Esquire meets Kiesza, the break-out star of 2014
There’s not a lot of Kiesza. Physically at least. But the singer-songwriter-dancer-aspiring filmmaker is about to be huge, with her powerhouse vocals and well-crafted retro 90s clubland sound combining on worldwide number one “Hideaway” – the song with the “ooh” and the “aah” and the one-take video, shot when the singer hadn’t fully recovered from a broken rib.
It has since been followed by more collaborations with her Lebanese-Kuwaiti co-conspirator Rami Afuni such as the similarly infectious “Giant In My Heart”. Esquire caught up with her for an exclusive chat in New York City as she helped launch the new DesireEye phone and Re camera for HTC – for whom she is a creatographer.
First things first, you’re not just a singer, are you?
Singer, songwriter, painter, designer… But that sounds a bit, you know. So, singer for now. I love music and that does seem to be the catalyst for everything I do.
We know you for this incredible 90s club sound. What did you grow up listening to?
Michael Jackson. He was very big in our house! But there was also a lot of dance music. My mum loved the big voices, the big ballads, and she’d sing along to them in the house and at karaoke nights. In the car it would be CC Peniston, Black Box, Dance Mix 94, that kind of thing.
So, when you started writing your own music, was it a conscious decision to recreate that sound or did it just happen organically?
My producer Rami Afuni grew up listening to the same kind of music to me, even though he was brought up in Kuwait. We both love that sound and it’s embedded in our brains. It also suits my voice, which is pretty high. But before this, I’d written and performed folk and done some rock, country, hip-hop, indie, even some Irish tunes. You could say it’s been a long journey to get back to where I started!
If hadn’t got a record deal and you had to appear on one of those TV talent shows, which song would sing to get the judges on their feet?
Oh, wow… that’s a tough one… erm… it’d be something like “Rhythm of the Night” by Corona. Actually, no, “Strike it Up” by Black Box! That song blows my mind. Martha Walsh kills it on that song.
The whole Kiesza buzz started April, so you’ve literally become famous in the space of eight months. What’s been the weirdest aspect of fame for you?
Turning up in countries where they don’t even speak the same language but they know who I am. That’s very strange. You know that feeling when someone comes up to you and says, ‘It’s really great to see you!’ and you have no idea who they are? It’s like that. All the time.
Three things you can’t live without…
My Reeboks, hairspray and… erm, eggs! Love them.
One country in the whole world that you can’t wait to visit?
How do you keep up with yourself?
I don’t know. It’s hard!