Kiesza is a fascinating pop polymath (wish there was a better way to word this instead of saying pop) whose music is as colorful, diverse and surprising as the twists and turns that led her where she is today.
Inspired by epic nights out at NYC hotspots like Body & Soul and Libation, this Calgary-born 25-yearolds debut album is packed with deep house grooves and shimmering soulful melodies, but Kiesza is also an in-demand songwriter for acts across the globe, puts together her own stunning artwork, is a trained ballerina and former tall-ship sailor who the Army once attempted to train as a sniper.
Many of the dancefloor-dominating voices Kiesza idolised as a child belonged to fearsome talents whose natural habitat was the vocal booth. Now Kiesza pays homage to those singers Michael Jackson, Martha Wash, CeCe Peniston and Robin S while adding more recent influences like Disclosure and Hot Natured to conjure an irresistible hybrid pop sensibility. Whats more, shes got the star quality to take the songs to a whole new level.
Kieszas own first songs were also little more than lullabies, with a distinctly folky edge, but her writing progressed and after recording a few demos with a friend, she decided to submit the CD to a music school. She popped it in the post and set sail for Hawaii. When she arrived at her destination, her mum phoned: there was a letter from Selkirk College, whod accepted her without an audition or interview. Kiesza said farewell to the high seas, and after a year at Selkirk received a scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College Of Music in Boston. Her songwriting quickly developed, and she found that an esoteric and emphatic take on pop was where her heart truly lay.
A lot of people would say, well thats not even music - anyone could do that, Kiesza remembers. And I started to think, if its so easy, why dont more people do it? And of course its actually the hardest music to write. Its simplicity is an art in itself. One sympathetic professor knew that Kiesza had a rare skill, and put her in touch with a recent graduate, Rami Samir Afuni who was in New York starting work on his own music. Rami and I had incredible writing chemistry right from the beginning, Kiesza explains. We were experimenting with pop music. He gave me a whole different perspective on writing. Its an experiment that continues to this day, with Rami and Kiesza collaborating on the songs that form the backbone of her debut album. When Rami and I progressed into the deep house sound and I began singing in that style, it just flowed out of me, Kiesza says now. It just worked. It was an effortlessness Id never come across before.
Kieszas adventurous, addictive personality means shes never content to watch from the sidelines, and when she arrived in New York she quickly immersed herself in the citys nightlife, hooking up with dancer friends to head out to parties like the legendary Body & Soul night. Wed go out to these dance parties and people werent drinking or doing anything else at all, they were so into the dance. Wed see the dancing, the battling, the voguing; wed start at 8pm and dance until four in the morning. This, naturally, fed back into Kieszas music, which was continuing to evolve.
In 2014 she kicked things off in style with her debut single, the blistering anthem Hideaway. Unbelievably, the song was written and recorded in just over an hour. Rami was making a beat in the studio and I had two hours before I was due to get on a flight, Kiesza smiles. He said, why dont you hop in the booth and see what happens?
The whole thing just came out. We ended up finishing the entire track in an hour and a half. Its like it was meant to happen. The songs distinctive video was shot on the streetsof Brooklyn, and showcases Kieszas attention-grabbing dance moves. I wanted to recall some of the classic street dance moves of the 90s, and throw them in with some more modern moves." The result is a stunning, but simple one-take video. Like Kieszas music, the video combines something old with something new to create a stylish hybrid pop moment.
In January 2014, with Hideaway scheduled for release by Ramis own Lokal Legend label, Kiesza moved to London. Im launching my music here, and I love the music here, so I want to do more than just pop my head in and go buy my song then disappear again, she reasons. I want to immerse myself. There are no half measures for Kiesza. A committed artist whose extraordinary ambition is matched only by her unusual clarity of vision and overwhelming talent, this former queen of the high seas has spent years plotting a course to the epicentre of pop. In 2014 her voyage is just beginning, and everyone is welcome along for the ride.