Kiesa Rae Ellestad (born January 16, 1989), known professionally as Kiesza (// KYE-zə), is a Canadian singer and multi-instrumentalist from Calgary, who has most recently worked in New York City and London.
Kiesza was born and raised in Calgary. Her last name Ellestad is Norwegian from her paternal side and her grandfather is from Fagernes in Norway. When she was 16, she took part in the Sail and Life Training Society (SALTS) program and later became a sailing instructor at the Glenmore Sailing School in 2007. A year later she joined the reserves of the Royal Canadian Navy along with her brother, becoming a NavCom (Naval Communicator). It was while she was at crew singalongs at the Navy that she taught herself to play guitar. Meanwhile, she also entered the Miss Universe Canada pageant. She stated that her time in the Navy motivated her to give away 4,500 CDs to Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan in 2008.
Kiesza took part in the Young Canadians, performing tap and jazz dancing, as well as theatre. She also trained as a ballerina, however, a knee injury at age 15 ended her ballet career. When Kiesza was 18, she says that her parents' divorce caused her to write her first song, as a way of expressing her feelings. The same year, she heard a song of hers played on the radio.
In an interview with the Metro, Kiesza claimed that she can trace her lineage to someone who fought alongside Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn, elaborating "There's a lot of Scottish people in Canada. Tons. My grandpa was of Scottish heritage - he was of the black Douglases".
2006–13: Career beginnings
CKUA Folk Routes host Tom Coxworth selected her to perform for a live audience and to be broadcast live on his radio show. Shortly after, she was accepted to the Selkirk College in Nelson, BC, where she studied keyboard, voice and guitar. Next, Kiesza obtained a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. After attending Berklee, she went to New York City in 2010 to advance her music career. Although Kiesza started as mainly a folk singer, after attending Berklee and then living in New York, she moved to a more "uptempo sound" for which she works with producer Rami Samir Afuni. In 2010 she was selected to play at the Canada Day celebrations at Trafalgar Square in London for 30,000 people.
In 2012, Kiesza released her first single after starting work with Afuni in New York, a "disco-infused pop" single titled "Oops" about a couple that had unprotected sex. She labelled her style of music at the time as "SteamPop", described by AjanWrites as "a flaming brew of bold, boisterous pop filled with tongue-in-cheek lyrics". In a later 2014 interview, she said "Oops" was made as a joke.
2014–present: Sound of a Woman
In February 2014,Kiesza released the video for her new single "Hideaway" through the label Lokal Legend. Idolator considered it unique, for having a long take throughout the entire video, as Kiesza walked and danced through N 12th Street In Brooklyn, New York City. John Gentile of Rolling Stone called the style "impressive". Kiesza reported to Rolling Stone that she had trouble making the video, partly because she broke a rib just before filming, and "couldn't move for an entire month afterward." It was premiered by Annie Mac on her Mac's Special Delivery segment on BBC Radio 1. "Hideaway" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart issued for 26 April 2014.
Shortly after "Hideaway" charted, Kiesza released a new video for her cover of Haddaway's song "What Is Love". Mike Bell of the Calgary Herald referred to her version of the song as a "jaw-droppingly gorgeous cover of Haddaway's 1993 dance smash What Is Love?" She performed a slowed down version, with a video showing her and others, slowly revealed to be without clothes, to express "raw emotions".
Kiesza collaborated with Skrillex and Diplo on the song "Take Ü There", which was released as the first single from a collaborative mixtape between the two producers. She co-wrote Gorgon City's "Go All Night", which features Jennifer Hudson singing her lyrics, and will appear on the British duo's debut album, Sirens.
She has written several songs for Rihanna that may appear on her upcoming new album. She also worked with Loreen on her album, which will be released in 2016 and co-wrote the second single, "I'm In It With You". She also appears as a guest on Duran Duran's new album, Paper Gods, released September 11, 2015.
In 2014, Kiesza was selected to be the face of a new line of fashion eyewear called "Color Block" by retailer Fendi, appearing in a promotional video shot by Ruth Hogben. The video "features Kiesza strolling on a treadmill against a painted skyline, while singing and donning the double-framed, colourful sunglasses." She announced plans to release her own line of fashion under the name "SteamPop" sometime in 2014.
- Kiesza (2008)
- Sound of a Woman (2014)
- Sound of a Woman Tour (2015)
- Demi World Tour (2014)