By Sarah Carroll
Kiesza may only be 25 years old, but she’s already mastered her third career.
The “Hideaway” singer/songwriter from Calgary originally planned to become a ballerina. After a career-ending injury, she enlisted in the Navy and was being groomed to join their elite sniper unit.
But with her infectious single racing to the top of the sales charts, it’s safe to say Kiesza will be sticking with music biz for quite some time.
How did you come up with the idea to recreate your ‘Hideaway’ music video live on the ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ and ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live?’
It’s always a hybrid between the core team. I think myself, my choreographer, my producer, I don’t know, the whole team basically we all just sort of talked.
On Kiesza’s background…
Well, I’m Canadian…I started out wanting to be a ballerina from the age of 3-15. It’s totally that movie story where I got an injury and then I had to give it up and I thought my life was over and then I decided to become a sailor. I was sailing small vessels first and teaching on sailboats, some racing, and then I joined the navy.
And then I won Top Shot in the navy, so they were looking at me as a sniper. I didn’t want to be a sniper. Shooting’s fun, on, like, the shooting range, but I didn’t want to ever shoot people!
How did you break into the music business?
It’s another crazy story, there was this non-existent radio that hypothetically might exist one day and I found an email of somebody who was supposed to be involved, and radio stations in Canada, they give grants out to musicians, so I sent an email and said, ‘Hey, if you ever do exist one day and happen to give out grants, here’s my music.’
And a year later, while I was in music school, I got a phone call, random, on a really bad day and somebody’s like, ‘Yeah, we have $10,000 for you to make a CD!’ And so I was like, ‘What?!’
What did your first album sound like?
It was the most schizophrenic CD ever. It had, like, pop, funk, big band, fully orchestrated ballad…I really like the album. I have to dig it up and find it again.
So, I didn’t know where to send it and I didn’t have an audience, so I just sent it to the navy, to the military! And the military sent off almost 5,000 copies to all the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, so, my entire fan base was military soldiers in Afghanistan for awhile. I actually got a really interesting inside look at what was really going on there because they were emailing me and stuff.
What motivates your songwriting?
It depends. I used to actually use a lot of military references and metaphors for my songs, or sailing references. I definitely drew from my history, but now, my music definitely taps into the emotions that I feel and love stories that I go through and stuff, but metaphorically-speaking, I definitely draw from every aspect of my life.
I have one song that I wrote once and it was so metaphorical that I forgot what it was about! To this day, I’m like, ‘What was this about?!’ It was called ‘Warlocks and Wine.’
What’s the status of your debut studio album?
It’s coming out in October. October 21, I think, is the actual date. I think we got the final mix yesterday or even today we’re getting the final master in.
What does the album sound like?
There’s, like, I’d say four-five dance songs, so there’s a lot of this [‘Hideaway’] vibe, but then there’s a lot of, like, other stuff too. So, there’s about 12 songs on the album.
What’s the story behind the male voice that appears on your new track, ‘Giant In My Heart?’
You know what? I’ve never actually met him. My friend, who was my roommate, we were like, ‘I need a voice of like, an older, black guy.’ You know that like soulful, old man voice? And then my friend’s like, ‘I know someone!’ So, we just sent it to him and he brings it back and this was the voice and we were like, ‘Awesome!’
What’s your tour schedule like?
The song has just started really picking up in the U.S. I’ve been doing Europe like crazy all summer! Literally, just been in a different country practically every other day. So now that things are sort of building up here, I’ve been over here sort of doing the whole promo thing and performing. A big part of who I am is a live performer, so, really trying to get that kicked off as well.
It takes a lot of work and you have to want to do it. It seems like this sort of magical career, but being a live act musician is a lot of work. Early hours, late hours, and you have to sort of be crazy and you have to really just be passionate about it and want to do it to do it well and what it requires of you.
What does your family think about what’s happened to you over the past year?
They’re really kind of shocked and excited. They really have been supportive and always believed in me, but now they’re just sort of like, kind of confused that it’s actually happening and trying to just be as supportive as possible.
What career do you plan on conquering next?
I am becoming a surrealist painter, which, I am an oil painter and I’ve been really exploring surrealism and photography. I’ve been layering photography on Photoshop to make this really abstract art…I’m dyslexic, so apparently that has something to do with it. So I might have a gallery exhibit eventually.
Do you have a lot of friends in Los Angeles?
I do, actually. The day I wrote ‘Hideaway,’ I was on a flight to L.A. to like move to L.A. I ended up writing the song as I was leaving for the airport when Rami, my producer, started making the beat…I was like, ‘That’s great!’ So, I went back in and just laid down the ‘Hideaway’ melody because it kind of popped into my head.
I ended up just writing the whole song in like under an hour. The whole thing was literally written, recorded, mixed, and mastered in 90 minutes! So, before I even got to airport, which somehow I still magically made my flight, the whole song was complete.