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Kari Kirkland

Performing on flying trapeze and aerial bungee came naturally to vocalist Kari Kirkland, a former Ironman Triathlete competitor and daughter of an Olympic-drafted swimmer. “Live music is not unlike Flying Trapeze; one must be confident, fully engaged, and ideally, joyful.” says the former co-owner of Emerald City Trapeze Arts. After eight years in Seattle working as a professional circus artist, the mystery of the Southern California desert beckoned. She left the dazzle of the circus and the death-defying practice behind to become a full-time musician. Kari remarks, “There is inherent magic in the desert… a stillness and an energy that coexist like nowhere else on earth. What better place to be an artist?”

Kari’s debut album, Wild is the Wind, was inspired in part by David Bowie’s performance of the title track. “It’s been one of my favorite songs since I was 18”, says Kari. “I heard an interview with Bowie where he considered his version (an homage to Nina Simone), to be the closest to his ‘true’ voice ever recorded. I had a chance meeting with him in Vancouver, BC in 1997. I told him how inspired I was by “Wild is the Wind,” and we had a laugh because he said it was recorded almost exactly when I was born.” This idea of the “true voice” intrigued Kari, having spent most of her life in bands singing to suit the occasion. She wanted to get deeper inside the songs and allow her emotions derived from the lyrics to drive the vocal performance. The collection of contemporary and jazz standard songs on the album have more in common than one might notice at first glance. Kari remarks, “the majority of songs are about unrequited or forbidden love. For me, this kind of love is rooted in pain. It’s easy to access the idea of pain, but very difficult to genuinely express it. Producer Shelly Berg would come into the booth just before a take, and we’d talk through the lyrics and share stories that connected with the song. He helped me achieve a sentimentally-raw state, allowing me to deliver a performance that was authentically painful, and occasionally playful.” In the gospel-inspired ‘Jealous’ and the contemplative and orchestral ‘I’ll Be Around’, the emotion is palpable. “I couldn’t get through either song without crying. We tried a few takes, took a few breaks, and still, the tears would come at the close. In the end, we kept the original takes. Those performances felt powerful, and thoroughly cathartic”, remembers Kari. Drawing from a darker underworld of emotions, ‘Do It Again’, ‘Secret’, and ‘Steamroller Blues’ gave Kari a chance to untether a sultrier, sexier vocal that spoke to a more visceral part of her.

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