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Kiesza: I went through such a dark time after the car crash, but I wanted to keep my album light and fun

Following a life-changing car accident in 2017 that left her with a traumatic brain injury and unable to work for a long time, Kiesza is back with new music and a positive outlook on life. Lucy Mapstone talks to the Canadian singer-songwriter about her recovery, her comeback, and how she dealt with her rise to fame with the breakout hit Hideaway


Future focus: Kiesza

Future focus: Kiesza

Future focus: Kiesza

Kiesza is tired today. She doesn't feel tired every day, but this morning she woke up and does not feel her best.

This is a common thing for the Canadian singer-songwriter since she was involved in a car crash in Toronto in 2017.

While travelling in an Uber, a taxi clashed with the side of the vehicle, and the impact of the accident left Kiesza with a traumatic brain injury that affected her balance, her immune system, her vision and even her digestion.

Following a couple of years of recovery and now ready to release her long-overdue second album, she says that focusing on a future where she could work again really helped her through her lowest moments.

"I have a lot of days where it's really hard... It's really hard to fall asleep still and it's really hard to get out of bed," she says.

"The mornings and the nights are tough, but I have a lot of will and a lot of drive, and I think that has saved me.

"It is the only thing that got me through this. None of that went away."

Having already started to make her comeback in recent months with the release of her acclaimed singles When Boys Cry and You're The Best, the flame-haired electro-pop darling is gearing up for the release of her as-yet untitled new album.

"I'm not really giving out details yet, I'm just in the middle of it," she explains.

"What I can tell you is that I am done writing all the songs and we're into the mixing and mastering process."

Reflecting on her major label debut album Sound Of A Woman, released in 2014 after her breakthrough deep house single Hideaway became a global smash hit, she adds: "It's been a very different process for this one, because with my first one, I'd written around half of it when I put Hideaway out.

"Then the song took off so fast that I had to write the second half of the album really, really quickly.

"In this case, I've had a lot more time to curate the album and pick the songs that I want."

However, despite the life-altering trauma she went through over two years ago, the new record won't be completely focused on her experiences.

"I'm just at a point where I really want to put out high energy, positive music," she clarifies, her excitement and relief palpable.

"This album's definitely more high energy than the first album, across the board. It really maintains a certain tone.

"Because I went through such a dark time in my life, with the car crash and everything, I've definitely written songs about that and have gone into that dark place with my other writing, but for my new album coming up, I wanted to keep it really upbeat and light and fun. I think a lot of people know me as a fun, positive performer, and I haven't had a chance to express that side of myself for a while, so I definitely miss it," she confesses.

"I miss getting out on stage and dancing and being that kind of rock star out there. I'm getting close to being back to a point where I can do that again, so I'm preparing myself in advance," she adds with a laugh.

Kiesza, whose real name is Kiesa Rae Ellestad, says she was concerned that she would never be able to perform or work as a musician again during her recovery process.

"One of the biggest changes I had to make was the fact that I couldn't work," she says, reflecting on the months she had to remain in a dark room, and the ice helmet she still sometimes has to wear after doing anything too strenuous.

"I couldn't even really think, I had to basically sit there, lie in bed and do nothing.

"It drove me almost to the point of insanity at one point, and I realised I had no control over what was going on.

"Healing is something you have to surrender yourself to, and go with it. Me being frustrated, me being stressed about it and worrying was actually slowing the process down, and the moment I started to realise that, I realised I had no choice. I had to be OK and accept where I was at."

She admits had to consider her "other options" at one point, "but it was such a hard thing to do".

However, she did eventually start to heal, and is now at a point where she can write and record music again. She's also nearly ready to get back on stage, something that truly fills her with delight.

With her new collection almost ready to go, and having waved goodbye to her old record label ("they just weren't a label built for the kind of music I did, so I was stuck in this limbo..."), Kiesza - whose other hits include Giant In My Heart and a cover of Haddaway's What Is Love? - is ready and raring to show the world what she is really made of.

"I think Hideaway created the biggest misconception of me as an artist," she notes.

"I'm really known as this dancing, retro, 1990s chick. But actually, I have this history of writing folk music and songwriting and, actually, I do tons of different types of art.

"There's really so much to me that my biggest struggle is actually being pigeonholed by the machine that was created by having a viral hit."

Thoughtfully, she adds: "The struggle that I have is, can I put these other sides to me out? Will people embrace them, should I even put them out?

"Some of them are really personal and I get very eccentric, I dive into surrealism, and so a big focus right now is of building that up and creating a space for myself to actually show all of these sides, and releasing them in a way that is very cohesive within the individual projects that I put out.

"But I think people just haven't had a chance to see these other sides to me yet, and I really do think they flow together well, because they're all me.

"They're all within me and they are what create me, so what people have seen is just a tiny little section of that. A little sliver."

Kiesza is set to release new single All Of The Feelings on March 6, with her new album to follow later this year

Belfast Telegraph