Canadian Built: Killa Kels
Toronto has become a cultural hub for musicians and artists, allowing creativity to thrive. Once Kelsey (aka Killa Kels) realized her passion for DJing she immediately immersed herself in the industry through careful research and mentorship. Not only limiting herself to one path she hopes to use her craft to empower women and support others to chase their passion. Working with a team of creative women who are giving women a voice and encouraging their creative projects through their agency, Gxxrls. Maintaining a commendable work-life balance, with her 7-year-old son and budding DJ career she took the time to tell us about her journey and why she thinks collaboration is essential to success.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what an average day looks like.
My full name is Kelsey Williams and I'm a feisty female DJ from Toronto, Canada. I usually don't have a consistent schedule, so it's hard to describe an average day. During the weekdays I'll plan around my son, Jayden's schedule (he's in grade 1). In the mornings I'll get up to get him ready for school around 7am and pick him up in the afternoon around 4pm. During that gap I can be doing anything from brainstorming, to music research, to running errands, to answering emails. Everyday is pretty unpredictable, but I get bored very easily, so I like it.
Did you receive any formal training or did you teach yourself?
I did receive training. From my research I found a DJ school owned by DJ Grouch and I took a few introductory classes there with an amazing teacher, DJ Shiv. A few months later (in 2014) I applied and was accepted into The Remix Project under their Recording Arts Program, which had a DJ mentorship, and just my luck - Grouch was the mentor there! I continued my mentorship at Remix for 9 months and since then I've shadowed and gotten some great advice from a couple DJs here and there. Youtube, Google, and IG videos have also been my best friends for learning cool tricks.
How has Toronto influenced your creativity?
There's so much talent in Toronto. Being in something like The Remix Project, I was around all kinds of creatives: recording artists, producers & engineers, photographers, videographers, etc. Now, being in Gxxrls, I'm always around creative women and we bounce ideas off of each other all the time. I'll be sitting on a bike in cycling class next to my fellow Gxxrlfriend, Sandra, and we'll think of an idea and shoot it to one another. It's non-stop. Also, I think right now, Toronto is at an all-time creative high - and yet I still feel like there's still so much in the shadows! I can go anywhere and get inspired or challenged imaginatively.
Toronto is at an all-time creative high - and yet I still feel like there's still so much in the shadows!
Do you notice a difference being a woman in a predominately male dominated industry?
Um, YES! There are some positive sides to being a female; people pay more attention to you, as if you're a unicorn or something. I'll take that, whatever but the rest is hella annoying. People expect you to not be as good as your male counterparts, they think you don't know what you're doing, they try to swindle you when it comes to conversations about money, and they are more likely to disrespect you. It's disgusting how you get talked down to and sexualized by people you're supposed to work with. If I had a nickel for all the times I've felt creeped out while on the job...
While on the topic of female empowerment, tell us about your involvement in the Gxxrls creative agency.
Honestly, at first, I didn't understand my involvement other than to support women, but after a little while and with inspiration from the other Gxxrls I started to gain more confidence in what my role could be - and it could be anything! Like I said earlier, we just bounce ideas off of each other all the time. I didn't think DJing could do much for the agency, but then I came to realize that my platform and networks could. Also, being around so many creatives, I feel like my own level of creativity grew. We each have designated roles, but they aren't fixed, we can take on any job required, really - don't worry, I'm not going to be designing anyone's logo or anything, but you know what I mean.
What do you hope to see Gxxrls accomplish?
I hope to see Gxxrls go international. But before that, I hope for us to grow our clientele here in Toronto, do more charitable collaborations, and start mentorships for younger female creatives. Gxxrls has so many dreams and goals - our ambition is through the roof - so as long as we keep on pacing ourselves, I know we'll get there. I think longevity is very important for Gxxrls, as it should be for all female movements because some people think this "girl power" thing emerging in Toronto is just a trend, and it's not a bandwagon to jump on to promote yourself or your business. We actually believe in the long-term empowerment and uplifting of women and hopefully Gxxrls will get more people to support that.
I think to chase one's passion is one of the most important things in life as far as one's purpose and happiness.
Where do you see the music scene going in the next few years?
I see Toronto taking over. We already have a handful of big names influencing the entire music industry - front stage and behind the scenes - I can only see it going up from here. Toronto, to me, is like that soft-spoken kid who was unsure of him/herself, a late bloomer, who was overlooked, and now is finally taking off their braces, got contacts, and is realizing their full potential.
What does the idea of “chasing your passion” mean to you?
It's probably everything that I am right now. It's what I decided to do when I dropped out of school and disappointed my parents lmao. Before, the pressure to start DJing haunted me, now I'm driven to keep it going. I think to chase one's passion is one of the most important things in life as far as one's purpose and happiness.
If you could impart one piece of advice on your younger self what would it be?
I'd tell my younger self to get off her ass and get busy! I actually still tell myself that to this day. Procrastination is such an ugly thing and I honestly still suffer from it, but time flies. I turned around and my son was 7... 7!!! I don't want another 7 years to pass me by and me ask myself what did I even accomplish? I'd also tell my younger self to stop doubting herself and not to be afraid. I'd put things off all the time, not because of laziness, but because of fear. You won't know what the outcome will be unless you do it, and do it now!
Toronto is on the cusp of cultural takeover and inching its way to the credibility in the likes of LA or New York. The potential that has been overlooked for so long is finally proving that we are worthy of international acclaim. Pushing boundaries and gender stereotypes Kelsey is chasing her passion and learning as much as she can to improve the craft she loves every single day. Constantly thinking of ways to grow and improve she doesn’t waste a moment she thrives with the unpredictability of each day. Kelsey and her crew are here to show that these Gxxrls aren’t going anywhere they’re just getting started.
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