By Chris Lomon for woodbine.com
TORONTO, April 28 – If you haven’t already heard the name Kristen Violet May, odds are you soon will.
“I was the little kid with the hairbrush for a microphone,” said Toronto-based singer-writer, May. “I just always loved to sing. In high school, I started singing vocal jazz and did a lot of musical theatre. The first band I was in was actually a funk band. I sang pretty much every genre. Singing is just like breathing for me. I can’t imagine not doing it.”
[For more from Kristen Violet May, click the ‘WATCH VIDEO’ button on the right-hand side of this page.]
It was a case of father knows best when it came to May’s early introduction to music.
“My dad had this incredible collection,” she recalled. “So, we would take long drives and I would listen to all that music from his collection, just tons of great artists from the 60’s and 70’s. Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Cat Stevens, Tom Petty – just the greats of that era.”
While she’s since traded in hairbrushes for state-of-the art microphones, May’s passion for singing and writing music hasn’t changed.
An accomplished performer, May’s unique voice regularly haunts such popular downtown locales as the Gladstone Hotel, Drake Underground and the legendary Cameron House. Her resume includes a FACTOR demo grant, a Bourse St-Ambroise for rising musicians and she has been featured as a Rising Star by Galaxie Music.
Her debut EP is being produced by Bill Bell, who has also worked with Grammy Award winner Jason Mraz and Canadian music legend Tom Cochrane. And now, on the verge of taking things to the next level, her song, Killing Time, is on high-rotation coast-to-coast on Stingray Music’s ‘Canadian Indie’ channel.
"This woman has the raw power of a house diva with the awareness of any of the great pop stars working today,” said Jason Quinton, Junction City Music Hall. “Her voice unfolds like smoke from behind a velvet curtain, you can almost smell the heartbreak, but before you have time to feel sorry for her, the sheer force of her voice is capable of moving you so deeply in the moment that it is all one can do to close one’s eyes and sway in her tempestuous takes. This is your chance to see a superstar so close that you can feel her heat.”
Fans have certainly taken notice of May’s talents, a connection that is music to her ears.
“I think what resonates with people is that I try to write about very personal subjects that are also universal,” she said. “For example, my song Good Enough, after I posted it, so many people shared it and commented on it. People said that they also struggle on a daily basis with feeling they somehow don’t measure up to society’s standards or their own standards. I’m a very genuine person, and with my music, I want to sift through the posturing and reveal the humanity underneath.”
These days, May, dubbed an "arresting female vocalist" by the former editor of Mix Magazine, is busy almost from sunup to sundown. Not that she’s complaining.
One of her upcoming concerts is on May 6 at Woodbine, part of the numerous events taking place at the Toronto oval surrounding the 143rd renewal of the Kentucky Derby.
Forever striving to improve while maintaining that deeper connection with her audience, May grasps a humble perspective of her craft.
“I love the concept of, ‘don’t seek to be loved, seek to be worthy of being loved.’ A lot of people are trying to chase success or fame, but it’s not really going to get you anywhere. For me, it comes down to waking up in the morning or going to bed at night and feeling the satisfaction that I’ve written something that is meaningful. That’s really the goal for me, making something that will hopefully stand the test of time and that will draw people in because I’ve earned it.”