Powerful songs. A sweet, soulful voice. Strong arrangements.
Kaya Fraser's music is not about gimmicks, it's about quality--that know-it-when-you-hear-it thing that makes you listen, listen again, and go tell your friends. She writes about people and circumstances, about love gone awry, about places that haunt you. And she does it right.
Kaya has a songwriting pedigree: her father is Allan Fraser of the critically acclaimed 70's folk duo Fraser & DeBolt, who were known for their intense performances and brilliant songcraft. Her clever, well-constructed lyrics also bear the mark of years studying poetry. She was on her way to getting a PhD in literature when she started writing songs in the mid-2000's. As it became clear to her that this, not the ivory tower, was where she belonged, she quit her degree and started writing music that sounded like she'd been at it all her life.
Her debut EP, Tremor and Slip (2007), made reviewers sit up and take notice. It peaked at #3 on the iTunes charts in its genre in France, and received healthy airplay on CBC and on college radio. Exclaim! said this about her first full-length release, Open Horizon (2010): "the album flirts with soul and blues, jazz and country, but ultimately, hangs together as a beautifully cohesive and promising debut." Kaya played live in venues across Canada, making appearances at festivals, and creating a buzz with her intimate, compelling solo shows. Ron Sexsmith, one of Canada's best songwriters, recognized the promise in Kaya's "lovely voice and natural songwriting."
But then, in a bitter case of life-imitating-art, Kaya's personal life was shaken by one of the metaphorical earthquakes she had been writing about. In the space of six months, her mother died suddenly of an undetected cancer, and then her marriage of seven years fell apart. Living on Canada's west coast, thousands of miles from her home in Montreal, she found she had to take some time off performing to get her bearings.
After this hiatus, still based in Victoria BC, Kaya is returning to her craft with renewed energy, and with the maturity that loss can lend to an artist's vision. She is writing songs and starting to perform again--sometimes solo, but often with a new backup band that gives her songs a fuller, more Americana sound. She is at work on material for a third album, built on the cautious optimism of spiritual recovery. The lyrics of one of the new songs, "Evidence of Life", sum it up well: "Take another look around: evidence of life abounds / Proof is growing from the ground beneath your feet / Even if you close your eyes, the world still testifies / Of everything the dark will not defeat."
Undefeated, a little older and wiser, Kaya Fraser is poised to take her place among Canada's best new singer-songwriters.
EXCLAIM! review of OPEN HORIZON (2010):
By Rachel Sanders
With jazzy interludes and melt-in-her-mouth vocals, Kaya Fraser's first full-length release is a journey of considerable emotional range. Daughter to Canadian songwriter Allan Fraser (of '70s psych folk duo Fraser and DeBolt), the Victoria, BC-based musician has built upon the foundations she laid with her 2007 EP, the elegant Tremor and Slip. With Open Horizon, she offers a diverse collection of songs that explore passion of every variety, from the blissfully upbeat "Good To Be Home" to the achingly brief and emotionally wrenching "A Hundred Days." Other highlights include the banjo-licked "Made To Mend" and the brooding, Al Purdy-inspired "Cariboo Horses," which highlights Fraser's rich voice and her ability to create vivid moods within her songs. Produced by one-time Blue Rodeo guitarist Kim Deschamps (who also contributes pedal steel, dobro and banjo), the album flirts with soul and blues, jazz and country, but ultimately, hangs together as a beautifully cohesive and promising debut.
ABOUT "TREMOR AND SLIP" (2007):
[Listed as one of the best folk/roots albums of 2008] - The Ottawa Citizen
"Tremor and Slip is Kaya Fraser's debut recording. Return to that sentence after you've listened to the CD (and you must listen to the CD) and read it again until it sinks in." -Bess Hamilton, ARTSCAPE MAGAZINE
"Fraser's voice is warm and engaging, displaying the sexiness of Carlene Carter with a bit of the world weariness of Lucinda Williams in her delivery. The songs are killer ... Fraser is an exciting new voice that deserves a listen." -Dave Clarke, SCENE
"This London, Ont., based artist distinguishes herself from the school of singer-songwriters matriculated by Joni Mitchell with jazz-inflected phrasing that allows her to navigate this waltz-time rumination with admirable agility." -John Sakamoto, THE TORONTO STAR