The self-titled debut from Kanisha K. marks the arrival not only of a talented new singer but also of a potential pop sensation. This 20-year-old artist from Holland, Michigan has the right combination of vocal chops, looks, determination and crossover appeal to take the music business by storm. Produced by Robyn Robins, the longtime keyboardist for Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Kanisha K. (Daddy Rocks Records) covers a wide range of styles in a mere eight songs.
Growing up in Holland, Kanisha was less than three hours from both Detroit and Chicago -- two cities with rich musical history. She got an education in rock courtesy of her Dad, who took her to see everyone from The Who and Aerosmith to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But she also gravitated heavily toward R&B and soul. Hearing Alicia Keys at a young age left an indelible impression. "As I got older, I listened to Etta James and Aretha Franklin," says Kanisha. "But as a young girl, [Alicia] was probably my biggest influence." A chance connection led to a video of Kanisha's performance at a recital being seen by Robins, who then offered to produce her debut album -- quite a daunting scenario for a girl who was just a senior in high school at the time!
Deciding to sing professionally wasn't always in the cards for Kanisha, however. During her sophomore year of high school, she had actually planned to pursue basketball. "That was what I was gonna do after high school," she explains. "I was at the level where I could have played college ball and people knew that in eighth grade. I went to Michigan State Basketball Camp; it was very serious. So for me to just leave… All my coaches were shocked." An exciting decision to make, for sure -- but not an easy one.
In the end, Kanisha decided to exchange the court for the recording studio. Most of the songs on her debut were produced in Grand Rapids, Michigan by Robins except for the song "Lead Me On," which was helmed by Jim Della Croce at L.A.'s Capitol Recording Studios, where everyone from Frank Sinatra to The Beach Boys has cut historic records. Music obsessives may remember "Lead Me On" from 1979 when it was a hit for UK soul sensation Maxine Nightingale. The song's co-writer, David Lasley, is another Michigan legend. Lasley sang backup for James Taylor and others, released the critically acclaimed solo album Missin' Twenty Grand and penned many other songs including the Boz Scaggs classic "Jojo." Currently, he is featured in the new film 20 Feet from Stardom, a tribute to the great backup singers in popular music. "I was thrilled to work with him," says Kanisha of Lasley. She also credits powerhouse backup singer Shaun Murphy -- who has performed with Seger, Little Feat and many others -- with helping her feel comfortable in the studio. "Shaun was a big role model for me," says Kanisha. "She was the first person that was able to get me out of my comfort zone. She challenged me but it was for the better. [And] she was always there for me."
In addition to Lasley and Murphy, the musicians Kanisha worked with on her album read almost like a Who's Who of session players. These include guitarists Drew Abbott (Bob Seger) and Mark Goldenberg (Jackson Browne); bassist Bob Glaub (Browne, Warren Zevon); sax man Jim Horn (everyone in rock); keyboardist Robins; and backup singers Kate Markowitz and Arnold McCuller. "I was totally humbled and wildly challenged by being around such talented people," beams Kanisha.
Aside from "Lead Me On," some of the highlights of Kanisha K. include "One for Me" (the first single), the empowering "My Another Day," which hearkens back to the Des'ree classic "You Gotta Be," and a more modern track called "Stupid Boyfriend" that finds the singer getting back at the dope who dumped her. Of the latter song, Kanisha laughs, "My boyfriend wasn't that cool. I didn't get money and I didn't get shoes! That's like an ideal situation. I tried to put a positive spin on it because [in] a lot of breakup songs, the guy looks like he won in the end. So for this one, the girl gets revenge." The video for "One for Me," meanwhile, was directed by Jim Shea who has worked with everyone from Brad Paisley to Barbra Streisand. "Jim was a breeze to work with," says Kanisha. "I was in awe of his work."
Now that she has an album full of potential hits and a top-notch team behind her, Kanisha is starting to make peace with leaving basketball behind. Even so, she offers another explanation for the decision. "I was a little short," she admits. "You don't have to be a certain height to sing!"
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Bio written by Skinny Thai