Kiesza talks Atlanta tour kickoff, working with Duran Duran

BY MELISSA RUGGIERI

Kiesza isn’t a household name yet, but thanks to the charming dance-pop hit “Hideaway” ( and its even more delightful video ), her recognizability quotient is on the rise.

The Calgary native, 26, recently stormed the Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent of the Grammys), taking home a trio of trophies related to “Hideaway” and her major label debut album, “Sound of a Woman.”

Calling from Manchester, where she was playing a quick run of the U.K., the amiable Kiesza chatted about her upcoming U.S. tour – which kicks off March 30 at Center Stage – as well as why she chose to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music, why Skrillex is the nicest guy in the world and her contribution to the new Duran Duran album.

Q: How are the U.K. shows going?

A: It’s tiring, but it’s fun. It’s been a balance of trying to stay healthy.

Q: How do you manage that?

A: I have exercises that I do in dressing room. I don’t drink alcohol or caffeine. No gluten or dairy. You don’t have to drink to have fun!

Q: You had a big weekend at the Juno Awards.

A: That was kind of a shock. I didn’t expect to get so many.

Q: Do those awards mean more to you because they’re from your homeland?

A: Not more, but just as much to be supported in any country or city. It was special because I grew up watching (the awards show), so they had significance to my childhood. It was sort of a surreal moment.

Q: This is your first big tour. Are you nervous or excited or …?

A: I’ve been touring – Australia and Europe and then the U.S. which is seven weeks long. I’m going to have to be extra anal about taking care of myself. We have a few runs of five shows in a row, so that’s going to be challenging. I will probably be on vocal rest before most of the shows.

But the U.S. is the funnest place to perform because the audiences give you so much energy and are so enthusiastic and a lot of times they’ll make their own clothing for your show. I get to hit a lot more cities and places where they might not know me as well. I’m sort of excited to be new in some cities and then returning for others.

Q: Have you been to Atlanta before?

A: A little bit when I was becoming a writer. But I didn’t really get around the city a lot. It has so much history, so many great rappers. I’ll probably come back to work with some writers. Once this tour is done, I think there will be more flexibility during the summer.

Kiesza also made the rounds at radio station concerts this past holiday season. Photo: Getty Images.

Q: What can we expect from the live show?

A: It’s a little over an hour. I play most of the songs from the album and I do a cover that I’m going to leave as a surprise! I think everyone will know what it is. (The show) has the dance music and some urban stuff, the R&B-leaning stuff.

Q: Do you have a full band?

A: A drummer, keyboardist and two dancers. I’m working my way up. I’d love a horn player and bassist.  Last year I just had a DJ, which was great, but there’s so much more energy with a live band. I want my live show to be different than what they hear on the album.

Q: What is your history with Betty Who?

A: I know of her through Berklee. She worked with a producer I know and came out with that cool song, “Somebody Loves You.” Her management expressed interest in her touring with me and it sounded like it would be really fun. I’ve never actually done a whole tour with another artist.

Q: Your album is called “The Sound of a Woman.” What would you say that is?

A: As a song, it’s a woman finding her inner strength, but as an album, it’s a love story; the emotions that I feel myself and others go through when they fall in love, the struggles they go through. I think the hardest part in a relationship is realizing it’s over but not wanting to call it off. I feel like going through that experience makes you a stronger person. Maybe I went in a girl and came out a woman. I think recording this album allowed me to dig up a lot of emotions and reflect on it. It was therapeutic.

Q: I was thrilled to hear about your collaboration with Duran Duran. How did that come about?

A: (Singer) Simon (LeBon) was apparently in a gym watching TV on a treadmill and my video came on and he really, really liked it. His management reached out to a friend of mine, and he put the idea out there. I was like, I can’t say no to Duran Duran - they like, made the ‘80s!

Q: Did you actually record in the same space with them?

A: I was in the studio with all of them. They’re so young at heart, it feels like they’re still teenagers. They’re really educated about music. Duran Duran all started talking music theory to me. I was like, wow, I have to start using my brain!

It sounds like the song will be on their new album. I’m sure we’ll work together again, maybe even for my album. We sort of thought we should do something in the studio and start from scratch. I heard some stuff from their new album and it’s going to be amazing. They still really love what they do. They’re not in it for money, but because they genuinely love music. They’ve spent three years working on this album.

Q: I heard Skrillex on Howard Stern recently and he was raving about working with you. What was that experience like for you with him and Diplo?

A: I think Skrillex is probably, hands down, the nicest person I’ve ever met. It’s like his life mission to be the nicest person in the world. Diplo is like a kid in a candy shop when it comes to music. When you get in the studio with both of them, it’s the best time ever. They really bring out an energy, especially for me. When everyone is so inspired to make music, you’re really just having fun.

Q: Your brother filmed your “Hideaway” video. Do you see any future collaborations with him?

A: He’s one of my favorite people to work with in the world. He’s brilliant and easygoing and so funny. We’ll always be working together.

Q: What prompted you to want to attend Berklee?

A: I sort of felt where I envisioned myself at the time, like I needed to explore other cities and find a music community that was doing what I was doing. Calgary has more of a bluegrass-country scene, not a lot of people doing the music I wanted to do. I love learning and wanted to get my degree and figured it would be a great place to meet people.

Q: What plans do you have in mind for your next album?

A: I’ve already started writing it on guitar and piano. This one I’m starting from the ground up. I still want to find people to help take what’s in my head and make it real.

 Kiesza with Betty Who. 8 p.m. March 30. $22.50. Center Stage, 1374 W. Peachtree St., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000,ticketmaster.com.

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About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.  
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