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The Double Life of Citizen Kay

Photo by Liam Cox, courtesy of Citizen Kay

Citizen Kay is a two-time ARIA nominated, signed hip-hop artist, producer and sound engineer. The 24-year-old has toured and performed with international juggernauts such as Ice Cube, Wiz Khalifa and Public Enemy. Throughout his career he has released two studio albums and has opened his own studio, in which he records, produces, and mixes for local artists and organisations around Canberra. However, the man who seems to be a superstar leads an interesting double life. Kofi Owusu-Ansah spoke with Citizen Kay about his careers inside and outside of the studio.

Do you have any other occupations?
I work part-time at a Kingsley’s twice a week…I’ve almost been there a decade and I kind of made the decision that I wasn’t going to quit there until I was 100% living off music, so it’s either make it as an engineer or musician, or work at Kingsley’s for the rest of my life, because there’s no plan B in my mind.

How did it feel to get off a tour with Ice Cube and come back to Kingsley’s?
Super depressing…but at the same time, I’ve come up with my best ideas while frying chicken at Kingsley’s. It’s all part of the journey.

How did the studio/engineering side of things come about?
Funnily enough, from being broke. The whole idea of music, in terms of pursuing it seriously came about maybe four or five years ago, and that really just came from a general love of music. With engineering, I was doing that the whole time without even realising it; I’ve been recording myself and mixing myself, but just because I couldn’t afford to go to a bigger studio to do it, so I started teaching myself to do it, and that evolved into doing it professionally for the last 12-18 months.

I looked for a space for a studio for ages, but everywhere was so expensive. They were also super snobby about the fact that I was making music, and essentially ruled me out immediately. But then I found this space and it was just about perfect. The catch was that it was next to a honey factory constantly handling bees.

But It was nearly double the size of the spaces that I was originally looking at, and the rent was so much cheaper. On top of that, the bee factory guys love music, so as soon as I told them my plans, they were like, “So when can you move in?” I was kind of concerned about how I’d get clients in here with potential bees flying everywhere but it’s not a problem, and the guys even give me free tubs of honey!

What is really motivating you to do all of this?
The main motivating factor behind the studio side of things is the fact that there is so much talent in Canberra, and I feel like it’s not being utilised to its full potential. If people were to go to a major studio it would cost them much more to get that quality than it would to come here and do it, so it’s about providing that same quality for a way cheaper price, and the idea is, that it will encourage artists in Canberra to push more, because I think that financial aspect is one that turns people off quite quickly.

For me personally, the whole mentality of “there’s no plan B” has really pushed me, because I don’t want to be at Kingsley’s for the rest of my life.

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