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Meet Kellie Krueger of WhiskeyWitchWares in Koreatown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kellie Krueger.

Kellie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My story may seem a bit scattered – and I’m feeling that especially during this pandemic – as I’ve always been full of ideas and unsure of exactly how to execute them. I have always been a creative person. I’ve been singing and creating artwork for as long as I can remember.

I also have a solid work ethic and tend to end up inside jobs to support myself, which become careers that overtake my time or energy for creativity. Attempting to balance my creative impulses within the demands of the modern capitalist, patriarchal rat-race must be a challenge each creative person faces. I can’t say I’ve figured out how to achieve that balance yet…but I’m working on it.

My top 2 passions: Art and Music.

My current creative pursuits in Art include my Etsy business, WhiskeyWitchWares, which features acrylic paintings along with custom pet portraits. Painting is something that came from curiosity as a child, and from an enjoyment of creating my own world. I’m an only child, and I grew up in CO. My parents divorced when I was still a kid, and so my Mom and I moved to NE, where my Mom’s side of the family is from. Art and paintings were for my own enjoyment, and for gifts for friends and family. I liked experimenting with acrylic on canvas (still my favorite), and also with colored pencil, pen and watercolor. I loved creating anime drawings of the powerful female superheroes from Sailor Moon. In NE, I created anime characters of my friends and I – a way, in art, to look and be as I imagined I wanted to, creating an identity apart from the conservative Midwestern mindset I never really understood or enjoyed. Painting is still an escape for me, and something I really enjoy. I created WhiskeyWitchWares in 2019 after making a few funny portraits of my friends’ cats, one being a memorial after a passing. I’ve had time during the pandemic to continue painting, and I plan to add prints of some of my originals to my shop. I enjoy painting pictures of skeletons, florals and animals in a macabre, pretty style. I take custom orders as well and can create any combination of bones and florals requested. I can also embellish furniture and paint large wall murals.

My passion for music has lead me to explore many different singing styles. Currently, I sing with a local rock band called Mangusta, along with playing keys and guitar (a new skill I’m learning this year). We’ve performed several shows at Viper Room and plan to book more as soon as the pandemic allows. I also sing in as many local jams as I can, including performing in Lucky Strike’s Soundcheck Live, Social Jam at State Social House, and at Petie’s Place in Tarzana. I do solo projects recording covers for my SoundCloud as well. My voice feels most at home in rock music – but it’s taken trying nearly every musical style to arrive here. Singing is something that I’ve always done – sitting my family members down to perform for them, putting on some dramatic outfit (which was pretty hilarious) and grabbing any chance to be in front of a mic. In my middle school years, during the long drives between NE and CO, my Dad introduced me to the music of Fleetwood Mac, and I became an instant Stevie Nicks fan. He gifted me the Rumours album and I learned every word of every Stevie song.

I relocated back to CO when I was about 15, finding the artistic atmosphere of the schools there to be more accommodating and positive, A few of my Dad’s friends had a classic rock cover band, and I sang a few gigs with them when I was in high school – covering songs from Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar and the Eagles. I sang in every school choir I could, adding jazz and classical to the repertoire of music I loved. I also became interested in operatic song repertoire and was able to participate in solo competitions between schools. When it came time to audition for colleges, I chose Music as my major and focused on Opera. I think it was the cathartic feeling of singing this music that drew me in. I earned my B.A. in Music at Western Colorado University in 2010, then took a few gap years to create and teach a kid’s choir in Ouray, CO, to teach voice lessons, and to sing in a small opera company in Grand Junction, CO. I began sending out audition CD’s for paid opera houses and programs, but everyone kept telling me they wanted to see a Master’s Degree. So, I went and got one. I earned my Master of Music in Voice from Arizona State University in 2014, sang in a summer opera production in Freiberg, Germany (which was unpaid – we actually owed tuition for it), and then completed one year of my Doctorate in Voice at ASU in 2015.

Here’s where the scattered part comes back in – in an effort to “legitimize” myself as a musician, and seeking a career path where music would support me financially, I had believed that classical music and degrees would get me where I wanted to go. But during these graduate school years, I accrued heavy student loan debt and an even heavier sense of a loss of vocal confidence. A teacher of mine recommended vocal therapy to “rehab” tension in my voice. Singing for panels and judges and needing a quite pristine voice for opera, just wasn’t fitting me. I longed to just be myself, wear what I chose, and sing in a way that reflected me more accurately. Don’t get me wrong, grad school wasn’t all bad – I got to play a Sorceress in the opera Dido & Aeneas, and shoot pyrotechnic flames out of my hands! But my degree wasn’t showing me a path I wanted to continue. And so I left the Doctoral degree program after that one year. Me and my debt moved to LA in 2015, and I’ve made a slow return to the forms of music which first inspired me. Making money from music remains a mystery to me, but I do enjoy it.

Currently, along with creating and selling art and practicing my music, I’m feeling pulled to teach music again. I’d like to find a collegiate-level job where I can teach with a more non-traditional approach. I’m interested in integrating womxn’s studies, mental health, and racial equality/humanitarian causes into the music curriculum. I’m also interested in founding a Womxn’s Wellness space, which I would want to be affordable and inclusive. I would include classes for mental and physical care, including Voice, Yoga, meditation, soundbaths, pole dance, trauma release, and Herstory sharing.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No, not at all. I’m grateful for the many different experiences I’ve been able to have with my creative pursuits, but paying the bills with my passions has yet to become a reality for me. The always-increasing cost of living, along with an entirely unlivable wage structure, creates the same question loop in my head – am I experiencing my own limiting beliefs (something I’ve worked on with therapy, yoga and meditation), or am I just experiencing the systems of capitalism as they’re meant to be designed? Throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, I waited tables for income. Serving is a flexible job that can be quick money, and if an audition or show came up, I could usually get my shifts covered without issue. The competition for winning roles in the operatic productions in graduate school was difficult, and I faced a lot of rejection.

Much of the time I was taking classes, waiting tables and paying an insane amount of tuition just to sing in backup choruses in the productions. I had a wonderful voice teacher who was encouraging and inspirational, but I was also told by other teachers that my voice wasn’t developed enough for productions, or was too “edgy” – and those teachers were in charge of casting. I invested in vocal therapy for over a year. I waited tables for about eight years before moving to LA and then landed another restaurant job as soon as I got here, waiting tables for two more years and then managing for a year. I landed a few roles in smaller opera companies here, which were volunteer-based or paid very little, and I took recording or church gigs as I found them. The restaurant job was essential, but restaurant management left me exhausted and drained, with little time for myself, so I tried something different – retail management for an athleticwear company that promoted female empowerment. I worked this job for the past two years, but again, my solid work ethic and the pressure to pay rent and bills had me pushing forward with my head down, feeling very separated from my true passions.

So I left this company and, struggling to find anything that even paid over $20/hr, tried pole dancing at a bikini bar just a few months prior to the COVID-19 shutdown. I found that I could make twice the money as I did serving tables, in half the hours, leaving me time to think and create. It is a challenging workout and something that can be empowering if approached with the right energy and boundaries. I found increased confidence, freedom of expression and sensuality, which reflects positively both in my music and my art. Now, jobless since quarantine, this is the first time I’ve had the luxury of time and space to just be. Unemployment has been a massive blessing that I’m extremely grateful for. Meditation and yoga have become a helpful part of my days, along with practicing guitar, painting, and discovering new ideas. I am inspired to continue investing my time into my creative pursuits in art and music, along with my ideas for teaching and founding some sort of Womxn’s Wellness space post-pandemic.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
WhiskeyWitchWares is my Etsy shop, where I sell custom pet portraits, offer custom paintings with any combination of animals, skeletons, florals or other elements requested, and will soon be offering prints of my originals. My style merges macabre and delicate details, done with acrylic on wood plaques or canvas. My work is set apart by the contrasts of eerie skeletal structures with warm touches of plants, flowers, and water elements. The shop is a small passion project that I hope will grow. I’m proud that I created a small business out of a personal passion of mine.

In music, I specialize in rock vocals, and I also play guitar, keyboard and tambourine. I am a singer in the rock band Mangusta, which has been helpful in gaining experience with performing original tunes written by our guitarist, Ruby Carrera. I’m known for my powerful, raspy and expressive singing for my stage presence and my fashion style. I’m most proud of allowing myself to return to my natural voice, to allow my voice to be uninhibited and just sing the music as I feel it. I’m happy to be an example of a female in rock who does not hide her power – I hope to be encouraging to other women to watch me on stage. What’s the point of hiding – I’d rather be 6’3″ in my shoes, loud, unapologetic and free.

In everything that I do, I seek to be my most authentic self. I’m curious to keep learning and moving forward in my life, excited to discover wherever my artistic spirit can lead me next.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Authenticity. I’ve spent $80K for a degree that tried to make me into a product, and I never could fit that product. The real beauty comes in being your most unapologetic, weirdest, truest self, all the time.

Pricing:

  • Acrylic on Wood / Metal Original Pieces $150-400
  • Custom Commissioned Acrylic on Wood Plaque $125
  • Custom Pet Portrait on Wood Plaque $100-125
  • Art Prints $30
  • Voice Lessons $77/hr (1 Free 30 min Trial Lesson)
  • Group Voice Lessons / Workshops $100-500/hr
  • Voice Studio Session Work $100/hr

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Anthony Del Campo

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