60 seconds with ... Kizzy Crawford
Not yet twenty years old (in 2016), Kizzy has already performed at major festivals and for world leaders. She will appear at HAF 2016 performing BIRDSONG | CAN YR ADAR with Gwilym Simcock and Sinfonia Cymru.
How old were you when you decided to become a professional musician and what is the story behind this decision?
I’ve always loved to sing, but I was 13 when I taught myself guitar and started writing my own songs. I started putting stuff on Youtube just for fun, then local friends asked me to perform at open mics, and I started enjoying the feedback and the experience of playing to an audience, and I did a lot more open mics. When I was 15, I got the chance to record my debut EP with the amazing Amy Wadge. I then met my lovely manager, Rhiannon and I started getting booked a lot. Then things really began to take off.
Who or what have been the biggest influences on the sound of your music?
My main influences are Soul, R&B, Jazz, Folk and Electronic music which my parents played a lot of as I was growing up. I always wanted to be and sound like the strong female singers I listened to, which is one of the reasons I started writing my own songs. I grew up listening to Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Maddie Prior, Roberta Flack, Sandy Denny, Minnie Ripperton as well as Nick Drake and Steeley Dan, Stevie Wonder, Roy Ayers, loads of people. And also a lot of Traditional Jazz and Classical. My current influences are Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, Donald Fagen and Kendrick Lamar. I love the complexity of the production and harmonies in these artists’ music and also the lyrics. They move and inspire me when I listen to them. Music like this, and more in the jazz and hip hop world have influenced my writing a lot lately.
You have performed in front of some big audiences. What techniques can you recommend to cope with performance anxiety?
I wish I could recommend something! It is something I struggle with. I started singing in front of big audiences years ago in Eisteddfods, but was often with my younger sister, and usually with lots of people we knew in the audience. Early open mic stud was similar, and I have found that as I have been playing to bigger audiences, in many different places, I have started to get more anxious. I'm fine once I start singing, but I do get really tense beforehand. I try to remember to breathe and I am learning to meditate. I do a lot of colouring, which I find calming. I would feel loads better if I could take my dog with me, because she is so calming and always makes me feel better; but obviously that's not really practical in most situations! It's certainly a challenge.
What was it like being asked to sing an acoustic version of 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' (Welsh national anthem) in support of the Welsh football team during Euro 2016?
It was such a total honour to be invited to be part of something so big and exciting for Wales, and I was really conscious of wanting to do my absolute best for the team and for Wales. I'm not a massive football fan, but this was such a momentous occasion, that everyone was really swept up by it, and it was so exciting to be a part of it. My family and friends couldn't believe it when I told them and we watched all the games together.
Has the experience now made you a football fan?
Definitely! It was incredible to be a part of the homecoming celebrations. I actually got to open the stage and perform for 30.000 fans, alongside the Manic Street Preachers. It was a very happy and emotional occasion and I am so privileged to have been a part of it.
Being a woman of mixed race, have you ever experienced barriers in the music world because of gender or race?
No, I haven't. Me and my sister were the only mixed race girls in the tiny seaside town where we grew up, and I was aware of looking different, and experienced typical school name calling, which did affect me, but I can honestly say that I have never experienced any barriers in Wales, or anywhere in the music world due to race.
Gender is another matter I think, but I think women experience barriers all over the world because of their gender. We have become used to them so that we may not even notice or be aware of the ways in which this affects us and holds us back. I think it very important to be aware and political. I am proud to call myself a feminist, and this is something I and my three sisters - and my brother - have always discussed and explored with our mother.
You're a bilingual artist. How important to you is equal representation of the English and Welsh languages in your music?
Very important, being bilingual is a big part of my identity and the ways in which I express myself. Growing up in a small seaside, rural community, identifying as Welsh and having our language was a very important way for me to feel included and accepted - the same as everyone else, whilst being aware that my colour was something unusual and made me different.
There are things which I can only say and convey in Welsh, because the language says it better than English - and vice versa. For example, Welsh is very lyrical, and uses poetic language which enables me to express and explore feelings in a way which I don't feel so comfortable about in English. It's always interesting for me when I write a song in Welsh, and later translate it for an English audience - it never quite says the same thing. It’s easier for me to translate from English to Welsh in that respect. Performing bilingually means I can express myself in two different languages and also please both audiences!
What surprises me is how English audiences will sometimes see Welsh language as a curious novelty, whereas for us growing up, it was how we learnt, communicated and expressed ourselves. People don't expect a mixed race woman to be Welsh speaking - even in Wales. Me, my sister and brother used to enjoy playing with this when we were younger - I remember listening to two people on a train discussing mine and my sister's plaits in Welsh, and wondering where we were from. We listened quietly, and then started chattering to each other in Welsh, and enjoyed noticing that they were surprised!
Tell us one fun fact about yourself which people may find surprising?
My favourite way to relax is going for really long walks on the mountains behind my house with my little Jack Russell terrier, Mabli.
Where would you like to be both professionally and personally in 5 years time?
I’d like to have released a self-produced album and to be touring my music around the globe!
If you were to have a dinner party, which three people would you invite (dead or alive) and why? What would you feed them?
I’d probably invite Samira Wiley, one of my favourite actors, Noel Fielding, one of my favourite comedians and Questlove, one of my favourite drummers and producers. I reckon the conversation would be extremely diverse and interesting! I’d serve up some Indian or Caribbean curry for main and mango Ice cream for desert!
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