interview: Petal
 photo: Katie Krulock

photo: Katie Krulock

On June 15, Kiley Lotz aka Petal will release her newest album Magic Gone on Run For Cover Records. The earliest peeks of the album have been just as vulnerable, tender, and brimming with emotions as her previous release Shame. Ahead of Lotz's next release we chatted with the musician about finding hope through song, the meaning of faith, and what she hopes listeners might find in listening.

The Grey Estates: How does it feel as an artist to explore those darkest, most vulnerable periods of your life through song? Is it difficult to share those moments with listeners?

Kiley Lotz (Petal) : Writing music as a means to process and analyze my experiences is the most fulfilling and crucial thing for me. It allows me to try and make sense of the challenging times. I sometimes can’t articulate what I’m thinking or feeling in conversation, and writing music creates a more tangible object and visual blue print for what I’m thinking and feeling. The songs never happen in a tidy way. They always start coming to me when I’m driving or with other people or in blips and phrases. So once I start piecing things together and feel the song start to take form, it’s pretty magical. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to create something from painful or joyful experiences alike.

It does feel nerve wracking to share my music with listeners. You’re sharing these sort of dusty trinkets of memories that you’ve brushed off or sharing fresh perspectives of events in your life that are still sort of ripe. It’s scary because this last record feels like the most honest and plainly written music I’ve ever made. Obviously people are going to interpret and relate to it in the ways that strike them. In that sense, I find comfort in sharing it because I know that the record may allow all of us to be a bit more vulnerable.

Do you see music as a way to cope? And how has this album helped you get through those periods of your time that were difficult?

I do see music as an extremely cathartic and positive outlet for people going through anything. There’s something about listening to music that allows you to hear your own experiences reflected back at you and all of sudden you feel less alone. However I do firmly believe that there has to be balance. I threw myself into work and touring and writing after “Shame” and I ended up neglecting my health. I had also come out at 25 years old which had a large impact on my life. All of these things set me on a path to self destruct and I needed to make a serious change. It’s important always to be aware of your well-being and what you need to be your healthiest, happiest, and truest self. I don’t believe music or any hobby or outlet should substitute things like therapy for example.  By committing to intensive therapy and focusing on my relationships and health, I was able to step away from touring and work and finally get the help I really needed.

I was writing songs while making these really big, difficult, positive steps in my life which felt really good. Recording the record was another point where I had just had a particularly rough few months, and recording with Will and Derrick, along with doing phone sessions with my Dr., really provided a wonderful period of growth. I felt strong and comforted by my own ability to keep moving forward and trust in myself and the people I love.

What song in particular on the album did you really connect with? Or is there one that started it all?

I wrote the title track, “Magic Gone”, while I was still living in NYC in 2015. I feel really proud of the entire record. I think lyrically it’s the happiest I’ve ever felt about what I made. I also played all the instruments except the drums on the record which also felt really good. I think Tightrope, Shine, Something From Me, and Stardust are all songs that mean a lot to me. Tightrope voicing some of the darker voices I’ve had in my head, Shine about coming out, Something From Me is a song voicing the paranoia symptoms, Stardust is like the resolution of all of it and coming to terms with that I wouldn’t change anything that lead me to this point. And that I will always feel so much love and gratitude to someone who helped me so much.

When did you first begin writing and what was the process like for you? Where do you prefer to write and do you have to be in a particular place?

I started writing the songs for Magic Gone back in 2015. One of the songs on the record is from an old EP and another is a song I wrote in college that I reworked and added some lines to. I’m always writing so it’s hard to pinpoint a specific timeframe. Songs never come easily for me. I can never sit down and just write something. The lyrics or melodies always float in and I have to scramble to catch them, writing and recording little memos into my phone as fast as I can. I like looking back at my notes and memos and remembering where I was when I got the idea and what I was feeling.

I recall I saw you at a show in Cleveland with Cayetana and Slingshot Dakota and you shared some of what you had gone through and how happy you were to be there. Do you find that each time you hit the stage it feels as good as it did the last time? Like does that feeling ever leave you, even after you perform like 5000 times?|

That was a really beautiful show because I was playing with so many good friends and the crowd was amazing. I think I will always feel happy and humbled when I can share that space with people. Some days it doesn’t feel so great. Especially on a long tour you’re just going to have bad days. Whether it’s homesickness, feeling physically unwell, exhaustion, the lack of personal space, it’s hard sometimes to be touring so much. However, when you’re with a really great crew of people, I find that you can lift each other up and by the time you get on stage you find yourself getting back to that headspace of performing. For the amount of time you spend driving on tour you spend probably 1/10 of that actually playing for people. So that time is special and welcomed. Even if you’re not feeling like you’re best self at the beginning of a set, there’s always the opportunity to let out the minutia of the day through playing.

Your PR stuff mentioned learning to have faith in yourself, others, and God. What sort of role has that faith played in recording and making this music? Did you find that it had an impact on this record that maybe it didn’t on your last?

I think I’m always sort of wrestling with my faith and trying to work it out in songwriting. I used to pray to God to make me straight. I look back on that and feel so sad for that person. But for me, I always come back to this feeling that I can’t deny within myself: that I feel connected to something bigger than myself and I am comforted by it. Identifying as a Christian has been the more challenging aspect of that. Especially given that Christianity has a horrible history of oppression, colonialism, etc. The list goes on. So coming out and continually feeling let down by the Church over and over again through my childhood and into adulthood, it was really painful. The songs Shine and Carve deal with this pretty explicitly. Shine being a more positive outlook that I can be exactly who I am and I can be worthy of love. Carve being the opposite where I confront my anger at God and the confusion I felt.

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Sonically, I wanted to have organ on the record because it’s a big part of my life. I grew up playing the piano and then the organ for my church and subsequent others. That sound brings me a lot of comfort and fear at the same time. This record has a lot of duality in it so I wanted to bring that sound in for that reason.

What would you want someone listener to take away from this album?

That not only can you get through something difficult, you can come out of it with a deeper knowledge of yourself and be stronger than ever. It won’t be without it’s difficulties, life is non-linear in all facets.

Could you talk a little about the song "I'm Sorry?" There's something about that track that is both heartbreaking but like the ending is so freeing and beautiful. Who are you apologizing to and what went into that track?

I wrote that song in 2012. It’s a very personal song so I don’t want to give too much away. But I was taking an astrophysics course (which I enrolled in on accident and couldn’t place out of) and we were learning about binary systems of stars. They rotate around each other and one always shines just a bit brighter than the other. The songs compares a relationship to that where one person will be supporting the other a bit more as life happens, you lean on each other and one person may have to be a bit stronger at any given time. I’m apologizing because I felt my mental illness caused me to always be leaning on this person.

What were some of your inspirations for this album?

I was listening to a lot of Nina Simone, Solange, Mitski, Paramore, David Bazan, and Death Cab for Cutie. I also played piano on this record which I haven’t done since demoing stuff in high school. So definitely some nods to Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple.

What words would you pass along to someone listening who might be going through a similar struggle or feel like they might be alone? 

You’re not a burden. It’s okay to ask for help. You bring things to the table and they are good and worthy. You are good and worthy exactly as you are.