Catching Up With Kiana Allison
Although Kiana Allison was born and reared in Newark, New Jersey, she says she did all of her growing in Ohio. She has ties to Columbus, Ohio and some of you may remember her as Valure from the former group Fatty Koo, which released an album, House of Fatty Koo, before it disbanded. Although Fatty Koo is no longer a group, Kiana is still making music. That’s great news because she has a wonderful gift. I listen to music daily and rarely do I find artists who not only have the vocal control and creativity that Kiana does. But, don’t just take my word for it. If you have an extra 3 minutes and 54 seconds, pause right here to listen to Hey Mama, the song that made me request this interview.
Kiana and I had a fun chat about what she has been working on since Fatty Koo, what inspires her music and her greatest accomplishment.
Mimi Soul: So how did you get your start with music?
Kiana: I am married to music and my mother introduced us. My mother was very creative. She had 8 kids and we were messy. So, she used to say “We’re going to have a party” and we would get excited and ask what we had to do. That was really her way of getting us to clean up the house. So, she would play music and get the food prepared, which was really dinner. She was so creative. I’m going to try that with my kids too.
Mimi Soul: Sounds like your mother really sparked your interest in music.
Kiana: My mother has an ear for music and she sings. She loves sound and she likes her music loud. I would watch her stand next to big backyard party type speakers. I would see her mouth moving and I would hear something coming out of her mouth that sounded the same as what was coming out of the speakers. I realized that she was mimicking what she heard. So, I started to mimic what she was doing. Before I was tall enough to see myself in the bathroom mirror, I would lock myself in the bathroom for hours. I would sing in there because I loved the acoustics off the walls. My mother has been that influence for me to start singing but as far as what shaped and molded my voice, I’d say Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder and Rachelle Ferrell.
Mimi Soul: What have you been working on since Fatty Koo?
Kiana: I’m trying to get into as many things as possible. I did a stage play last August and now I’m singing with a jazz band. One thing has been leading to another. I recently got the opportunity to sing background for Sheila Ray Charles, Ray Charles’ daughter. That was exciting.
I feel like I am an artist all over again and that does my heart so much joy because I didn’t really have that support system when I first started. Every time I push aside the fear that has been trying to follow me ever since the whole Fatty Koo thing didn’t work out, I find that I’m walking right into everything that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s amazing because when I put everything into perspective, this is the desire of my heart. If nothing else, I want to sing and whatever I can get my hands into to make my mark, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Mimi Soul: What inspires your music?
Kiana: The music that I do is pretty much centered around the experiences that I go through. My song Looking for Love is about an experience that I’ve been through. I’ve learned from my personal experiences and I have a passion for helping young ladies now because of the stuff that I’ve been through.
Mimi Soul: How do you feel when people compare your sound to artists like India Arie?
Kiana: Well, the thing is, I know my voice. First, I don’t let my ego get in the way and second, it’s a compliment because India Arie can sing. I know what my voice is capable of and I know the potential of my voice. It’s always a compliment when someone says “You sound just like this person” because that means you have the ability to mock what you hear and you can sing.
Mimi Soul: What kind of audience do you think would like your music?
Kiana: If you like country, R&B, or adult contemporary, I would like for you to be a part of my audience. If you like neo-soul, you are really my kind of audience. But, if I had to generalize, it would be everybody because if you’re really a music lover, you don’t let anything pass you by. Music is music. I believe every piece of music has a motivation for somebody’s ears or heart down the road.
Mimi Soul: What do you want to give listeners through your music?
Kiana: I used to dream about being the next Mary J. Blige because Mary J. has such a way of connecting to her audience through her life. So, my contribution would pretty much be the same thing because I like to show character. I want my audience to get to know me. Get to know Kiana for who she is. Let’s form a bond. Let me sing to ya.
Mimi Soul: What three words would you use to describe your sound?
Kiana: Oooh Mimi this is a hard one. My sound is strong. My voice is getting a little deeper and my tone is more defined. I would also describe my sound as light. I’m not a singer that sounds like I’m yelling all the time. And I’d say my sound is spontaneous because I’ve learned how to contrast my voice with the actual music that I’m singing with. I love key changes.
Mimi Soul: What advice would you give someone who wants to get into making music?
Kiana: First and foremost, make up your mind because there’s always going to be something that will come into play as opposition for you. So, make up your mind because it will be a time when you’re getting to know yourself on a level that you’ve never really discovered before. Also, separate your wants from your needs because if you don’t, a lot of the expectations that you might have may crush your spirit if they fall through. Trust and believe what you put into it will be what you get out of it. It is like planting a seed to grow.
Mimi Soul: If you release an album, are you planning to release it independently?
Kiana: It will definitely be independent because I love my freedom. Of course, every song is not going to be a favorite to someone and that’s cool. But, it has to be independent because when I was in Fatty Koo, there were so many restrictions and the outlets that we did have to be an artist didn’t make me feel comfortable. Releasing independently gives you the opportunity to create the music you want to create and incorporate who you are into your music. So, it will definitely be independent.
Mimi Soul: Ok, I have a fun question. If you had to part with all of your music except three albums, which three would you have to keep?
Kiana: I wouldn’t be able to part with Ella Fitzgerald – Ella in Berlin and the whole Stevie Wonder collection. The third one is hard. I can’t even answer the third one. That’s a doozy right there. (laughing)
Mimi Soul: (laughing) Ok, I’m going to give you a few scenarios and you tell me which artist you would want to hear playing in the background.
Mimi Soul: Who would you listen to on a road trip?
Kiana: A mixture of Usher and Beyonce
Mimi Soul: How about when you’re cleaning?
Kiana: It depends. If I don’t have plans and I’m just cleaning the house, Stevie Wonder is playing. If I’m getting ready to go somewhere, I’ll probably play Frank McComb. I love Frank McComb.
Mimi Soul: What if you’re hosting a dinner party?
Kiana: Dwele all day
Mimi Soul: What about when you’re exercising?
Kiana: I have to play Busta Rhymes because he has energy and he’s handsome (laughing)
Mimi Soul: How about when you get married?
Kiana: Musiq Soulchild
Mimi Soul: What is one of your greatest accomplishments?
Kiana: I think my greatest achievement has been to overcome the flaws or thoughts that were circling in my mind about being successful. I didn’t have people around me that were positive and pushing me. So, for me to be able to find that inside myself instead of externally was an achievement because it’s really hard. But, with some diligence, you’d be surprised at what you can do.
Thanks Kiana for a great conversation! I’ll definitely keep you all updated about her future projects. Those of you in the Columbus, Ohio area can hear Kiana on Fridays at Café Luna.
4720 E Main St
Columbus, OH 43213