She’s been a sailor in the Royal Canadian Navy. She’s trained as a ballerina. She’s an artist and photographer. She’s got a number one hit single that earned her three Juno Awards, has worked with Skrillex and will feature on Duran Duran’s new album, due out in September. Oh, and she’s just about everywhere you look this year, from Coachella and the 2015 Tony Awards in New York City to Ottawa’s free Glowfair street festival on June 20th.
So when Canadian superstar-in-the-making Kiesza drops into the conversation that she’s also just designed a line for uber-cool men’s sport fashion label, Bad Bunch NYC, and is thinking about doing another under her own steam, you have to ask: Is there anything she can’t do?
It’s a fair question. After exploding up the pop charts like a red-headed bottle rocket last year with her smash hit, Hideaway, Kiesza’s name, if not her hairstyle and her unique fashion sense, have increasingly become synonymous with more-ish EDM dance songs overlain with that agile, soaring voice and some pretty interesting collaborations. Her work with Joey Bada$$–more on that later—resulted in the earwormy hook in Teach Me on his album B4.DA$$, as well as Bad Thing on her album, Sound of a Woman.
So when it comes to what she can’t do, the answer is ‘not much’.
“I can’t skateboard very well,” she offers, half apologetically, because at is turns out, she’s also ambidextrous and is driven to master things with both hands or “I feel unbalanced.” Skateboarding has eluded her “because I haven’t put any effort into it. And I don’t have the time.”
Time or a lack of it may be the only real weakness the 26-year-old Calgary native faces. Although she’s worked hard for what she’s achieved so far, she admits there is one thing she misses of her life pre-fame.
“There’s something about being able to create without any schedule ahead of you,” she says. “My whole life was devoted to trying to get something to catch, but there was so much freedom in that. That’s the one thing that’s changed the most, every little crack in my life is filled with something. I’m really grateful,” she adds quickly, “but I’m simply having to schedule things in.” Currently on what she calls her “Einstein schedule” of four hour naps after four hours of work, she admits she’s so focussed on her career, “I’m always doing something.”
One of those things was a collaboration with independent New York rapper Joey Bada$$, which happened about as organically as it gets. An admirer of the 20-year-old’s music, Kiesza and her manager had tried to get in touch with him about a possible ‘feature’ on her album. Even a personal email—which he missed—got no response. Then, two days before she was due to turn her album in, he randomly tweeted her, saying they should work together.
“So I got in touch with him and we were both like, ‘what??’ I said, ‘I’ll come tomorrow’ and as a result, we wrote Teach Me and Bad Thing. He’s such a sweetheart, a really nice guy, very open minded.” So far, the pair have performed Teach Me at Coachella together.
Bookending those efforts are songs like Sound of a Woman, a slower, more thoughtful track about “a woman who is finally finding strength to speak her mind freely,” she says. “If you look at a lot of songs by great singers, a lot of them deal with pockets of finding inner strength: first time in love, first time you find yourself in a situation where your gut tells you something isn’t right and you’re afraid to speak your mind.” When singing it live, she notes, “the men are like ‘yeah, I love this song’, but the women are eyeing me down, like ‘I’ve been there.’”
With the Duran Duran collaboration (due out in September and also featuring six time Grammy Award nominee, Janelle Monäe) and a host of other projects in the hopper, she’s nevertheless looking forward to time alone.
That may come this summer, with plans to retreat from the spotlight for a while in order to be creative “in an environment that’s really simple…an empty room with a bed and blank walls.”
“I’m not looking for stimulation. I find creativity is on a sailboat,” she says. “In finding time to sort of sit back and let yourself live.”
Kiesza will headline at Glowfair on June 20. For more information visit glowfair.ca.