It is very rare these days that I discover a new recording artist that I really like. I’m handed dozens of demo CDs, but must admit the listening experience is usually deeply depressing. Then, suddenly, magic happens!
I knew Kristen Bussandri as the music student of a friend before I had heard her music. When she e-mailed me about her new collection of five songs, called Diamonds to Dust, I listened and was floored by the high quality of her compositions and music. It was a complete and total surprise that came out of the blue. Yes, Virginia, great work survives!
Kristen, who now lives in Montreal, has worked hard over the years on her music and it shows. She studied with Ann Ruckert in New York, before returning home to begin a well thought out career.
Her style is “country soul,” a term that describes “a lot of mixing of 60s influences including R&B, blues and gentle country.” She likes the description because it brings together diverse parts of her music. “It’s important to have a description of your music. Everything I do and love is in the scope of Americana music — soul, blues and country,” Kristen told me.
The first thing about Kristen that jumps out is her beautiful voice. She really has the vocal chops. She is also an excellent songwriter. The country flavor of her songs lend themselves well to her tales of break-ups and heartbreak, along with the journey to finding her way into young adulthood. Her themes are universal in appeal.
Kristen was influenced by Dusty Springfield, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt and one of Canada’s greatest poets, Leonard Cohen. “Cohen’s writing is so profound and literate. That's had an impact on me. I always put the words first. That's a big goal. While my music is structured like pop and is very catchy, there has to be a tremendous depth and soul there.”
My favorite of Kristin’s songs is Diamonds to Dust, a beautiful showcase for her voice that apparently was a rewrite of another song. It just goes to show you how recycling lyrics can become gold. If You Don’t Love Me, You’re Wrong came out of a break-up and a defiant phrase used by Ann Ruckert in one of her classes. Like any good songwriter, Kristin took it and ran. Each of these songs is strong and the total comprises an exceptional package.
In her early 20’s, Kristen has an amazingly mature take on the music business. “Music isn’t a choice, it’s a calling,” she said, perhaps explaining her singular tenacity in a very difficult profession.
“In general you have to have a mixture of extreme determination and detachment,” she continued. “It’s the most competitive industry in the world. You are always fighting against your own demons. You are always pushing yourself to practice longer and harder to write a better song.
“You also need a sense of detachment, because if your entire self is wrapped up in getting somewhere in the music business your self esteem is going to go up and down like a yo-yo. So I have resolved to get joy out of the striving.”
Check out Kristen’s collection on all the usual download sites. Visit her website. And watch her new video below. It was part of Tiger of Sweden - Dressing Room Sessions, a promotion by Tiger of Sweden Jeans featuring eight of Montreal’s best bands and shot in a dressing room.