Interview with Kiesza

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this year, you’ve probably heard Kiesza’s hit single ‘Hideaway’. It’s just one of the tracks that the Canadian singer-songwriter  will be performing when she sings and dances her way into the TLA in Philly at the end of September. If you’re not responsible for one of the 110 million plays it’s received on Youtube, drop what you’re doing and check it out right now:

Before she rolls into town, she took some time out to speak with Independent Philly about her life, recent success, fashion, and much, much more.

Independent Philly: You’re smash hit ‘Hideaway’ has over 110 million views on Youtube. Did you ever dream it was going to become such a big hit when you wrote it and made the video?

Kiesza: No, I had no idea. It’s actually still a shock to me that it’s doing so well because when I wrote ‘Hideaway’, and when I decided to be an artist with this song and filmed the video, I had no social media platform; I had no budget backing me. I was on a tiny record label that my producer basically created. We had a plan of kind of doing it all independently.  I had a feeling it would take a while to really develop a fan-base around my music, but I was determined to do it. The fact that it just sort of blew up so quickly, and especially the video went so big, it came as quite a shock to me…a very good shock.

Independent Philly: Before you dove into music full-time you spent your younger years doing everything from dancing, to competing in the Miss Universe Canada pageant, to spending time in the Royal Canadian Navy. What skills did you take away from those earlier endeavors that aid you in your life today?

Kiesza: The dance, I did ballet for years, gave me coordination and that allowed me to pick up this ‘street dance’ that I started doing, basically really quick I think. Then the discipline that comes with being a ballerina and of course, being in the Navy, really helped to give me a good personality. What the Navy helped do was show me where my limits were, as opposed to where I thought they were before. When you go into the military they really push you mentally and physically further than you’ve ever pushed yourself. You realize that you sort of have an illusion of where you think your limits are and then you get pushed past them. When you think you’re going to collapse and fall over and can’t go on, you realize that you can go on, at least for a little bit longer, and sometimes days longer than you expected. So it kind of put it into perspective for me that my limits were a lot further than I ever thought they were. In the music industry, a lot of times when I get overwhelmed, or start to think it’s too much, I have this little extra push in me, that I got from being in the military.

Independent Philly: Aside from writing and performing your own music, you’ve penned music for several big-time artists like Kylie Minogue and Rihanna. How does your process differ when you’re writing music for other artists instead of for yourself?

Kiesza: When it comes to myself, I’m really vulnerable when I’m channeling my own emotions and my own experience. I draw from my own experience and also think of how other people will relate to it as well. I’m really trying to connect with people. Then, when I write for other people. I’m still trying to have the song connect with people but I’m writing more hypothetical; it’s not necessarily drawn from my own experience. I use my imagination a lot and draw from other people’s stories. I imagine scenarios or imagine what other people go through that they would want to hear in a song. I think it’s definitely a little more hypothetical when I write for other people. But if I’m writing with an artist in the room, I really sit down with them for a minute and talk with them and get to know them, and then I try to channel them specifically so that they can connect with their own song. In the cases of Rihanna and Kylie, most of the songs that have been cut so far, I just wrote songs, and they wound up hearing the songs and decided they wanted to cut them. I wasn’t in the room with those artists. I really love being in the room with an artist so I can sort of channel who they are. It really varies though because there are some songs that I’ll write, based on my own personal experience, but the sound isn’t exactly what I’m doing as an artist, so it will be my story, told by another person. There are no rules really. It always happens differently. I always get inspired by different things; it’s never the same situation.

Independent Philly: You’re about to release your first album, ‘Sound of a Woman’, in October, but are you already working on new music?

Kiesza: I already started writing the first song of my next album. The thing about me is that I never really stop writing. I constantly have melodies in my head to the point where, sometimes I wonder if I’m crazy because every time I’m walking down the street there’s a new melody in my head. There is always a melody in my head. If you put me in the studio, I’ve never been in a situation where I can’t think of a melody because there is always a melody in my head. It’s like, compulsive. So I can’t stop writing; it’s just something that I have to do. Whether the songs are going to wind up on my next album or not, I’m already writing new music. I kind of have to. I can’t just stop writing new music. I also think I want to get started on the process of writing new music for the next album now because I don’t like the idea of scheduling time for creativity. Sometimes in my career now I kind of have to do it but if I schedule a specific month to write my next album, I might not have anything to write about then; I might have writer’s block that month. I want to just start, now, writing for the future, so that the music stays current. I’m always going through different things and by the time my next album comes out it will be a lot of songs that have been really thought out, and are really true to who I am, and haven’t just sort of been scheduled in, you know?

Independent Philly: Taking it as it comes…

Kiesza: Yeah, I want to write as I live. I really want to be open with people. Yeah, I guess the next album will be an accumulation of however much time it takes between now and then to get the album out.

Independent Philly: You’re currently in the midst of some U.S. tour dates. How has the reaction been from fans at your shows?

Kiesza: The energy in the United States, from the fans, is on another level. They are so energetic. In the U.K., and other parts of Europe, they are slightly more reserved. They are still crazy but in the U.S., fans are crazy on another level; they get so excited. They show up with t-shirts and hats with my name on them, they are waiting early at the venue to meet me, and they are just a little more of an out-going crowd here. It’s really fun playing for the American crowds.

© Meredith Truax

Independent Philly: You’ll be in Philly for a show at the TLA on September 30th. What can your fans here expect from a live Kiesza show if they’ve never seen you perform in person before?

Kiesza: They can expect a lot of dancing and big vocals. I sing 100% live, while I dance. I’ve had a few people ask me if I’m lip syncing but I’m not; it’s all live. It’s full on dancing while I sing. There are some faster songs, and some slower songs, and I’ll be introducing some songs from the album at the show. Some of the songs aren’t even released yet so they’ll get to hear them for the first time. Basically they’ll get to connect with me in person.

Independent Philly: I’m tired just thinking about singing and dancing through an entire performance. Do you have an exercise regimen you follow to keep yourself in shape for that?

Kiesza: I’ve done the show enough that I feel that it keeps me in shape to continue to do it. On top of that I play Capoeira and I have my sort of own work-out routine. It’s hard to get to a gym a lot of the time because of my travel schedule but I little hotel work-out routine that I’m developing slowly for myself. I love Capoeira. I always play Capoeira before I go on stage actually to help warm up.

Independent Philly: In addition to your musical talents you always have involvement in the fashion world. You have an eye-wear line with Fendi and have your own fashion line called ‘Steampop’. What can you tell us about that?

Kiesza: Yeah, ‘Steampop’ is a fashion line that I’m working on so I’m hoping to get that out in the new year, between everything else that’s going on. I’ve had a lot of ideas, sort of in general, beyond music. I like to get creative in different fields like fashion, and artistically I like to paint and draw. So I want to just sort of make time for those creative outlets as well. I just feel like there are a lot of things that I want to wear that I can’t actually find. I have a lot of fashion ideas for things that I just can’t get. So I wanted to put my own fashions out and just sort of make my own fashion ideas accessible to my audience. That’s the idea behind Steampop.

Independent Philly: Let’s do some quick word association. Tell me the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the following: Double-Double.

Kiesza: Toil and Trouble (laughs).

Independent Philly: Calgary.

Kiesza: Stampede…or home.

Independent Philly: Oops.

Kiesza: Getting knocked up.

Independent Philly: Flames.

Kiesza: Firemen.

Independent Philly: If I were to walk into your house right now, what are the most embarrassing things I’d find in both your refrigerator and closet?

Kiesza: In my refrigerator you’d find a lot of seaweed, and seaweed supplements. In my closet, I have a giant rainbow Afro.

Independent Philly: Do you wear it a lot?

Kiesza: I’ve worn it at parties a lot. I love it. I don’t know if I’d choose it as a fashion item to wear on the red carpet specifically, but it’s a fun thing. You’d also find a lot of geeky science magazines lying around.

Independent Philly: If you could communicate with one species of animal, which one would you choose, and why?

Kiesza: I would communicate with Blue Whales. I feel like Blue Whales have a lot of secrets about life. They are supposed to be really smart, whales in general, and have really developed brains, but we can’t communicate with them. I feel like I’d like to know what’s on a Blue Whale’s mind.

Independent Philly: I think it’d be hard to be that large and not have any secrets.

Kiesza: I know, right? They’re the biggest creature on the planet (giggles).

Independent Philly: What is the best complement someone has ever paid you?

Kiesza: That’s hard to think of on the spot. I think when people tell me that one of my songs connected with them in a way that helped them get through something. When people email me saying something like “I wouldn’t have made it through a situation if it weren’t for your song”, that really means a lot to me that my music is actually doing something good for people. It’s amazing.

Independent Philly: Finally, if you can tell me something that would surprise or even shock our readers…

Kiesza: I can walk on my hands. I have really, really loose joints. I’m trying to think if there’s anything shocking about me. I’m Dyslexic, and, as a result, I’m ambidextrous. My left hand prefers to write in mirror image. If I’m using my left hand, I write everything backwards, from left to right, as if it was reflected in a mirror.

Independent Philly: That’s all I have for you. We’re looking forward to your show in Philly.

Kiesza: Thanks for supporting the music and being interested in speaking with me.

Independent Philly: Thank you!

Do you want to join us at the TLA on September 30th to check out Kiesza? We are giving away a pair of tickets to a lucky winner! Click here to enter!

[Interview by David Miller]


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