The pose…of a star! (All photos courtesy of Tiba Vieira)
Kiesa Rae Ellestad, otherwise known by her stage name, Kiesza, has all of the ingredients of a star. From her signature look to her humble beginnings in Calgary, Alberta, to her identifiable sound—an emotive, positive, and danceable blend of deep-house and pop, that pulls from the work of beloved divas like Robin S, CeCe Peniston and Kylie Minogue—she's got it.
You probably know this budding Canadian singer/songwriter from her single, "Hideaway," which came along with a music video that went viral, thrusting viewers into a state of inescapable bliss. Even my mom loves this song, and recently sent me a photo of her blasting the track in her car. (When the moms start getting on board—you really know you are onto something.)
Momma's boy that I am, I wanted to learn the "Hideaway" dance myself. Kiesza revisited the Williamsburg streets of the video that happened to be next to the VICE office. While that video was shot in a single take, she makes it look a lot easier than it was.
"It was completely spontaneous," she admits. "There was no budget and it was totally independent. I didn't have any expectations, I just loved the song and felt like it was really 'me' in the track—so maybe that feeling came across."
Nearly seven months after the video's release, people are still feeling the seductive vibes of "Hideaway" in full force, and countless fans and even a few esteemed industry influencers have taken to the internet with their best parodies of Kiesza's video, and amazing dance routine. "A lot of people have told me that they felt like they could just jump into the video and join in, and I love that idea," she says.
BBC Radio1 host Greg 'Gregza' James' brilliant rendition.
Kiesza hit another benchmark last week—performing her single on The Late Show with David Letterman, a further testament that she is poised for a true crossover. With Kiesza however, and the rapidly growing contingent of melodic, approachable house, the mainstream could be looking very different than it did even a mere six months ago.
"I think the time is right," she tells me. "I've noticed when going out to raves and festivals in the US that when deep house comes on the speakers, people can move their whole body to it. With EDM you can basically just fist pump and that's it—when you see people listening to deep house they're really dancing."
The Hideaway EP, a four-track release that includes her smash single and her soulful downtempo cover of "What Is Love," the oft-mocked 90s club tune from Haddaway, is quickly turning heads. Her debut album is tentatively scheduled for October and said to be a collection of other tracks that pack her brand of pop-infused beats. "I think the album is more influenced by a sound and by an era," Kiesza explains. "It's a fusion of the old and the new, the 90s and 2014… sort of."
Spending only a short period of time with the artist, it's clear that she has the drive, and hunger to take the music industry by storm. "I had two brothers growing up and was the only girl," Kiesza explains. "I think that gave me a bit of a competitive streak."
Her older brother helped spark her interest in urban music, grooming her to be an aficionado of hip-hop, R&B, and B-boy dance culture. She started her career performing folk music, after teaching herself to play classical guitar and eventually wound up honing her craft at the world-renowned Berklee School of Music.
Before she was a fulltime musician, she spent a portion of her teenage years as a reserve member of the Royal Canadian Navy, and is said to be a pure ace with a rifle. It's no surprise from the "Hideaway" video that she has some formal training in ballet, tap and jazz dance as well as the Brazilian martial art/dance of Capoeira. As she puts it: "I've always been super curious."
If "Hideaway" is a hyperblend of only some of Kiesza's many talents, this is truly a star who is only beginning to shine.
Get up on these future stars and impress your friends and moms
Say Hello to Soul Clap Records' Newest Shining Star, David Marston
Meet Islamabad's Only Trap Star, Talal Qureshi
Catching Up with Haiti's EDM Rising Star Michael Brun
David thinks he may have a future as one of Kiesza's backup dancers, but he won't quit his day job, as the Associate Editor of THUMP. @DLGarber