Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, but after being a contestant on “The Voice” in 2017, local musician Karli Webster is moving her career forward.
“When I was on ‘The Voice,’ I just thought it was something that I would try and I would fail at, and that was OK,” she said. “I did not expect it to change my life in the way that it did. Being on the show made it so that I had to pursue music full-time — and I’ve been on this insane journey for the past year that’s completely flipped my life upside-down.”
Webster grew up with music. Her father was in a heavy metal Christian rock band, and she remembers going to his shows or watching him write songs. He introduced her to the music of David Bowie and Queen’s Freddie Mercury, who she says became strong musical idols for her. Soon, Webster began singing and writing her own songs, inspired by these “regular people” who became something more.
Webster, 22, is a music industry student at USC but is taking time off from pursuing education to advance her career as a professional musician. In January, she plans to release her first EP titled “Bittersweet,” and is scheduled to perform at Wolf Creek Brewery on Jan. 25.
“I always thought my music would have its time and I was so focused with school, and I was comfortable with my life but things change,” Webster said, “It was definitely hard for my parents to hear that, but school was for them and music is for me, so I need to see how far I can go. I do plan on completing my degree eventually since I’m so close and it would be silly not to, but I just don’t know when.”
Despite not currently taking classes, she classifies the last year as one long learning experience.
“I’ve learned more not being in school than I did in school,” Webster said with a laugh. “I learned what making an album was like, which I had no idea of. But most importantly I learned about myself, what kind of artist I am and what music really means to me.”
Though “Bittersweet” is considered a pop music album, Webster said that one of the things she has come to terms with during the recording process is that as an artist, she is too new to fit neatly into one genre label, but would like to play in as many styles as she can.
When she writes songs, Webster says she reflects on a certain situation in her life or in the lives of people she knows that resonates with her. Then she will write lyrics and a melody, generally with the aid of a piano, which she has played since she was 4, and considers her “home” instrument.
Part of the learning process was adjusting to the collaborative nature of music production. While it is relieving for Webster to not have to worry about writing all the parts of her songs, she said it is somewhat scary to not have complete control of her art. However, Webster recognizes that many of the songs she has written are very “bare-bone” and praised her producer Dennis Herring, who has worked with artists like Modest Mouse and Counting Crows, for seeing the potential in her songs and further developing them.
Webster said she has long been a fan of many of the musicians Herring has worked with and was excited to learn that he was a potential producer for her. After meeting Herring and playing all of her music for him, the producer decided that he wanted to work with Webster and chose five songs to include on the “Bittersweet” album. Furthermore, Webster said that Herring understood from the beginning that she wanted to album to promote the message of women’s empowerment.
“We tore those five songs apart and then pieced them back together,” Webster said. “One of the songs that absolutely needed a facelift was ‘Catching Air’ that was written by a 15-year-old, insecure Karli. Dennis was able to add little riffs to the song that I would never have thought of, and I got to work with other musicians and revisit the song to include more of who I am now.”
During her performance in January, Webster will perform all the songs from “Bittersweet” for the first time live. Though an album is necessary to propel her career, Webster said that she lives for the connections that she forms with the audience during a live show.
“That shared energy with strangers is so beautiful,” Webster said. “You can connect over a song regardless of your background and the fact that I get to create that experience for people is not something I take lightly.”
Looking forward, Webster hopes to take her music on tour and although her first album has not even been released she is already planning for a second and has a clearer vision of how she wants to be “sonically portrayed.” She said that the songs on “Bittersweet” are deeply personal, the songs she has written since producing the record are even more so. Before pursuing her current career path Webster wanted to compose music for film and hopes to eventually find the opportunity to do so.
While the unknown remains the scariest part of the journey for Webster, she also find it to be the most exciting part.
“Every part of this all has been unexpected because I haven’t expected a single thing, and that’s just how I live,” she said. “I was part of a circus show in December and I never would have expected that. It’s scary stepping out of my comfort zone, but good things come of that fear.”
Tickets for Webster’s Jan. 25 show can be purchased at this link.