Kiesza talks 'Hideaway,' '90s dance-pop, and her upcoming album
Back in January, an obscure Calgary-born singer named Kiesza quietly posted to her SoundCloud an immediately addictive dance-pop track that brings early-’90s diva-fronted club pop thundering back to life. Nine months, a viral music video, and one very impressive late-night appearance later, “Hideaway” is a hit (currently at number 55 after nearly two months on the Hot 100), anticipation for her upcoming album is reaching a fever pitch, and Kiesza has become one of the year’s breakout stars. EW reached her by phone on her way to perform at the iTunes Festival in London to talk about “Hideaway” and what we should expect from her upcoming full-length.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s talk about “Hideaway.” Where did it come from?
KIESZA: The song happened really, really quickly. I was actually leaving the studio and I had to catch a plane to LA. and I was already late for my flight. I had grabbed my stuff and was leaving and my producer went back into the studio and started pulling up synths and started playing the chord progression to “Hideaway.” He was just fooling around, but as soon as he started playing it the melody to “Hideaway” popped into my head and I ran back in and said, “Can I just lay down this melody for you?” So I ended up singing the melody really fast, and then I had some lyric ideas so I was like, “You know what? I’ll just write some lyrics down.” I ended up demoing the melody and lyrics and I thought I was going to miss my flight—I really did—but I jumped in the car and went to the airport and still made it. Before I was even at the airport he had finished the production, so the whole thing was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered in 90 minutes. We just kept the demo vocals because they sounded so good when he sent it to me. Honestly it practically channeled itself. I didn’t sit down and think through the concept or anything. It just came out of nowhere.
That’s incredible. What’s it like to see the song take off the way that it has?
It’s very surreal. It’s actually a very strange feeling because it happened so quickly that it was really hard to process. It’s almost like time just sort of flashed by. Even looking back I still almost feel like it’s January, when I released the song, and yet all this stuff has happened–it’s gone number one in like 21 countries, I’ve been touring all summer long, and it’s so intense, I literally look back and I’m like, “Did that happen?” It’s unbelievable. It sort of did its own thing, like when we put it on Soundcloud it started picking up even before the video. It’s like the song sort of paves its own path. I can’t even say how I did it, how I wrote it. I’m just enjoying the ride and trying to keep up with it.
What’s it like to have this thing you spent, like, zero time on take off compared to, I’m sure there’s other stuff you struggled to finish.
Oh yeah, there’s a song on the album that took me two years to complete. I got the chorus and I just couldn’t come up with verses and a pre-chorus that I thought were strong enough for the song. Then eventually I got the verses and the pre-chorus but then I didn’t have a bridge to tie the whole song together. But it doesn’t affect me that a song I wrote in 90 minutes does so well and something that took me two years…they’re such different things. Actually that song is the very end song of the album and “Hideaway” is the first. I’m really proud of the album, actually. It has so much variety on it. It’s very cohesive but yet every [song] is sort of its own thing. They have their own personalities.
When I first heard “Hideaway” it reminded me a lot of that 1990-era vocal house, club pop type of stuff. I assume that was intentional.
Nothing was intentional because we didn’t even have a second to think about it. We were just playing. I’m 25 and [producer Rami Samir Afuni] is 27, so we’re both kind of the same age. We were babies during the early ’90s when that sound was big but both of us grew up loving that sound. So we didn’t sit down and say, “Let’s make a ’90s record.” But I think because both of us are really passionate about that era it just sort of naturally came out that way. My mom was a huge fan of that era. Those songs lived on in my house for a long time. I think just being influenced by them from such a young age; that’s why I channel them so quickly now. I had a whole vision for the entire album once “Hideaway” was created. It’s all very reminiscent of that era but it’s been combined with modern sounds that are right now. It’s like a modern ’90s, like a throwback to the future. There’s some hip-hop. There’s some R&B. There’s a big ballad. Actually two ballads. It’s got a lot of variety. It’s created like a classic album, where the intention is that you’d listen to it the whole way through. I didn’t create it with a singles market in mind, even though that’s what we’re in.
We just did a playlist with Joey Bada$$ and he mentioned that you guys were working on something. What can you tell me about that?
Yeah, we collaborated totally last minute—like, two days before I had to turn the album in. He hit me up on Twitter and I was like, “Yeah, come to the studio,” and we ended up making a song, and I loved it so much that we put it on the album. And then I ended up singing on one of his songs. I think when you see it on the album you’ll see that it’s not such an unexpected pairing.
KIESZA TOUR DATES
Sept. 29 – U Street Music Hall – Washington, DC
Sept. 30 – Theatre of the Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA
Oct. 1 – Royale Nightclub – Boston, MA