She’s known for being a phenomenal producer, a major player in the fashion community, and a metaversal, multifaceted music artist. She is Cailin Russo.
INFLUX, Cailin Russo’s new album, encapsulates every pocket of her persona and who she is as a talent. From hard-hitting and more industrial beats to sounds that are quite contemporary and soft, Russo is able to take listeners on a massive roller coaster ride with the album’s well-crafted track list.
“GLASS JEDI,” the project’s opener, is its own internal roller coaster. One feels immersed into some kind of purply crystal cave, with a glamorously dark and eerie soundscape. The beat then switches up halfway through, inviting more of Russo’s stunning vocals to the forefront. Singles from the album, such as “PSYCHO FREAK” and “DIE DOWN,” invite a more fun and dance-driven energy to the record. There are also songs like “HIS AND HERS” and “FATE’S INTERLUDE” on the project, which I suspect will be standouts from INFLUX after fans give them a listen.
Sonically, the album truly has something for everyone to enjoy. Russo’s innovative production choices and thoughtful lyricism deserve to be commended for how much they set her apart from anyone else in the industry.
Pop Crave chatted with Cailin Russo about video games, the metaverse, and her brand-new album, INFLUX, which just released today. Keep reading for the full interview!
Hi Cailin! Congratulations on all of your recent success and the upcoming release of your new album, INFLUX! How would you say 2023’s been treating you so far?
Woo [laughs]! 2023 has been treating me like a very strict teacher. I can’t get away with shit! He’s like, “Girl, you gotta put some work in.” I’ve honestly hit the ground running since the year started. Mentally, spiritually, physically. With the album, I’m in a deep, deep bootcamp.
Last month, you dropped a single from the album titled “PSYCHO FREAK.” For those who haven’t heard the song yet, how would you describe the track and what it personally means to you?
For those who haven’t heard the song yet, I’m just paying homage to early 2000s pop club music that’s sexy, chaotic, a little drunk, a little sparkly. It’s very sexy and empowering, and it’s about feeling yourself and just enjoying it at the same time, you know?
In what ways would you say “PSYCHO FREAK” helps prepare fans for what to expect on the rest of the album?
“PSYCHO FREAK” is not really a precursor to the album. I think people are probably thinking that the sonics of it are gonna be more in that lane, and that’s kind of not it at all. It’s, like, extremely deep and super contemporary [laughs]. But it was a side that I wanted to show before the album dropped, because it was showing more of a fun, carefree, sexy side. But the whole album itself, there’s a huge spectrum. It’s very multifaceted.
Your album, INFLUX, drops on March 3! How long have you been working on this project for, and how exhilarated are you to finally be releasing it to the world?
I’ve been working on it for way too long! I’ve been working on it since the pandemic. It was really brutal. It’s very interesting because I’ve changed so much since it started, and now that it’s a week away, I’m kind of in stress anxiety mode. I’m like, “Well, who do I want to be now?” But I gotta just trust where I’m at now. I have to keep being myself and putting my best foot forward. But I would say the process throughout the whole thing was… I don’t know. I don’t want to say it like this, but I’m quite an unorganized person, so the way things come together in my life usually comes by me going for things or putting myself out there. Everything kind of fell together, and I mean that so literally. By people being so open and receptive and wanting to receive me, I was able to piece together all these things.
Did the order of the album’s tracklist come naturally for you?
No, it was super difficult! It took me, like, two months. I remember being at a party and I saw my friend. I was like, “Yeah, do you wanna come over and listen to the tracklisting with me?” He was like, “I think you should take a couple days off. I think you should give your ears a break.” It took me, like, a month… or maybe two. I took songs on and off. There’s some songs not on this project that I’ll put on the extended version that are so dope and amazing, but I really wanted to hit every pocket of me. If there were two songs that were similar, then I was like, “I’ll just put it on the extended.” I wasn’t gonna make one project that was just one sound, but moving forward I will. For this one, I was like, “It needs to have a lot of different dimensions, genre, sound, and topic.”
I’ve been honored with being able to listen to INFLUX early, and I have to say it’s amazing! I wanted to start off by talking about “GLASS JEDI,” because that song is such an insane opener. How did that song come about, and did you always know that track would be the opener for the project?
No! I mean, that song was the first song we ever made off the record, and that was so long ago. It was longer. It was, like, six or seven minutes long. We trimmed it down. Everyone I showed it to, they were like, “What the fuck is this?!” [laughs]. I was like, “Isn’t this the coolest thing you’ve ever heard?” It’s very beyond now, in my opinion, but it wasn’t the original opener. The original opener was a song called “TELL ME.” Basically, the driving force of this album was because I used to work with these people that made me feel really bad about being multihyphenate, multilayered, and an amalgamation of all sorts of things. I wrote this song called “TELL ME” with the same producer, and the opening line is, “If you know what I should be, then say it for me.” The whole rest of the album was like, “This is everything that I am and everything that I’m not,” and whatever. “GLASS JEDI” was meant to be in the middle as a divide, because it very much parts the seas. “TELL ME” was super hard and industrial. Kind of throughout the journey, I realized that you don’t always have to go super hard to have the same impact. I was like, “Okay, why don’t we just open this thing that from rip, it’s going to separate me from other artists in my lane or in my genre.” It’s very cocky. It’s very “I don’t give a fuck,” you know [laughs]? It’s very trusting. When we landed on that being the opener for the album, it’s just… It gives you all of the sounds you’re going to hear in the first five minutes.
My favorite song from INFLUX has changed on a day-to-day basis, but I have to say my favorite track is probably “HIS AND HERS” or “FATE’S INTERLUDE” right now. Do you personally have a favorite song of your own from the project?
Absolutely! “FATE’S INTERLUDE”! “FATE’S INTERLUDE” is the best song I’ve ever written. It honestly came from God. Like, nobody was there. I just wrote it in my living room. I always have issues with trusting my initial inventions because we live in such a fucking weird world. I think all of us always believe that someone’s better than us, so if we’re collaborating, we’re like, “This is better because it’s not just us.” But I really think I channeled into something really special with that song.
Who would you name as some of your musical inspirations that inspired your artistry for when you were first starting out as an artist?
Rihanna’s ANTI! That’s honestly everything I circle back to. That’s literally what she did. She was like, “I don’t fucking care. I’m just gonna put together a record of shit that I like!” That’s really how I felt. There were three references, really, that were my driving force – well, maybe four, because James Blake is my favorite artist. He’s always back here, looming in the back of my mind. But then Rihanna’s ANTI was a huge reference for me, ASTROWORLD was a huge reference for me. Like, sonically with the depth of everything. Especially with the mixes. Maybe I should say Mike Dean instead, because he’s a freak mixer. And then Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. I really wanted to be able to mix psyche rock and R&B, but then with certain collaborations, you just pull different things out of each other. That’s where the dance stuff was kind of illuminated. But those were definitely my main references.
Aside from the album, you’ve also done some incredible side projects in the past few years. Not only did you collaborate with League of Legends on your song, “Phoenix,” but you’ve also worked with IMVU, Web3, and the metaverse! How did you become so involved with the video gaming and avatar side of media?
I mean, it was very much out of necessity. Well, League of Legends was a super natural collaboration. They’re always looking to uplift and support up-and-coming artists, so that was really dope. We performed in an insane arena in France. I was blown away. They’re so cool! I felt so bad. They were interviewing me talking about the game, and I was like, “I don’t know how to play the game, but I can sing for you!” The IMVU stuff, that was a really natural progression as well. Me and my best friend, Peri, she would help me with my creative stuff. We started making this avatar that was very sexy, and it was amongst COVID because we couldn’t shoot or do anything. We were like, “Oh, there’s this graphic designer!” I think she was in Australia, and she made this character and made her on IMVU. IMVU saw the character, which was the artwork for “Santa Fe,” and then we did a whole video for “Santa Fe” in IMVU. It’s kind of just snowballed from there. I’ve always been in the internet world and in the gaming world, which I love. I was speaking to one of my other creative collaborators yesterday. We were picking my brain like, “What are some foundational pieces of me that we can integrate into the album installation?” Because I really want to do an installation. She’s like, “What are some things about you?” I think video games, especially being a ‘90s baby, that was the beginning of so much stuff. It’s probably just deep in my energetic makeup to collaborate with those types of people and things.
Do you have a favorite video game?
Yeah! Well, my favorite part of video games was always picking the characters and dressing them up [laughs]. For me, I loved Mortal Kombat because all the characters were sexy, and the girls were badass. I liked that. And I liked Crazy Taxi! They had all the funky, quirky characters. I was really into funky shit as a kid. But I think Mortal Kombat, Xenon, and I played a lot of Dance Dance Revolution. I probably played The Sims and all that stuff as well, but I was mostly just into the outfits.
Do you think we’ll see a massive surge in the metaverse and utilization of avatars within the music industry sooner rather than later?
I think so! I think that it’s just still a really big pill for people to swallow. I think for people that are progressive and want to do that, it will. But if you think about the masses and people that go to festivals and don’t keep pop culture at the forefront of their life, it’s very hard to understand.
You’ve also had a massive presence within the fashion world, including a recent modeling gig for Bijules’ new collection! How would you describe your style in five words?
Ooh, okay! Five words! Haha, okay! I would say grunge. Grunge is a word I always use. I would say sexy, effortless, masculine, and clean.
Final question. You’ll be performing next month as a 2023 SXSW showcasing artist. How excited are you for that, and is there anything you can tell fans about what to expect from your performance?
I think I’m still brainstorming a lot on what type of performance I want to bring, especially in a festival setting, but I think it’s probably gonna allude to a Madonna “Human Nature” experience.
Cailin Russo’s new album, INFLUX, is out now.