RISING STAR: Kiesza has taken a roundabout route to achieving a goal she set for herself at just seven years of age.
By Geoffrey Rowlands
It’s difficult to believe Kiesza isn’t at least 40. The Canadian singer, musician and songwriter has packed so much into her life. It hardly seems credible that she is still in her mid-20s. “I guess I didn’t stick with many things for too long,” smiled the Calgary native. “But I won’t be giving up on music anytime soon. It might have taken a while to realise my true vocation but I want to do so much with my music.”
Ironically, Kiesza has taken a roundabout route to achieving a goal she set for herself at just seven years of age. “I don’t remember having any particular desire to get into music when I was a little girl. But I recently found a locket my mother had given me when I was seven. It’s one of those things which contain a wish. I opened it and found the wish I’d written all those years ago. It said ‘I want to be a singer.’”
Youthful musical ambitions were hardly surprising. Kiesza (pronounced Ky-za) says she was “force-fed” Michael Jackson songs by her mother.
“She loved big voiced divas like Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion but was absolutely crazy about Michael Jackson. She had all his videos as well as the records. I got to see and hear so much of Michael that I’d have to say his work is the biggest influence on my own songwriting.”
The Michael Jackson influence is evident in Kiesza’s UK chart-topping single, Hideaway, and the accompanying video. “The song basically pays tribute to ’90s dance music so Michael was obviously a megastar during those years. I can also see how Michael could have influenced the video though it wasn’t deliberate on my part. I was just intrigued by the idea of filming an entire video in one take.
“We used every kind of street dance in the video, plus some modern moves, and I recruited all my friends to be the backing dancers. It worked perfectly. We did a couple more takes but they got messed up so what you see is our first attempt all shot in one take.”
The dancing in her video points to one of Kiesza’s previous possible career paths. “I’m a trained ballerina. I also did tap and jazz dancing at The Young Canadians School of Performing Arts. I might have become a dancer had I not decided to join the Royal Canadian Navy. “I loved sailing. I was really into Tall Ships and got involved with the Sail and Life Training Society programme when I was 16. One day, I just decided to sign up for the navy. “I was in the Naval Reserves because I was so young. But I had the top score for Morse code so I was going to be a communicator. I then discovered I was a crack shot, so good that they wanted me to train as a sniper. That’s when I knew how serious things were getting and I realised I could never shoot a real person.”
While still in the Naval Reserves, Kiesza entered the Miss Universe Canada beauty pageant. “I was a thrill-seeker, that’s why I joined the navy. I thought competing in the beauty contest would be another fun and exciting thing to do.”
Had she won, Kiesza’s life would almost certainly have taken another turn. As things transpired, she was accepted into the prestigious Selkirk College in Nelson, British Columbia, to study keyboard, guitar and voice. She then won a scholarship to attend the even more prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. “My work was more traditional singer/songwriter stuff at that time. But I gradually got into an uptempo style and hooked up with my producer, Rami Samir Afuni, after I moved to New York. We tried different styles but ended up tapping into ‘90s music which we’re both passionate about.
“Rami created the beats for Hideaway. I pretty much freestyled the lyrics because I had a plane to catch and was pushed for time. We did the whole song in about 90 minutes. Rami set up his Lokal Legend indie label to release Hideaway and it’s drawn a tremendous response from DJs, critics and record buyers.”
Kiesza has now relocated to London. “I love the music scene in Britain. Hideaway is a deep house song but it’s regarded as mainstream. That kind of thing doesn’t happen in America or back home in Canada. I also admire so many UK artists like Clean Bandit, Duke Dumont, Route 94 and numerous others so I’d love to collaborate with them.
“I’m currently working on an album but most of the tracks are finished so I guess any collaborations will be in the future. The songs are not all dance tracks. In fact, there’s a wide variety. I can’t wait for people to hear the album but I hope anyone who expects nothing but dance music won’t be too disappointed.”
Kyla La Grange
She has been compared to Florence Welch and Natasha (Bat For Lashes) Khan. But Watford-born Kyla La Grange has achieved neither the chart success nor industry acclaim accorded to those two artists.
The former Cambridge University philosophy student’s 2012 debut album, Ashes, made little impression on the UK chart. The same was true of the four singles taken from the LP Kyla’s only tangible recognition was her song, Catalyst, being used to soundtrack an episode of the US television series, Beauty & The Beast. But Kyla is back now with her second album, Cut Your Teeth, which is scheduled for release on June 2. It is preceded by two singles. The official video for the title-track is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=GINpKSkZawk. The video for Kyla’s newly released single, The Knife, can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3aR3xbnfhg. Both songs are posted at (no www.) soundcloud.com/kylalagrange. Also here is every song from Ashes plus a host of remixes and non-album tracks.
One day after announcing a partnership with Warner Bros Records, Prince surprised fans by releasing a new single. Recent interviews with ‘The Purple One’ had suggested his next release would be an uptempo, guitar-based rock track. But The Breakdown could hardly be more different. The song is a slow ballad with little guitar. Audio postings have already been removed from YouTube. But the track can still be heard online at www.audiomack.com/song/dayandadream/the-breakdown. Interested parties should quickly pay a visit. The song is unlikely to remain available for long. Even if The Breakdown is removed, rap and hip hop fans should still enjoy their visit as more than 400 songs can be accessed from the webpage. Most of these tracks are available for free download.
Brown Shoe have just released Babe In Woods as the final single from their EP, Lonely Beast Part One. Hailing from Folsom, California, Brown Shoe consists of the four Baggaley brothers, Aaron, Bryson, Ryan and Landon. They have performed together for 10 years and released four studio albums. Rather than create a fifth full LP, the boys decided to release Lonely Beast as three separate EPs which will eventually form a complete album.
The first EP can be heard at (no www.) soundcloud.com/crashave/sets/brown-shoe-lonely-beast-part-1. The next two EPs will follow later this year. The band’s four albums can be accessed from (no www.) brownshoe1.bandcamp.com. Their debut mini-album, The Wheat Patch, the follow-up, Vanity, and Brown Shoe’s third album, Jackalope, can all be downloaded for free.