After a year of hard work, local musician and “The Voice” alumna Karli Webster released her debut EP “Bittersweet” on Friday.
“Bittersweet” contains five songs written throughout Webster’s life that were reworked with the help of producer Dennis Herring to better capture the maturity of the singer’s current sound and style.
“Releasing this album is like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, because I didn’t expect the process of creating and releasing it to take a whole year,” Webster said. “I played the album live back in January, and, since then, I’ve been so antsy to release it, because the reception was so warm. I’ve had these songs in my back pocket for years, and I’m glad to finally let the world see what I’ve been cooking up.”
The process began with a three-week Kickstarter campaign, which was supported by 200 people and raised $16,525, over her original $15,000 goal. From there, Webster’s team began searching for a producer for the album, which she said was a three-month-long game of matchmaker.
As a fan of Herring’s work and the bands he worked with, Webster considered working with the producer as an impossible pipe dream. To her surprise, Herring agreed to meet with Webster and liked her material enough to agree to work with her. She was also glad that Herring understood and fully supports her goal of using music to champion women’s empowerment.
“Dennis typically produces alternative music not pop, and as a pop music writer who doesn’t necessarily listen to a lot of straightforward pop music, I knew I wanted his influence on my sound,” she said. “He produces a lot of avant garde albums full of really unexpected sounds. I want my music to be unexpected and also to make other people feel like his music makes me feel.”
The team initially selected 15 songs to work with and over more than five months whittled that list down to the five that made it to the EP. Webster’s favorite track is “Bittersweet,” because she says it captures her satirical writing style and “stands out like a sore thumb” compared to the other songs on the album.
“I’m very sarcastic, and this song is a pure satirical contemplation of what it means for me to be a woman in the music industry and in America,” she said. “It’s about my own strength, and I love the idea of allowing myself to be perceived as weak when I’m not at all.”
Webster said she is pleasantly surprised that people have already begun listening to the album on Spotify and have bought the album, and though she will not know how many people have listened to “Bittersweet” until the end of the month, fans have already sent her numerous messages. “Anyone” has emerged as the fan-favorite track.
Webster said “Anyone” is a song about her story, and she is glad it has resonated with listeners because of its deeply personal nature. Webster said she has had trouble opening up to people in the past but wanted her music to carry an emotional weight.
“All of the songs on this EP are very open and vulnerable, and it was like me putting my heart on a silver platter for the world to do whatever they wanted with it,” Webster said. “That was one of the hardest parts of this for me but also the most rewarding part. That kind of growth has helped me reach an acceptance of who I am and my new music will be reflective of that.”
Producing the album taught Webster to trust her gut and stand up for her herself while being more trusting and open to others’ ideas.
“I’ve never been good with trusting other people, but this experience has forced me to listen to other people and allow them to have influence on my work,” she said.
Social media — another new frontier for Webster — has been her main promotional avenue for the album. Though she does not feel comfortable with the “self-rewarding” aspect of social media and turning herself into a brand, she recognizes its importance.
“With social media, I feel like I’m constantly having to sell a product and that product is me,” Webster said. “I’m not a shy person, but I’m not a person who tried to put myself out there all the time. Publishing my face all the time is not my favorite, but I know that it’s an important tool to help get my music out there … for me, it’s just about adapting. I have been able to connect with people who send me messages over social media, and I’m all about the connections that music fosters.”
In context of musical growth, Webster believes that due to the experience and knowledge she gained from working with Herring, she is now writing her best work. Going forward, the singer said she cannot wait to return to the studio to produce a full-length album.
“Bittersweet” is Webster’s introduction to the world of professional music, and though she does not feel like she played it safe on the EP, she wants to explore other genres and “get weirder” in future songs.
Webster would also like to go on tour around California and give her work a wider reach than the Santa Clarita community.
“Santa Clarita has been so supportive of me, and I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had in this town, but I’m ready to move out a bit and explore more,” Webster said.
“Bittersweet” is streaming on Spotify and is available for purchase on iTunes or at https://www.karliwebstermusic.com.