Kira Isabella is on a roll. Literally. She’s just completed a seven-hour bus ride from Saskatoon to Brandonwhere she will be performing in support of her new album Caffeine & Big Dreams, which is winging its way up the Canadian country charts. For someone who has just logged over 600 kilometers Kira sounds remarkably perky as she calls prior to the show’s sound check. She attributes her upbeat road temperament to the company that she keeps.
“I have a really incredible group of people around me,” she says. “I’m best friends with my band and we hang out together all of the time. I have my days, you know, but it’s always worth it because you get to do the show at night and that means everything to me. I’ve been across Canada a couple of times on radio tours but to go from town to town and headline a show is absolutely amazing. The new songs are going over very well; to see people singing songs from a record that’s just been released is very, very cool.”
The album’s first track is a barn burner as Kira implores everyone to get up and ‘Shake it If You Got It’. It was important to her to come out with a bang as the 21-year-old has matured since her first album Love Me Like That and she wanted to give her wholesome image a bit of an edge. The video for the album’s second single ‘Gone Enough’, a song in which she drops her beau like a bad habit, suggests that she’s achieved her objective.[quote]Maybe one day I may collaborate on something else but right now country is where it’s at for me.[/quote]
“I want to grow with my audience and I want to write songs that they’re able to connect with,” Kira explains. “I think this record is a good representation of where I want to go with my music because it’s a little rockier and maybe a little more grown up. I’m not necessarily as aggressive as the girl in ‘Gone Enough’ because I can feel like that one day, but then the person who you’ve let go can turn around and be your weakness. But don’t get me wrong, if you decide to push me far enough, oh no, I’m not one to take it lying down. “
Kira co-wrote most of the tracks on the album with country heavy weights such as Derek Ruttan, Chris Dubois, who has penned songs for Brad Paisley and Michelle Wright, and Jason Phelps, who co-authored several numbers on Kira’s debut disc. She also did an excellent job in terms of picking out a few non-originals to round out the album, particularly the riveting ‘Quarterback’, a disturbing song about a pivot who commits date rape, which became a surprise hit for her when it was put out as a single prior to the album’s release. The song is certainly far removed from most of Kira’s other numbers about the highs and lows of romance, and she realized that there was some risk involved in cutting the track.
“I would be lying if I said that there was no apprehension in releasing it,” she says. The song was originally written in the first person and it was pitched to Carrie Underwood. It turns out that it wasn’t appropriate for her because she had previously dated a football player, so the song was thankfully passed on to me. It hit me really hard and it’s a story that really needs to be told. So many of my fans that I get to connect with via Facebook or Twitter have confessed to me their problems with bullying or the fact that they have been involved in similar situations. I knew that they would be able to connect with the song so that was the tipping point for me in terms of recording it.”
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The album is a musical dazzler, from the driving guitar-drum assault of ‘Ring Around It’ to the catchy banjo riff that punctuates the album’s closer, ‘Heaven’. Kira’s soaring vocals, however, are what take the record over the top. There’s also a new-found growl in her voice that she employs from time to time, giving the album a most welcome shot of soul. On stage she even has more in her vocal bag of tricks and you have to give her props for her rap skills when tackling Macklemore’s ‘Can’t Hold You’.
“It’s cool these days that you can throw down a Macklemore song in a medley at a country show and have people love it,” she says. “I grew up listening to a lot of R & B so I really like hip hop as well. My first love, however, was soul and I was really into Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and even Boyz II Men. After that I discovered Martina McBride, Faith Hill and Lee Ann Womack and their incredibly powerful voices. It was just magic to me and I kind of put the two together.”
Kira’s current road show, which takes her all the way from Kamloops, B.C. to London, Ontario, is fittingly called “The Shake It Tour’ and the singer is the benefactor of some free publicity courtesy of Taylor Swift’s similar sounding single ‘Shake It Off’. (“It’s worked to my advantage because someone will be looking at the #shakeitoff hashtag and they’ll see my tour so I might be making a few more people aware of it that way.”) With all of this talk about Taylor Swift, R & B and rap, one wonders if there’s a chance that Kira will someday follow Taylor’s lead and turn off the country road into pop’s pastures.
“I would never say never but my heart is really in country music and every time I ever sit down to write a song it comes out country. Maybe one day I may collaborate on something else but right now country is where it’s at for me.”