“Pop music doesn’t really have a place in any local music scene so much, but here I am anyway, and I’m going to sing my ass off. I want people to feel inspired — like they were just at a stadium show. If people leave happy and with a little weight off their shoulders, I did my job.” — Lo Kloza
Lo Kloza is indeed a local artist — she was born and raised in Manasquan, and identifies strongly with Asbury Park — but her Top 40 aspirations are evident. She’s got the voice to back up her ambitions. Her Phoenix EP, a collection of bright, confident, catchy pop-rock, is a showcase for her excellent singing. This Friday, she will celebrate the release of Phoenix with a concert at The Saint, one of Asbury Park’s cornerstone clubs. It could be the beginning of a stratospheric rise. She’s certainly shooting for the stars.
Q: You have an unusually powerful voice for an indie singer. Where’d you learn to sing that way?
A: Growing up, I was obsessed with strong female singers like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. I went through a really big phase where I was obsessed with Christina Aguilera, too — like “shrines all over the wall” obsessed. I think I just had this love for and inspiration from these solo female artists from such a young age that it sort of rubbed off on me! I never took any serious singing lessons until I was about 16 when I trained briefly with Don Lawrence. He’s taught Whitney, Lady Gaga and Christina, so that was a huge blessing and opportunity for me. I learned a lot from him in just a little bit of time.
Q: Even by the self-affirmative standards of modern pop, “Phoenix” is particularly passionate in its conviction. What prompted you to write that? Is there a personal story behind the song?
A: There’s definitely a personal story to the song, and it’s really the whole theme of the EP. I’ve grown up with generalized anxiety disorder, and that has caused me to take a bit longer to come out of my shell. As a kid I was homeschooled twice for months at a time because going to school made me feel too ill. Nervous stomach aches and panic attacks were way too frequent in my childhood.
The one thing that helped that was music. If I could make it to my vocal performance class, I could sing it out and get through my day. “Phoenix” is about rising up from the ashes and overcoming your own obstacles despite your disbelief in yourself or others not believing in you. It’s about letting go of the past and embracing a brighter future. For me, that is not only in my personal life but in my music as well.
I’ve grown a lot with my music and writing and I finally feel like I know who I really am as an artist and where I want to be. This entire EP is like a rebirth for me as an artist. I really want to inspire others to embrace their true selves and let go of their anxieties. A lot the songs on this EP address this theme. I really hope it inspires people, just as all of the artists I loved inspired and helped me.
Q: Manasquan is a town with a distinct personality. How did growing up there affect the music you make? Were there places in town to hear or play music? Or was Asbury Park always the center of gravity for you?
A: I grew up, technically, in Manasquan, but I went to Wall Township High School. I’m lucky to be where I’m from because I’m an hour from Philly and NYC and 15 minutes from Asbury Park. Music was always right at my fingertips.
Asbury Park was definitely the center of gravity for me. When I first started playing out, if I wasn’t playing at an open mic in Asbury, I was up in Red Bank or in Point Pleasant at coffee shops, restaurants and music venues all around. There are so many options around me for live music, and that is something I love and adore about NJ. Art isn’t dead here. The local music scene between Asbury Park and Red Bank is just incredible, and so supportive, and the people in the local music community have really helped me along my journey. If it wasn’t for local music supporters applauding me and giving me feedback during those first open mics playing my first original songs, I don’t think I’d be here today. I don’t think people from other states can say the same about their local music communities. What we have here is really special.
Q: You’ve worked with some accomplished producers. Did you seek them out, or did they seek you out? What do you look for in a musical collaborator? What qualities should he or she have?
A: John Harvey, one of the producers and cowriters on this record, actually played bass for me during my 2012 EP release, and we kept in touch and did other gigs together. (Co-producer) Gordon Brown was a close friend of his. He introduced us when he heard I wanted to begin writing for a new record. We all clicked so well when we sat down for our first writing session. We have the same goofy humor, and these guys helped me to really be vulnerable and write music I’ve been dreaming to write since I was a kid. That’s more than I could ask for in a collaborator.
Their talents are undeniable, but feeling comfortable is everything. Gordon and John both have a really genuine and kind way about them that makes you feel at ease. They really empowered me and listened to what I had to say.
Q: What’s a Lo Kloza show like? Do you play with a band?
For my EP release, I do have a band backing me. I do acoustic gigs as well sometimes but I really prefer the live band feel. There is nothing better than feeling that drum beat behind you. The guys playing with me on the 6th are all close friends of mine. Many of them are in other Asbury Park-based projects, and the others are friends I made while getting my degree in Music Industry at Ramapo College. C.M Smith, one of my guitarists, is the lead singer of The Amboys, my favorite local band here, and also just started a folk-rock project called GoodnightMorning along with my bassist, Drew Clelland. It’s seriously incredible.
The Saint, 601 Main St., Asbury Park, hosts Lo Kloza’s EP release party, Friday at 8:30 p.m. Cat London, Jerzy Jung and Our Glory will also perform; $10; visit TheSaintNJ.com.