Welcome to BuzzMusic Kierscey it's great to have you. Tell us how long you've been in the music industry and what inspired you as a music artist.
Thanks for having me. It's great to be a part of BuzzMusic. I've been in the industry professionally for years now, however, I'm usually in the background helping the artist. I started out as a keys and guitar player for local bands. The bands that have a lot of success, I direct gigs for them now. One of those bands is my long-time friend K'naan, whom I've known since I was a youth. Put it this way, about nine years ago I was playing The LA House of Blues during a time when Bruno Mars was an underdog and was opening for us. Already so much has changed since then, but I'd say there's over a decade of history even before that when I was just touring.
Mos Def, Damian Marley, Nas, M-1 to name a few artists who we played with and are also people who supported K'naan when he was just on the come up. And because I was in his band, I got to hang out with some really cool people. I got some amazing guidance, saw some legendary shows and traveled all around the world. I love R&B, Hip Hop and I love making beats! My beat-making days go as far back to the time when using a four-track was still a thing. I was just a kid using whatever I had at the time to make music; hitting a pillow with a microphone under it for a kick drum, cookie cans for a snare and a metal fan for a ride cymbal. I also used a Yamaha DX-7 keyboard. No editing just live takes. I spent a lot of time recreating tracks by Babyface and Jam and Lewis. I studied those tracks and listened in-depth to all the things that made it great. I still love those tracks and play them all the time, but I also crave to hear a good 808 or snappy clap from a DJ Mustard or Hitmaker track. I enjoy the music that moves the new generation, but some of my older friends can't stand it. This gap between what the kids and the O.G.'s listen to inspires me to make music. I feel my music fills the gap and is what keeps me going.
We've been told that you play the guitar in a very unique way like no other. Can you tell us a bit more about this? Yes, I love explaining this! I play a regular right-handed guitar turned upside down. So I strum with my left hand and grip with my right, however, the Low E string is on the bottom and the high E-string is at the top. When I was very young, I picked up my Dad's guitar and it felt natural playing this way. I had to read chord charts backward and had to find my own way to grip them. My Dad thought this style of playing was very rare so he encouraged me to keep it this way even though I'd be tempted to switch back or re-string it. He explained to me the advantage of this is that I can feel comfortable playing left-handed, and wouldn't need a left-handed guitar to perform. Those were some good reasons to keep it that way, so I did. Whenever I play live, I love to see other guitar players trip out when they notice how I play.
Congrats on the recent release of your album "Breaking Beds". Were there any obstacles faced along the way in creating the album? Which music artists have been some of your influences or made an impact on your music? Thank you so much. I am so proud of this new album, "Breaking Beds" and had so much fun making this record even though there were a few hiccups along the way. Anyone that knows me knows I could've dropped a couple of albums by now, but when I hear some of my older tracks I can tell I was in a different headspace. Perhaps I was creating from a 'songwriters perspective' and was looking to sell my songs to a big artist. They were great tracks but I felt like I wasn't really being my true self on them. On the album Breaking Beds I feel like I'm giving all of me and 'more'. Maybe too much of me at times, but you gotta make an impression in seconds these days.
One obstacle I remember was trusting myself with this new way of doing music. Before this album, my tracks were smooth, romantic and soulful. That's cool but I wanted this album to be fun, silly, bumpin', and at the same time stand out conceptually. These lyrics are some of my most explicit and in ways ridiculous, but I knew it would be genius if it was performed with sheer confidence. It's like my music was asking me to level up. I used to show listeners that I can play instruments very well, but now I'm disciplining myself to play more basic so anyone can catch the beat. Same thing with my songwriting. I'm still tempted to show off my vocal chops, but now I'm trying to find the simplest best idea to sing and deliver it with the raw talent it deserves.
I got the chance to show one of my friends August Rigo (you should look him up by the way) an album I was planning on releasing before Breaking Beds. He said the vocals and playing on that album was great but there's too much going on in the music and some people won't catch what's great about it. When artists have talent they're tempted to show listeners what they can do, but sometimes it's not what's best for the song. August described to me what he calls 'a crossroads of greatness and simplicity' coming together and the result of this is a 'common denominator'. This way there's room for any audience to take in your talent and it doesn't go over their heads. Bruno Mars understands this, so does T-Pain and that's why everyone listens to them. They can do anything with their talent but they choose to be this way because it appeals to the masses. This really spoke to me. It was hard to start over. I thought this change was risky and I didn't know if I could pull it off, but it excited me to see if I could. I was confident in my talents to deliver the performance, but on the hard days, it was tough to get into this new character. Being an artist is like being a superhero in the sense that it's a double-life and both lives are important. The older we get the more responsibilities come about and it's easy to get lost in all that. I had to learn to say 'no' to some opportunities, take some time off, sometimes create all night with no sleep to make this work. With the rare time, I had to record music, there was a battle of me 'letting go' of everything holding me back so I could give it my all.
You've had the privilege of working alongside and being around many well known and respected talented music artists. Tell us about these experiences and how they have helped you grow. Being a Musical Director is an amazing opportunity and it does take you places. Here's a crazy story when I was touring with K'naan, we once shared a dressing room with Bill Clinton and had a short moment with him. We saw him again a few months after that and he still remembered us which I thought was incredible. On our journey, we've crossed paths with Jon B, Anthony Hamilton, Dave Chapelle, Russell Peters, John Legend, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell Williams, and the list goes on. One of the very first tours we joined was Mos Def's "Breed Love Odyssey". We got this gig at a time when we weren't making any money and saving our per diem was a crucial part of life. We were those guys who had to be placed on other people's buses always asking for a ride to the next city. It was a blessing in disguise sharing a tour bus with Pharoahe Monch and his band for a month. We also caught a ride on Talib Kweli's and Mos Def's bus a couple times. I was non-stop trippin' because I never been on a tour like this and was star struck all the time. I quickly observed that these heavy hitters are constantly being bothered by tons of people that want a "shot". So much talk of what they can do and that they're the 'shit.' It can be a headache. I found myself gravitating to the quiet guys in the background and found a lot of them were very important people. They were like 'secret weapons' of a mass operation and portrayed a different kind of confidence. They told me to work smart, be on time, be 'cool' and everything will come to you one day. They showed me that you can get way further in this business by listening rather than talking. They're more about working on their craft and letting that speak for itself.
Words are not usually my way of expressing myself, but I got infinite ways of being creative. I've seen people that can move others with their words keeping audiences wanting to hear more and I have respect for that. I've also seen people make a killing from working on being 'original' and creating their own lane. They know how to get on people's good side without talking too much, and they achieve that by being present in the moment and truly living with that in mind. On tour, you will spend hours waiting together and your set will probably be one hour or less. When all's done, understandably a lot of people wanna be alone after. But if someone you highly respect wants to just hang out, I recommend you make time because there's so much importance in that as well. Make an honest effort to be present and make a real connection.
Thank you for being here with us. How do you plan on kicking off 2020? Where can we find you singing and performing live? Well, nothing is set in stone for 2020. I'm still riding the wave of 2019. I've got plans on releasing a few singles in December. But as for 2020, I really want to collaborate with more artists. Toronto has a great music scene and a lot of great musicians. So I only think it's fair to build up the city that I call home. I would love to release a compilation album similar to DJ Khaled. I would produce and write all the tracks and have a bunch of feature artists that I support/admire. It'll definitely be a lot of work but I'm up for the challenge for sure. I also just recently played a successful show in Toronto for the release of my EP. I had such a great response to the whole show that the goal is to put together a couple more shows in 2020, but bigger and better. And of course, I'll be gigging and musical directing as much as possible.
Listen to Kierscey's music here.