Madison to Nashville and Back
by Teri Barr
Kirstie Kraus on the cover of Maximum Ink for May 2018
She was singing before she could talk. And Kirstie Kraus is still singing, but now, it is more than she talks. Music has become her passion, her love, and her life.
Kirstie threw herself into her career, full-time, two years ago. Two years before that, she started her own band, Thirsty Jones. The Madison-based group quickly gained a following, and earned accolades. Kirstie wants to replicate, and increase the success she’s already had as a musician here. So I asked, is taking her efforts to Nashville, where she has to work even harder to create her music-magic, worth it? We also discussed why her upcoming single release is going to be one we’ll all want to be a part of, and when we can see her in our area this summer…
Maximum Ink: You remember already singing to your family when you were 2-years-old?
Kirstie Kraus: Yes, growing up, I started jumping up on picnic tables when I was really little to sing at my massive family gatherings. By 4, I had a cassette tape recorder with a microphone, so I would tape everything from singing to acting like a talk show host at family events. My uncle was in a band, and when they would take a break, I jumped up on stage and started singing Achy Breaky Heart! There was also lots of singing at our church, and the priest wrote a homily around the song, “The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow” from Annie, just so I could sing at church for the first time! I started piano, dance and theater when I was 7; by age 9 it was voice lessons. I auditioned for The Fireside Theatre and worked there for 5 years as part of the Christmas shows, Titanic, and The Sound of Music. It was a blast. Later, I learned about music theory, songwriting, and found a mentor who worked on writing songs with me.
MI: So music—and a career in it—has been, and continues to be, your main focus?
KK: One of my mentors in Nashville told me when I was 16, “You Don’t Choose Music, Music Chooses You.” This is true for all of us as creators. I am addicted to the challenge of the business; the highs you feel on stage, and being around people to talk about all of it. Personally, when I am creating something for the stage, or on stage performing, I get a burning feeling inside my body, and am filled with good energy and excitement. Everytime I step on the stage, it’s like I’ve entered my own little world, and I am able to just let go and put it all out there!
MI: You’ve called Madison home for awhile, but Nashville is currently your home-away-from-home. How is being there helping you with your music?
KK: I moved to Nashville in October, after the summer tour, and started recording new music immediately there. Nashville is the meca for songwriting, and I want to continue honing my craft for many albums to come. Also, if you want to get something music-related done really well, but quickly, the community of musicians and artists supporting each other is endless.
I am originally from Janesville, and lived there for 14 years. Most of my extended family is still there. I moved to De Pere, then Madison to go to college at Edgewood. Madison is a great city and has a music scene which is growing stronger all the time.
MI: I first saw you on stage in Madison, and it was a show where you were doing all types of music. Do you have a style you prefer to share with an audience?
KK: I feel alive, and the most connected to the universe, when I am performing. I have always loved singing my original songs, but enjoy songs I can groove to on stage with the band. Now, if I can do both of these at the same time? Even better!
I especially enjoy songs where I can sing really low notes, then wail in my higher register—those are the songs that are the most fun, and challenging! My new song, Delusional, does all of these!
MI: Let’s talk about Delusional, and your other new singles from the upcoming album. You have a well-crafted plan behind what you are releasing, and when?
KK: Oh, yes! I will be releasing 3 singles before the full album comes out digitally! My first single is Delusional, and is being released on May 19. It is a perfect summer song, and it is an excellent representation of my unique sound. My take on country music is a mixture of country, rock, blues, and funk. This song has a lot of funk and rock influences. I love songs with an awesome moving bass line that makes me wanna dance, and this song is on point! I hope everyone who listens to this song, smiles and moves their head to it. My producer Arkfoo, along with all the musicians on this track, just slayed it! So, for all these reasons, it makes Delusional the perfect song to be my first single. The coolest thing? Every song I write has a story behind it. Some of the background I don’t wish to share, but it’s funny because it’s so obvious to the people who are closest to me.
MI: Do you have a goal you are focused on with your new music?
KK: Yes of course! I feel like I have been writing my thesis paper for the past 3 years, and now I’m getting ready for graduation. Creating the material, then making an album is a big deal, and IS like a thesis paper, but also like a resume. It is the central product of yourself as an artist—it is your soul, it represents your hard work, where you are emotionally, and where you are in your journey.
I have so many goals right now, including booking as many national shows as I can, to get my music video on CMT, to be named CMT Next Women of Country, and then to headline my own tour. And that’s just the beginning.
MI: Those are some terrific goals! But, you must be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far, too?
KK: It amazes me how many different things I have already done, related to music. I am proud to say I feel like I am still learning something new everyday, and constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone. That is an accomplishment in itself!
One of my proudest accomplishments is starting a band from scratch, and within two years, landing in the Top-3 Best of Madison, 2 years in a row. I am also very proud of some of the places we’ve been able to play, and how many shows I was able to book during the past three years: High Noon Saloon, Majestic, Taste of Madison twice, Brat Fest twice (will be 3-times this May), The Gobbler Theater, and The Apollo Theater. Anyone who handles their own booking knows how tedious and time consuming it is, and to have 52 dates in one summer was crazy, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m going to enjoy every minute of the summer ahead, too!
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Kirstie Kraus Online:
Upcoming shows in the Madison area:
-World’s Largest Brat Fest, Madison - Sat 5/26 at 5:00pm Baker Tilly Main Stage opening for Madison County.
-Country-USA, Oshkosh - Sat 6/23 at 3:00pm
-Art Fair on the Square, Madison - Sat 7/14 from 2-3pm on the Magic 98 Stage off MLK Jr Blvd.
-Summer Sounds Concerts, Oregon -Tues 7/17 from 7-8pm downtown Oregon
-Badgerville Tailgate - Sat 9/15, time TBA.