Navy life inspires techno-pop’s Kiesza 

Canadian techno-pop singer Kiesza has unique inspirations for her musical career. As a keen-eared kid in Calgary, Alberta, she played a private game, kicking or hitting reverberating objects just to guess their pitch.

”I would do that everywhere, until I realized I was the only one doing it,” says Kiesza, who appears in The City this week, backing her triple Juno-Award-winning CD “Sound of a Woman.”

She discovered the nautical life, and her future was set. While teaching sailing on a tall ship, she learned to play guitar. The rest of her off hours were spent in the Royal Canadian Navy, where the crew performed regular singalongs – including, of course, the campy Village People classic “In the Navy.”

“I know it sounds totally cliché and cheesy, but it all definitely had an influence on my writing,” says Kiesza, 26, born Kiesa Rae Ellestad. “Iif you listen back to my early music, it references a lot of military-type metaphors.”

It’s difficult to explain to non-sailors, adds the former Naval Communications expert: “I don’t know if you can compare it to meditation, but you get all this inspiration being on a boat, and it really changes your perspective of life on land.”

Before heading to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, the artist acquired wisdom via her instructor position with SALTS – a Sail and Life Training Society.

“It takes kids out onto the water and teaches them life skills through sailing, lessons you can apply to everyday life,” she says. “And being on a boat, you start to really work in sync – everyone has to pull their own weight and look out for each other. And I’ve never experienced anything that fluid in normal day-to-day existence.”

Kiesza tackled her Berklee education with the same hoist-the-mizzenmast fervor. She studied music theory, and other oblique music-related courses she never knew existed.

After toying with folk, she hit on undulating, aqueous approach, exemplified by her danceable breakthrough smash “Hideaway,” on “Sound.”

She also developed a playful, Alannah Currie-retro fashion sense, and was chosen by Fendi to be the face of its recent Color Block eyewear line.

The composer, 26, hasn’t forgotten the sea, and she has potential royalties already earmarked.

“I’ve been planning to build my dream boat for years,” she says of her drawing-board design, which features an organ and full production facilities. “And I have a music-education program that this boat is actually meant for. From going to college and being a sailor, I’m going to combine those two concepts and one day teach music in a totally different way.”



Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. April 16

Tickets: $25 (sold out)

Contact: (415) 771-1421,

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Tom Lanham

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