Create & Cultivate 100: Music: Kelsey Lu



You can call her Lu. Seriously, the musician's biggest pet peeve is when people call her Kelsey. 

But let's back up a minute. 

Meet Kelsey McJunkins aka Kelsey Lu, the classically trained cellist raised Jehovah’s witness to musician parents in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The haunting songstress turned to music as an outlet from the restrictive religion she was born into, crediting the institution with both broadening her interests and shielding her from much of what her contemporaries were listening to. Lu has played with pop acts from Blood Orange to Florence and The Machine, yet her distinct sound—often ghostly and unsettling—exists in a far away world.

More on the enchanting cellist below.

Name: Kelsey Lu


Where do your drive and passion come from?

It comes from the basic instinct of survival. Tapping into something that is unseen but felt and riding with it.

Your mom played the piano. Your dad, percussion. He was also an artist. Was there a dichotomy between the "artist" part of your upbringing and the strict religious side?

Well being an "Artist" comes in so many different flavors you know. I wouldn't say that going to museums around the country, or my dad supporting a family based solely off of his being a Portrait/Court Room Artist as being something that clashed with the rulings of the Organization I was brought up in noticeably. The only times it did was when I decided to leave the religion I was raised in to further my life as an artist. Music and Art was my gateway away from that life, so it was then that the dichotomy began.

How do you think that's shaped your music and your relationship to music and art?

It narrowed my point of vision while exposing it to other parts that most kids my age weren't getting excited over, i.e. classical music. My exposure to pop culture was monitored much more so than a regular degular American childhood upbringing, but because of that, I was appreciating the things that most kids weren't which separates me from the herd.

What was life like on the road? What was the most fun and conversely, the most challenging?

In the very beginning when I started touring with Nappy Roots it was just exciting and fun, I wasn't thinking about the fact that I was the only female within a fully cis male environment. That was the challenge later on when the glitter in my eyes wore thin. Hard finding the space for myself. But it gets easier every time, you learn to make space and time for yourself.

"You learn to make space and time for yourself."

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What is your biggest pet peeve?

When people call me Kelsey.

What's something you'd like people to know about your job that they probably don’t?

I have to rosin my bow every time I play and the process of making rosin in a beautiful one. Most specifically though is that it is comprised mostly of Pine sap. Pine sap is indeed the key ingredient in rosin, and it is derived from pines grown for paper pulp on big southern plantations. I grew up around a lot of Pines in NC.

IYO-- How can we stay original when we are so saturated with other people's work?

It's like the mating songs of Lyre Birds, they are one of the most complex songbirds in the world. The reason for their complexity is their unique ability to mimic sounds, they can literally mimic the calls of any birds, as well as natural sounds they may come across, say for example like a camera shutter. What makes one stand out from the rest, is the way they personalize their mimicry.

"What makes one stand out from the rest, is the way they personalize their mimicry."

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What about your career makes you feel the most complete?


At what point in your career did you find the confidence to really take charge and become the woman you are today?

I can't really pinpoint the exact location of time or place upon which I found that confidence, I also don't feel like it's been fully realized for myself. It's something that takes time and trial and error.

What's the best advice you've ever been given? Or your favorite piece of #realtalk?

Let the River run between your thighs and lift your eyes to the sky.

When you hit a big bump in the road, how do you find a new road or a detour?

By getting through the pain of that bump, you will naturally find another road.

What song do you sing in the shower when you’ve had a bad day?

The song of my own tears falling to the bottom of the shower floor.