It’s hard to say if anyone else has had as career defining a year as Erin Kirby. Since she spoke to TEENPLICITY last September, she’s been steadily growing her following and released multiple singles. Oh, and don’t forget, she was also on ABC’s reality singing competition, American Idol.
Thinking back on her experience on the show, Erin cannot help but exclaim how exciting it was. “I loved it! It was super fun, super-fast,” she recalls.
Diving back into the fall of 2019, the singer details the process of getting onto the show. It all started with a Skype audition. “About a week or so later I decided, you know, I’m just gonna go for it and do it!” The show wanted her to audition in LA and that’s what she did, the day before her 16th birthday.
“I got to spend my birthday out in LA which was great. We went ahead and set up some meetings while we were there with some other people because half of my team is there. It just worked out perfectly,” she says of what she accomplished on top of auditioning for American Idol.
I definitely grew as an artist, performing and having that confidence.
For those who watched this past season, Erin covered a Jesse J song which resulted in Katy Perry saying, “I don’t like it… I LOVE IT!” before ultimately handing Erin a golden ticket straight to Hollywood. It was during Hollywood Week that Erin bonded with her future Idol duet partner, Sasha Hurtado.
“I actually met my duet partner in the airport – little did I know [then] she was gonna end up being my duet partner – because she’s from Georgia as well!” she says of their initial fated meeting. “We really hit it off immediately. We got along. Then as we went through the week, we had to do school together, so that was great!”
She discusses how she did an acapella version of SIA’s ‘Titanium’, calling that first round a lot of fun, one that she loved. “Then they were like, ‘You guys are doing duets!’ and I was like, ‘Heck yeah!’ because my partner and I, we already wanted to be in a group together, so this works out great!” She mentions how the two of them covered ‘A Man’s World’ by James Brown after seeing it on the accepted songs list and got really excited. “We both have that soulful background, listening to Motown music as kids and things like that.”
From there, both Erin and her partner moved onto the next round where they each chose their own songs. “I did ‘All I Want’ by Kodaline. And I chose that song because it really helped me through my difficult times when my best friend passed away,” she reveals.
Speaking not only of the song but also of her entire American Idol experience, the singer says, “It definitely meant something to me, and I met some great people while I was there.” She even goes on to tease, “I’ve already been writing music with some! So it honestly was a great experience.”
Erin isn’t too upset with how her journey in the competition ended. “I’m not mad with where I stopped. I believe God has a plan. And if that was hot it was supposed to go, then that’s how it’s supposed to go.”
She adds, “It definitely changed me a lot. I learned a bunch.”
Some of what Erin has learned, she didn’t even realize it until after the fact. “I had a show when I came home; I decided I wanted to go [put] on a concert by ourselves. So I had my friend Eli Ensor open for me along with my duet partner Sasha, and I totally saw a difference in myself.”
The singer says of what she noticed, “I just felt so comfortable on stage. I felt so much more confident. I was just having fun, I wasn’t nervous; I wasn’t worrying about things. I wasn’t worrying about if my hair is standing up backwards or something.” A laugh bubbles up at the last thought. “But I just had a great time. I definitely grew as an artist, performing and having that confidence.”
One of the best ways to show off her newfound confidence is in her most recent single, ‘Half in Love’. The song highlights Erin’s vocal talents, with quick lines sprinkled throughout the song, awesome key changes during runs, and the vulnerability she’s able to fill her voice with.
Describing her latest song, Erin says, “I like to say that this song is about being afraid to commit to a relationship. Maybe it’s because your ex still has a piece of you. Maybe it was someone you were just talking with.” She dives deeper, expanding the reach and meaning. “Maybe you lost someone or maybe you’re just really involved in your career and you are afraid that if you commit, it will take away time. So I wanted to write something that everyone else would be able to relate to in some sort of way. I feel like ‘Half in Love’ is definitely it.”
At first, according to the singer, every facet of the what the song could mean played a part in the inspiration. “We just liked the idea, but as I started thinking about it, it really does resonate with me.” Opening up, Erin says, “I lost my best friend a few years ago and that was something that took me a minute to be able to be in a relationship or start talking, or whatever, to people. But also with the career [aspect] – it’s hard being a musician and then also being in a relationship, because a lot of people just don’t understand.” She explains, “They’re like, ‘Why can’t you hang out with me all the time?’ I’m like, ‘Because I really love music! I’m doing this.’”
Referring back to the song, Erin says, “It definitely resonates both ways for me. But I think it’s just however you listen to the song and however you relate to it.”
Though the song only came out at the end of July, the singer is already getting messages of fans telling her how they can relate to the lyrics. “I’m so happy that people are loving it and attaching to it. I’ve heard great things,” she’s said of initial reactions to the song. “People are like, ‘This is my favorite song of yours! This song has helped me.’ I had one lady message me the other day telling me she’s getting married,” she begins to explain, “but she really resonates with the song because her ex-husband still has a piece of her no matter what. And this song really helped her through realizing that. Things like that make me so happy and I’m so glad that people really love this song and relate to it.”
There’s a situation and I’m cool with talking about it.
Just thinking of how fans are already loving the song wholeheartedly and can relate so much to it still has Erin in a state of awe. “It’s been great! It’s been doing much better than any of my other songs we put out. It’s,” she takes a moment to collect her thoughts, still amazed, “it’s incredible because most of the songs I have out already have an acoustic side.” She says this is from when she was trying to figure out the genre she wanted to pursue as an artist, unsure if she wanted more of a pop-soul or acoustic pop. “But now I really know that I want to do pop. So all the music that I’m about to put out [after and including] ‘Half in Love’ really resembles me as an artist.”
She remembers what it was like to write the song, doing it with two artists from Rhode Island, Jake and Zach. “I flew up that day and we immediately started working on the song. We came up with the concept,” she says. “I sat in the studio, Zach went outside, Jake went to a different room, and we all wrote different sections.” Erin talks of how, when they came together, the parts all fit perfectly. “We just worked on the song, wrote it that day, and recorded it a few days later.”
When asked if it is usually that quick, Erin talks about how she’s actually been writing pretty fast. Of course, incredible company helps as well.
“When you work with great people, it moves so quickly. You guys just have fun. The vibe is there.” She discusses the fact that most of this year, she’s been having to do a lot of writing sessions over FaceTime, something she initially thought would be weird. “But I wrote with these guys called Sleeping Lions from LA and we ended up writing a song in an hour; it just goes super-fast.”
Writing a song like ‘Half in Love’ causes Erin to open up and be more vulnerable in her music, as aspect of songwriting that still gets her nervous sometimes. “When I first started writing – when I first started music, I was afraid to write because for one, I’m just a perfectionist and I was like, ‘I’m gonna write everything and it’s gonna be so bad that I just don’t want to do it!’ Then I was like, ‘You know what, I want to hold my emotions [in] and nobody needs to know what’s going on inside of my head.’” However, she states that her best friend passing away changed all that. “I was like, ‘I have to get this out somehow!’” she says of her mindset following her loss. “I started writing music and at first it was kind of weird. I was like, ‘I feel uncomfortable giving you all my information here!’ But now it’s just like, these people are my friends and I feel very open about it. There’s a situation and I’m cool with talking about it.”
As she has become more vulnerable with her music, Erin has seen a change in her fans as well who, like the one above, have become more open and honest with her about how her music has affected their lives. Receiving these messages fill her with joy. “It makes me so glad that I’m using the gift that God gave me because a lot of people would put it to the side. But I believe that there’s a purpose.”
Erin brings up one moment in when that particular idea stuck a strong chord with her. “I had one guy message me about a month or so ago and he said he was really down. He was literally about to go in overdose but he was listening to a playlist on Spotify and my song came up and my voice hit him. He was like, ‘This is different.’ So he looked me up online and he saw that I was very open about my faith, which I am. And he said he immediately was reading the Bible. He found God, and now he sees the purpose of life and when I hear things like that, I’m like, ‘This is why I’m doing this. This is why God gave me this gift.’”
TEENPLICITY states that we’ve got chills to which Erin responds with an awed laugh. “I felt the same way!”
Throughout quarantine, Erin has learned that her writing isn’t limited to a certain time or place. When asked what she’s learned during this trying time, she says, “That you can write anywhere and everywhere. I always thought that I had to be in a studio or sitting down in my bedroom to be writing, and that’s not true. I could literally be outside or like folding clothes and words just pop up. Being home and not being able to go out much has made me realize that I can write doing whatever and being like FaceTime, at first I thought it was going to be weird, but it totally worked out.”
She’s also become more vulnerable in her writing, according to the singer. “Before I was like, ‘Oh, if I write a story or song about this person and what we had or what happened, then they’re gonna be weirded out and they’re never gonna talk to me again.’ But honestly, I’m just like, ‘You know what, they don’t talk to me anyway so!’” she says with a laugh and one can imagine her shrugging her shoulders without a care in the world. “I’m totally cool with opening up and writing songs. If it’s gonna help people out, I want to write and be able to make music that will change lives. So I would say that I’ve become more emotional and more vulnerable in my music.”
Not only has her perspective on songwriting changed but also how she feels about her music. When Erin spoke to Brie last September, she spoke about an EP that had been working on. Since then, she’s appeared on American Idol and changed up what her sound is.
“You know, before, it was taking a minute to really get songs down, songs that I felt comfortable with and songs that I felt good about putting out,” she says of her earlier work on her EP. “Right now, every song I have, I’m like, ‘This is so good and I want to put it out right now!’ So the process has been really quick. It’s been going by super effortlessly. It’s been amazing and I’m just ready to put everything out.”
It’s fascinating to look back to where Erin started as a young girl performing in her home. “I’ve always sang my entire life but there’s this picture of me as a kid and – I don’t know, I was probably like four or five – and I’m in a feathered boa and a leopard tutu with this bright pink microphone in my office in my house.” Her giggles floods her voice as she continues, “That picture just shows that I loved music then just as much as I do now.”
When TEENPLICITY brings up the fact that this should definitely become an album cover in the future, Erin’s laugh gets even bigger. “Definitely! We gotta make that happen!”
Taking a step back to reflect, Erin thinks of her career thus far and what has been the most defining moment of her career to her personally. “That’s a crazy question!” she says with a laugh when asked about it. “I feel like I’ve done so much!”
“I would say just realizing who I am as an artist because for years I struggled [with] figuring out what I wanted to do. Like maybe my voice sounded better on this but maybe I didn’t really want to put that out? Or things like that.” She continues, “I would say just finally sitting down with myself and realizing what I wanted to do. What kind of music I wanted to put out, and making that happen.”
With each release, Erin has seen her support growing larger and larger. To her amazing fans, who she is continually thankful for and appreciative of, she offers some advice.
“I would say to the people that want to do something: you may have a crazy dream – go do it. Don’t listen to anybody else. I know it sounds so cliché but it’s the truth! You have to think for yourself, you have to think about your future. What do you want to be doing along the road and when you grow up and you’re living your life – what do you want to do? Go for that dream. Don’t be afraid if someone tells you no. Don’t be afraid if someone tells you its gonna take forever because maybe it will, but you have to have patience. If you really love it and God is telling you this is what you’re meant to do, then that’s who you have to listen to.”
Be sure to listen to Erin Kirby’s newest release, ‘Half in Love’ here!