Monterey-based singer/songwriter Kailey Wilson cultivates a healing space on her debut EP, I am here. One that coalesces around an earnest mixture of spoken word and psychedelic folk, melding it all into lush pop that soothes as much as it spellbinds. She counts both Taylor Swift and Stevie Nicks — as well as Rising Appalachia and Aurora — amongst her greatest musical influences. Like them, she wields her intensely cathartic lyricism with deft clarity, translating the intimately personal into the poignantly universal.
Originally raised in Utah, she spent her adolescence immersed in a number of creative endeavors, from competitive dancing and choir to taking to the voice and guitar lessons she took to enhance her already growing interest in songwriting. But it was only after an immeasurable tragedy — the loss of her mother in 2021 to cancer — that Wilson reconsidered her previous hesitancy in sharing her art.
She credits the learning she received from fellow singer/songwriter Ayla Nereo, another of her crucial sources of inspiration, as a defining moment in her journey thus far. Liberated from the anxieties and crisis of self-esteem that once halted her growth as an artist, Wilson is now guided by a selfless desire to nurture in another what she’s found in music in the aftermath of so much change.
Her experience with energy work and as a healer informs much of the album’s lofty spirit — though she’s since renounced her roots within new-age spirituality due to its habitual appropriation and colonization of sacred practices. “I cocooned and unlearned everything and began to re-learn culturally kind and ethical spiritual practices of my own lineage,” she explained in a post on Instagram.
Part of that reeducation helped orient herself around a new purpose: to offer rejuvenation of the mind and body through song. I am here. is the culmination of the first part of that inner sojourn. Its opening track offers up a moving illustration of the growth inherent to life’s organic processes and experiences, while also affirming with stalwart purpose that she, too, is an integral piece of such kaleidoscopic existence.
“I hold gratitude / Close to my chest,” she imparts on “Pisces Moon,” her lambent vocals glowing alongside a buoyant exchange of rhythms. “Sunflowers grow in the cracks / Grow where you water.” In “I Know A Tale,” she weaves a lilting fairytale that revolves around both the transformative love shared between two people and the necessity of flourishing in compassion for yourself.
The sonorous and uplifting melodic and harmonic layers of “Sweet Love” radiate with that self-same earnestness. While “Hummingbird,” with its glimmering instrumentals and lovelorn affection, unfurls itself around Wilson’s gentle yearning over memories of her late mother.
The EP’s emotionally rapt ending track “Josephine/I am here Interlude” traverses an array of moments in her life — including a particularly harrowing encounter with an older man when she was 23 years old, living on an organic farm. Yet, like so much of Wilson’s music, she steers the terror of that moment toward a transcendent but simple vindication of her own strength and emotional sagaciousness.
Words: Steven Ward
Visit Kailey Wilson on her Instagram to stay updated on new releases and tour announcements.