Three years into waiting tables at the Times Square Applebee’s, Kelsey Byrne — the musician known as Vérité — began to get the sense it was time to make music a full-time gig. She’d completed her first EP, “Echo,” and the longtime feeling of not being sure of where she was going was starting to fade.
“I felt more ownership over it,” she says. “I guess I just had a moment of ‘Oh, I’ve been working and saving all of this money. I’m going to take some of that and invest it in myself, in this thing.’”
More from WWD
It wasn’t immediate though — she worked for another year and a half at Applebee’s (where she had worked, at various locations, from the time she was 18) and eventually realized she couldn’t sustain both music and her day job.
“I was literally dragged out. I wanted to keep working, but everyone around me was like, ‘Please stop. You don’t have time,’” she says.
That was five years ago, and Byrne, now 29, has just released her second album, “New Skin,” and is touring North America with X Ambassadors. Her success has been focused on the long haul: she’s been patient, waiting for her moment, and capitalizing it when the time was right.
Raised in Warwick, N.Y., Byrne started playing classical piano when she was six or seven and realized she could sing at around age eight.
“I really loved performing back then, even though I was f–king awful,” she says. She and her dad — her on piano, him on guitar — would perform covers at open mics all over Warwick. “The biggest [show] I did was probably 100 people, which back then to me it was like 8 million people,” she says. “I was definitely a highly ambitious, ‘Don’t tell me no, we’re going to make this work’ type of personality, even from a young age.”
After high school she went to community college at SUNY Purchase for two years before moving to the city when she was 20.
It’s been five years since the first EP, and since she found fans who were outside of her inner circle, who were really connecting to the music. They’ve grown up with her in many ways, and reflect her own evolution into the more professional, confident musician she is today.
“You know it’s funny, I just did the first two official headline shows of the tour — both were small shows on purpose — and my fans are a lot like me. It’s almost uncanny,” she says. “I feel, at least from my perspective on stage, they’re very reserved and observant and they’re there to listen. But I think for me it’s getting out of my head and pushing myself out of my comfort zones, which I think then pushes them out of their comfort zone.”
That ability is something she’s worked actively on, ever since those Warwick open mic days.
“I was not born confident. I was born awkward, and I think that I’ve definitely pushed myself to just become comfortable with how I am as a person,” she says. “And I think once I came to terms with that, it’s much easier to then be myself in front of others.”
Best of WWD