In Conversation With . . . Kristen

Kristen is a Montreal-based country/soul singer-songwriter. While living in New York City she interned at the Brill Building, and from there went on to sing on tracks mixed by Phil Ramone, work with Steely Dan’s live sound engineer, and perform at Rockwood Music Hall and the Bitter End. She recently finished the Tower of Song Tour with Alysha Brillinger, performing at venues in Montreal and Toronto. In July Kristen released her debut EP, Diamonds to Dust.

Kristen’s personal creative and vocal style has had some stellar influences: a mix of Neil Young, Dusty Springfield, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Ryan Adams, Tom Petty, and new European indie rock bands. Additionally, her childhood surrounded her with lessons and experiences that inspired and formed her.

“I grew up in Montreal, a city of colourful buildings, winding staircases, Bohemian shops, and a dizzying variety of music.” Kristen says. “Living here has been very inspiring to me as a musician.” Why? Partly because of the festivals; says Kristen, “Montreal is often referred to as the ‘City of Festivals’ because there’s a never-ending parade of outdoor musical events in the summer when we come out from under our snow-laden rooftops.”

During her school years, the nuns in her all-girls school taught her the value of hard work and discipline, which have helped her launch and maintain a successful career as a singer, musician, and songwriter.

Kristen’s lyrics are written from personal experience—like her song “If You don’t Love Me, You’re Wrong.” “I had just gone through a break up,” she notes, “and was searching for a way to deal with my feelings of rejection and hurt. I decided that instead of letting myself wallow in self-pity, I would find a way to feel empowered. The title of the song came to me when I remembered my mentor in New York, Ann Ruckert, who used to say, with a smile on her face, ‘If you don’t love me, You’re wrong, and I refuse to be offended.'”

Music industry pressure tends to be more pronounced for women, who must often balance responsibilities like family and social obligations while working long, gruelling hours. And of course there’s that old chimera, sexism, to contend with. Kristen remembers, “The CFO of a major music label actually put his hand on my thigh in the back of a cab in New York and said, ‘Do you know what sells music, Kristen? Tits and ass.’ I was disgusted, but not surprised.”

After the Tower of Song tour Kristen will be participating in a fashion and music event called the Tiger of Sweden Dressing Room Sessions, with six of Montreal’s finest bands.

But someday? “I’d love to go back to Tanzania,” she muses, “and re-climb Mount Kilimanjaro. And one day I hope to have the means to fund the building of schools for girls in developing countries.”

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