During rehearsals for Kiesza’s gala performance at Selkirk College’s Mary Hall this past weekend, the global pop star urged music student Ash Pearce to come forward to the lip of the stage and “own her solo”.
“Kiesza is a great songwriter, she produces great songs, but what really sets her apart is she’s a great person who knows how to relate to people,” Selkirk College’s Bob Hall told the Star.
“And this is what’s going to stick out to me forever: this gal Ash, she seems a little shy. She wants to be in the background and she’s a great guitarist. All of a sudden Kiesza tells her ‘you need to come up front and own this solo’. She told her ‘you have to be a guitar God’.”
When Hall saw the final performance at Mary Hall on Saturday evening, he was thrilled to see Pearce giving it her all.
“Kiesza came to tell students how to be successful and to show them what it’s like. She came to touch lives, and she did that with this individual.”
And Pearce wasn’t the only one who benefited from Kiesza’s personal attention.
“During the rehearsal the band was sort of jamming, and suddenly she appeared from backstage while they were performing her song and she joined right in. It was so raucous as soon as she came in, the level of their performance immediately went up, and it was totally improvised. She was singing along, jumping up and down.”
Not only leading by example, on Friday afternoon the pop star sat down in Shambhala Hall to talk music with students and the media along with her dog Ginga, who was startled by the applause and had to wait outside.
“There has never been a better time to make it as a musician,” she said. “But you have to learn how to really love working hard.”
Selkirk music instructor Gilles Parenteau praised his former student, who he performed with on Good Morning America earlier year. He praised Kiesza’s work ethic and encouraged them to follow her example.
“Who here knows who’s charting?” Kiesza asked, to only a smattering of hands. “All of you should know exactly who’s charting at all times. You should be looking at this stuff daily. If you don’t know what’s popular, then how can you hope to be successful?”
She had strong words for anyone who doesn’t consider pop music “real music”.
“It is real music. And that’s the sort of attitude that will get you nowhere. When you get out into the industry it’s about who will work hard, who will show up for rehearsal on time, and if you go into a room acting like you’re better than everyone you’re not going to make it far.”
Kiesza was in town with her parents, and posted a number of Kootenay images to her Instagram account. She flew in Tuesday from New York City then left again Monday morning.
“A big part of Kiesza’s intent in coming was to reconnect with Nelson,” Hall said.
He was amazed that during an autograph signing Kiesza refused to leave until she’d greeted each and everybody in line, even though she was running out of time.
“She said ‘I’m going to see every single person in this lineup’. For her the last person in the lineup is more important to her than the first person, and she has that same energy from the first person right to the last. She hugged every person, spelled out the kids’ names—correctly—and that’s not easy to do in Nelson.”
That afternoon she performed her viral single “Hideaway” as well as a rousing cover of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” before inviting two birthday girls on the stage.
“She had identified two birthday girls in the audience and she had everyone sing happy birthday. Those girls will never forget something like that.”
This story will appear in this week’s issue of the West Kootenay Advertiser.
Above photo by Will Johnson. Photos below by Peter Schramm.
Remaining photos by Bob Hall.