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Q&A: Kaya Kurz, singer/songwriter

Up-and-coming vocalist Kaya Kurz will hit the Burnaby Blues + Roots stage on Saturday, Aug. 12. It’s the first time the 20-year-old has performed at the day-long festival.
Kaya Kurz
New to the scene: Burnaby’s Kaya Kurz hits the Garden Stage at 1:45 p.m. at the Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival on Saturday, Aug. 12. The vocalist, who describes her music as ‘eclectic’, is one of many performers who are part of this year’s lineup. Headlining the show will be Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue.

Up-and-coming vocalist Kaya Kurz will hit the Burnaby Blues + Roots stage on Saturday, Aug. 12.

It’s the first time the 20-year-old has performed at the day-long festival.

Kurz, who lives in Burnaby and attends Capilano University, performs an eclectic mix of covers and originals. Her music is influenced by artists such as Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell. (She’s even been compared to the late Amy Winehouse.)

Folks can catch Kurz on the Garden Stage from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. She’ll be joined by Jamison Ko on drums, Riley Poystila on bass, Bobby Seenandan on piano and Adrian Sowa on guitar.

The NOW caught up with the millennial ahead of her Blues + Roots show to ask a few questions.

You’re a first-timer to the festival. How did it all come about?
I actually had an audition for a couple of City of Burnaby gigs; it was kind of like a showcase thing, and there were a lot of different event planners. I thought I would be playing farmers markets or outdoor events and that kind of stuff, but I got an email from a person at Live Nation saying, “Hey, do you want to play Blues + Roots?” I was like, “Yes, definitely.”

You obviously weren’t expecting that.
No, I wasn’t at all because it’s such a huge festival. I’m so excited to be playing.

Have you attended the festival in the past?
I haven’t. My parents have gone.

How would you describe your music?
A little bit eclectic. Definitely some gospel influencers. I’ve been at jazz school for the last two years, so I’ve got a little bit of that in there. I listen to a lot of indie-pop, too.

Which artist do people compare you to?
I used to get Amy Winehouse comparisons, but I don’t think that’s very accurate (laughs). I think I have a pretty distinctive tone to my voice, so then people go to other people who have distinctive tones.

What got you into song writing/singing?
I feel like I was a little bit late to the game. I’ve always really enjoyed singing from when I was little, but I didn’t get serious about it until I was 15. I took a guitar class. I wanted to start busking, so I kind of did it. I played at the New West Quay; I still play there. I play at SFU, the Burnaby campus, but I wanted to make some money over the summer. I knew I could already sing, so I took the guitar class and I got way more into it.

Who are your musical idols?
Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes. She’s a singer and plays guitar also. I really like Regina Spektor. I’ve been listening to a lot of Lake Street Dive. They’re kind of gospel-soul influenced, too, and Rachael Price is their lead singer and I love her.

You’re a jazz studies student at Capilano University. What’s the big dream once you graduate?
Just to keep playing music and to be able to support myself off of that, and hopefully not have to pick up a day job. I mean, that’s probably what’s going to happen (laughs). Just to be able to make a living off what I love doing and get to be surrounded by people who also love music.

Is it hard to juggle school and your music career?
Yeah. I definitely play a lot more gigs over the summer. It’s a lot easier when I don’t have to deal with school and gigging. I play a little bit during the school year, whatever I can get, but I’m not spending as much time actively emailing or going to auditions or trying to set stuff up.

Do you get nervous going on stage?
I’m always nervous beforehand, but it takes me a minute or two and I settle in. It’s amazing being on stage.

What’s it like being on stage?
You feel really big and really small at the same time. A lot of people are looking at you. It’s weird because you want to be aware of the audience (because) you’re performing for them. You want to know that they’re there and be giving them something, but you don’t want to be too aware of the audience because then it gets scary. There’s however many people looking at you doing a thing you care about. I always try and stay rooted in myself and try and keep thinking about how I’m so lucky to be playing with so many musicians who I love. If they don’t like what I’m doing, they’re going to leave or they wouldn’t be there in the first place.

More on Blues fest

What: The 18th annual Burnaby Blues + Roots Festival

When: Saturday, Aug. 12

Where: Deer Lake Park, 6450 Deer Lake Ave.

Tickets: $65 for singles or $220 for a four-pack (day of, single tickets cost $80). Children under 12 get in free with an accompanying adult. Call 604-205-3000 to arrange complimentary tickets. To purchase, visit