Anything is possible for Kassia Conway 

click to enlarge Conway
  • courtesy photo
  • Opening for Ellie Goulding, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Conway has overcome a few challenges on tour.
She’s no Pollyanna, but St. Louis-born, Los Angeles-based alt-rocker Kassia Conway does have an optimism that has guided most of her career decisions.

“I have an obsession with this weird anything-is-possible concept, an obsession with hope,” says the charismatic singer-songwriter who records as Conway. “I just want to channel my energy into whatever I can possibly dream up that I’d like to have happen in my life. And I have the focus and the magic to pull it off, really.”

It isn’t just — as she wittily titled her recent debut EP — “Big Talk.”

Conway plays in San Francisco this weekend, opening for Ellie Goulding, a gig that exemplifies her glass-is-half-full attitude.

When she was offered the arena-size dates, last-minute obstacles began popping up. Her tour manager vanished. Her backing bassist was otherwise occupied.

“So I’m like ‘OK, not a problem — find a stranger, teach him the songs in 48 hours, fine, I’ve got a bassist and, OK, I found the manager, too,’” she says. “Then I get to Madison Square Garden, the biggest show of my life, and they said ‘Sorry, we can’t give you a soundcheck — it’s the first night of Ellie’s tour, and we’ve had technical problems with her stage rig.’”

The night got worse. Stepping into the spotlight to sing EP firecrackers like “Killer,” “Hustler” and “Take Me Back,” plus new material from her forthcoming album, Conway was again blindsided when her monitor blew out.

“And at that moment, I could have been like ‘You are f------ kidding me!’” she laughingly recalls. “And the monitor never came back on, and I literally couldn’t hear myself for 35 minutes. So I just threw myself 500 percent into it, thinking ‘I’m off the cliff now! I’ll be damned if I go down apologizing!’”

But the crowd adored her.

Conway’s artistic mother raised her to seize the day. Her mom insisted she see the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

“When I said I wanted to go to New York, too, she said ‘You should!’ So I did,” she says. That’s where she catalogued art prints by day and played in Pixies-inspired bands by night.

Eventually, her drumming best friend Amy Wood — now a member of Conway’s band — convinced her to move to Los Angeles. “She said ‘My dad [producer John Wood] has a studio there and we can make a record for free,’” she says.

Still, the foundation of Conway’s “The Secret”-style philosophy remains good old-fashioned elbow grease.

“I don’t know what it’s like to have money, or to not have to work your ass off,” she says. “So when somebody goes ‘Aren’t you tired?’ I always respond ‘I don’t even know what tired is!’”


Ellie Goulding

With Conway

Where: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $42.50 (sold out)

Contact: (415) 974-4060,

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Tom Lanham

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