Karli June is a relative newcomer to the country music scene, but she’s already making big moves. Her first EP, Where You Come From, dropped earlier this year.
It follows the 2020 single “Say Too Much” that gained the attention of audiences across the country.
I had the chance to talk to Karli about the EP, her history and influences, her faith, the creative process, and what might be next for the emerging country star.
All About Karli June and “Where You Come From”
Jason: I really appreciate you doing this, taking the time out to talk to me. And thanks for being on the Front Porch with us!
Karli: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for having me on.
J: You started out just singing in your church choir, doing local fairs, competitions, things like that. When did you realize that music was what you wanted to do for a living, and not just something that you wanted to do as a hobby?
K: I can’t really remember a time where it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I never ever had any other ambition except for music.
Career wise, I was never someone that was like, oh, I want to be a doctor. The only thing I ever wrote down was that I wanted to be a singer. The first time I ever sang in front of a crowd, I was eight years old at my school. And I remember coming off of the stage at Christmas at a little concert that we did and I said to my mom, that’s what I’m gonna do forever.
J: You list Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, Kacey Musgraves as influences for you. Can you describe exactly how these women influenced you, your music, and your life?
K: Well, Shania, she was the first one that I really was inspired by. I remember watching her Miami concert that they put on TV, and I recorded it on VHS tape at our house. And I watched it over and over. I was just blown away by it. I knew all the words to all of her songs, and they were just my anthems. And my dad used to listen to her a lot on the farm when he was milking the cows. He would blare Shania Twain, grab his pitchfork, and start air-guitaring. But I think I saw her as a performer in that video, it just really was crazy seeing the crowd to affirm her on a performance level.
Carrie Underwood, for sure, song wise, I was really inspired. She has a lot of songs about overcoming battles, and they touch on faith, which is a huge thing for me. So I’ve just been so mesmerized that she can do that, but has a lot of rock n’ roll in her too. And I think that’s really come out in this album from us, the country-rock side of things in a lot of the songs.
And then I just love the storytelling of Kacey Musgraves, too. She thinks a lot about small towns and just a more of a ballad side of things, just her storytelling.
J: It’s easy to find someone who inspires you and just copy what they’re doing. Is there something that you do that makes you stand out from the people that you’re inspired by?
K: I think we’re all sort of a collection of different inspirations put together in one.
I remember someone telling me that one time that you’re kind of a combination of the five artists that you listened to the most. So I think that you get inspired in different ways from different people, and there’s little bits of them and you kind of put all of your inspiration together combined with your story and come out with a different recipe that no other artist is.
J: I know you said people and artists are a source of inspiration for you. Is there something that you pull from a lot, or that surprises you that you can pull from, for inspiration?
K: I would say, for me, it’s just what am I going through at the time? And a big thing that inspires me is writing the song that I would need to hear at that time.
So I like to think about if I’m going through a hard time, what are the words that I would want to hear in a song? I’d say my song “The List” really is like that. It’s for the person that feels stuck, where they’re at in life, and just to be reminded that everything’s working out and you’re gonna look back and hopefully feel like things worked out even better than I could have planned them.
J: When it comes to the EP, first of all, congratulations, because it’s an incredible feat. Is there a moment where you realized “Where You Come From” was ready to be released, where you decided “this is a product I’m proud of, and I can put it out there and people can listen to it”?
K: I really wanted to get it out like a year ago.
The pandemic really slowed it down. But my biggest thing with my first EP was that I wanted to really show a lot of who I am in the record, and I wanted there to be no question when people listened to it.
Who is Karli June?
And I felt like the combination of the songs together really touched on a lot of big parts of who I am and what I believe. And I think once I figured it out, I felt that that was clear. I felt like we had the songs.
And from now forward, we can just keep growing on that.
J: You mentioned COVID, and it’s kind of hard to escape the topic these days. Did you find all these lockdowns, and the COVID stuff, did it hinder your creative experience at all?
K: It was really tough, to be honest. You know, when you’re not out living life anymore, or just you’re kind of in your living room, you stop having as much to be inspired on.
But there were a few songs on the album that were just inspired by the darkness of this time, one being “Makes You Pretty”. You wouldn’t think that, but I think during this time, I’ve felt it’s so easy to be so hard on yourself and not feeling your best. And that song is about what your best really is, and where your strengths really come from. That was definitely inspired by COVID.
And same with “Church to Pray”, which was inspired by churches being closed and the point of the song is that you don’t need a church to pray.
So in a weird way it did inspire me but it was tricky. And it was different than I maybe would have expected it to be.
J: You worked a lot with Deric Ruttan on this EP. What was that like working with someone who’s been involved with the Grammys, and the Junos, and has worked with people like Blake Shelton and Tim McGraw?
K: I was terrified, knowing that I was going to be writing with him, just because I look up to him so much. He’s just an artist and songwriter that I’ve always wanted to write with but you never think you’re gonna get the opportunity, and then it comes along.
But as soon as I got into the room with him, or the Zoom Room in this case, he was so kind and so humble, and I felt really comfortable right away. So I thought that was a really good sign. Just such a nice, nice person. He didn’t make me feel like I was any lesser than him, which I really appreciated because I’m definitely not nearly as accomplished as him.
He reminded me that he started where I am now. So he’s been there. And he understands that and I really appreciate that. Someone who doesn’t forget where they started.
J: I know this might be like asking you to pick a favorite child, but do you have a song on the EP that’s your favorite? Is there one that stands out to you in particular that you really wanted your audience to hear?
K: Yeah, and might be a weird selection, but I would say “Big for a Small Town”. That song is kind of my little “song baby.” It’s the only track on the record that I wrote completely by myself.. I just feel like it really sums up a lot of who I am and where I come from. I think that’s really important as a new artist, to have that clarity. So there’s no question of who you are. And I feel like that song hit the nail on the head.
J: What would success mean to you in terms of this EP?
K: I think it’s building that really strong foundation, and building followers to love the music. I’m not so much into needing, on the first EP, millions of people that are going to listen to it and forget about you tomorrow. My goal is to make music that makes a lasting impact in people’s lives. I feel like I’ve already accomplished what I wanted to with the record, just with having it out and having the songs be what they are. I’m super proud of it.
J: What’s next for Karli June? Do you have any big plans this year? Or are you just going to take it one day at a time?
K: Right now I’m for sure taking it one day at a time. As things open up, I’m definitely hoping to be out playing some festivals this summer. And I’m going to start working on some new music! We’re going to Nashville in April, and we’re hoping to release another single, and probably a Christmas goal as well.