Singer, songwriter, pianist and producer KRISTEENYOUNG has been wowing audiences with her avant rock opera performances over the past 20+ years. Born and raised in St Louis, MO, Young became transfixed by the piano as a child. Having always admired guitar players growing up, Young set out to make the piano the focal point of her music, transfusing it with the passion and physicality of rock guitarists. Discovering songwriting at an early age as a way of escape from her foster care and adoptive upbringing, she attended St Louis’s Webster University after high school where she studied the piano. Performing in a couple of early bands, these bands paved the way for her desire to start a piano and drum duo. Recruiting drummer Jeff White for the project, she recorded and released her first solo album Meet Miss Young and Her All Boy Band in 1997. Following the release of her second album Enemy in 1999, she and White left St Louis for New York City where Young’s powerful live performances helped her to develop a fanbase. In 2003, Young began working with legendary producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie) who was enthusiastic about her music and produced her following two albums, 2003’s Breasticles and 2005’s X. Young’s 2006 release Orphans caught the attention of Morrissey, who invited her to join him on his Ringleader of the Tormentors world tour and signed her to his Attack label. Young released 3 more Visconti-produced albums- 2009’s Music For Strippers, Hookers and The Odd On-Looker, 2011’s V the Volcanic EP and 2014’s The Knife Shift. Young has also collaborated with artists such David Bowie, Brian Molko, Pat Smear, Dave Grohl.
On September 4th, Young is set to release her 9th studio album, The Subset, which will take listeners on her most experimental and emotional journey yet. It is also the first time that she has fully self-produced an album on her own. “The album has a pretty wide scope of styles so I hope people can get lost in it and really have an experience.” Kristeen says. “When I was writing it I was trying to remember what it was like when I just LOVED music and had no knowledge of any other part of the music business or world. I wanted it to sound fresh and naturally moving, like when I was a kid, but at the same time speaking on the now.” To celebrate the albums release, Young plans to play select residencies this fall in NYC (September 4th, 11th and 18th at Berlin), LA (Every Monday in October at The Satellite) and San Francisco (October 9th, 16th and 23rd at The DNA Lounge). She will also be performing shows in London on November 6th (at Paper Dress Vintage), November 13th (at The Victoria) and November 20th (at St. Paneras Old Church). You can follow KRISTEENYOUNG and stay up-to-date with all upcoming news, music and tour dates, as well as stream and purchase her music, via the following links. Check out her video for “Less Than” from her upcoming album below.
KRISTEENYOUNG Tour Dates:
September 4 @ Berlin in NYC
September 11 @ Berlin in NYC
September 18 @ Berlin in NYC
September 26 @ Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis (in store)
September 27 @ Off Broadway in St. Louis, Missouri
October 7 @ The Satellite in Los Angeles
October 9 @ The DNA Lounge in San Francisco
October 14 @ The Satellite in Los Angeles
October 16 @ The DNA Lounge in San Francisco
October 17 @ Amoeba Records in San Francisco (in store)
October 21 @ The Satellite in Los Angeles
October 23 @ The DNA Lounge in San Francisco
October 28 @ The Satellite in Los Angeles
November 7 @ Paper Dress Vintage in London
November 13 @ The Victoria in London
November 20 @ St. Paneras Old Church in London
You will be releasing your new album on September 4th. You have said that you wanted it to sound fresh and natural but at the same time speak to the new, so do you feel that you achieved what you wanted to with this album?
I never really know what I’ve achieved with an album (laughs). I’m as pleased as I can be with it. I’m never completely pleased but if other people like it I’m happy for that.
The album has been described as your most experimental and emotional album yet. What was the process like for you in making the album?
With every step, I was trying to do things differently then the way I’ve done them before. Also, I wanted to do it entirely by myself. I used a brand new keyboard that I had just gotten from Roland and I’m not super fast with technology (laughs), so I had a little bit of a learning curve. When I’m writing and arranging, I like to really know what I’m working with so I’m not really spending a lot of time thinking in the technical direction, so I can stay in the creative part of my mind. I dunno…there was a little bit of a learning curve with that, but I was very pleased in the end. It felt really good to learn new stuff and to do things in different ways and figure it out. I enjoyed that process.
You wrote a lot of the album in your hometown of St Louis. What made you decide to go back to your hometown to write?
Yeah, I did about half of the album there. I always write very fluidly when I’m back in my hometown because I have a lot of emotions, as people do, that are connected to growing up there. There were feelings and just the air there…just the heaviness and humidity of the air there has it’s own feel. It can take me right back to certain situations.
You have said that you have become a better writer with each new project. How do you feel that you have grown as a writer over the years?
I don’t remember saying that I have become a better writer with each new project, but I endeavor to become a better writer. I try to go deeper all the time. I’m always thinking that I’m not going deep enough and just continue to be cognitive about that. I think that it’s really important and that as people get older they can cut off parts off their feelings and they don’t even know it. I try to be very conscious about that.
You’ve released a couple of albums in the past that dealt with specific themes, such as each song on your V The Volcanic EP being written from the viewpoint of a supporting character of a major film. Do you write each album with the intention on having a specific theme or is that just the direction they take?
Not necessarily. I go into each album with certain guidelines for myself and what I want to concentrate on. Each song lyrically has some of the same words in them and I try to make sure I’m doing things differently each time. Also, I don’t look at time and how long a song is. I have a lot of short songs on this album and was just trying to let them be short. Who cares if it’s 30 seconds or a minute and a half. I think in the past people have always tried to make songs, like pop songs, like 3 minutes long or something. On this one, it runs the gamut. There’s a six minute song and a 15 second bit. I was trying to just let it flow like that.
You have featured duets with other artists on some of your albums in the past and have also been featured on other artists albums. What do you enjoy about collaborating with other artists and do you have any new ones in the works?
No, I’m trying to concentrate on not collaborating (laughs). I wanted to make sure that it was clear that I did everything myself on this album. I think, although it’s been completely rewarding creatively and artistically to work with other artists, a lot of people think of me as that, like in a peripheral role. A lot of these artists tend to get a lot of hype in my projects, maybe more hype then what they were really there for and because they are mostly male, a lot of times people tend to give them credit for more than they actually did. I’m at the end of my tether with that (laughs). I have no co-producer on anything with this album, so it’s clear who produced it.
Do you think you will stick with fully produced your albums yourself going forward?
I don’t know. I’m really happy with doing a lot of this myself right now. I’m also making videos by myself and that’s been really satisfying for me. I think I’ll definitely, at some point, start working with other people again but maybe not on the next one.
You just released your video for “Less Than”. What can you tell me about the process of making the video? It looks like it was a lot of fun to make!
It was! I just had this idea that I wanted to depict a relationship between myself, a human being, and a piano and run the gamut of maybe not such a healthy relationship. It was fun to write out all of the shot notes and everything. It was fun exploring that. That one I couldn’t shoot myself. I wanted to shoot the video myself, but when I really thought about it, I knew I couldn’t get those overhead shots that I really needed. I had to find someone to work with on that one. It was a lot of fun to make.
Going back a bit to the early days, you were in a couple of bands before you started your solo project that you do now that had more of a conventional rock music sound. How did you develop the sound you have now? What was that process like?
I always wrote all of the songs. Are you talking about November 9th and Waterworks?
November 9th was sort of…I mean, I think at the time no one thought it was very conventional. It was a conventional set up, though. It was a guitar band. I didn’t even play the keyboard in that band. I was very young and that was an established band. I was so…I didn’t know how to do anything really. I mean, I could write songs and sings but I didn’t know how to do the rest of it. It seemed like such an exotic world to me that I didn’t even know how to approach and they sort-of walked me through it. I learned a lot with that band. I did write everything on keyboard and then the guitar player would interpret it onto guitar, but it didn’t always work . I didn’t even have any idea that transferring a song from keyboard to guitar wouldn’t really work. It was all a complete learning experience. I also started to comet of my shell more because I was so introverted back then too. That’s been a very slow process. I didn’t know how to work with anybody or talk to anybody, so that’s been a learning experience too.
In college, you studied piano and trained your voice for opera. What led you to want to have that operatic sound to your voice and style of singing?
I didn’t really want to. I went through a time period where I thought I wanted to be a composer and maybe get a job at a college and write more classically oriented stuff. I had also considered being an opera singer and then decided I wanted to be more involved in more immediate styles and more of the conversation that’s happening now instead of doing material that’s maybe 300 years old. I wanted to do new stuff and thought I could marry the two worlds. I could be in the pop-rock world and also bring in the part of the classical opera world that spoke to me. That’s what made me switch over.
You are very inspired by fashion and create a lot of your own costumes. What led you to want to design your own costumes and when you do tours or albums, do you have certain fashion themes in mind?
Yeah, I do. I do have themes and that’s why sometimes it’s frustrating when people use old photos, because I’m like “That doesn’t go with this album!”. You know how people just sometimes grab photos off of the internet, which is really strange because not that long ago it was so important to the press had the most recent photo. And now they don’t care! They’ll pick whichever one they like.
You have said that you aren’t necessarily inspired by artists in general but rather by their performances and also by movies. What are some of the performances you have seen that have stood out to you over the years and what movies have you been influenced by the most?
I think what I meant is that I’ve never been that much into particular artists, but rather “Oh, I love that song”. I’m more about the work from someone or their creative output. I’m not a fan-ish person. I don’t know a lot of personal information about artists, nor do I care to know (laughs). I don’t even relate to people who are into that aspect of it.
You have a few different residencies coming up in NYC, LA and San Francisco, as well as some shows in London. I know you have done a lot of residencies in the past. What do you enjoy about residencies vs touring?
Well, they’re less expensive (laughs)! I don’t have a budget. I’m an unsigned, independent artist so I don’t have a lot of money. When I do residencies, I can go and stay with friends in a certain area for a while. Besides that, I do like other things about residencies. They allow me to really concentrate on an area and I like the process of growing something too. I like that I can grow it from the first show to the last show.
Do you have anything special planned for your upcoming residencies?
I’m excited about this particular stage show that I’m putting together. It will be a different kind of show. I have little visual moments planned and besides what I wear, I’ve never really done that before. I’m excited about that!
You played a show last month opening for Perry Farrell’s Kind Heaven Orchestra last month at City Winery in NYC. It was a preview of sorts for your new songs. What were some highlights of the show and what was the crowds response to hearing the new material live?
I was really nervous about that show! I hadn’t played on the new keyboard live before and almost the entire set was new material. I was also playing solo and I haven’t done that in a while. I was pleasantly surprised by the entire experience. The crowd seemed to love it and loved all of the new songs. It was great.
Was that the first time you had played any of the new material live?
Yes! Also, from that show, Perry’s drummer will be playing the drums with me at my LA residency.
Thanks you so much for taking the time to answer some questions!