CANADIAN SINGER/SONGWRITER KRISTEN RENEE WHO PERFORMED HER FIRST SONG EVER FROM BEHIND A CURTAIN...OF HAIR! FIND OUT MORE IN THIS INTERVIEW
Canadian born Singer/Songwriter Kristen Renee was surprised to win Claudia eRecords' 'End Of Year Song' Contest 2020. We had the opportunity to ask her a few questions.
Hi Kristen, thank you for taking the time to chat to Claudia eRecords.
1. You had great feedback on various platforms. People love your style.
When the moment came of you taking up first place in our competition it came somewhat as a
surprise to you. May I ask why?
It’s taken a while for me to find my sound. There’s been lots of experimenting, so that’s really encouraging to hear! I suppose the win came as a bit of a surprise because I was one of 15 incredible artists! I listened to everyone competing and was very impressed by all of the talent that was entered. My fingers were crossed but was aware of the odds and in the end, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
2. You grew up in a musical family. What does that mean? What is your best memory you
had/strength you get from that?
Both of my parents were singer/songwriters and performers while I was growing up. My mom has been traveling Canada and recording albums with her family, and later as a soloist, since she was 3 years old. My dad was a part of a handful of Southern Gospel quartets that toured Canada as well as the States. At one point they even sang and travelled together! Music was a cornerstone in our home. There was always music on or singing, sometimes as a family. I didn’t join them often but there were good times had when I did. I think my best memory would be on the tour bus, falling asleep to the sound of rain.
3. Do you play any instruments? Which one is your favorite?
I solely play the guitar. My aunt Bonnie taught me the basics when I was 14 years old and I got more serious about song writing after that and eventually took lessons for 2 years. In elementary school I played the clarinet, and my dad tried to get me to become a violinist but that only lasted a year. I appreciate violin, greatly, I just did not take to it like I did guitar.
4. Which instrument is your preferred one when you compose songs?
I would still say guitar! Even in the studio, we always start out with a raw recording of the song I’d like to lay down, just me and a guitar. I also very much love the piano. I don’t play but I wish that I did. It’s just beautiful. Thankfully, my producer plays well and always adds just the right amount to provide a classic vibe, amid what is often a pop song.
5. Before you started your solo career, you used to be in a band. Tell me a little bit about it.
Haha, oh yes. “Out Of My Element.” I started a duo band with my best friend in high school, Brendan De Santis. He and I originally named ourselves “Princess Avenue,” but decided to change it in the end. We sang around our high school and at a couple outdoor venues in our hometown London, Ontario. We wrote several songs together. I actually hope to pull them off the shelf and revive them one of these days! I’d love to share them.
6. You have started a small business….customizing songs for weddings and/or special occasions.
How did you come about this idea?
I’ve been writing songs since before I could use a pen. I started writing personal songs for people as Christmas/birthday/wedding gifts, as I am much more creative musically than with gift ideas, haha. I performed a personal song for my friends wedding and someone asked me what I charge for it, and the penny dropped. I’ve been doing it so long I never thought of it from a business perspective but turning my passion into a career has been the greatest collaboration. I have had some really wonderful experiences, and nothing makes me happier than presenting a song written specifically for an individual or couple and seeing their reactions to the final product.
7. Where do you get your ideas to write songs which moves your audience?
For my song writing business, I get the ideas and inspiration directly from the person or couple who are requesting a custom song. I sit down with them for an hour (often in a café, but since COVID it has been over Zoom or FaceTime) and ask them a series of guided questions at their discretion. If it is an individual, it is usually a surprise for one of their loved one’s, either a son or daughter, a spouse, a birthday, Christmas, or anniversary gift, etc. If it’s a couple, it’s likely for their wedding day, so, with an aim in mind, we have a thorough discussion about the person or situation the song is for. I then take their story, meditate, and using their vulnerability and energy from the interview to set the tone for the melody. I include the majority, if not all, of the information I’m given to build a personal story and weave it into something melodic.
8. How do you cope with setbacks?
I’ve been intentionally learning about having grace for myself over the last few years. It hasn’t been the strongest suit of mine when it comes to failure or unexpected problems, but I’ve been dedicated to changing my tune. I’ve wanted this for myself in general, but especially because I’m breaking into the music scene and I realize how competitive and challenging it can be. I can’t afford to be too hard on myself when facets of the industry already provide on that front. But also, I will fail. Everyone does. It’s unavoidable. So, to ensure that I, as well as my business continue to thrive, I begin honestly by saying that there’s always a risk with writer’s block. It hasn’t happened yet (knock on wood), but if I were to become unable to complete a song or get it to the quality of their liking for whatever reason, I would remain honest and only charge accordingly, if at all.
9. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
The pandemic has affected plans for sure, but in the spirit of a new normal solidifying itself, I would love to be touring within the next 5 years. Ideally, I’d love to see some of the world while I’m at it. However, if travelling and touring live doesn’t return to a liable option, I would still love to be recording and releasing music, continuing to perform whether it be virtually or otherwise. When it’s time to start a family I still intend on writing and performing but would love to have my song writing business in full swing so that I’m able to do what I love as well as be there for family.
10. Where do you feel are the challenges in your musical career and which parts seems to just fly
into your lap?
I would say that exposure is one of the biggest challenges in my music career. Believe it or not, even with the energetic, musical family I was raised in, I am something of an introvert. It has taken me years of intentionality to feel and grow confident in social settings and on stage. I love people, and have a desire to entertain, but up until my adolescence, I struggled to “put myself out there” if you will. Even after coming a long way in that area with the influence of amazing friends and mentors, the industry is tough to break into and become noticed with so many incredible talents already in the spotlight.
That being said, I have always loved music for its healing qualities. What comes naturally (which isn’t 100% consistent), is my ability to capture a moment, experience or feeling and put it to music. I love writing for myself and for others because music works like medicine and has always had a special connection to human-beings. Whether it’s creating joy, sadness, ecstasy, opinion or inspiration, it affects us and has a place in all our lives. So, I’ve never given too much power to popularity or numbers or likes, I truly enjoy how music makes me feel at any given moment, and my dream is to provide music that moves and affects people according to the state they’re in. Whether that’s a handful of individuals from my hometown, or scattered across the entire globe, I want to entertain and inspire humanity with the gifts I’ve been blessed with, as others have blessed me.
11. Do you have any advise to other aspiring musicians to help them on their journey?
Don’t second guess your potential, hustle, and be open to constructive criticism.
When we feel driven or inspired by something we love to do, it can be tempting to look around and see who’s doing it better or view them as competition instead of a point of inspiration. Especially artists, once we’ve completed a piece of work that we’re proud of, it can be tempting to wonder if it’s good enough or any good at all. Fear can creep in, making us question if anyone will like it or care about it. Even though they are just thoughts, thoughts are powerful and can actually cause us to digress. Don’t let that happen! In any industry today, hustle is required. There are so many people doing what you and I love to do, and if we want to influence or hold significance for others, we need to keep our initial goal at the forefront of our agenda. Getting bogged down or insecure due to outside circumstances will steal the motivation from right under you – and there will always be reasons to give in. I like to think of it as resistance training. Along with that, we can often fear other people’s opinions about our work to the point of wanting to keep it to ourselves. However, I’ve found criticism to be a beneficial way to grow as an artist, and as an individual in general. I struggled with embracing constructive criticism most of my life. Having perfectionistic tendencies, whenever someone would say “I love this, but it could be better here” or “maybe change this,” all I would hear is “it isn’t good enough.” What I have learned is that when we put our heart and soul into something, we love it just as it is. But the important thing about growth is that nothing is ever perfect or complete – there’s always room to add or subtract. So, I’ve learned to have a looser grip on my ideas, allowing space for other creative minds and listening ears to express what they think could be improved. This is a great way to get a feel for what your audience wants, while also expanding your own creative horizon.
12. What is the strangest/funniest thing that happened to you in your music career?
When I was 6 years old my mom was directing a Christmas production at my school and I received a feature song to sing on my own. One of my first real on-stage performances. On opening night, moments leading up to the intro of my song.... I looked out at all the people caught stage fright. Thanks to inexperience, I decided that if I couldn’t see the audience... they couldn’t see me. So, I pulled my waste-length hair over my face as well as the microphone and performed my solo - to my mothers’ absolute horror. She watched from the front row, frantically motioning me to remove my hair from my face. But of course, I couldn’t see her, so she helplessly watched me sabotage my debuting performance from behind a curtain of hair!