JUNO-nominated singer/songwriter Kandle presents her most authentic work to date with the release of Set the Fire, her first completely independent album.
Embarking on a new journey of freedom and empowerment, Kandle is rising from the ashes after toxic experiences in the music industry left her doubting her ability to sing again. Now with full control of her creative pursuit, Kandle holds the match to light her own fire with grace.
We sat down with Kandle to discuss how she found her voice again, the importance of women supporting each other in the music industry, and how the industry may be changing for the better.
The album that you’ve released, Set the Fire, has come after a period of struggle within the music industry that left you discouraged from singing for a while. How did you eventually find your way back into working on the music that became this album?
Once I had my freedom, I wasn’t sure at all if I wanted to continue. I had so many bad experiences in the industry. I was pretty fed up and pretty bitter. But I kind of looked down at my notebook and realized I had about 30 songs. I thought, “you know, maybe I’ll just try and get a recording grant and make a record just for me. No expectations, no label, no manager. This time, I’m just gonna make a record for fun.”
From that, I just kept getting more ideas. And the idea of doing this independently, creating my own company and trying to run this business by myself just started to seem like the next step for me and what I had to do. There were a lot of insecurities and a totally huge learning curve along the way, but I realized I don’t really have anything to lose at this point.
I’ve been through probably everything you can possibly go through in the music industry. And I just want to do it for me. Now, I just want to make music because I love making music and everything else is secondary, you know, I don’t have as high expectations anymore. I remind myself every day that I’m doing it just because I love music, no other reason.
You were creating for art’s sake, for the sake of the music. As you were starting to get back into more of a business mindset and creating your own company, did you feel any hesitations towards going back into a space where you are releasing music for the public? And that, you know, the industry would hear it and see your journey, with you in control this time.
Yeah, I was pretty scared. And I still get scared sometimes. I’ve had so many panic attacks in the last year doing this, it’s not even funny. But you know, like, you just have to keep going, one foot in front of the other. Each fear I have, I try to handle it as best I can and keep moving forward. I think that’s all you really can do.
I’m lucky that I do have a lot of friends in the music industry. And I’m not against all labels or anything like that. I know a lot of great ones. I’ve been getting a lot of support and a lot of people in the Canadian industry that have followed my career for the last 10 years, they’re on my side. I really appreciate that and all the support they’ve been giving me.
It’s so important to have those supporters along the way. You collaborated with three other women in the industry for “Honey Trap” on the record, Louise Burns (solo artist, former member of Lillix), Debra-Jean Creelman (Mother Mother) and Kendel Carsen (Alan Doyle, Great Big Sea). How did having their support on that track help elevate the music?
I actually was lucky enough to have them on the entire album. I got them into the recording studio the day before the quarantine got so serious that they couldn’t come anymore. So I had them in the studio right away altogether. Part of this new journey I’ve been on with being independent and having this freedom, is that I only wanted to make music with people I love, with people that want to make music with me and it’s a fun, inspiring environment. I was here in Vancouver, I texted three of my best friends and asked them if they would come sing, come down to the studio and hang out for the day. And they all just popped over right away and we had the best day ever. I got them to sing on every song in one day. They were very tired. Very amazing.
That’s like superhero level vocalists.
They do a lot for me, I owe them a lot. I would say.
I think there is a lot of camaraderie amongst women in the industry nowadays. In the past few years, there’s been a recognition that women need to support each other. And that there’s room for everyone at the table. You’ve been vocal about sexism in the music industry. You even have a series of comedic illustrations that explore this topic. What is some progress that you think has been made in the music industry? And what do you think still needs to be improved?
You know, I think just the awareness of the issue is still so new and so great. I’m really glad that we’re now able to talk about this and, you know, not face any repercussions. From when I started to now, I see so many changes. I didn’t see a woman in the studio or in my crew or anything for most of my career. And I was often shamed or made fun of for having an opinion or trying to get my way. Or if I was really firm on an idea I had, it was my period, or I was too sensitive and ridiculous. Sexist things that you don’t even think would actually happen, all happened, everything. All these worst nightmares really did come true. And I’m really seeing the shift now. I’m seeing more and more women wanting to support the younger generation of artists, of young women trying to follow in our footsteps and embarking on their own journeys. Just like you said, camaraderie is so important, we have to stick together and we have to make these changes so we can work towards equality.
Louise Burns and I have been taking engineering lessons at the studio here in Vancouver so we can try and know more of the technical side. It was always this totally foreign thing for us. Like, we shouldn’t know how to do a patchbay, and we shouldn’t know how to work this LRD, all these things are “what a man does.” “That’s a guy’s job.” We just reached a point where like, no, we both produce now. And we want to know everything, we want to be able to have total control. And then we want to teach more women how to do what we’re doing.
I think that’s how we move forward, there just has to be more of us. That’s it. And it has to be an open and inviting environment for women to learn. You know, a lot of it is just that you’re scared. I would never want to go to engineering school because I wouldn’t want to be the one girl there. If it’s not like that, if it’s not always a boy’s club, it’s a lot more appealing to women, and a lot better of an environment to learn, experiment, and figure out what you want to do and how to create it.
Yeah, it’s so important to see people who are like you, who you can relate to in those positions where you’re learning from them.
Yeah, men and women are often very different in these environments. One thing my girlfriends on the record and I always kind of laugh about is, if a man is in the studio, and he can’t play something, he’ll try anyways, like, “oh, I’ll figure it out. I’ll go do it. Give me the instrument, I’ll do it.” And when we’ve been in the studio with all these men, if we’re not 1,000% sure that we can do this guitar line or play this piano, parsing this harmony. We won’t do it. We’re too intimidated. We’re too scared. And we realized that totally shifted when there were more women in the studio. We all had each other’s backs. We’re all supporting each other and we’re like, “No, you’ve got this girl. We can do 100 takes until you have it.” You know, it’s no pressure. That’s such a good way to move forward, I really like being in the studio without anxiety.
You independently produced and mixed “Vampire” on the album. Did you take what you learned from these sessions with these women and put it into your album?
I usually end up producing a song or two on every record. And I yeah, I’ve just learned by watching. I’ve been in studios most of my life, just looking over producers’ shoulders and engineers’ shoulders. I’ve been taking notes all this time. So when the time comes where I can produce a track, I’m always surprised at the knowledge I have, and that I can totally work Pro Tools, and I know how to make things properly. Like, wow, this is pretty cool. And I try not to put too many expectations on myself. But if there’s a track where I feel like I can handle and play and do everything myself, I will absolutely go for it.
The more you know, the better. And sometimes you don’t even know how much you know, until you try. Right?
That knowledge in itself is very empowering, you know, when you don’t have to look to anyone else for the answers and know that you can figure it out yourself. Like, there’s nothing more powerful than that.
I feel like we’re starting to reach a point where it is a lot easier to teach yourself these things. I think sometimes the barrier to access these techniques is starting to deteriorate. Do you think that the music industry is heading into a more democratic place for younger artists and for emerging artists?
I really do. And it makes me happy, like I’m seeing the changes, I’m feeling them. And the younger artists that I know, they don’t see the limitations like I used to, and I think they don’t have a lot of them. Really anything is possible, you know, they can do it on their laptop, they don’t have to dress a certain way, they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to do. And that’s now accepted. And I think that’s just beautiful.
I wanted to talk about some of your other interests outside of music, including photography and art. You hold a Video of the Year JUNO nomination, a Prism Prize award for the Not Up To Me music video, a Canadian Independent Video Award nomination and 2021 Prism Prize nomination for 2020 single, Lock and Load. What is your hand in the creation of the visuals that go along with your music?
I’ve always been a visual artist and I went to photography school right out of high school. The visual aspect, the visual component of music, has always been very important to me. And I never wrote a song without seeing how the music video should go, how the story should go, and the colours to go along with it. If I had my way, I’d have a video for every song. But I’ve also been very lucky. I find directors and photographers and visual artists that I really admire. So far, every time I’ve asked one of them to collaborate with me, they’ve done it and have made such beautiful videos and art and amazing things for me. It just makes the music so much more powerful and impactful. And I love it. I love doing the visual part of things. It means like it’s really a whole package, like a song isn’t complete without visuals to me. And I know I’m alone there, but this is the way my brain works.
Listen to Set the Fire here.