B.K. Habermehl is here with a purpose, and she’s here to impact the world in the most positive way with her music. Arriving to bless the music industry with her unique sound and smooth, sultry vocals, the rising star blends the worlds of R&B, pop, jazz, and hip-hop with a hint of emo, fueled by her talents as a pianist, songwriter, musician, and doing theatre.
Growing up, B.K. was a huge fan of Sade, along with everything else her parents would play in the household such as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Led Zeppelin. Her wide range of vibrations go from Erykah Badu to Juice WRLD, combining the old school and new school and making it her own. To date, she’s had the pleasure of collaborating with everyone from Akon to members of the Free Nationals, even landing 3 songs on Season 4 of Issa Rae’s Insecure. One of those songs is her standout single “Right on Time” featuring Lonr.
Now, she returns with her most powerful release yet, “Purpose,” inspired directly by the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd incident that sparked a whole revolution across the country. Regardless, her art is something she cherishes, and she finds solace in creating heartfelt music for all those who listen.
Flaunt caught up with B.K. Habermehl in downtown Los Angeles to discuss her roots in SoCal, studying at NYU, the turning point in music, what it meant to create “Purpose,” shooting the visual, collaborating with Lonr., and Yung Baby Tate, studio essentials, the independent grind, and more!
What part of Orange County are you from?
I’m from Irvine. It’s cool, there’s not much going on down there in Irvine. The main thing we’d do is “oh, let's go to In-N-Out and people watch.” I did a bunch of theatre, definitely plays, then I started playing my own music. I’ve definitely been lucky to have the support of my parents to be able to pursue my music with their blessing.
How was your time at New York University?
I loved going to NYU. At first, I thought I was going to stay out in New York forever. After I spent a couple years there, I realized “I love New York, but I have to move back to California.” Because there’s so much going on in the city. You’re constantly around people, but you're also isolated at the same time, it’s a trip. My family’s here, there’s more music stuff here too as well.
At what point did you realize this music thing was for real?
I’ve been writing forever, but after I graduated, I started going into it full throttle. Performing, collaborating with people, seeing the response and what the response could be. It’s one of those things when you know it’s what you want to do, you have to do it. If there’s something else, if I could do some other job and feel fulfilled I would’ve done that. But I would have always felt some sort of emptiness about what I was doing.
Did you work part-time jobs?
Oh I definitely did. I did a lot of tutoring at first. I was a SAT tutor, then I started teaching. I teach music and drama to special needs kids. I've done a bunch of little teaching things over the years.
What was the inspiration behind your name?
That’s my initials. Habermehl is German. I’m half-German on my dad’s side. Not from Germany, but German.
“Purpose” out now, how are you feeling?
I’m really excited about it, I was working on that video for a while. All of the visuals I put together with the song, it’s definitely growth from my last video too.
What were you going through recording this one?
I did it in the height of quarantine. My inspiration behind it: what was the purpose behind everything that was happening at the time? Especially with George Floyd, even though he’s one of many. I wrote it right around that time in August, so that was my inspiration for that. I wanted the visual to match that dichotomy and contradictions, because you want to keep the positivity in everything we’re moving towards, but there’s a LOT of growth left to make. [laughs]
I love your line that says “the world is on fire.”
Thank you, exactly, it’s the feeling at the time for sure.
Where’d you shoot the visual?
I shot it at a couple different places. One place downtown, this construction site which is very dope. My photographer 2WNTY4 found it because I asked for cityscapes, things that’d be rough around the edges, then the contrast would be a softer indoor spot. When she found that spot, I was like oh this is crazy! One was that bridge construction site, another place has really dope graffiti art. That was more the outside rough stuff, then inside we had this Airbnb that has this retro feel, that my director Jake Hindley found.
Best memory from the shoot?
Hmm, highlight. The first scenes were the best, especially when you get all styled up, shout out to LaDonna Alicia, my stylist. You got your whole image and embodying the message and visual of the song and you're just living in it.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
I like what I like. If I see something, I like it. I’ve definitely taken some influence from punk stuff. I got a little Matrix adjacent vibe today. [laughs] I definitely like big shoes. When you see it, you know.
How does it feel to have 3 songs featured on Season 4 of Issa Rae’s HBO hit show Insecure? Love that you have a single with Lonr. (“Right on Time”).
That was so exciting, we did the camp last year. I was trying to create as much as possible and connect with people with no expectations. The fact that I ended up getting 3 songs was so exciting. Lonr.’s so dope, it was so fun writing with him. That song’s produced by Jeff Gitty who’s such a beautiful energy too. It was really honest, genuine creative energy.
How did you and Lonr. tap in?
We had all these different rooms, they’re playing vibes. Gitty’s a beast on the guitar, so he was jamming playing different stuff. We were singing different vibes and started getting the melodies. They said “just lay it!” I wrote the hook part, he laid some melodies for the verse. We filled in the lyrics, it was organic. It was cool.
What’d it mean to collaborate with Yung Baby Tate on “He Wanna”?
Her energy is crazy, she kills me. She’s so dope, that was really cool too because I was actually in a different room at first. One of the producers Groove said “come in and get on this song.” He asked me to put a verse on that song, so I definitely was honored to be able to do that. It was a couple days in the camp, so he heard me on something I had done earlier so pulled me in on the song with Tate which was dope.
3 things you need in the studio?
Definitely water, that's basic. My notebook, I tend to like to write in my notebook, and physically write my lyrics out. I need my eraser because I write in pencil. If I had true true confidence, maybe I’d write in pen but you end up changing little things so many times as you perfect it. “You’re, the, A, B”... If I didn’t have my eraser, it’d be over. [laughs]
Creative process in the studio?
Unless I hear a melody that I want to try building around that melody from scratch, I usually just listen to what producers will press play on, and start freestyling to anything that catches me. Then I’ll lay the melodies down, fill in the lyrics. That's how it goes.
What do you want fans to get from your story?
My music’s emotional, not always down necessarily but that's what the whole point of music is: trigger genuine emotions. That's why I create little getaway vibes where you're in the song. That's how I feel when I'm listening to my favorite songs, dancing to myself in the mirror, singing at the top of my lungs. If I go out, I have my own dance bubble because you’re feeling it. That's what I'm trying to create for people. Beyond my music, I try to use my platform to lift up other issues like social justice or mental health awareness.
I saw you won Outstanding Trainee at space camp!
That's my greatest accomplishment. [laughs] Honestly, that’s one of the most feelings of pride I had. I was 8, that's definitely a seminal moment. In the space camp, we had our own different pods and we all did our own missions. At the end, they brought everybody in. It seemed like a stadium of thousands but it was probably 300 people. At the time, they said “oh there’s 2 people across the whole space camp that we’re going to honor right now!” And they picked me!
At first, I wanted to be an astronaut. But then over time I realized like uhh, I don't even like roller coasters so I don't know if that's going to work out for me. [laughs] I can't get into a roller coaster, going to space sounds like okay no, so I was like, l’ll just settle for being a rocket scientist. Easy enough right? [laughs] I’ve always been very academically focused, but then I switched it a little bit more into music.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
When I was in school, I studied a lot about the African Diaspora. I’d be a social justice lawyer or social worker, something like that.
How’s the independent grind?
It’s a lot of self-reassurance, you have to really be your own engine to keep going. Also working smarter, not necessarily working hard. It can be easy to say “I should be doing stuff all the time!” But you might dilute your energy. Focus your energy on certain things and see it all the way through.
How was the Toasted Life x Google Juneteenth performance?
That was a great experience, that was so dope to be able to be included in that. Obie killed it on the guitar, and Keith Harris, illustrious producer of “American Boy” and many more iconic records let us use his studio to shoot it, he’s been really supportive of me.
What can we expect next?
I got a couple songs on the way, and my first real project in the works, which is close to completion! Really excited for that. I’ve also been writing for other people, and planning some performances.