It's not too far off now, the taste of freedom. In just over a week, Yr. 12 students in QLD will hear high school bells ring for the last time. Replaced by the jubilant screams of schoolies reverberating through the infamous Gold Coast strip. Not for Lili Kendall, she'll be launching into a full-time music career, finalising a national tour and then off to Canadian Music Week. Not to mention a potential summer scholarship at the revered Berklee College of Music [Boston, US]. Phew.
This 17-year old takes it all in her stride though, juggling school and full-time music has been, well – the latter really – her raison d'etre. When I caught up with Kendall last month, she pragmatically advised me, "I am already missing out on school but that is alright. I feel really confident that I will do alright with the last couple of exams, I am not hoping for A or anything! I am just gonna try and hand in as much as possible. I want to graduate and have that under my belt."
When asked how friends have taken to her success the response is mixed, " my friends are really supportive, there are the odd few that aren't, yeah, so it is like oh well, cut them loose." We discuss the notion of people not knowing how to handle friend's newfound fame and she maturely advises, " Sometimes it is that, and sometimes it is jealousy, but yeah, I've kind of learnt who is by my side and who is not. It is hard at this age, when I am busy with a career to be friends with a bunch of girls that are more interested in partying and drinking and long weekends." With a handful of musician friends in the same boat, they understand, "that crazy schedule and are working as hard as me." She stops for a moment and poignantly adds, "it is hard sometimes."
Earlier this year, her song 'Move' won the Unsigned Only TEEN category at Canadian Music Week. It's been a coup for Kendall, being the only Australian to win first place. Her prize included the 5-week scholarship to Berklee, and funds to help get her music career off the ground. "The one reason I want to go, [is that] I will be surrounded by incredible musicians and lecturers ... I've had a friend who went there and he said it is once in a lifetime. I guess when I go over it will be cool to say I've been to college in America, my dad is jealous!"
The music school Kendall attends in QLD have been incredibly supportive of this young artists talent, she laughs and explains "[I] can 100% say I wouldn't of been able to graduate without them!" She's being humble, but Kendall is exactly that, an incredibly endearing and grounded singer. With her sojourns to the States now in the double figures, "this is my 8th or 9th time. I go over there every two or three months to write, have meetings and my management team are over there so I get a lot done when I am over there," I'm impressed she's not running around in a hot mess, but it makes sense when she tells me her secret, "I have my mum she is very supportive of me, she is sitting in the cab [with me], don't get a big head mum!"
It's this gentle camaraderie that will stand her in good stead, with a massive 2015 looming, she been kept on her toes and appreciates the helps. "Then I have a great team of people … who organise everything for me and I have a schedule to go by." She pauses and adds, "It is really just … if I didn't have my team and my mama, I honestly would be drowning." There's a potency to her words, as the life of this young singer has really accelerated in the last six months.
When I first met Kendall, she was overcome with the flu, but still out supporting Nussy at her gig in Melbourne – it's this kind of tenacity and professionalism that showcases her true potential. " … when I last saw you, I was so sick, god awful, I was so sick. But it definitely picked up dramatically since then … everything is just moving very quickly and a lot of things are happening."
Her song 'Run' [film clip produced by Melbourne crew Oh Yeah Wow], is also testament to her strength, with powerful and sassy vocals that push the catchy melody forward. She explains "I am very proud of it," laughing she adds, "but it was like the coldest day in 10 years or something. It was like 5C!" The video is impressive and I've played this song on high rotation, finding it hard to believe that sound comes from Kendall. Already she's showing great texture and depth to her voice. With an album due out in February, she tells me, "we are still trying to find a name and all the final details [laughs], then I am going to go on the road for my tour. I want to try and do all the national cities, I will most likely be supporting someone. My dream tour would be everywhere."
With LA based producer\mentor Cameron Jaymes writing with Kendall, the duo are a tour de force. "I started working with him 1.5 yrs. ago and [he] turned into my mentor and has been helping me as an artist." She tells me they met through a friend, "Cameron came in on a writing session and I just really loved what we wrote. We just continued writing, it was very natural and he is like my big brother now."
I ask if it is helping her hone her instruments, "I play a little guitar and piano, not much. I am a bit gumby at guitar and piano!" Well, I'm sure after Kendall's stint at Berklee, she'll be playing me a different story. Perhaps one that involves a killer guitar and piano harmony.