QSC Aspiring Interview: Naël Kaced talks ‘When They Catch Me’ and new music

French alt-pop/RnB artist Naël Kaced recently announced his latest single When They Catch Me, offering a glimpse into a brand new EP set for release later this year. Merging a variety of musical styles and sonic influences, it promises to be one of the artist’s most ambitious offerings yet.

Having been deaf since birth, Kaced has had to overcome significant challenges in his craft as a songwriter and performer. From learning how to lip read and adapting to the technology that enables him to hear, his journey so far is as unique as it is inspiring.

Here, he joins Headliner for an insightful chat about his fascinating career to date, new music, and what the future holds…

You started making music relatively late in life. Why was that?

It’s been a journey. I have always sung in my bathroom and in my bedroom but it was when I was 20 I realised this was what I wanted to do. I was single and it was Valentine’s Day, and I went to a jam session in Paris. It was the first I’d ever attended, and I heard amazing signers singing songs that I never knew anyone else liked in France. So, I started going there and one day I sang there. It was just for fun, but it helped me build a strong network for getting gigs and it made me realise I could sing in front of people.

What were you doing before then?

Music was always the most important thing to me but I never thought I could do. So I was also interested in film - I studied film at college, I went to drama school, but when I found out I could do music that was it for me.

Why did you not think music was possible before?

I was born with a hearing condition. My hearing wasn’t developed fully at birth, I was born deaf basically. I have two bone anchored hearing aids, so I can hear fine with them but without them I can’t hear a thing. But it’s always a struggle with amplifiers and what I hear is very different to what a hearing person can hear. So, music didn’t seem like an option for me, but then I found ways to hear things just fine. I’m incredibly lucky to be born in an era that has all of this technology and in a country where you get help.

Singing and writing songs is what makes me survive. I have to do it.

How did you first navigate performing?

It’s still a journey. It’s very different depending on whether I’m in the studio or onstage. I have a hearing loop that I can connect to my hearing aid and that allows me to hear everything way better onstage. I can’t use in-ear monitors, so I connect this device via Bluetooth to my in-ear monitor pack and I get all the information like my personal mix directly in my hearing aids. I still have a long way to go until I’m fully comfortable onstage but I find a way to make it work. So, if my hearing aid stops working, I will watch the musicians to stay in time, for example. But singing and writing songs is what makes me survive, so I have to do it. I can’t let this be a problem for me.

What’s your creative process?

I play a little bit of guitar and piano. When I write it’s with a guitar or on Ableton Live where I stack voices and harmonies. I’ve always written lyrics and poetry so that comes first. The words are so important to me, and it has to mean something to me when I read the lyrics of a song. I write the lyrics and sing then over the chords I have put together. I work with a producer and when I have a demo I give it to him and he sees and understands my vision. He’s become a great friend.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I write about a lot of things, but mostly death, love, and faith. I have these obsessions that I’ve been stuck with for years so I have to get them out of my head. I have a really complicated relationship with faith, I don’t know where to stand. So, death is obviously a really important moment if you believe in anything, and my songs are often questioning what goes on when you pass.

For me, Play Out Loud means knowing the songs I've been writing since I was a kid are touching people.

What were your influences growing up?

When I was a little kid, I had an iPod that I wanted to fill with songs but I didn’t know what with. My parents didn’t play a lot of music in the house but I stumbled upon some CDs they had. They were Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life, Aretha Franklin, a lot of gospel, a lot of Motown compilations. They were the first things I really listened to on a loop.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

Beyonce! She’s amazing and just so smart about everything she does.

Tell us about your new single When They Catch Me?

It’s really the one song that represents what I’ve been talking to you about with death and faith. What happens when I die? Am I going to be judged? I wrote these lyrics a long time ago. It’s really a letter that I leave when I die. My brain is sick, I’m always thinking I’m going to die, and I don’t know what’s coming. There’s a lot of confusion and emotion.

What does Play Out Loud mean to you?

For me it’s like taking everything that I’ve been doing at home onto the stage. It’s a way of knowing that the song is heard, that what I’ve been writing since I was a kid is physically touching other people.