Once upon a time it was her milkshake that brought all the boys to the yard – but fast-forward 15 years and Kelis has a bit more to offer than flavoured dairy. She juggles life as a mum, a TV presenter, a businesswoman and can now even add the title of chef to her list after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in 2010. Her new album, aptly named Food, is a clear homage to her love of cooking. We chatted about her line of sauces, the Kelis food truck at SXSW and of course her fruitful career in the music industry.
You’re coming out to Australia for Splendour In The Grass and two sideshows in Melbourne and Sydney – what do you love about playing to a live audience?
Well, it kind of takes you to a whole other level; it becomes a different thing. It’s always interesting, there’s certain things that you think are going to work and certain things that you didn’t think would work, but it’s really cool to just do it all live.
You’ve worked with an impressive list of people over your career (Pharrell, will.i.am, Skream, Dave Sitek, et cetera). How important has it been to collaborate with other artists?
I don’t know, I don’t really think about it that much. It’s nice when you are able to work with someone who has a like mind who you can sort of bounce things off, so your good becomes great. It’s a nice thing; I don’t sit around and think about the importance of it, it’s just something that you do.
You’ve trained as a chef and your new album is called Food,and there are plenty of other food references in the songs –I’m guessing that’s no coincidence?
I think they go hand-in-hand, you know? It wasn’t really a plan. When someone asked me the name of my album and I didn’t have one, I kind of just blurted out “Food”, just sort of jokingly, and yeah, I was like, “Not bad.” To me it’s sort of about lifestyle, how we nourish ourselves one way or the other.
‘Jerk Ribs’ is one of the catchiest songs on Food. What’s your secret to writing songs that make people want to move?
I think if it makes me want to move, then generally it makes people want to move. It’s about what makes you feel good, and kind of running with it and not thinking about it too much, but just sort of doing it.
Being a food lover, do you think you’ll get any time off while you’re out here to try some of our local food?
I’ve been to Australia before, so it’s not like it’s a new thing, but I always try to make it a point to go and eat something good. I have to eat, so yeah, absolutely I will.
Another of your ventures was the Kelis food truck at SXSW. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I just decided it would be a cool thing to do, you know, and that was it. SXSW was the perfect place to do it so I decided to launch it there. It’s so fun.
Now that you’re a trained chef and can make just about anything, what’s your favourite thing to cook?
I’m a saucier, so that’s my main thing, but what I like to cook in general is a bit of everything – but it’s usually what I am in the mood for. Sauces are definitely where my heart is.
You seem to have a lot on your plate with music, your sauces, motherhood, the food truck, a TV show, a new album, touring and all the rest of it – how do you find the time to fit it all in?
Well my manager has added hours onto the day, didn’t you know? [Laughs] So many more hours in my day! Yeah, you just do what you can and you have to put your priorities in line and go from there.
Food out now through Ninja Tune / Inertia. She is playing at The Hi-Fi on Wednesday July 23, tickets online. She will will be playing at Splendour In The Grass 2014 with Outkast, Lily Allen, Interpol, Foster The People, London Grammar, Metronomy and many more at North Byron Parklands, Byron Bay from Friday July 25 – Sunday July 27.