A lot will be said and written about Kreesha Turner’s exciting debut album Passion and its eclectic blend of soulful, jazzy, pop-infused R&B. But for the young artist whose sweet soprano shines on every track, the album can be described quite simply. “It’s just good music to enjoy and listen to over and over again,” says Kreesha.
All she asks is that you soak up all 13 tracks before passing judgment. “Take it in as one piece. You’re only going to understand me as an artist if you hear all the songs.” That’s because the decidedly pop feel of “Bounce With Me” can’t be compared to the funky European vibe of “Don’t Call Me Baby” (“A song to a guy,” says Kreesha), the beat-heavy “My Place” (“It’s a very sad song”) or the stripped-down sound of “If You See Him” (“A nice little closer that lets people hear my voice”).
Kreesha co-wrote five of the songs, including the title track, which she believes is only fitting. “It’s a song about dedication and perseverance.”
The oldest of three children born to a Canadian father and Jamaican mother, Kreesha was raised in Edmonton, a city of about 1 million in the province of Alberta. She can’t remember a time when music wasn’t part of her life. As young as six, Kreesha would dance in her bedroom to instrumentals by jazz icon Oscar Peterson. “I always had an inclination for jazz,” she recalls. “As long as I can remember.”
Over the years, Kreesha’s musical tastes broadened and she fell in love with R&B acts like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and D’Angelo, Hip-Hop acts including A Tribe Called Quest, Andre 3000 and Common and Rock acts like the Foo Fighters and Our Lady Peace. Kreesha expressed her love of music through dance and performed modern, tap, jazz, hip-hop and African. But it wasn’t until 2000 that Kreesha took a voyage that would lead her to discover that she was blessed with another way of expressing herself.
“My mom wanted me to experience how she grew up and to learn about our Jamaican culture,” Kreesha explains, “So she sent me to live in Jamaica for a year when I was 15.” Kreesha quickly learned that singing is a big part of everyday life on the island, particularly at the Pentecostal church. Friends convinced her to try out for the youth choir. “I remember thinking, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t sing!’ especially because it was a solo audition.” On the strength of her rendition of Canada’s national anthem, she was accepted into the choir and began singing gospel songs at the Faith Temple Tabernacle for parishioners who couldn’t help but take notice of her voice. It changed her life forever. “I always knew the power of music but I only knew how to express it through movement. But when I started singing in my church choir, for the first time I was the one creating music,” Kreesha recalls. “I was the one standing there singing and seeing the energy and emotion pouring out of the people. I fell in love with singing.”
Upon her return to Canada, Kreesha was hooked on performing and soon became known at her high school as “the girl who sings the national anthem” at commencement and athletic events. She formed a dance crew that entertained with song-and-dance routines.
With no R&B scene to speak of in Edmonton, Kreesha immersed herself in the city’s underground hip-hop community. Her determination to infuse some R&B into the scene was welcomed - and people embraced her smooth voice and stunning looks. “I found I was noticed at a lot of events simply because I was different. There would be 10 rap guys and me. I was the only female and the only alternative to rap,” she remembers. “I’d be the only singer.” Offers to do her own shows started pouring in and Kreesha performed almost every weekend for three years.
Despite stints working at a greenhouse and in retail, Kreesha knew music would become a living. “I had it in my head.” She made a deal with her family and she had their support. “As soon as I got out of high school I told my parents that I’m going to try as hard as I can for the next five years and if nothing happens I’ll go back to school and my back-up plan,” says Kreesha.
Instead, the young singer did everything she could think of to perfect her craft. She joined a gospel choir and a jazz choir, took lessons in acting, musical theatre, piano and guitar. She read books, recorded her own EPs and sold them at her shows. And she entered every singing competition she could.
In 2005, she won a talent search contest sponsored by Edmonton radio station 91.7 FM The Bounce and was given the chance to record four tracks with Vancouver-based writers/producers Hipjoint. One of those songs, “Bounce With Me,” became a radio hit and attracted the attention of urban music manager Chris Smith (Nelly Furtado, Tamia). The song she describes as “fun” has been featured in episodes of Gossip Girl and Entourage as well as in promos for Lipstick Jungle.
On Passion, Kreesha collaborated with some of the best in the business including Grammy Award-winning songwriter Harold Lilly (Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson), producer Devo Springsteen, another Grammy winner (John Legend, Aretha Franklin) and Toronto-based songwriter and producer Jon Levine (Philosopher Kings, Nelly Furtado).
Eclectic is a good word to describe Kreesha’s debut. “Always (Lovin’ You)” is a modern homage to Minnie Riperton’s soulful classic “Lovin’ You” and was produced by Devo Springsteen. “Chains of Love”, written in the studio by Kreesha and Jon Levine, was inspired by her decision to sport an afro on that day.
“I can honestly say that I love my whole album,” Kreesha says. “I’m so proud of every single song on there.”
And like any true artist, Kreesha hopes her music touches people. “I want them to know which song they can turn on if they’re feeling a certain way,” she says. “Regardless of what emotion it is, for me to be able to create that emotion is a privilege and an intimate type of interaction.”
“My Music… The skies could be falling in around me, fire, flood, war, the end of the world…no matter what problems might be plaguing my mind, all hope in my eyes could be lost …and yet, if I was to hear the simplistic sound of a drum in the distance, anything that invokes a rhythm inside my soul, I would be transported to another world…Music is my refuge, my protector, my lover, my friend, my happiness, my empowerment, my voice, my breath, my heart beat…it runs through my veins, its escapes in every word that I speak…it is a gift I have been blessed with and a gift I intend to use…to help transport others into this beautiful world of color and music that I live in…” - Love, Kreesha