“This is a weird way to put it, but I always felt like they had the wrong person,” says Kacy Hill.
The singer-songwriter, who signed with Kanye West’s music label (distributed by Def Jam) in 2014 and left in 2019, is finally finding success and creative validation on her own terms. “I felt like I was sitting in someone else’s seat. Not that I wasn’t thankful for it or grateful or excited, but it always was like I was wearing the wrong size clothes or something, you know?”
The 27-year-old Arizona native is at home in Los Angeles, where she’s discussing her third studio album, “Simple, Sweet and Smiling,” the week before its release. It’s her second album since leaving G.O.O.D. Music — and life as an independent artist is suiting her just fine.
“I feel like making music independently is what I was meant to do,” she says. “It was hard for me to find myself and my own vision. When you’re on a label, you have so many people whose job it is to do that for you.”
Being independent has also allowed her to create and release music at her own pace: quickly. Hill put out her second album, “Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again,” in summer 2020 and is now releasing her third a year later. “There’s freedom in getting a project out when it still feels fresh; I haven’t had the time yet to not like it,” she adds.
“Simple, Sweet and Smiling” is the culmination of working in close collaboration with several artists, notably Jim-E Stack, Ariel Rechtshaid and John Carroll Kirby, who brought jazzy undertones to the project. “That’s the biggest thing for me: finding people that just love what they do, that love making music for the sake of making music and the ego is out of it,” she says.
The album pays tribute to many of Hill’s personal relationships (including Stack, Hill’s romantic partner), and the tone throughout the album is upbeat, sunny and optimistic. “There was so much darkness or heaviness around — everything, really. In my own life, I felt a lot of heaviness,” she says of her approach to writing the album. “It was this idea, in my own little world, of not wanting to be this weight in someone else’s life — like really wanting to be the best partner, the best friend, the best person I can be in. And in some ways, it feels aspirational, or feels like in order to be that I have to always be light, and I have to be this simple, sweet and smiling trope of a carefree person.”
But lyrically, there are hints of the internal struggles Hill faced in the past year, including the resurgence of her agoraphobic panic disorder, which seeps onto the track “Easy Going.” “It’s like I’m stuck in a dream and I’m trying to run/But I look at my legs and I’m still where I’ve started/Watching the world from thе bedroom window,” she sings.
She was also confronted with the idea of her parents’ mortality; while working on the album, her father suffered and survived a heart attack. “I always imagined having to face those kinds of things when I was older. And it just kind of hit me in the face, along with everything else,” she says. “Writing about it was a way of dealing with it.”
The album culminates with “Another You,” which Hill describes as more vulnerable than she initially intended. The track, which mentions her father, opens with the lyrics: “I worry I’ll never get there/That place where I feel like I’m somewhere,” and goes on to describe the anticipation of reflecting on the present from the vantage of a future, older self.
Hill is heading on tour in November for the first time in several years. “I’m really excited to see people that at this point I’ve only interacted with online, and excited to actually hear the last two albums played live,” she says. “And feel energy that isn’t from the internet.”
On the topic of the internet and social media, Hill is admittedly cynical about “how much you have to give into it. And how much it feels like you have to create this online persona in order to be successful as an artist,” adds Hill, who’s active (but not overly so) on Instagram, where she shares both personal candids and professional promos. “I’m trying to find a way to make it work without feeling like I’m giving up some part of myself, which is dumb because like, what part of myself am I giving up?”
Hill knows that she’s certainly not alone in that sentiment. On the album’s titular track, her chorus rallies around the collective: “Everyone’s down on the samе road/Baby, it’s wrong to ever feel you’re alonе.”