Stage Shy Songstress
Michaela Kuzia prefers to be heard and not seen. Though she's extremely articulate, the 27-year-old Great Barrington native, who now lives in Boston, says she's still stage shy.
But the Berklee College of Music graduate has previously performed locally at the Lion's Den in Stockbridge and former Great Barrington venues Club Helsinki and Union Bar and Grill, in addition to venues in Boston, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Seattle, Wash.
Still, Kuzia prefers the process of writing and making music in the studio. Her recent effort has produced her first LP titled, "Never Gonna Look Back."
During a trip to the Berkshires last week, Michaela Kuzia sat down with The Eagle to talk about her new album, and subsequent revelations in life and love, and how her dwarfism doesn't keep her from reaching new heights:
Q: Your new CD, "Never Gonna Look Back" -- is this your first disc?
A: It's my first official full-length album. I had a demo floating around back in 2000, but it was very amateur. I put a lot of money into this one.
Q: Were you the type of person who knew you were always going into music?
A: Yeah, definitely. It took me a while to get to the point I really realized what exactly what I wanted to do. I knew when I graduated high school that piano was my thing, which I had been playing since age 5.
So I went down to Florida State University to study piano performance. But when I was there I quickly realized that it was...too conservatory...it just was not my thing. But there were amazing people there.
But once I realized that I stuck around Florida for a couple more years and then I applied to Berklee [College of Music in Boston].
Q: When did you start Berklee?
A:[In] 2003. I studied songwriting.
Q: What does the album title "Never Gonna Look Back" mean to you?
A:First of all it's the name of a song on the album. And it's also kind of like, I hit this point in my life. I was dating this guy for about five years and then I was done with that. And I was just ready for this new phase of life and I don't believe in looking back and regretting any decisions you've made. You've just gotta keep moving forward. So that's kind of what this is about.
The album is a combination of old and new [music] and exactly where I am now in my life.
Q: And where is that?
A: I would describe it as kind of ready for the next step. I really want to pursue [music] as my career, full time, just like any other musician. But it's just time. I'm not getting any younger. I'm 27, and if I don't do it now, I don't think there's any other time to do it.
Q: So what have you been doing since Berklee?
A: I stayed in Boston after I graduated. Right now I work at Whole Foods, and was doing part-time music there too.
Q: Do you get a chance to perform live much?
A: Not so much at the moment.
Q: Of the musical process, what aspect do you like the most?
A: It's definitely not doing live performances. That freaks me out, and I think that feeds into why I don't play out that often. For me, it's the creative process [I enjoy], it's being able to put all my emotions into a really good line or phrase that everybody can relate to, or some people can relate to. To be able to kind of let that go into a song and let that be a moment frozen in time, like that was a moment in my life and this is my testament to it.
Q: Being a twenty-something, what did you go through in writing your music? I mean, is this album all about heartbreak?
A: Well, a lot of it's about heartbreak, but I don't think it's all about heartbreak. I'm kind of at this point right now about how in love I am [laughs] with the person I'm now with. And that's a lot harder to do, because it's so hard for it not to come out in this tacky way. But [the album's] about heartbreak and finding what happens after heartbreak. You know it's the sense of renewal, the sense of life goes on, and there's great things in life to look forward to aside from this relationship mess. It's just about growth.
Q: I noticed other musicians and instruments aside from piano on this album. Do you play regularly with a band?
A: No. The people who came together for this album are my friends and people connected with the studio I recorded in. They're amazing musicians. We kind of just pieced the album together little by little.
Q: Thanks to the power of the Internet, I saw that you once played in Seattle with a group called the Little Big Band. I wasn't sure if those were the same group members you played with on the album.
A: No, that's a whole other side project I got sucked into.
Q: Is that something you still do now?
A: Kind of. It's something that I'm still part of. What we do is play nationally at the Little People of America convention that I attend every year. But we won't be playing together again until next year at the convention which is going to be in Nashville.
Q: Is that a challenge for you? I mean, is height a challenge in the music industry?
A:If anything I think it's a helpful part of [my career] in a certain way. I never want people to know me because of my being little. But I want them to know my music, and then ‘Oh, she's little,' and that's how it sticks, that's how you remember me. But I want the music to be the forefront, not my littleness.
Q: How difficult was it to put an album out by yourself?
A: You just have to be willing to do it and put the money into it. I was fortunate enough to have grown up with the engineer of this album, who became this amazing engineer.
Q: How much did it take money-wise to put out? How many copies did you print?
A: I got a thousand copies. And this stuff always costs more than you think. I probably spent $4,000 to $5,000 on this album.
Q: If you had to, how would you genre-fy your sound?
A: I would say it's probably pretty pop-y sounding. You know it's funny, I always struggle with this question. I want to tell [listeners] exactly who it's like. It's never just one answer.
My influences are anywhere from Billy Joel to Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan. Sometimes I think I sound like Vanessa Carlton or Michelle Branch. But then I think my lyrics are a little heavier sometimes, like Tori, but not necessarily that dark.
Q: Did you feel you had to leave the Berkshires to find resources to support you and your music or did you feel like you had that growing up here?
A: As far as resources for music, classically, yes. I had an amazing teacher, her name was Peg Leonard. Unfortunately she passed away several years ago. But she taught me how to feel music. She taught me everything I know about music. But to learn technically, I had to move on to find more musicians, who were out in the world to learn how to put out an album. So I had a lot of other teachers.
Q: When you lived in the Berkshires, did you go to school locally?
A: I went to the Rudolf Steiner School, which is where my mom teaches. For high school, I started off at Monument [Mountain Regional High School] but then went off to and graduated from Hawthorne Valley High School in Ghent, N.Y. It was small. I graduated with a class of 12.
Q: What are you professional goals? Why should people listen to your music?
Q: What are you professional goals? Why should people listen to your music?
A: I think it's fun to be able to share your stories and relate to people on an artistic levels. I think music is one of those universal languages that everybody can relate to on some level. Just being able to kind of express yourself and have others be like, "Yeah, man, I went through a similar situation" or "Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about," that's what I put through in my music. So if I can make somebody's day because of that, that's awesome.
I guess I would say just listen to it. Give it a chance and form your own opinions. But just listen. You'll like it. I promise.
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