When you're the daughter of a famous musician (Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke) and the sister of two zeitgeisty actresses (Girls' Jemima Kirke and Mozart in the Jungle's Lola Kirke), there's a societal expectation for you to pursue a creative field. After a brief stint as the frontwoman of a short-lived indie pop band, not to mention becoming a certified doula, Domino Kirke is ready to return to music on her own terms.
Her debut album, Beyond Waves, out August 25, draws on her immensely talented family and adult life as a mother to her 8-year-old son, Cassius, and newly-minted wife of Penn Badgley. "I needed to live a little more before writing new material," Kirke recently said by phone. "I'm 34, I've watched 200-plus people give birth, I was a single mom for five years. I have a lot to say." Here, more from Kirke about her music and new chapter.
How are you feeling about the new album?
Really good. I've been making it for about a year and a half, so I'm pretty psyched that it's finally here. The record is basically one big love note to my family—our lives have flashed before our eyes, and suddenly we're all adults with children. I'm trying to capture a bit of what was, while also realizing that it's gone and trying to accept that without getting too emotional. [The album] is essentially an investigation of the last 10 years of my life. Initially, I didn't want to write about myself, but I was able to pull a lot from my family. I started to learn things about people ... some family secrets were revealed.
Such as ...
Well, for starters, before my grandfather became a father, he was a gambler and a womanizer. I learned that these sorts of addictions are just passed down, and they only stop if you make a conscious decision to end them. So I had to say no to a lot of those things.
Did you feel pressured to play an instrument or act, like your dad and your sisters?
Yes. One of the expectations growing up was that I'd become a well-known artist. I've been making music for years, but I'm still a relatively unknown singer. In my family, it was always encouraged to become a creative person. I became a doula instead, then I married an actor, and my sisters became famous almost overnight. Suddenly, there was all this energy around my family. Now I feel like I'm ready.
What prompted the decision to become a doula?
The birth of my son. After that, I started Carriage House, a pregnancy care center. I felt there was a real need for doula care. Now we've got 40 doulas in New York and 45 in L.A. We have a little doula empire! Maternal health care in America is pretty terrifying at the moment, so having family faces who want to be an intimate part of your journey is really valuable.
At the risk of sounding trite, how do you do it all?
The thing is, one thing is going to suffer. I have these conversations with my sister, Jemima—if you're an artist and you're doing well in your field or in your art, there's going to be neglect somewhere. Our father was a touring musician, and there's always a payoff. There was a lot of absence.
I read you were discovered when you were a teenager at Joe's Pub.
That's true! It was on my 17th birthday. Andre Levins, a big producer, took me under his wing and we recorded an album's worth of material, but the attention became a little too much for me. I wanted to experience school. When I was 19, I formed the band Domino with Jordan Galland, and Mark Ronson took us on. We toured with Lily Allen. Then I got pregnant with my son, and I was just like, "Okay, here's my out." I needed some time.
What did you listen to growing up?
Everything from classic rock to reggae. Bad Company was signed to Island Records, and they had the same manager as Bob Marley. My dad was such a music fan that the only way to really hang out with him was to sit in a room and listen to music.
Did your dad give you any advice about breaking into the music industry?
He told me to be careful and that doing the work is so much more fulfilling than the life on the road. I think, now that he's older, he sees what [touring] did to our family, and he would like me to think twice about pursuing it. But he gets it.
Your mom also has a vintage clothing line, Geminola. Has she influenced your sense of style?
Geminola's designs are so pretty ... they're almost too pretty to wear. Honestly, I struggle not to wear overalls every day. I love anything sort of kimono-style, baggy, and comfy. I try to wear a dress and heels when I want to make more of an effort and be a bit more feminine. No.6 has gorgeous dresses that are pretty and easy.
This has been a big year for you, with a new album and a new husband. How's married life?
I love it. I highly recommend it. After being single in New York, and then being single with a child, I feel like the ground is really under me. Growing up, my father was gone for months and months on end, and I was always wondering what he was up to. Penn is very into family and stability and security in the same way that I am, and he strives for that within our family. I'm very relieved to have found somebody who is as into family as I am.
Would you two ever consider writing a song together?
We'd love to! He's just signed on to do a TV show, so he's gonna be out of commission for a long time, but once he's got a lull in his schedule, I'm sure we'll try to start writing. We always talk about it. He's a wonderful singer and a great songwriter.
Is there any special significance to the name of your album, Beyond Waves?
It's sort of cheesy to say, but it's very much where I am. I've gone past that point in my life, and I can really look back and say that I'm in this clearing. I'm bowing out and giving a nod to everything that's happened up to this point in my life and taking a leap.
VIDEO: Surprise! Penn Badgley and Domino Kirke Are Married, Again
This interview has been edited and condensed.