As Kelsey Lu’s cover story for AnOther Magazine S/S20 is revealed, we share eight things we learnt from Lynette Nylander’s interview with the avant-pop star
1. She’s a classically trained cellist
Kelsey Lu started learning at the age of nine, and her parents were both musicians.
2. She was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness
Lu’s parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses, “after someone knocked on [my father’s] door”, she tells Lynette Nylander. “He started studying [the movement], then my mom started studying to prove him wrong and then she realised it was the ‘truth’. They became Witnesses together. They had my sister Jessica, then they had me.” Her activity, outside her faith, was music. “It’s the only other thing that I knew.”
3. Music was how she broke free from her parents’ conservative values
“It was the only time I could sneak away to smoke and be with my friends. One day, I left orchestra early and came back to the house with sunglasses on to cover up the fact I was high. My mum knew exactly what was up and was so mad. When I went up to my room, I sprayed perfume in my own eyes so I would cry. I was getting ready for the Oscars, you know?”
4. She secured a place at university by waiting outside the cello teacher’s door, at the age of 18
Lu had decided on University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem after visiting her sister there. “I said, ‘Hi, I got to go here. I have to. I don’t have any other choice.’ He was like, ‘Let me hear you play.’ And [after] I played for him, he was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try everything I can to get you in at the end of the year.’”
5. Though her time at university was short-lived
She left the course after a year, stayed in Winston-Salem and began waitressing. Lu met and started playing cello with underground rap crew United Minds Conglomerate, before embarking on tour with rap quartet Nappy Roots after she impressed with her unique voice. “I was the only girl on tour, living out of a suitcase and, when we weren’t on the road, I was staying with my aunt and uncle who live close to Athens, in Georgia. My aunt’s a beekeeper and my uncle is a contractor, and they live on a lot of land in the middle of the woods. So I’d kind of go down and write a lot of songs out there. I earned $50 a show, or something, but I was happy.”
6. She made an album’s worth of electropop music that’s as yet unpublished
Before she’d worked on her first EP, Church, Lu and the musician Kyp Malone went to a cabin on the river near Hudson, in upstate New York, for more than a week and wrote, staying up all night.
7. She sees acting in her future...
Though only when she finds the right role, she stresses. “I just turned something down. It was like a version of Insecure, which I would watch but I don’t want to be in.”
8. ... And dreams of having her own label
“I think this stage in my life is presenting me with a new outlook on where I want to take my music next. It’s now important to ask myself, ‘Do I want to be on a label? If I were, how would it serve me?’ I think, for me, the dream is my own label, but I see this as reclaiming the freedom I had prior [to being with Columbia]. Like with the Grounded show. I can experiment again, do EPs, do things how I want to because I have that freedom back. Now more than ever, I have this determination to go further.”
Head here to read the interview in full.
Lynette Nylander’s interview with Kelsey Lu originally appeared in AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2020, which is on sale internationally from February 13, 2020.
Hair: Duffy at Streeters. Make-up: Mark Carrasquillo at Streeters Using Tom Ford Beauty. Set Design: Piers Hanmer at Art and Commerce. Manicure: Lolly Koon at the Wall Group Using Le Vernis in Ballerina by Chanel and Gel Lab Pro Colour in Brand New Day by Deborah Lippmann. Digital Tech: Nicholas Ong. Lighting: Nick Brinley, Nicholas Krasznai and Alex Hopkins. Styling Assistants: Molly Shillingford, Devanté Rollins, Salma Arif, Ruby Cohen, Rosie Mulder and Ben Springham. Tailor: Taylor Spong. Hair Assistants: Lukas Tralmer and Dale Delaporte. Make-up Assistant: Ryo Kuramoto. Set-design Coordinator: Morgan Zvanut. Set-design Assistants: Louis Sarowsky and Jerry Mraz. Post-production: Gloss Studio.