By Sophie Minello
Whenever I Need To is Michael K., aka Kristin Robinson's, second single. Released today, this song is centered around Robinson's experience through religion, shown in the repetition of the line of "I'll use Him whenever I need to" in the chorus. The song is captivating and shows how Michael K. is truly a talented, unique musical project. In the interview below, peek into the mind of Kristin Robinson, an all around interesting, creative, and inspiring person.
What made you choose such a personal topic, such as religion, to write about as your second single?
I think religion is something I've avoided talking about in my music for years because it can be polarizing... and I wouldn't say it's too popular to talk about. I grew up in a very religious community in Texas. I went to church every Sunday with my family, went to bible study, the works. It was weird not to be Christian, and everyone knew the few people who didn't go to church.
So it was a huge culture shock to move to Los Angeles, to go to USC, and to realize that I was one of very few people who believed in much of anything at all. I went from social pressure to be a Christian for my whole life, to feeling pressured not to be. This song came out of the discomfort of being one of the only people around me to be actively religious and having to be the one to answer every question about it. It's especially hard for me because I have had a lot of doubts about it since I was probably 12 or 13 years old. Faith is not an easy thing for me, but I am still trying everyday.
Because I know that I am not the best example of religion, I feel like I am not the right person to represent it. In the song, I think I encapsulate this feeling best with the line, "I've read the book, but I'm no prophet now."
I wrote this song because it was a huge challenge for me to be completely honest. Although I am an open person, this is the one thing I think is the hardest to talk about.
Do you think it’s important to talk about spirituality?
Yes, it's super important to talk about spirituality. I think the term itself is fascinating in its fluidity, spirituality means something different to everyone, so it's very important to listen to others. Spirituality also doesn't necessarily mean religious and certain spiritualities and philosophies can work with established religion. Like, a friend of mine told me about Universalism the other day, and I've been really fascinated by it and feel like it really aligns with my personal beliefs. If we hadn't had such an open conversation, I would have no idea what that was!
Throughout this song you talk about how you aren’t an ideal follower in your faith. Would you consider this song as more of a reflection about yourself or a message of wanting to change or something entirely different?
It's a reflection of myself. I see it mostly as really brutal honesty. It's me not sugar coating it. Of course, I hope I can become stronger in my faith over time, but I just have to admit that right now, I'm not the best. I hope that someone who hears this song also relates to it, and maybe cuts themselves some slack. In reality, there isn't such a thing as a "good" or "ideal" follower at all (not that we shouldn't try). No person is better than the other, we are all equal, and good behavior doesn't make you "above" someone else. I think that statement is universally applicable, not just to religion.
Using backtracking gave a haunting vibe to the song. Was that your intention? Why do you think the way that the songs sounds fits the lyrics?
The backtracking was honestly really fun to add in for the intro. That was Eli's, the producer, idea. When we were working on it, I'd always describe this song as a little "spooky." There's a dark, industrial, almost haunting feel to the song, so when Eli tried playing the chorus backwards just to experiment, it sounded like a perfect fit. Doesn't hurt that its a little ironic. Back in the day, some people used to think if you played a song backwards, the most famous example being "Stairway to Heaven," it would reveal a satanic message. That's obviously all BS, but it's funny that we kept in theme a little there.
Are there any big differences in the way you approached this song vs. Dorian Gray?
I still wrote this song in the same way. I like to write all my songs just sitting at a piano with a notebook and my phone (to record voice memos). I think Dorian Gray is groovier and Whenever I Need To is darker and more synth based from a production standpoint, but ultimately, the writing process was similar.
A project you created is Music for Mental Health, which supports suicide prevention and free counseling services. What inspired you to start this? What kinds of things do you do?
Music for Mental Health is such a passion project for me. I started it in high school because I realized we had some gaps in our community- there weren't many places for young musicians, like myself, to perform and to be taken seriously, and we had a really serious mental health problem with our youth. When I was 14, an acquaintance of mine confided in me that he was self harming and had plans to kill himself, and it was something that really changed my life. I had to figure out how to handle such a delicate situation, and I ultimately sacrificed our friendship to save his life.
Ever since, I've become hyperaware of how many people in my life have mental illnesses, many of them weren't getting the help they needed because of monetary reasons or that their parents did not take it seriously. So, I used Music for Mental Health as a way to get people in my town to open up about mental health, to help grow a younger music scene, and to raise money for free counseling services. I could go on and on about this. It's going to enter its fifth year this year, and I couldn't be more excited.
So far you’ve used your music to discuss some pretty big topics (religion, mental health, etc). Why are conversations like this important to talk about?
I feel like a lot of healing can be done through a simple willingness to be open about our personal struggles. If my songs can in anyway start a conversation, then I've done my job. Most of us are just white-knuckling it through some really hard stuff-- whether that be a struggle with faith or mental health or a terrible, life altering relationship. People just want to feel understood. I hope that my work has made people feel understood and that it will allow them to own the pain and imperfections in their lives.