The debut album from Kelsy Karter, Missing Person (2020) is a thrilling introduction to a truly singular musical mind. Like all the most electrifying artists, the New Zealand-born singer-songwriter invites the audience into a beautifully strange world of her own making, a fantasia that’s equal parts rock-and-roll grit and wildly theatrical grandeur. Fueled by the mesmerizing vocal work first displayed on her breakthrough single “Harry”—a 2019 track that went viral after Karter turned up with a fake tattoo of Harry Styles blazoned across her face—Missing Person arrives as a stunning showcase for her intricate storytelling and uncompromising outlook on life, love, and self-liberation.
As she carved out her voice as a songwriter, Karter first mined inspiration from the soul legends she grew up on, and later tapped into the work of such formative artists as David Bowie and the Rolling Stones. “I wanted to be a singer because of people like James Brown and Sam Cooke, but I wanted to be an entertainer because of people like Bowie and Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury,” she says. “I was a tomboy then, and seeing these men who had such beautiful voices and were so free with their sexuality was incredibly liberating.”
After cutting her teeth playing in dive bars around L.A. and at iconic New York City nightclub The Bitter End, Karter released songs independently all throughout 2019, toured the UK and the US as direct support for The Struts, and promptly landed a deal with BMG Recordings.
While the fantastically warped wonderland of Missing Person offers a much-needed escape from the every day, Kelsy Karter provides a safe space for listeners to discover their own self-acceptance. “Making this album helped me to find comfort and freedom in who I am, and I want everyone who hears it to come away with that same feeling,” Karter says. “I want them to feel strong in their individuality, and to stop caring about what other people think. I hope it helps them to feel both totally vulnerable and completely invincible at the very same time.”