Shout Sister Shout: Kristin Berardi (IWD 2021)
Approx. 7 minute read
I first came across Kristin Berardi’s beautiful voice on her album Where or When a few years back – I’m a late comer to her music ( I know!) considering she had a dozen releases to her name before this 2015 album. I was hooked from the moment her sonic scapes hit my eardrums and I have been following her career in music ever since.
This Queenslander is one of Australia’s musical treasures having performed on the international stage for the closing ceremony of the Common Wealth Games a few years ago, winning the Montreux Jazz Festival’s International Jazz Vocal Competition, and winning the National Freedman Fellowship for jazz. I am so pleased that Kristin was able to participate in my Shout Sister Shout series to celebrate women in jazz, improvised and world music for the marvellous month of March. Read on to learn more about this incredible vocalist.
Sonia de Freitas: Hi Kristin, how are you and where does our interview find you today?
Kristin Berardi: Hi Sonia, I’m well thanks and I am in Luzern, Switzerland.
SdF: Can you tell me about your journey in music? When did you know that you were going to make music your career?
KB: Music making was a part of my home life – my mum taught piano and organ from our small house in country North Qld, so I was around that all the time. I knew I wanted to make it my career from a young age, as well as having the usual “many things on the list” type approach of a child, but it was clear at 14 when I started having vocal health problems, and couldn’t sing (or talk) for two weeks that I realised I went to sing all the time, and I missed it so so much. It made me so determined, and also I knew what life was like without it, so it ensured that I have never taken an opportunity to sing or share or gig for granted. It was certainly a blessing in disguise going through that process, and learning how to speak and sing with correct vocal technique. It took a lot of hard work and time……and patience.
SdF: Your albums Haven and Our Songs, Not Songs, are two of your latest releases- absolutely glorious sound waves you’ve put together in my opinion! Can you tell me about your creative process when producing these albums? Is there anything particular you do that is special to your creative process?
KB: Thank you so much for your kind words – I am so glad these albums resonate with you.
Regarding my creative process – it seems to flow quite naturally from the connection with the people involved. So with Haven it was the connection with Sean, Raf and Pascal and just allowing all our ideas and options to play out and seeing where that led us. With the Our Songs, Not Songs album it was choosing the songs Sam and I wanted to record, rehearsing and then once again – allowing yourself the freedom in the studio to try things or change things when they “need” it or you “feel “ something different to the vague plan.
SdF: Who is your sounding board? There must be someone that you trust to give you brutally honest feedback on your music. How do they fit into the process?
KB: I have a few sounding boards. Sam Anning is one of my sounding boards – I respect his opinion and ideas artistically so much. I feel like he understands where I am coming from too- I feel like my music and my approach is safe with him. I guess what I’m saying is he respects me also, so it’s a good match.
Another couple are Kayleigh Pincott – a great singer and composer from Brisbane, who I know will give me honest feedback, and encouragement when I’m feeling unsure. I really appreciate that. Another is Dan Tepfer -composer, coder, and pianist from NYC. He has been my friend since 2004, and we have shared our musical journeys, works and albums over this period of time with one another. Hearing and watching one another (hopefully) grow and mature. He is also someone I can send voice memos to, to check and see if I have written a great tune, or if it’s just the same as the last three. Actually, all three of these people get my dodgy voice memos from time to time!
SdF: What was the first song that you remember making an impact in your life and why was/is it so important to you?
KB: I am not sure it was a song, but I remember voices that made an impact on me. The sound of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and John Farnham’s instruments made a huge impact upon me. It seemed too good for those sounds to be coming out of mere humans.
SdF: Have you experienced particular challenges as a female musician? How did you overcome these challenges and what do you think needs to change for others to avoid these challenges in the future?
KB: Yes I have, however I chose not to allow them to bring me down, or to avoid the arena. Luckily for me, my music space has always been one where I have more resilience than other spaces in my life, so I just saw them as a challenge to rise above, and to walk through. For that I was am very grateful, for I know too many people where they have felt no option but to walk away, as the opposition was too much. I am very fortunate that in music, I am my strongest version of myself.
I chose to not engage in the drama or toxic behaviours, I just continued to work really hard at my craft with the hope that my music would speak for me, so I didn’t waste my energy on justifying my place in a situation/ bandstand. I would always make sure I was very prepared for situations, and I was lucky that I started learning instruments at a young age so I new the importance of practise and routine, so I chose to apply this to my singing practise and structure also. I guess it came down to getting myself to place where I could respect myself musically, and then being able to let go and be honest, knowing if I was just being myself – being honest, how could that be wrong or bad, if that was my pure intent.
SdF: So, what’s on the horizon for you? Any projects you’re working on or new releases to share?
KB: I have an album I recorded in NYC that I’m busting to share, but it just hasn’t happened/flowed yet, so hopefully it will this year. Also, I recorded a solo album of me singing and playing piano – which is Tepfer’s fault actually – my helpful sounding board suggested it. So yes – hopefully two new albums in the making!
I’ve also got more plans to record with Sam Anning, also with Mark Sholtez an amazing singer-songwriter. We want to do an album of works together. Here is one of his songs that I sang and that will feature on the NYC recorded album – it is all new tunes of mine and this one, What You Want, of Marks. Miro Sprague and I performed What You Want at Birdland, NYC 2019, just after we recorded it that week.
Oh and Helen Svobada is also another amazing human I have some things in the pipeline with – so a few project there, and also some recorded things waiting for timing and funds to be set free! 🙂
SdF: What is your most memorable performance and why?
KB: Probably 2004, at the Montreux Jazz Festival international vocal competition, for Al Jarreau, and playing with his band. Then the following year at the same festival, playing a huge stage with James Sherlock and feeling so so very tiny but very very happy.
Playing at Birdland in NYC in 2019, was one of my most memorable also – it was a coming together of many years of travelling back and forth, and investing in my music development, and my relationships with musicians both in Australia and in USA. It was amazing to play that iconic club with my dear friends and colleagues.
SdF: Musicians come in many “flavours”; vocalists, trumpeters, bassists… ; if you weren’t a pianist and composer, what flavour musician would you want to be and why?
KB: I would want to be a double bass player!
SdF: What advice would you give to any aspiring musicians out there?
KB: Work hard, and be yourself through the music. It’s a simple and complex as that 🙂 Just be honest. People will always connect and need honest art.
To learn more about Kristin Berardi visit: kristinberardi.com
To buy Kristin Berardi’s music visit: kristinberardiandsamanning.bandcamp.com/album/our-songs-not-songs
For more information on International Women’s Day visit: internationalwomensday.com
Keep an eye out for my next interview in the Shout Sister Shout series where I interview Gai Bryant.
Did you miss the previous Shout Sister Shout instalment? Read Hilary Geddes’ interview here.