Love at First Listen with Kristin Carter

Kristin Carter Interview Love at First Listen 2024

We all have those artists and songs we hear that strike the right chord and make us fall in love at first listen. They’re the reason we refresh social media pages, tour schedules, and Spotify profiles — because we can’t miss a single release. This is Love at First Listen — a new series introducing you to the emerging, and established, artists with new music guaranteed to upgrade your playlist.

Singer-songwriter Kristin Carter has been blossoming her whole life. Starting young and honing her skills as a choir singer, she first caught the attention of country listeners with her Top 20 Canadian radio single “Karma” and back-to-back semi-finalist nods in SiriusXM’s Top of the Country competition. Moving into the world of contemporary pop last year, Kristin teased a new era with “I’m Still Here” and “Euphoria,” which became the lead singles from her newly released debut album, ‘Full Bloom.’ The 12-track album, which was released on Friday (Apr. 5), is deeply introspective and simply stunning, covering universal themes like the ups and downs of love, self-doubt, female empowerment, and personal resilience.

The seeds have been planted, and with ‘Full Bloom’ out in the world, it’s time to sit in the garden and take it all in. Love at First Listen caught up with Kristin during album release week to chat all things ‘Full Bloom,’ attending circus school for a music video, and where this journey is taking her next.

For readers who are just about to love you at first listen, can you take us through the different seeds and stages of your musical journey that led to this ‘full bloom’?

I’ve been really excited to get these songs out to people. It’s been a labour of love for quite a while. For people who don’t know me, I was born and raised just outside of Vancouver, BC. Choir is where I learned how to sing, and I credit a lot of my choir teachers for instilling in me a real love for vocalization and really choir in general. That’s also where my musical heart lives because I felt so uplifted by people in that community and it felt really exciting and safe. So, anyone out there who wants to learn how to sing, join a choir—it’s a great way to do it.

Through the years, I started writing and performing more as a solo artist. Putting it all together and emulating different songs together that I felt were great expressions of my personal experiences over the last few years, we arrived at the album. So, I envisioned the songs like seeds that I’ve planted over the years, and now they’re finally bursting through to the surface.

You co-produced and co-wrote ‘Full Bloom’ and have described each flower, or song, as reflecting individual moments within the human experience. Which songs resonate with you most?

I really connect with “I’m Still Here” because it’s grounded in my choir background. There are no instrumentals and it’s just built off of a bunch of different layers of vocalization. I also had a really big hand in the recording process, which was new and exciting for me. So, in addition to the theme of the lyrics and the way that it sounds, it was such a joyful process for me to build it, and we made a really cool music video where I was made to look like a special effects statue. I got to connect with people in Vancouver in the film scene, and it was really exciting to be part of that community. I was really amazed at all the talent that’s out there. Like, knowing how to turn someone into a statue? I could never. I also really love “Lazy Sunday.” That’s the one that I go back through and play over and over for myself.

You have videos coming for both “Euphoria” and “Lazy Sunday.” What can you share about the visual treatments you gave both of those songs, and when should fans expect to see them?

The idea for “Euphoria” is two dueling versions of yourself. So, I have a non-confident version of myself going into a club, and then there’s a confident version of myself who’s all in neon and really dressed kind of amazing and all these things. It’s like Parent Trap in a club because I had a body double that we switched in and out and she was really fun to work with. It has a lot of special effects involved because there’s this neon light that burns through the whole thing, which represents confidence. That’s being worked on by the amazing team that we have, and I’m really excited to release it in the next few weeks. It’s definitely different visuals than I’ve normally done.

I’m also really looking forward to “Lazy Sunday” because I’ve currently been going to some training lessons on how to do acrobatic flying. The theme of that one is we’re going to a studio, and then the studio walls kind of melt away and then I kind of float up into the air. We’re filming it out at my fiancé’s family farm, and we’ll have these rigs that will fly me across the fields and potentially over water and things like that. It always blows my mind that when you participate in the arts and you’re in an artistic community, all these random opportunities pick up. I never thought I would be going to circus school in my life, but I’m excited to show this to everyone.

Were there any artists or albums you had on repeat as you made ‘Full Bloom’?

That’s a great question. I grew up with ABBA’s compilation album ‘Gold’ and they’ve been having such an amazing resurgence on social media and TikTok, so I really delved back into those songs. They’re so fun and upbeat and exciting, and I was really using that as a musical reference to try and pinpoint some of the sounds I wanted for my album. I listened to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ as well to really get in touch with a lot of the lyrical side of the album. I think the writers for those albums are incredibly talented and they have a way of portraying emotion through music.

As people start to “walk through the garden” with you, what message do you ultimately want fans new and old to take away from their ‘Full Bloom’ listening experience?

There’s such a diversity of experiences in life. Even though everything isn’t an amazingly positive experience all the time, you need the good and you need the bad in order to round out a full life. Musically, if you just had an album of positive energy, that could be super fun. But to put it back in the context of a garden, if you had just one type of flower in your garden, it wouldn’t be super interesting. All the other different ones in there maybe individually aren’t the ones you focus on, but things in the collective create that beautiful space because of all those different things. So, for me, that would be what I want people to walk away with—a gratitude for all their different experiences in life, and just reflecting on their own experience in that way and finding the beauty.

Now that you’ve “fully bloomed,” where do you hope this journey takes you next?

The biggest joy is when people listen to the music and write in to me about what it meant to them. So, where I hope it would take me next is to other places and different people that I haven’t had the chance to connect with. I got a message just a couple of days ago from someone in Austria, and they said, “I really like your stuff.” I wrote back and then I was like, I didn’t know my music could ever even reach there! I think it’s a great time that we’re living in right now with social media because you can essentially broadcast kind of anywhere, which is sometimes an intimidating thing but really exciting I think overall.

The album title inspires thoughts of flowers and sunshine and spring and summer, which of course leads us right into summer concert and festival season! Do you have any plans to take ‘Full Bloom’ on the road?

I really hope so! I’m super open to any of those opportunities as they come up, and I’m definitely looking for them, but no official dates in the calendar right now. I would love to travel around and have people in the room as I sing and share some of the thoughts behind the music. I would encourage people to follow my social media pages as things pop up.

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[Artists to Watch] Love at First Listen with Dayna Reid

Dayna Reid Interview Love at First Listen 2024

We all have those artists and songs we hear that strike the right chord and make us fall in love at first listen. They’re the reason we refresh social media pages, tour schedules, and Spotify profiles — because we can’t miss a single release. This is Love at First Listen — a new series introducing you to the emerging, and established, artists with new music guaranteed to upgrade your playlist.

When emerging Canadian country talent Dayna Reid pulled up her latest Spotify Artist Wrapped statistics, she discovered that more than 129,000 people had streamed her work in her first full year with music out in the world—no small feat. The success of her debut EP ‘Back to the Trailer’ inspired this Artist to Watch to come into 2024 with a gripping new single, “This House,” and its emotionally charged music video, out today (Jan. 26). As for what’s on the horizon, Dayna is gearing up to share more music, more live shows, and much more of the authenticity and vulnerability listeners have come to love.

In her first interview for the new single, Dayna gave us the inside scoop on “This House,” her country girl gang, and how she continues to turn her biggest dreams, including an upcoming album release, into reality.

Welcome to Love at First Listen! When you reflect on 2023, what was the biggest pinch-me moment, and what musical goals have you set for yourself in 2024 to go above and beyond what you accomplished in the last 12 months?

I went from working to support kids with special needs full time to hearing my song on the radio. I was actually with one of the girls that I support while I heard it for the first time, so that was a total full circle moment. We pulled over and we were jamming out together. I feel like I have my foot in the door now, so this is the year to kick up a level and share the rest of my album because it’s been done for a while. I am really excited to be able to get to Nashville, write and release a lot more music that I’m proud of, and connect with more people within the industry and listeners as well. I think that’s one of my favourite parts of this industry—meeting so many amazing people.

You say your new single “This House” is “for anyone who has a dream or a vision of what their life could be like but may not know how to make that dream their reality.” How do you relate that message to your own journey as an artist?

There’s a point in a lot of people’s lives where they have this vision for themselves of what they want to pursue, or they know that they want their life to look a certain way, but they don’t know how to make that happen. And I think through writing and releasing the song, it genuinely helped me get to where I’m at right now.

While I was writing this song, I was in a very different mindset than I am right now. It was actually the first song that I ever wrote with my co-writers, Beverley Mahood and Mac Shepherd, so it’s pretty crazy to see how much things have changed since and how much it’s really helped me believe that it’s not [about] running away from your problems, but instead running towards what’s best for you this time instead. I never really understood that growing up until it came to the point in my life where I realized doing what’s best for you isn’t selfish and it’s going to get you to where you [achieve] your own happiness.

Dayna Reid posing with her billboard for "This House" in Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square.
Dayna Reid posing with her billboard for “This House” in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square. (Courtesy of Dayna Reid/Instagram)

The music video for “This House” is just as stunning as the song. How much of a role did you play in crafting how the song would come to life on screen?

While I was out in Vancouver for the SiriusXM Top of the Country competition, my team got me together with a really amazing director, Stephano Barberis. He is one of those people that you meet and you know they’re special. I wanted this feeling of being in this house or space of mind and finally unlocking those doors, and not even really unlocking the doors but unlocking your potential in a way too. Where we shot the video, that house was over 150 years old or something, surrounded by mountains, and it’s only specifically for video shoots and TV scenes. So, you went in there and you could just feel an energy shift. I was like, okay, this is definitely the place to do this video.

In a sea of new country artists, how would you describe your musical aesthetic to someone first discovering you?

I grew up listening to all kinds of music. My dad was the rocker, so I have the classic rock influence in that sense. But my whole family on my mom’s side is very into older country, like ‘80s, ‘90s, and even a little bit early 2000s. So, I really want to get that into my music because that’s where I feel like my lane is as well.

Speaking of music that country audiences are clearly loving at first listen, your debut EP ‘Back to the Trailer’ featured your Top 40 single “She’s Me” and fan favourite “The Way You Lie.” How would you compare the sound of that EP with what fans can expect to hear this year?

I think that all the songs play a part on the album—like everything has its own feel to it. “She’s Me” was the song that I wanted to put out to help empower people. “The Way You Lie” was for all those girls out there that had been lied to once or twice and they’re done with it. And then a song like “This House,” that’s another song that is very personal in a way too. I want to be able to share that side of me [with] people as well because I think being authentic and real and being able to talk about things like that with others is a whole other level of this industry.

That music also earned you great critical acclaim, including titles like iHeartRadio’s Future Star and touring opportunities with Tim Hicks and Hunter Brothers. Do you have any dream gigs for 2024 that we can help you manifest?!

I know that I’m doing a few festivals in the summer, but any opportunity is a good opportunity, especially being an up-and-coming artist. Touring with the Hunter Brothers was amazing because they are just salt of the earth kind of people and I always went to Tim Hicks’ concerts with my girlfriends growing up, so to be able to perform with them more too would be awesome.

This interview series is all about showcasing new and emerging artists. Can you shout out any of your country pals who we should have our eyes and ears on this year?

Hailey Benedict and Teigen Gayse—those are my girls! They’re honestly the sweetest and so talented. I was in the Top of the Country competition with them and that’s how I got a little bit closer with each of them. They’re killing it out there, and I love being able to support other women.

What else can fans look forward to throughout the year?

It’s funny—the first album that I wrote had a lot of stories about me growing up in a very small farming community in Elmvale, Ontario, which is close to Wasaga Beach. It was a lot about my life experiences at that time, whereas the new music coming up is about this next chapter of my life too. So, I’m hoping that people who are listening can go on that journey with me.

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Love at First Listen with Hailey Benedict

Hailey Benedict Interview Love at First Listen 2023

We all have those artists and songs we hear that strike the right chord and make us fall in love at first listen. They’re the reason we refresh social media pages, tour schedules, and Spotify profiles — because we can’t miss a single release. This is Love at First Listen — a new series introducing you to the emerging, and established, artists with new music guaranteed to upgrade your playlist.

When country superstar Keith Urban pulled a then 14-year-old Hailey Benedict out of the crowd and up on stage at a 2016 concert, neither of them could’ve predicted the series of life-changing events that would follow. His question to Hailey: “What’s the dream job in life?” Her answer, without hesitation: “Be a singer-songwriter.” An enthusiastic “Yes!” in response led to Keith shining the spotlight on Hailey, passing her a guitar, and letting her sing an original song for a packed arena. Since then, Hailey has grown into a full-fledged performer making that dream—and so many others—come true.

Fans of fellow country pop songstresses Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, and Lainey Wilson will gravitate towards Hailey’s smooth vocals and autobiographical lyrics, which shine on songs like “Wanted You To” and her recent summer single “Damn You July.” As testament to her rising star status, Hailey is vying for victory at this week’s Canadian Country Music Awards (Sept. 16) and in the SiriusXM Top of the Country competition (Sept. 14), both part of Country Music Week. Her industry buzz and growing fan love (264K TikTok followers and counting!) are further proof she’s destined for big things, and you can be sure the now 21-year-old is just getting started.

In this edition of Love at First Listen, we’re celebrating Hailey’s biggest Country Music Week yet as she prepares for a jam-packed weekend, reflects on her American Idol journey, and reveals which ‘Era’ of her life she’s embracing this fall.

“Damn You July” was your first single after almost two years and has been the catalyst to multiple career milestones (not to mention that it’s currently Top 50 on Canadian country radio!). How did you know it was the right song at the right time?

I’d written with my friends, Rich Cloke and Elias James, and the moment we finished it, it was one of those feelings of like, we’ve got a special song here. I started playing it while on tour with Aaron Goodvin and found people really resonated with it. It also felt like something completely different than I had written or recorded before. All of that led to me bringing it into the studio and making it part of the Top of the Country competition, and I’m really proud of how it all turned out.

Building on that success, you’re nominated for the CCMA Innovative Campaign of the Year Award and are a Top 3 finalist in the SiriusXM Top of the Country competition. What does it mean to you to be part of this special week for Canadian country music while enjoying these major accomplishments?

It’s absolutely insane and I feel very grateful that I get to just be part of it. I’ve been attending the CCMAs since I was 14. Even with the Top of the Country competition, I’ve gone every year and thought it’d be really cool to be part of. I’m excited to soak it all in.

The Top of the Country concert features a headlining performance by The Reklaws. Considering the country scene is always described as a family, have you met them before?

I’ve met Jenna, and I’m a big Reklaws fan. They don’t put out a bad song. Jenna and I were supposed to write in Nashville back in May and then schedules got moved, so I think that’s still in the cards for one day when I’m back down there. I can’t wait to watch their performance.

You were invited to audition for American Idol in 2020, so you’re no stranger to rocking a singing competition. What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

What’s so awesome about music is there are so many different paths you can take and so many things you can explore. I say experiment and do the things that feel right and make you happy, whether it is a local competition, performing for your friends and family, or trying to get on every show you can — whatever is going to make your heart the most excited and ready for your career.

Your CCMA nomination is for a TikTok challenge you created to test your own guitar playing skills and “empower others to take [a] leap.” Having amassed a following online, is it still a shock to come out from behind the screen and see everything come to life?

I remember during the first show back after COVID I was like, this is weird. I felt at home, but because I’d been so used to doing Zoom performances, I almost forgot I had a whole body and real people were watching. As I’ve gone to more shows, even down in Nashville, I’ve had a couple fans who’ve followed me from my very first videos say hi. You see numbers on a screen, but you don’t totally know what that means until you start going out and playing and people recognize your music. It’s been really fulfilling and exciting.

Country fans in Alberta will get to catch you opening for Tim Hicks on a six-show run across the province this October. What experience do you hope to bring to those audiences?

One thing that I love about music and especially country music is the storytelling aspect, and I think with Tim’s upcoming tour, that campfire troubadour feeling is going to probably be a big focus. I hope to just add to that experience and give people something to make them feel a little more celebrated or a little more loved and seen. It’s going to be a fun time.

You’ve shared the stage with several amazing country legends and friends. Has there been one concert that’s stuck with you and inspired your own stage presence?

I saw Taylor Swift on the Speak Now tour when I was eight or nine. That definitely inspired me because she was doing everything that a young country artist could dream of, and she was paving the way for so many artists.

Speaking of Taylor, have you scored tickets to The Eras Tour?

I did, in Nashville! My sister and I ended up getting floor tickets through the Ticketmaster lottery for my birthday. It was everything and more. Taylor is incredible. I’m going to watch the Eras movie when it’s out because I’m sad that the show went so fast.

What Taylor Swift ‘Era’ would you say that you’re in?

My gosh, that’s a good question. I would probably say my ‘Red’ era. Maybe it’s the fall vibes right now, but I also feel like her ‘Red’ era was her exploring different types of genres and that’s where I’m at right now — just experimenting with lots of different sounds and finding my sound.

Do you have a message to send to your fans heading into CCMAs weekend?

I’m very grateful for everyone’s support, and hopefully I’ll get to see you at a show near you soon.

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