Rickie Lee Kroell, the second time: I just introduced you to the pop artist and her new EP Hauptsache was mit Deichkind. I had the fortunate chance to have a deeper look behind the artist in the latest episode of my Flyctory.com Spotlight interviews. A really interesting one looking into various stages of her great career so far.
Flyctory.com meets Rickie Lee Kroell
FLYC: Rickie, thanks for joining us for an interview. I was really overwhelmed by all the different things you already did in your musical career. Let’s start at the very beginning: you were born in New York City, but rather early moved to Munich. What does the “Big Apple” mean to you?
Rickie: Thank you very much for having me! The “Big Apple” to me means an endless source of creativity with all the artists living there, but also a cruel vastness of possibilities. It’s my birthplace but I am still quite intimidated by this city, honestly. I admire people’s courage who decided to move there and make a living in NYC.
FLYC: Later, you studied music in Boston and Los Angeles, then moved back to Germany. What is the “most German” thing about you – and, of course, the “most US-American” one?
Rickie: The most „German“ thing I find in myself is my desire for properness when I’m in the States. The most “American” attribute is probably my enthusiastic and happy reactions to anything.
FLYC: Music has been part of your family. You father, Axel Kroell is a successful composer and producer. When did you start to feel that you want to pursue a musical career?
Rickie: My father has been my idol growing up (and he still is), and music has always been a crucial part of my family and life. But probably around the age of 16/17 I decided that music was the thing I really wanted to keep doing.
FLYC: Your father worked with big names of the business, like Wet Wet Wet, Such a Surge or also David Hasselhoff. Has there been one of these people who inspired you, apart from your father?
Rickie: Jazz musician and composer Karl Berger with Creative Music Studio; Verdine White, bassist of Earth, Wind & Fire, and of course Quincy Jones, whose production was with me since being introduced to Michael Jackson at a very young age.
FLYC: From rather early days, I found a concert report when you were 19, your music is heading towards jazz. Maybe not the most usual preference for a teenage artist. What does the genre mean to you?
Rickie: This project had been a mix between pop and jazz – listening to Jamie Cullum at the age of 14 was a segway into songwriting and Jazz for myself. Jazz to me is an evergrowing organism which stays open to its necessary change and development, and most importantly a place for pure musicality, expression, trust and connection.
FLYC: That concert was actually kind of interesting to me: in 2010 already, you recorded a 30 minute show which people could watch on different websites every day. How did you come to that idea?
Rickie: Yes! Back then there was a British artist who had “toured the internet” (I cannot remember her name!!!), my guitarist back then introduced us to the idea. From then on, we hopped from website to website and streamed these concerts many times. Our biggest “venue” of that tour back then was Rolling Stone.
FLYC: Did it somehow prepare you for the today’s restriction because of Covid-19, by the way?
Rickie: Yes, in some way, had we chosen to do concerts during this time. Live-Streaming has become a very important part in today’s live music during the pandemic, and I’m weirdly proud to say we already did that over 10 years ago.
FLYC: During the following years, you grew your career and had some nice success with some of your compositions. The most remarkable is likely the nomination for the Best Original Song – Documentary at the Hollywood Music Awards in 2018. Could you tell us a bit more about the nominated Song for the Unitled and how you wrote it?
Rickie: Thank you! Yes, the HMMA nomination was certainly great. Song for the Untitled is the credit song of an incredible but haunting Spanish documentary by Yeray Lopez Portillo about the horrible abuse of the Galgo – a dog breed used for the hunting season in Spain, which gets “disposed” of after they have served their duty or aren’t physically fit for hunting. The film’s composer and good friend Arturo Cardelús brought me on board for this song. I felt this song needed to be somewhat of a lullaby for the animal that has been saved from those cruelties,
and that it can feel safe now to sleep and see another day. It took me a couple days to write the words, and once Arturo’s strings got recorded and my vocals were in the bag, I felt the song’s full weight; I’m grateful it got nominated.
FLYC: The award was finally given to Dianne Warren. Other nominated writers in that category were big names like Tim McGraw, Lori McKenna, Quincy Jones or Patti Smith. How did that feel when you are named on the same level like them?
Rickie: Once I saw the announcement, I almost fell off my chair. I could have never dreamed of seeing my name next to these iconic songwriters and musicians! Diane Warren’s song for RGB was rightfully the winner, although the other nominees had wonderful songs as well…it’s so hard to make decisions on songs to win a contest!
FLYC: Since 2020, you started releasing singles, which now made it on your EP Hauptsache was mit Deichkind. Why is Deichkind a special band for you?
Rickie: Growing up, I’ve always been immersed by their work. Bon Voyage came out when I was ten years old, and from then on, I’ve been following their journey. They are special to me because they entirely embraced the change of times in music, adapted so well to the Zeitgeist and did all this while staying true to themselves and doing their thing. And they are so damn good at it. Especially their avant-gardist/weird/dada/perfect lyrics are the most important to me.
FLYC: Did the band know about your EP release beforehand? What has been their reaction?
Rickie: I don’t know if they have heard the songs yet. Maybe if one day they stumble upon it, their reaction will be positive and they’ll bob their heads and say: “I dig this.” And if not, that’s cool too. I just hope they can see how much I honor their lyrics and wanted to create an homage to their work.
FLYC: What made you choose songs like Hauptsache nichts mit Menschen for your release on 7th February 2022?
Rickie: I felt I could connect well with the lyrics of the songs I’ve chosen for this concept EP. This was actually originally only an experiment to see if I sounded good singing German by trying out singing their lyrics, after I’ve sung in English all my life. After the songs turned out this great though, I wanted the world to see them. The lyrics of those songs are the ones I connect with the most and felt most comfortable performing authentically.
FLYC: Is it, by the way, easier for you to write songs for yourself as an artist or for other performers? When do you know that a song might fit to you… or to somebody else?
Rickie: I feel it is easier to write for oneself because you know your own boundaries and what sounds good; but after a while you want to expand your experiences and abilities and challenge yourself to learn more about the others. In the best case you’ll make them look better than you could ever do yourself. Because they could sing the song I could only dream of being able to sing.
FLYC: The last single you released before the album has been Die Welt ist fertig. What is that song about?
Rickie: I believe it’s a critical look on human nature that keeps destroying life on planet Earth, with climate change happening, overpopulation, digitization… and in this song, humans have prepared for this. Like preparing for a store to close down and getting destroyed and accepting this, it will keep on existing in its demolition. Deichkind is excellent at critically describing a situation without sounding preachy.
FLYC: What are the next steps? Which are your plans for 2022?
Rickie: The next steps are bringing the music onto the stage and finally collaborating with authors to step away from covering existing songs. I would love to put more music to great written German words within such a collaboration.
FLYC: Moving away from music: you are truly a cosmopolitan artist and have projects in North America as well as Germany. What – and where – is “home” for you?
Rickie: Home is where my heart is – my partner and family are all in Germany, and after spending almost a decade in the States, I would prefer living in Europe. But there is nothing like working and travelling in the US – it’s driving, inspiring, humbling and incredibly fun. I’m still expanding my network in Germany after moving here and Covid hitting.
FLYC: How much did the Covid-19 travel restrictions harm your career?
Rickie: It was very hard to find solid ground. Everything was shut down for almost 2 years – production, possibilities to network, even just hope anything would turn back to normal – and there was nowhere to escape. Now it’s become a bit easier again, but there is definitely still a big heavy blanket on creative work-and-travel. I’ve lost 2 years of important groundwork after the big move back to Europe.
FLYC: What do you miss most about Germany, when you are in the US – and vice versa?
Rickie: When I‘m in the States, I miss the directness and honesty in people; and when I’m in Germany, I miss the lightness and fun of the Americans.
FLYC: Last, but not least: is there an artist you would love to write a song for?
Rickie: My big idol is James Blake – if I ever in my life get to collaborate with him, I could die happily.
Follow Rickie Lee Kroell Online
All pictures in this posting: Artist material (by Stickelbruck & Leis)
Spotlight Interviews – non-Country