Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Krystle Dos Santos is known for her powerful voice and the warmth she brings to the stage, and when she kicks off the new Quesnel Live Arts season Oct. 3, the intimate setting at the Chuck Mobley Theatre will bring that warmth and power even closer to the audience.
Dos Santos, who pairs original soul music with beloved Motown and soul classics made famous by Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Alicia Keys, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Adele, has always loved music, and she discovered a love of singing when she started taking vocal lessons at the age of 17. About 10 years later, she was able to turn singing and performing into a career.
“I kind of found [the love of singing] because I just sort of really always was attracted to the arts, a lot of drama, I was a cheerleader when I was growing up, and did dance,” she said. “I never really tried singing, but it was always sort of intriguing to me. At 17, my mom was like ‘oh I found a teacher in the community paper I want to check out,’ so we did, and I loved it. It sort of snowballed from there.”
While she lives in Vancouver now, Dos Santos is from Edmonton, and when she was 25 or 26, there was an opportunity in Alberta to get $10,000 to make your own album through Rawlco Radio, which she received.
“I ended up getting it and making a record before I ever sang live with a band or anything like that,” she said. “It was really funny, a really backwards start to a career, but that album ended up winning a Western Canadian Music Award. It seemed like such a charmed path, but it brought me to where I am today.”
Dos Santos says she has always been influenced by the music her dad had around the house.
“My dad always had really cool records around when I was little, so having that tactile experience with music was always a really interesting and intriguing thing for me,” she said. “Stevie Wonder was so amazing to me, the Thriller album came out the year I was born, Prince was starting to do his thing right around when I was young. My mom would dance around to music videos with me and my brother, and then we would be able to play these songs that we were hearing on these tactile records that my dad would have, and by the time I was four, I think I was reading the jacket to Part Time Lover by Stevie Wonder. So it’s always sort of just been around and been an awesome influence for me.
“Anything that’s kind of soulful genre, I was always attracted to because it was familiar. Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin of course, and then as time goes on, you just start hearing those influences come through in other people and their flavours of it, so in modern music, there are people like I love Emily King, I love Allen Stone, they’re more like the larger side of indie, but they really get that kind of soulful vibe, and it’s super cool to see that style live on. So I’m just trying to do the same thing I guess.”
Stevie Wonder has always been a big influence for Dos Santos, and four or five years ago, around Christmas time, Dos Santos had tickets to see Stevie Wonder in Seattle, and she got go up on stage and sing with him “in a really fluke way.”
“He said ‘is there anyone out there who can sing who wants come and jam with us?’ and I ran up and I got up on stage, and I got to go backstage, meet him,” she said. “I went arm-in-arm with Stevie Wonder walking backstage in the Key Arena in Seattle, and we chatted, and it was just the coolest experience. I spent nearly an hour arm-in-arm with Stevie Wonder, which was unbelievable. It was a lifelong bucket list kind of moment.”
Dos Santos has a lot of fun performing and loves being able to do this for a living.
“It’s not like I’m working,” she said. “It’s taking the thing that I love the most, the thing I would probably have to be doing anyways, and then I get to be paid for it — it’s unreal. You get to connect with your band members in a really cool way, so your co-workers are collaborators. You get to connect with audience members in such a cool way, and it’s just such a lovely connective human experience. I think that’s a huge part of it, and it’s such a great creative and emotional outlet as well, being able to sing and/or write a song and feel those feelings kind of really happen in real time. The expression, I guess, is fantastic. It’s pretty addictive, once you get that high and that reaction from the audience, you never want to go back to doing any kind of joe job.”
Dos Santos has a new baby who will be just two months old when she comes Quesnel, and she is excited to see how motherhood impacts her songwriting.
“That emotional connection I just mentioned, I think I’m going to feel those things a little stronger and have a better, deeper perspective about love and about so many other things,” she said. “To me, it comes down to all those lovely real human experience emotional things, and I think my daughter has enhanced all of that. I’m finishing up an album right now, so in terms of writing new songs, I can’t wait to dive into that, but that is also a muscle that I need to focus on.
“I don’t write songs as freely as some people do — but I’m writing lullabies like you wouldn’t believe, and I’m rhyming everything with Lily,” she laughed. “If that’s the case, and I’m going to be a child entertainer, I’ve got that down on lock.”
Dos Santos is bringing her daughter and husband on tour with her, and she is looking forward to making it a family affair.
When she performs in Quesnel, Dos Santos is bringing a three-piece band with her, and she says she will be doing the original music she just recorded for her new album, combined with what she likes to call “more than Motown.”
“I like to call it ‘more than Motown’ because some of it’s certainly from the Motown catalogue, but it’s more of the era and genre of Motown, rather than songs specific to only from that label,” she said. “I think people think of Motown more as the era than a record label and a specific catalogue of music.”
Dos Santos is hoping to have copies of her new album with her when she comes to Quesnel. It’s a double album called Bloom/Burn.
“One side is more of a positive side and more positive affirmations, and the other side is more sort of addressing the darker, more emotional issues,” she said. “It’s a real cathartic album on my part.”
The album is currently being mixed and mastered, and Dos Santos is hoping they can get it pressed in time to bring it on the road. It will also be available online.
Dos Santos performs Thursday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chuck Mobley Theatre at Correlieu Secondary School as the opening concert of the 2019-20 Quesnel Live Arts season. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors and students and are available at Green Tree Health and Wellness, K-Max, Save-On-Foods and the Occidental and at the door.
To learn more about Dos Santos, visit krystledossantos.com.
To find out about the Quesnel Live Arts season, visit qla.ca.