She’s been dubbed the Canadian Rihanna by some and compared to Duffy by others, but with the 2011 release of Tropic Electric, Kreesha Turner unleashes a record more likely to defy comparison than invite it.
Some artists might be tempted to try to duplicate their initial success by staying the course creatively, instead, for Tropic Electric Kreesha dramatically retooled her sound – combining a fluid blend of R&B, Electronica and pop that’s reminiscent of her debut 2008 debut, Passion, with elements of Dancehall, Reggae and Worldbeat that pay homage to her musical past.
If Tropic Electric sounds like a marked departure from Passion, it’s for good reason. On Passion, Kreesha co-wrote just five songs, among them, the album’s title track. That first time out, she went into every writing session with the mindset of a student. “I’d work with a songwriter and they’d ask ‘how do you want to approach this? And I’d say, ‘no, how do you work as a songwriter?’ I wanted to learn, to gain tools to put into my own songwriting tool kit.” In early 2010, when Kreesha began the writing/recording process for Tropic Electric, she brought that tool kit to work every day. “Last time I watched them build the house. This time I felt I could grab the tools and do it myself. I was there for the creation of every song and influenced every element. This album is truly a representation of me, culturally and creatively.”
While Tropic Electric may sound as if Kreesha has stepped out on a limb stylistically, it’s more accurate to say she’s delving deeper into her musical roots. “When you talk about Reggae and Dancehall and you talk about Dance music you automatically separate them. They’re in different categories in stores. They’re played in different clubs and on different radio formats. I wanted to do something new, so I took two elements of myself and put them together.”
It’s an evolution, she says, of both the sound that first attracted the attention of the music industry to her, and the style the 26-year-old sensation introduced to the world with her chart-topping debut. But although it’s a step forward creatively, the sound of Tropic Electric traces a direct line back to the place she discovered her voice in the first place; her mother’s native homeland, Jamaica.
Originally, the phrase Tropic Electric was Kreesha’s way of describing the sound she wanted to capture on this, her sophomore effort, a fusion of her Jamaican influences, and the sound of tracks like the 2008 remix of ‘Don’t Call Me Baby’ and her 2010 collaboration with alt. pop legends Delirium, ‘Dust In Gravity’, which both hit #1 on the US Billboard Dance Chart.
Tropic Electric is split into two distinct sides, Kreesha explains; one that depends heavily on the sounds of the music of the islands and the other on a Dance/Electronica based style. The Tropic side, was produced by The Wizard for Calabash Productions Inc. and recorded at 7 Long Studios in Kingston, Jamaica, “On this side I’m doing what I did before I was signed, when I worked the underground hip hop scene singing my own material, which was always a blend of Reggae and R&B.”
In the past few years Kreesha has toured the world; sharing stages with the likes of Katy Perry, Shirley Bassey and Lady Gaga, and performing at high profile events like Canada Day festivities at the 2010 World Expo in China, for an audience made up of local dignitaries and then Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean. Her 2007 single, ‘Bounce With Me’ has been tapped for television shows like ‘The Hills’, ‘Entourage’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’, major motion pictures such as ‘You Again’ and ‘What Happens in Vegas’ and successful commercial campaigns for Nikon, Nike and Kit Kat. The strength of Passion also garnered Kreesha a Canadian Radio Music Award for Best New Group/Solo Artist (Rhythmic/ Dance/Urban) of the Year, an MMVA nomination for International Video of the Year and JUNO nods for both New Artist and Pop Album of the Year in 2009.
When Kreesha returned to Canada after her first trip to Jamaica at the age of 15, she sought out every opportunity to perform she could. “I was consumed by perfecting my craft. I took vocal, piano and guitar lessons, acted in musical theatre and joined two choirs, one gospel and one jazz.” She also became aggressively active in her hometown of Edmonton’s Hip hop scene. “I was playing every weekend; writing, recording and performing my own material, hopping on any stage and entering every contest and competition I could find.”
With Tropic Electric, Kreesha hopes to awaken the same passion in her listeners that has fuelled her career, her live performances and her growth as a songwriter ever since. For her, the only way to do that was to re-submerge herself in the culture that inspired her to take the stage originally.
From their very first session in Kingston, Kreesha and The Wizard connected on a personal and musical level. “It was just easy. The recording process took on a natural rhythm all its own. We wrote and recorded during the day and either went out to sessions in Kingston at night, or just kicked it at the studio, listening and dancing to Reggae and Dancehall. It was all about good vibes and good energy.”
That energy is reflected on every song on the Tropic side; from the no holds barred club anthem and lead single ‘Rock Paper Scissors’, to the hypnotic and sensual ‘I Feel My Darling’, a track driven by an understated reggae groove that, as Turner puts it, “just makes your body wanna rock.”
In order to nail down the sound for Electric’s mix of sweet soul-infused tracks such as ‘I Could Stay’ and rip up the floor dance tracks like ‘Killer In The Club’, Turner traveled more widely; recording in L.A, Toronto, New York and Atlanta. “In Toronto and Los Angeles I worked with Erika Nuri and Greg Ogan (50 Cent, Britney Spears, Rihanna and J-Lo) of the Writing Camp, in Vancouver with Mike James and Troy Samson of HipJoint Productions and in Atlanta, with Phil Tan (Mariah Carey, Ludacris, Rihanna), who also mixed Tropic Electric.” Fittingly, the sessions wrapped up in Toronto, with Canadian producer and pop star, Shawn Desmond.
Other members of the all-star team Kreesha assembled to work on Tropic Electric include Nastassja Hammond (daughter of reggae icon Beres Hammond), Grammy nominated singer, songwriter and producer, Bei Maejor, Jamaican sensation Courtney John, Jon Levine of The Philosopher Kings (Jellystone, Nelly Furtado, Fefe Dobson) and Grammy nominated producer/composer, Dean Coleman (Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, MIA).
The result is a more mature sounding record and a snapshot of where Turner is heading as an artist. While Tropic Electric channels two very different aspects of her musical life, both sides share a common preoccupation – Kreesha’s unrelenting desire to step out as an artist, step up as a songwriter and throw a party for her fans they’ll never forget. “I wanted the tropical energy of Jamaica to infuse this whole record in the hopes it will make people fall in love with music the way we hear it on the island – bass lines that make you wanna rock and beats that make you wanna bang on a wall, a counter, anything. These songs were written with the intent of making people feel like they just have to dance.”