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by Greg Phillips

The task: Interview LA based singer songwriter Kris Angelis via Skype while she was traveling by car to SXSW in Austin, Texas.
Degree of difficulty: Very high. The road from California through Arizona, enroute to Texas is expansive and at times mountainous, susceptible to drop outs.
The result: Although experiencing numerous drop outs, interference and moments of inaudible speech, in the end it was a lot of fun.

kris1As far as attaining a long-lasting, successful music career, singer, songwriter and sometime actress, Kris Angelis has already made a great start. After recording a couple of impressive, acclaimed EPs, Kris then released The Left Atrium, her debut full length album which won an LA Music Critics Award for Best Female Album in 2013. Kris has also toured Europe and played the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on three occasions. She has regular gigs in New York and is about to begin a Kickstarter campaign to fund her next recording. The missing link for Angelis is professional representation, someone one to book and manage her, hence the trip to the SXSW music conference in Texas.
“It’s one of those festivals which is kind of a rite of passage to perform at,” she says of the SXSW trip. “Also, just the experience of being there and getting to play for some new people. Ideally I’d like to meet some people I could collaborate with either musically in writing or who want to work with me and present me. I am looking for management and getting ready to make a new album and having support in that would be great.”

If you’re looking for pigeon-holes,  country and pop infused folk music would come close to describing the Kris Angelis sound. Her voice is expressive, soulful, playful and deceptively strong. On stage, the diminutive singer-songwriter radiates charisma, charm and a sense of fun. It doesn’t hurt that she bears more than a passing resemblance to a young Margaux Hemingway
( iconic 70s fashion model/actress) either. Those qualities combined have led to Kris gaining work on notable American television shows and commercials too.

It’s apt that we caught up with Kris late afternoon while she was traveling in a car,  as  road travel happens to be a regular source of inspiration for her songwriting. “It happens all over the place but a lot of times, unfortunately it is when I am driving,” she says of some of her song  origins. “There is something about those kind of activities, where your mind is taken up by something that allows it not to be  cluttered as much. Driving can be a little bit of a meditative state. It allows for that kind of stuff to come in. I said unfortunately  because it is hard to you know … write it down when you are driving. Same thing in the shower or when I am riding a bike. I used to get a lot of ideas when I was riding my bike when I was at school in Santa Barbara. The time of day too can be really inspirational. The time for me is the twilight, that magical hour as the sun is going down. It is such a transitional time of day, very nostalgic and melancholy. It’s beautiful but there’s also that … the day is ending and it is kind of sad but then you get to go into the night and it is magical. That’s why they call it the magic hour!”

krisBerlinWhile song ideas may come thick and fast, it doesn’t necessarily mean an entire song is generated then and there. For instance a new song Flicker, which you can view on YouTube, took five years to complete. “It happens a lot that there is a song idea that doesn’t necessarily get finished and then someday a piece of melody or whatever the connecting piece is, comes along and it’s done!,” says Kris. “That’s what happened with that song Flicker. Why I wanted to persist with it and not just feel like this song is not getting finished is … and it even says in the song … ‘let me tell you a simple story’ and I felt like I wanted to tell that story. I always get images in my mind when I am writing and whenever I am singing specific songs and that song had this mysterious quality that I wanted to explore and see how it turned out. So I continued to let it be in the back of my mind and then one day it was like, OK there’s the chorus! And it was done!”

One lesson Kris has learned from producing her debut album was that collaborating with other artists is not the scary beast she thought it may have been. A track she wrote and performed with Zane Carney is one of her favourite tracks off the album. It also inspired Kris to want to collaborate more with her next recording.
“I have not collaborated that much previously but I have started to over the last couple of years and I definitely will for this next album I am working on'” she explains. “At first I was hesitant about it because songwriting can be such a personal, intimate experience and you can be possessive about it and it’s hard to open up to other artists and letting go of it. Now that I have got myself to do that, it has opened up a lot of new thoughts and new styles and I am really enjoying it. If I am feeling blocked, it really helps to be able to work with someone else too.”

Like most balladeers who can be inspired anywhere and anytime to write a song, their instrument sometimes carries great emotional attachment, much like an old friend. Often there are romantic tales related to the instrument’s acquisition and its past. For Kris, her gorgeous Fender acoustic guitar has had quite the life of its own.
“How did you know?” said a startled Angelis, like I’d somehow just tapped into her inner thoughts. “Yes … that guitar … it’s claim to fame I guess is that it has shared a stage with James Taylor, who is fantastic. It used to belong to Tim Hanseroth who is the guitar player and songwriter for Brandi Carlile. I had met them almost ten years ago now. Brandi became a huge influence on my music and an inspiration for learning how to play guitar and sing songs and perform. I became really good friends with them and Tim actually gave me that guitar to learn on and keep. And it’s romantic because we were together for 6 years. So yes, wow … was that just a random question?”

kris2Speaking with Kris Angelis, I get the impression that her life is one big adventure. Currently she is midway through a social media experiment she has started which obliges her to see an artist perform every night for 100 nights. This is in addition to playing her own shows. Being at SXSW will certainly help with her cause. It’s that spirit of adventure and living in the moment attitude which finds her in some surprising situations. Her most memorable gig for instance, is not one which saw her play to the most people or at the most prestigious venue, but one which just appealed to her sense of amusement.
“It was on this last US tour and I was singing with my twin sister, who sings harmonies with me a lot of the time,” she explains. “We were in this tiny town and we played this dive bar, like a hole in the wall. We walked in and there were all these big Hells Angels kind of guys, beards and tattoos and all smoking. We were like oh my gosh, where are we? The band that played before us was a screamo death metal band. Then we come on with my little singer songwriter stuff, wearing a little dress and we sing harmonies with just my acoustic guitar and we didn’t know how we would go. All these guys were hootin’ and hollerin’ and so into it. It was the most successful show of the tour, including the ones where I opened for Tyler Hilton at huge venues. They were so sweet and took care of us, it was great.”

As soon as Kris returns from SXSW, her attention will turn to the next record which will be crowd funded via Kickstarter. Depending on how the funding goes, will determine if the recording is another EP or full length album. She has around 5 new songs ready and will be collaborating with some other artists on more material. As for the grand plan?
“The grand plan is to get some representation that can help me get on tours with artists that I really like and respect, so that I can get out to a wider audience and really build my following in a grass roots kind of way,” She says. “Ideally, if I had the right kind of representation, I would be able to get on the radio and just be able to keep putting out albums and playing as much as I can and connect with people. As I will say in my Kickstarter, a lot of the songs on the new album have a through-line of being able to write or tell a different story, maybe even a different story than the one that you have been telling yourself. I like getting that message out there, inspiring people and connecting with them and telling them that you can make up whatever life you want to have and go with it … and that’s the grand plan for me, to live the life that I love.”

“Not Your Fault”, one of the songs from Kris’ debut album “The Left Atrium”
It was directed and shot by Damian Horan and the actor is Justin Hartley (Smallville, Revenge) – Purchase recordings here

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