’s journey into music began as a coping mechanism for her ADHD and was further influenced by a hand injury that shifted her focus from visual art to songwriting. Her debut single “false gold” reflects on regretful relationships and defiant self-discovery, encapsulating the introspective and emotive essence of her work. Produced in collaboration with Benjamin Lazar Davis and Will Graefe of Okkervil River, the album promises a rich sonic tapestry that mirrors her personal experiences and artistic growth.

Her music is not just about personal expression; it’s also a platform for exploring broader social issues such as gender equality, mental health, and human rights. Growing up as a queer woman in Slovakia, Karin Ann’s songs often reflect her struggles and triumphs in navigating her identity in a conservative society. Her vulnerability and openness resonate deeply with fans, offering a source of solace and connection.

Karin Ann’s talent has not gone unnoticed. She made her debut at SXSW and New York Fashion Week, receiving accolades from major music publications like NME and The Line of Best Fit. Her music videos have garnered numerous awards, highlighting her creative prowess in translating her music into compelling visual narratives. As she continues to captivate audiences with her unique voice and poignant storytelling, Karin Ann stands poised to leave an indelible mark on the music industry.

In this exclusive interview with Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine, Karin Ann delves into her creative process, the inspiration behind her debut album, and the personal experiences that shape her music. Join us as we discover what makes this rising star one of the most compelling new voices in music today.

Karin Ann, ‘through the telescope.’ Image courtesy the artist.

Indira Cesarine: What first sparked your interest in music? Did you study music in school?

Karin Ann: I kind of grew up around music. I used to do a ton of sports that involved music (like figure skating, ballet, dance, gymnastics, aerial hoop, and pole dance…), so I was always around it and it was also used in those sports for expression, so I had that sort of engrained in me. Also, my mom loves music and musicals, so I just grew up around a lot of music. 

I understand you had an injury that led you to shift from visual art to songwriting. Can you tell us about it and explain how that transition shaped your artistic expression?

There’s actually a song on the album about this, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here since people can hear the story once the album is out, haha. But, in short, I used drawing as a main source of expression, and I also worked my whole life to get into art school. Once I got in and was just about to start, I got injured in my main hand, and I had to pass the whole first year on my opposite hand which was crazy and unsustainable. And unfortunately the injury never fully went away. And it’s sort of chronic now, so I had to leave art school. When I couldn’t draw, it kind of took away my main source of expression, so I started writing songs to deal with everything.

Karin Ann. Image courtesy 3amRecords.

Can you share your creative process when writing and composing music? How do you find inspiration for your songs and approach storytelling through your music?

Haha, I think this is probably the worst question you can ask an artist…
In short, I don’t know. It’s always different, and I never plan it. (It’s sort of impossible to plan to be creative or inspired haha.) Writing is therapeutic for me. It helps me make sense of my mind and things I’m going through and just life in general.

What is the inspiration behind your forthcoming album’s title “through the telescope” which releases May 10th? 

When it came time to name the album, I realized that I’ve been using a lot of celestial symbolism, imagery, and metaphors in my lyrics, so I was already playing around with celestial-inspired names, but I also realized it felt like I was looking back at my life and my experiences through a telescope,  and that’s when it kind of fully clicked.

Can you tell us how your personal experiences inform this album?

All I’m going to say is that this album is probably the most vulnerable I’ve been in my music to date.

Your music spans across various genres, from folk to gothic disco. What inspires your sound?

With the album, I had complete creative freedom and little to no pressure from the public since nobody knew I was making it. Also working with Ben and Will, they always let me do whatever I want. They let me experiment and let me change my mind about things…We have a lot of respect for each other which makes creating really easy. I think for the first time I wasn’t trying to sound like whatever I thought people wanted me to sound like and instead, I only focused on what I thought fit the songs and figuring out what I really love. A lot of inspiration ended up coming from people like Mazzy Star, Fleetwood Mac, Hozier, Phoebe Bridgers, The Mamas and the Papas, but also a lot of soundtracks, instrumentals, and musicals. 

Who would you consider your biggest musical influences?

In general? Well, I grew up on what my mom played which was a lot of Queen, the Beatles, a few old Czech artists as well as a lot of musicals (especially Czech musicals).  When I started exploring music on my own, one of my first favorite artists was Birdy. I also fell in love with Hozier’s music a long time ago as well as Tom Odell’s music. Fun fact that almost no one knows about: I actually sang “Another Love” in one singing competition when I was 14 and I got 3rd place which was pretty cool.

In the past few years, I’ve been diving deeper into old folk music, for example, I love Peggy Seeger and just old music in general…one of my fav things to do in my free time is try finding songs from the early 1900’s. And as I mentioned in a previous answer, I also listen to a lot of soundtracks, instrumentals, and musicals…I also love Fleetwood Mac, Mazzy Star, Phoebe Bridgers, and Boygenius, etc.

Karin Ann. Image courtesy 3amRecords.
You’ve made impressive debuts at SXSW and New York Fashion Week where you performed recently, can you tell us about the performances and how you translate your sound to the stage? 

I would love to tell you more, but I always black out when I’m on stage, so there’s not much I can say about it haha. I find performing kind of grounding tho because I’m an avid overthinker. I have a lot of anxiety (which isn’t fun before going on stage), but once I’m on stage I only think about what is happening at any given second. I don’t have time to overthink, and once I get off the stage I don’t remember most of what happened haha.

Your music videos have won numerous awards, can you share some highlights and also tell us what inspires your creative process with translating your music to the screen? 

I grew up performing to music. On top of that, I am a theatre kid. I also grew up watching Disney Channel, so, to me, music and acting always went hand in hand…I love narrative music videos. When I first started, I wasn’t really able to do much else than the standard lip-syncing music videos, but recently I finally had the freedom to stray away from that and lean more into the narrative short movies.

Karin Ann at The Blonds Runway Show, New York Fashion Week, 2024
Your videos often explore themes of self-discovery and acceptance, particularly for young queer individuals. What message do you hope to convey through your visuals? 

My visuals are always tied to the music, so it’s more of an extension of what the songs talk about.

“I Don’t Believe in God” reflects on modern spiritual crises. How do your own beliefs and experiences inform the themes addressed in this song?

Without going into too much detail, I grew up in a conservative country where if anything or anyone is “outside the traditional norm” it’s not even given a chance…I also grew up religious, but when you’re a woman and on top of that queer, you’re basically told you’re going to go to hell just by simply existing. And when you’re a kid, that sort of ideology takes its toll on you…I have a lot of religious trauma. I have a lot of internalized issues about myself that stem from the church, and the way society is set up where I’m from…

I’ve been struggling with my faith and my spirituality my whole life. I even was very nihilistic for a few years. In the summer of 2022, I had a lot of health issues. I had to take a break from music. I couldn’t even walk for a period of time…In short, I was going through a lot physically and mentally. I was dealing with a lot of pressures and opinions, and for the first time, I started to have to deal with the fact that I am a public person. And when I walk out and about, people know who I am. And it made me think about a lot of things and feel a lot of things and that’s when I wrote this song. 

Karin Ann. Image courtesy 3amRecords.

“False Gold” is described as a reflection on regretful relationships and self-discovery. Can you share the inspiration behind this song and its significance to you?

I don’t like to explain my songs in detail because I like for people to interpret my words and how they feel they relate to them. I like hearing the different meanings and theories that people come up with instead of me telling them “Oh no, but this is what I was talking about here…” I am very open and personal and vulnerable in my writing. I put it all out there. I don’t feel a need to then go and explain everything.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians, particularly those who may be facing similar challenges or obstacles on their journey?

It’s a very tough industry to be in. It’s also extremely competitive so if you want to try your luck, I’d say make sure you really love it…It takes a lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of luck for you to get noticed…You’re most likely gonna hear a lot of “no” before you hear any “yes.” I can only really speak on my experience, and I’ve been doing this since I was 14/15, and I wasn’t even able to release anything until I was 17/18 just because it takes time to meet the right people. But if you really love it, you’re not going to get discouraged and that’s the most important thing…as cringy as it sounds you have to keep going.

Looking ahead, what are your hopes for the future? Can you share what we can look forward to from you next?

I’m just trying to take things as they come…We live in very scary and uncertain times, so I’m just trying to do my best and enjoy whatever it is I’m doing at any given time.

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