FIVE MINUTES WITH INTERNATIONAL POPSTAR KIESZA
If you only sat down to watch MTV, or any of the big music tv channels for even just one hour of only one day, any day, in the past few years, then chances are the following will have happened. Within that sixty minute spell you would have witnessed one of the coolest and most creative videos of at least the last decade (if not in music video history!) weave it’s way from the Brooklyn street it was shot on, onto your screen at least once. Now, given the number of music videos there are in the world, that’s quite a statement for anybody to make. But then again, Canadian singer/songwriter Kiesza is quite an artist, and her song ‘Hideaway’ was most definitely quite a video!
Kiesza is about as close to a female version of James Bond as the music world has ever, maybe will ever, see! Although still just in her mid-twenties, Kiesza has already lived a life that’s begging to be told on the silver-screen someday.And what a movie it would be! Having become a sailing instructor while still in her teens, Kiesza went on to take her love of the sea to the next level when she became a code-breaker in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserves. Where, incidentally, she also excelled as a sniper, to the point where the Navy wanted her to pursue that career path. Not overly enamored by the idea of shooting people for a living, Kiesza decided to follow a different calling. Having initially taught herself to play guitar while sailing to Hawai, she soon won a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where her innate musicals gifts were honed and encouraged.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that she was also a ballerina for a time, her advancement in that regard only coming to an end due to injury? Or that Kiesza was once a contestant in the Miss Universe Canada competition? Or that she can trace her Scottish heritage (on her grandfather’s side) all the way back to a relative who fought alongside Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn? And going back to the ‘Hideaway’ video (which has been viewed OVER 300 MILLION times on YouTube alone) for a minute, did you know that Kiesza filmed that in one take, AND with what later turned out to be a fractured rib?! She could barely move for the best part of a month afterwards.
Well, now you know. And if you didn’t already know, here’s some more news for you, and THIS is worth getting very excited about: Kiesza is coming to Ireland! And not just to Ireland, but to the midlands! Because Kiesza is performing at this year’s Bare In The Woods festival in Portarlington, where she’ll take to the stage as the headline act on opening night, Friday, June 9th.
To my great delight, and despite a schedule that’s full almost to the minute most days now, Keisza took some time out in New York to chat with ‘On The Right TRAX’ about her forthcoming trip to Ireland, her beloved pet Ginga Potato, and the effect of losing her best friend, Alicia. Here’s how it went….
OTRT: Hi Keisza, thanks a million for having a chat today, I know your schedule is crazy, so I really appreciate it. How are you doin’?
K: “Hi Anthony, oh I’m wonderful, thank you. I’m a little tired, I’m a night owl usually, so I’m up early* for me [laughs]” (*Around noon, New York time)
OTRT: Keisza, the main reason you and I are chatting today is because you’re going to be over here in Ireland with us very soon now, to perform at the Bare In The Woods Festival. I know you’ve been to the UK before, and of course, you’ve got some Scottish heritage, but will this be your first time in Ireland?
K: “It won’t be my first time ever in Ireland, but it will be my first time ever performing in Ireland. I’ve only ever been to Ireland once, for like one day, to visit a radio station and then I had to leave. And I was actually quite sad because I always wanted to really see Ireland. So I feel like this will be basically my first time. Because the last time I went, I got off at the airport, went straight to a car, straight to a radio station, straight back into a car, and straight back onto a plan. So yeah, this is really gonna be like my first time. And I’m really excited about it. I’m excited to play the festival [Bare In The Woods], because it sounds really charming. It sounds like it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
OTRT: Now while you’re over here, or anywhere out on the road for that matter, you can’t be at home, naturally enough! But back at home you have your pets which I know you adore. Being such an animal lover, and having a little family of pets (Keisza has a cat and some dogs, check out her Twitter to meet them, they make regular appearances!) at home, is it tough for you to go away and leave them for as long as you often have to?
K: “Yeah, it is, it’s really hard. But usually I travel with Ginga Potato (one of Keisza’s dogs) whenever I can. But they do have people to look after them. My brothers live nearby. But yeah, leaving them is really hard because I love them. But they’re all really well taken care of when I’m away.”
OTRT: I saw that one of your little dogs, I think it was actually Ginga Potato, wasn’t it, had a bit of an accident involving some rat poison lately! How is he doin’, is he ok now?
K: “Oh my gosh, yes, thank you so much. He dug up, well I don’t even know where he found it, but he ate not just a little bit, he ate a ton of rat poison that somebody left outside! He had to have his stomach pumped, and then pumped full of charcoal. He’s still actually on medication now to counteract the poison, cos’ it was a long-lasting poison. So he’s been on medication for over three weeks now to keep him from getting sick from that. It was really scary! But luckily they were able to figure out what the poison was and then give him antidotes to counteract it. He’s still on the medication because the poison stays in his system for quite a while. It’s quite scary, the way people just leave poison around!”
OTRT: Keisza, I just want to congratulate you on your latest single, ‘Dearly Beloved’, being such a class song…
K: “Oh thank you!”
OTRT: No problem. But even more than that, I want to congratulate you on making ‘Dearly Beloved’ so much more than just a class song. By the very classy act of making your late best friend Alicia’s guitar such a focal point of the video, you’ve created something that is just a wonderfully cool, and touching tribute to your friend, and I love that you did that (Keisza’s best friend, Alicia, also a gifted musician, passed away from cancer in 2015). I know that you finished making the album she’d been working on after she passed, and you said that the experience completely changed how you approached your own music, because you realised that Alicia had been making her album knowing that it would be her last. I was wondering if Alicia’s passing changed the way you approach, or view, anything else in your life, aside from just your music?
K: “Oh yeah. It really changed everything in my life. It took me a while to get back to music. I had to really take a long time off. She was my best friend. She made her album through her illness, and that was really inspiring to me. It was amazing to me to watch somebody make something so special, something that would basically be her legacy. They [doctors] said that she was the longest person to ever live with her [kind of] cancer. And I really think the music kept her alive. It was so important to her to finish this album. But she didn’t get to quite finish it. It was unusual to watch her fight through it, to see somebody who was so ill achieve something so prolific. It was really important for me after this that I started doing music…, and not that I wasn’t doing it for my own reasons, because I always have…, but it became even more important that I was making music that comes right from the heart. And always making sure to do that. Because you really don’t know, you really don’t know when it’s your time. I mean, none of us expected Alicia to get sick. And then none of us expected her to pass away. So when it happened, it changed my whole perspective on life, and what’s important.”
With music press and media from all around the worl waiting their turn to speak with Keisza, too, sadly my time was almost at an end. This was my first time interviewing someone who’s been all over MTV for as long as Keisza has, and in terms of being a pleasure to talk to, she’s set the bar at Everest type heights for whoever comes next! My last question was about her songwriting, and what life was like for her as a songwriter before ‘Hideaway’ made Keisza a household, and worldwide name.
OTRT: I know I’ve got to let you go soon, so thanks again for your time today, and for speaking with me when you’ve got so much stuff happening. It’s been a pleasure and I can’t wait to see you at Bare In The Woods. Just one last, quick question, though: You started off in the industry writing for others. What was that like?
K: “Yeah, Anthony, I used to be just a writer for the industry before ‘Hideaway’ took off, and it’s a really, really hard thing to do, ya know. You’re pitching songs and hoping somebody will cut [record] them. And you just never know when you pitch a song to somebody like, say Rihanna, who will cut probably hundreds of songs and put them ‘on-hold’ (an industry term which refers to an artist or their management expressing a definite interest in recording a particular song, therefore asking the writer not to pitch it to anyone else), and you just don’t don’t if they’re ever gonna come out!”
All too soon, our allotted time had come to an end. But in the few minutes I had the pleasure of chatting with Kiesza, she proved once again something which I’ve found to be almost always true: the bigger, and more famous the star, the cooler they are. Kiesza was my first interview with an artist who can rightly be considered an MTV regular, and let me tell you, she’s set the bar pretty high for whoever comes next!