Making the classical cello cool is an impressive feat, but it's one that Kelsey Lu does with ease. The 27-year-old instrumentalist and singer is arguably the coolest new musician on the planet right now.
Having grown up in a Jehovah's Witness family in small-town US, surrounded by music, Kelsey began studying classical composition at six years old. 'I grew up with a pretty strict religious background,' she says. 'But when I left t to go to school, my life flipped upside-down and it all changed. I questioned everything and that's when I started writing songs.'
She is now based in Williamsburg, New York, and last year Kelsey released her first EP, Church, recorded in a Brooklyn church with a loop pedal. Inspired by artists Alice Coltrane, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, her sound still uses haunting strings from the cello but brings in echoing vocals to create songs with a potent emotional punch.
She already boasts some high-profile fans; having played with Dev Hynes and Kelela, Kelsey opened for Florence And The Machine's tour. She also sound-tracked designer Grace Wales Bonner's first runway show and is the new face of Kenzo. Performing is everything for Kelsey. 'I did my show recently and the front row was mainly composed of women of colour and I was like, "The universe has answered my prayers." It was such a beautiful and diverse mix of people. It was electrifying.'
For now, she's finishing her first full-length album and is looking forward to working with more women. 'It's a world full of men and being a female in music, it's exciting to feel a part of something,' she says. 'It's so important for our voices to be heard.'
HOMETOWN: Charlotte, North Carolina
SOUNDS LIKE: Soulful strings with other worldly vocals
FOR FANS OF: FKA twigs, Kelela, Dev Hynes
LISTEN TO: During pensive moments at home alone with a large glass of pinot noir
MAJOR MOMENT: Headlined last year's most-hyped festival Afropunk in Brooklyn, NewYork, alongside Janelle Monáe and The Internet
STANDOUT TRACK: Morning After Coffee