In the music video for Kacy Hill’s “Foreign Fields” we see only Hill’s face – cheek bones, freckles, septum piercing, copper mane – as her liliting falsetto (backed up by spare synth elements) fills us with sound. The Rankin-directed video owes a debt of gratitude to John Maybury, whose video for Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” – with its unrelenting close-up of O’Connor’s delicate face and shaved head – became an icon of early music video culture and propelled the Irish iconoclast to superstardom.
Hill’s rise to fame is a story that should keep any young hopeful going. Discovered by a wedding photographer in her hometown of Phoenix, Hill embarked on a modeling career at 16 – shooting campaigns for American Apparel among others. In 2013 Hill signed on to be a backup dancer for Kanye West’s The Yeezus Tour, recording her single “Experience” before starting out. After listening to the song, Yeezy signed Hill to his label G.O.O.D., releasing her EP Bloo in October, 2015. A yet-untitled album is slated to be released this year on G.O.O.D.
Hill – shown here in heartbreak-themed clothing – received criticism for provocative pictures from her modeling days, (American Apparel ads have been banned in some countries for their overt sexuality), but she refuses to let it affect her. “I feel like a lot of people want to make me a victim, but I’ve never cared and it’s never bothered me,” she tells me, when we meet in a Hollywood cafe. “I’m building a campaign right now that explores that. It explores what it is to be a feminist and to be a woman who has sexuality – where you don’t need to explain that it’s empowering.” As a feminist, Hill reflects on her days as a model and how it differs from her experience as a woman in the music industry: “You have the power to take the reigns and create your own vision. I think that modeling is very much someone else’s vision that you’re playing out. While there’s power in being someone’s muse, there’s less room to have a voice and be yourself.”
With influences ranging from Laura Marling to Regina Spektor, Hill sings about honest experiences in songs such as “Arm’s Length,” – which reveals a personal struggle within a relationship – and “Experience” – which discusses issues of substance abuse. While her music draws from facets of her own life, and the lives around her, Hill also pulls lyrical inspiration from her journal. “It’s about gaining perspective,” she tells me, “and I think a lot of it is about the healing process for any kind of thing in life – for a relationship, trauma, anything. A lot of the healing process for me is that writing about it feels like I’m talking to someone without judgment.”
While heartbreak has influenced Hill’s life, it seems that breaking a few hearts of her own was a forté of her past. “I have hurt a few people and there was one person that hurt me, but it was an ego thing.” She pauses over her coffee, becoming considerate, “There’s something really cutting about being rejected that lasts with you for a long time. This sounds really bitter, but it almost makes you want to make someone else feel that way, even if they had nothing to do with it.”
“I think it was a very prideful thing for me to want someone to like me more than I liked them. Even though I didn’t really want to be with them I wanted them to chase after me.”
Hill has come a long way since her heartbreaking days. Right now, she is hoping to continue being an artist, in whatever form that takes. “If there ever comes a point where I don’t enjoy making music, then I want to be able to put it aside and do something that’s still creative and makes me happy. I want to be able to open many lanes, explore as many things as possible, and do it for as long as I can.”
Written by Morgan Vickery
Photography by Abigail Briley Bean
Stylist: Mui-Hai Chu
Hair: Nikki Providence for Forward Artists
Makeup: Natasha Severino for Forward Artists using NARS cosmetics
Styling Assistants: Britton Litow and Katiria Powell