Before becoming an artist in his own right, 13-year-old Kai Bosch would conjure up classical piano covers of his favourite artists. From twinkling odes to Lorde’s Melodrama and Lana Del Rey’s unforgettable melancholia, the musician established comfort and commonality with the musicians that shaped him. Living in Cornwall, the young musician took to writing songs in secret, keeping his talent hidden behind closed doors. “No one had ever heard me sing before and it stayed like that for years,” Bosch tells GAY TIMES.
However, it wasn’t until his family took a trip to France that the musician took a chance on himself. “As a gay person with no friends, writing was my escape. So, even today, while I feel that there are more eyes on me and people paying attention to what I’m saying, the reason I do it is for myself,” he explains. A lot has changed since the early days of Bosch’s experimentation.
Now, with nearly 200,000 listeners online, the up-and-coming talent is leading with the courage to “take control” of his artistry. “The reason I perform is for myself. It feels like a huge statement to the universe that this all happened to me, and now I’m performing it on stage.”
What began as a creative coping mechanism to “process” his personal experiences, has become the beginnings of a career built on emotional storytelling and frank, captivating lyricism. “My music is emotional and I like to put my own spin and my own perspective on most of the things I sing about and things that have happened to me,” he says. “I hope that people resonate with the music and that’s what made them enjoy it so much. It’s so nice that I’m getting people who resonate with it and message me about it. It’s really meaningful.”
In the latest instalment of our monthly new music editorial series, Queer & Now, we sit down with Bosch to hear more about his new EP, Spider, and more.
Kai, hello! How’ve you been today?
I’m wonderful. I am really excited. I’m playing KoKo this evening in Camden supporting Seafret, which is going to be my biggest show ever. Koko is iconic as well so it feels like a big moment to kind of kind of finish off these past two weeks, which has been a complete whirlwind for me.
I used to be quite nervous but the more I’ve been onstage I’ve become addicted to the feeling. I think it’s hilarious because I’ll be excited but I guarantee I’ll get there and it’ll get to an hour before I go on and then I’ll feel weird. But, then the minute I’m stood up there, I’m fine again.
You started out doing covers but how did that snowball into a full career as an artist?
I was doing it privately for a while and then my family went to France for a month and I stayed at home. And, in that month, I made a few songs and there was one in particular that I thought was quite good. So, when they came back, I played it for them and that’s the first time they’d heard me sing anything I’d written musically and my mum started crying. [My family] pushed me to put it out and share it and this was back in 2017.
They say your closest and biggest critics are usually your family…
My mum continues to be the best kind of person to ear out any of my songs. I’ve always sent her things and if she’s not enthusiastic then I’ll know that I need to do better. But, also, I think she’s reached a point where she’s quite impressed with everything I send to her.
Which artists have been your biggest inspirations?
I’ve got to give the medal to Lorde and Lana Del Rey. There are also a few other influences that have come and gone so Marina and the Diamonds was one. The artist that inspired me to start writing and producing my own was an artist called Laurel. I stalked her Instagram and copied every piece of equipment she used or any software or plugins and then taught myself.
What’s been your favourite music memory?
Probably my first headline show at the Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston. It was the first time any of my family or friends had seen me perform with a full band. It’s also the first time that I felt safe that I’m in a room where everyone here loves me and I’m not going to be judged. I can go crazy and be myself while I perform. Before it even started, I was grinning because [I was in this] room of love and, since then, things have gotten bigger.
Your music is quite emotive and relatable. How do you tap into the topics you choose to sing about?
What I sing about is what I’m feeling and what needs to be purged from my head. I’m so introspective and my thoughts are like a washing machine of what’s going on and the only way that I can get it out or processes it is by writing. So, when it comes to mental health or relationships, I’m so self-reflective all the time and that’s what comes out. I think it’s so important to me is being completely unfiltered and not overthinking. It’s how I feel and I wish there was more rawness and unabashed honesty. Sometimes, you don’t need clever lyricism or a metaphor sometimes, you can just say it how it is.
Do you think you’ve been able to carry that sentiment over to your latest EP, Spider?
I’m gonna absolutely go the opposite way to Ellie Goulding and say this EP is my most personal yet. All of these songs are vignettes of relationships and moments that I’ve had in certain relationships.
Whether it be a dickhead boyfriend that was really shitty to then realising you’ve never loved yourself, it’s the processing over time that it’s kind of witnessed on this EP. With this EP, I just think it’s total honesty. At the end of the day, people can take these moments and put themselves in it but from my perspective, and my writing, this is just what happened [to me].
As an artist, what do you think you took away from this project?
I really need to stick to being authentically me. Before I released my first stuff, I had no clue what was gonna be received well. As you have more people coming into your audience and waiting to see what you do, you do feel a pressure to make a pop banger or need to make piano songs or I need to sing a [different] way. What this EP has taught me is that I need to do what I’m feeling in the moment. All the songs are so different from each other but the common thread is that is the source material. I need to keep doing that and not try and make myself anything I’m not.
You’re playing the GAY TIMES stage at The Great Escape next week. How are you feeling about it?
I’m really excited. I feel so ready. The past year has been about finding myself as an artist in terms of who I am, who I’m not, what I like, and what I don’t think works and I think it’s all culminated into these few weeks. Now coming up to The Great Escape, I feel like I’m so ready for it and I’ve got such an awesome band with me. We’ve got an awesome setlist and I’m just so excited to like let loose on the stage and enjoy it. I’ve grown so much as an artist and as a person. It’s going to be 30 minutes of me having a hoot on stage.
What do you enjoy most about playing live on stage?
This is my first festival season and I’m so excited. I’ve worked so hard on my live performances and I really get a kick out of outperforming. The minute I’m offstage, I want to just go straight back on and do it again. I’m so excited for the festival season and bringing my music to a wider audience. I’ve seen so many of my favourite artists at festivals and then been blown away by them and then listened ever since.
And, we have to ask, what else do you have in the pipeline?
I think everyone will be very pleased to hear that I’ve been through a breakup the past few months and that’s been excellent for writing material. This next bunch of stuff is going to be even more personal. I’m really excited about what’s coming. I’ve really found my feet in terms of what sound I’m doing and how I’m writing. This new batch of stuff encapsulates an entire relationship and I’m so excited to share it, because it’s so emotional. I’m so excited for people to hear it because I think it’s gonna make people cry.
We all love a bit of pain in music…
I’ve really gotten to learn a lot from the artists around me. I learned from and I listen to my friend’s songs and I also work with them. I’ve worked with my friend Nell Mescal and she’s been amazing in terms of helping me open my songwriting up to a different perspective. It’s the same with a few other of my mates that I’ve been working with too. It’s really nice that we can all support each other and learn from each other.
What’s your next big dream goal?
Oh, what a question! My next break big career goal would probably be to do a tour. I’ve always wanted to do a tour. I want to be able to perform every night in different places and travel around whether it be in the UK or Europe. I want to share the music now so to go on a tour would be my dream. Also to continue having people listen and my end goal is I want an album that people can hear and I want one for the history books. There are a few every year that people look back on and say that was for the history books. Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell is one for the history books – it’s such an insane album. Melodrama by Lorde too.
Kai Bosch’s EP, Spider, is available to buy and stream now.