Queer South Africa-born, Los Angeles-based independent recording artist Kaien Cruz has released their self-titled debut album, KAIEN – a culmination of the diverse range of ebbs and flows the artist has experienced throughout their life thus far. Expect love, heartbreak, bliss, misery, and everything in between.
The 25-year-old singer-songwriter’s debut single Love Me In The Dark was nominated for Song of the Year at the South African Music Awards, which led to Kaien opening for Justin Bieber’s Purpose Tour. Not bad for an artist who had only performed once in front of a handful of people, and who had no plans to be an artist…
You’re from South Africa and are now based in Los Angeles. When did you move over, and why did you decide to make that decision?
It's kind of a funny story. I met a couple of producers who are originally from Zimbabwe, but were living in LA. I met them in Cape Town at the time and we worked on a couple of songs together and they were like, ‘You should come to L.A., there's a lot of opportunities, the whole industry etc’.
I was like, ‘Okay, that sounds cool’. It took me maybe over a year to get a visa and I made my first trip out to L.A. and stayed for a couple months. I went back to South Africa and thought, ‘That's cool. There's a lot of opportunities, but to move there I'd have to really figure some stuff out’.
Then I went back to L.A. for a month and then covid hits. I was in L.A. with one suitcase and no family or friends. I came to this decision of, ‘Okay, the whole world is locked down. I'm in Los Angeles right now, very far away from home. What should I do? Do I stay? Do I go back home?’
I had all these plans, ideas and projects I wanted to work on and all the people I pretty much needed were based in L.A. – I was conflicted. But I just decided to stay in L.A.!
It was definitely a journey that had a lot of challenges. I was 21 at the time and away from home for the first time. It was a huge learning experience for me and is one of the biggest reasons why I'm able to hold my own now, from navigating the industry on my own. The whole experience definitely was wild.