Kreesha Turner likes silence. And rightfully so, seeing as the international singer songwriter rarely gets any time to herself since her first album, Passion, debuted in 2008. The album features the song Don’t Call Me Baby, arguably Turner’s most well known song to date, which reached number one on North American charts and went platinum in Canada. “I’m content being inside my own head,” she says, as we sit down at the swanky Hazelton Hotel in the heart of Yorkville. “I feel like a lot of people love to blare music because they don’t want to be inside their own heads,” she continues, “that’ a little deep,” with an enchanting, light-hearted laugh, “but I do like to just sit with my own thoughts.” The sentiment is a perfect representation of Turner herself.
Born in Edmonton, Alberta to a Jamaican mother and German father, Turner’s life is full of beautiful contradictions. Without even speaking, she exudes the lovable, girl next-door feeling. Once we’ve spent only a few moments exchanging conversation, however, it’s clear there is much more going on in her mind than simply what her sweet demeanour implies. Standing at a petite 5’4’’, Turner’s voice is yet another contradiction – it is about ten times the size of her miniature body – and she’s not afraid to belt it out. And as we conduct the photo shoot for the cover, Turner actually graces us with her voice, singing along to the music that was playing. “Music is my world,” she says, “even when I’m not working on it.”
As her career continues to flourish, her music has become ever more a reflection of how she feels – the music that she hears naturally in her head. “With my first album, Passion, I very much went into the recording process as a student,” she confesses, “I wanted to gain tools to put in my tool belt to use later on down the road.” For that reason, Passion is a representation of Turner, but also of the writers and producers with whom she worked. After working the underground R&B and jazz scene for many years, to produce an album of music with a vibe of Pop was to veer away from Turner’s personal musical inclination. Therefore, once the time came to begin working on a second album, as Kreesha puts it, she truly “took the steering wheel”, and drove it in her own direction. “I feel like Tropic/Electric is much more a representation of me,” she explains.
With her exceptionally soulful voice, it is easy to assume that Kreesha spent her entire life honing the skill – but in reality, an unexpected uprooting to Jamaica at the age of fifteen was when she finally found her voice. Trained as a dancer, Kreesha recalls that she had always seen music as the action, and dancing as the reaction to the music – naturally categorizing herself as the reaction. “I didn’t want to be that dude on American Idol that’s like ‘but my mom says I can sing’!” she says, throwing her arms in the air. “I didn’t think I could sing, I didn’t want to sing.”
Then, at fifteen, every teenager’s nightmare came true for young Kreesha, when she broke a house rule and quickly realized that her mother did not play around. “I had a boy in the house and I wasn’t allowed to,” she says sheepishly, “I like to say that my mother deported me. I got in trouble on the Friday, and, back in 2000, the minimum time ahead you could book an international flight was a week. I was on a plane the very next Friday.” Needless to say, upon her return, Kreesha never broke another rule. “I didn’t know where she’d send me next time and I didn’t want to find out,” she jokes. Although she can recall strongly disliking her mother at the time, she divulges that now, her mother is one of her biggest role models and her closest friends. While in Jamaica, Kreesha, smiling, admits that she was “peer-pressured” into joining a church choir, but that it quickly turned into a lucky mistake; it was where she found her niche. “Standing up in front of the church and singing for the first time, I realized that I was the action causing the reaction, and that’s when I fell in love with singing,” she says earnestly. Turner seems to carry her year in Jamaica with her everywhere she goes, even to this day. “I swear I lived ten years of life in that one year,” she posits, referring to the stark contrast between her safe neighbourhood in Edmonton, and the dog-eat-dog culture of Jamaica. Leaving the slippery streets of Edmonton for the balmy Jamaican weather helped Turner to understand why her mother was so protective of her, and gave her the jump-start she needed in building her career.
As the topic of her mother comes up again, Turner, with tears glistening in her eyes and a wide smile on her face, describes how her mother arrived in Canada in 1978 with absolutely nothing. “Now she owns an industrial engraving company – she feels like she has accomplished the impossible.” With this attitude, Turner has been able to pursue her career with a vigor and maturity that belies her 24 years. Admitting that, although neither of her parents are musical, both enjoy an enormous and diverse catalogue and are avid listeners. From a young age, she was exposed to many different genres of music, and says that to this day, she can find something to like in every genre. With influences as diverse as Billie Holiday, BB King, Fleetwood Mac, Leonard Cohen, Michael Bolton and the Supremes, it’s no wonder that Turner had difficulty fitting all the music she made onto one disc, under one title. Thus the double-title, double-disc sophomore album was born – Tropic/Electric.
To truly encompass the Jamaican vibe that Turner intended to exude on the Tropic half of Tropic/Electric, she recorded that half of the album in Jamaica, an experience she says fit perfectly with her own creative process. “The one thing that I love so much about recording in Jamaica is that they’re on island time. We’d show up at the studio and be like; do you feel like working today? No. Let’s go to the beach!” she explains. The basis for this seemingly laissez-faire attitude is easily explained by the Jamaican mentality with regards to the creation of music. Kreesha explains that, in Jamaica, they believe music should only be written when it feels right and comes naturally. For this reason, the recording experience in Jamaica was one she associates strongly with creative freedom. When asked whether she wants to return to Jamaica to record in the future, she nods and says, “Jamaica is where I have always been – in a sense that is where music started for me,” confirming to fans that they can expect more music like that found on the Tropic half of her disc.
Up next for Kreesha is a mixture of professional and personal goals. “There will be kids one day,” she says, smiling. But settling in one place to raise a family doesn’t seem to be in the very near future for the dynamic performer; she has professional goals that she would still like to accomplish, including song writing for other artists and contributing to albums that are not her own. Another goal she has is one of slightly more practical inclinations. “You learn along the way that it’s a lot harder than it looks to reach that point where you are financially stable. I’m still reaching. It’s not about excess for me, it’s always just been about being able to take care of the people I love,” she explains, nearly getting choked up again.
It’s a destination that may well be in the cards for Turner, who confesses that worrying about finances can be taxing at times. “But every time I step on stage,” she comments, “it recharges my battery.” She plans to continue doing exactly what she loves, whether or not she can gain the support of every listener. “Whenever I get too stressed out, or whenever I’m backstage really nervous, in my brain I have to remind myself that I can’t be so concerned with what people think… I’m up here doing what I love.” A motto that, although unconventional, in the judgmental and merciless music industry, may just give Kreesha the edge she needs to come out on top.
Photography by Felicia Byron
Art Direction: Antonio Pendones
Styling: Stephanie Black
Hair: Janet Jackson
Makeup: Jonah Fheonix
Head of Production: Gustavo Reid
Production Assistant: Shaun Thomson
Photographer’s Assistant: Gary Van Netten
Social Media: Hilary Flint
Behind the scenes: Helga Napolitano
Shoes: Calvin Klein from Town Shoes
Jewelry: Stella & Dot