We had the good fortune of connecting with Kitten Kuroi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kitten, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
It’s been a calling on my life ever since childhood, honestly. I’ve been singing and performing for family, friends and my childhood church:s choir since I was a kid. I just didn’t know untilI was well out of college that I could actually make a career out of it. In college, I would sing for everyone and anyone. I had internships with massive entertainment organizations like MTV, BET, VH1 and top PR Firms and sing my rendition of Happy Birthday to the executives, with the hopes someone would “discover” me. In 2007, I sang Happy Birthday on the answering machine for one of my friends from High School, just to be sweet. Not too long after, she called me to tell me she’d thrown my name into the ring as a potential background singer for Natasha Bedingfield. I ended up touring with Natasha for about 2 years. That call changed my life.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a singer, producer, performer and a songwriter. I’ve been that way since childhood. I used to bust out my old Fisher Price tape recorder and another old tape recorder and write multi-tracked songs with harmonies on them and other musical songs made by my mouth. I’d mostly write the songs at night when I was meant to be asleep, so I couldn’t play keyboard or piano to my original songs. I used to think I was very clever, writing songs about doing things in the day, since all the hits on the radio were about doing things at night. (Ah, young Innocence!) I used to keep them all the lyrics in three ring binder with a coloring sheet on the front of a fairy. I colored her skin dark brown and her hair jet black, too be like me because I’d never seen a black fairy before and I secretly wanted to be one. Fast-forward to now, I’m a Grammy Award Winning artist, as of January 2020! For the past 4 years, I’ve been touring with Elvis Costello and the Imposters. Last year, Elvis asked if I’d like to sing on his then new record, “Look Now” and I didn’t hesitate! I didn’t even think about it winning a Grammy because I was so stoked to be in the studio, sharing a mic with EC himself and playing with my band family on such remarkable tracks! I got the opportunity to help arrange some of the vocals I sang, too. We got nominated for a Grammy while we were on tour. We still didn’t anticipate winning – – especially against who we were running against. When we actually won, it was surreal! What a childhood dream. I hope to one day, win a Grammy for my own work, too. But, I’m DEFINITELY not mad about winning this one. By the time the day after Christmas rolls around, I’ll be a young, 40 year old woman (who’s gonna still get carded until at LEAST 60!) and I’ve amassed a lot of life lessons. Including how precious and seemingly random life is. At the end of the day, all you can do is your absolute best. Remember your purpose and intention in everything you do and savor the journey. You literally have NO idea what’s coming next. Study and assess the team you have around you. Everyone is not on board in mutual support. Not everyone is meant to be on the journey with you forever. It can feel devastating to learn, but take time to reflect on the good things they’ve brought to your life then, refocus on who’s REALLY there for you and make sure you carve out a little time for them. Take good care of yourself. Pay attention to your body. Being a preformer, being a singer specifically, our whole body is our instrument. When it’s not running well, we can be doomed – – especially, if it’s how you make money. Eat well, rest well, listen to what your body needs and don’t worry if no one else is doing it. You’ve only got ONE body and it’s ALWAYS telling you what it likes and doesn’t like. Your friends may even follow suit! Practice your craft, but also find balance. Work to live, don’t live to work, as they say. Find time to meditate, pray, breathe, run, do yoga… whatever you need to do to get in that positive alone time. It’s a great way to reset your mind and body to keep your stamina up. Don’t worry about losing time or feeling too old to begin in any industry. There is no such thing. I got on my first tour at 26 years old. I thought I was too old at 12, then 13, then 16, then 18, then 21,etc. I kept my age a secret because I thought I’d lose work or think I was like that Steve Buschemi meme, “Hello, my fellow kids!” Time will be ready for you when it’s ready for you. What’s meant for you is meant for YOU and you alone. Keep going forward. Don’t worry if you can’t do your one true passion at all times. I’ve been a promotional model, substitute teacher, a telemarketer, in-store sampler, a sausage and suds slanger, performance coach, a publicist, an event planner, a Vespa street team manager (yes, we were a Vespa gang), a choir director, a face painter, front desk receptionist, an event usher, etc… All of those things have made me a well-rounded and grounded human being with respect for people from all sorts of walks of life. It also makes me prepared for center stage and backstage. No experience, no matter how nightmarish at the time, is worthless. It also helps hone what it is you like and don’t like. It just makes you READY for life!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As a SoCal native, I know there’s a GANG of things to do. However, I’m also Vegan of about 12 years, so that puts an even more exciting spin on things! I love to eat and I also love the Eastside, where I’ve been living for years, so we’d do a lot of fun things on this side of town. We could stop by Groundwork Coffee in the Arts District for a yummy and invigorating latte, maybe even add some adaptogenic mushrooms in it for a boost. We could head to Griffith Park for a hike up to the observatory. Then, after working up an appetite, head to Green Leaves Vegan in Los Feliz for their gluten free Tropical pancakes (don’t knock em til you try ’em. We could stop next door and catch some good, saged vibes at The Liberation Emporium and buy a new candle, some incense, some crystals or a new Oracle or Tarot deck. Or, we could take ourselves to the vintage Vista or Los Feliz 3 or for a matinee. (provided we’re talking an out a world without coronavirus) Another option, we could go to the very cute Highland Park and eat brunch at Kitchen Mouse and snag a donut from. Donut Friend. Then, we could head over to Wild Terra to check out all their exotic loose teas and herbs. We could go check out Santee Alley in the Garment District in DTLA and haggle with thr vendors over some cute wigs, sexy jeans and grab some fresh fruit with chile from a street vendor. In the evening, we could check out murals and the lights in DTLA and land in Little Tokyo, where we’ll eat award-winning, high end vegan sushi at Shojin. Followed by losing our minds doing karaoke and bowling at X Lanes LA or having some drinks and playing retro video games at EightyTwo. If we’re still hungry, we could also head over to Beelman’s Vegan Bar on Spring street and talk to the locals to find out what bars or clubs have live music that night and hoof it. Downtown LA alone has a LOT of stuff to do. If we wanted to head over to Boyle Heights for a chill hang instead, we could eat vegan Nopalitos and drink Jamaicas at Un Solo Sol on first Street. Or go a few blocks up and grab a vegan pizza pie from Purgatory. We could check out all the old houses from the early 1900’s, try to get in a walking tour and learn more about this awesome historic city, once deemed the “Ellis Island of the West”. Then, hit up local bars Xela’s or Eastside Luv, all on 1st Street, for some tasty drinks. Honorable mention that’s not on the East side is Manhattan and Hermosa Beaches. They’re my favorite local beaches (read: not touristy) to enjoy the ocean and also to rollerskate skate. That would be a day long trip and we could eat at Veggie Grill in El Segundo, to cap it off.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have to shoutout my late Grandma (passed away in March 2020), from who’s lineage planted the singing bug in me. She and her sisters would always get together and sing around the house. My Mom also sang around the house and played piano. I literally heard singing so much, I assumed everyone could sing. I thought it was just normal. I didn’t have a chance. It’s just in me. Also special shoutout to my friend, Lauren Evans who called me about the Natasha gig and to Natasha who had faith in my abilities and showed me a world I NEVER expected to experience. Damon Valley also gets mad love because he was the first one to hear my voice and with his trusted guitar, he started writing songs for me to perform. He came with me to my early auditions and helped me rehearse for them. Shoutout to Tommy Faragher, an incredible award – winning composer, singer, songwriter, and great friend who highly recommended me to sing background for Elvis Costello. Yet another angel who changed my life. There’s also recording artists Tevin Campbell (Prince and Quincey Jones protogé) and Rhona Bennett (formerly of the New Mickey Mouse Club). They showed me how extra-terrestrially talented young singers can be. They were my first young heroes.
Professional Image of me performing on stage by Michelle Shiers @michelleshiers on IG www.michelleshiersphotography.com