With heartfelt dedication and enduring honesty on her debut full-length CD Hot Air Balloon, 26 year old Stacey Kaniuk is an authentic virtuoso. Bringing confidence to her craft, the classically-trained pianist’s boisterous, hook-laden songs unite a devout passion for the earnestness of soul, folk and pop music with a flare unto herself. One almost finds it impossible to believe such powerful, alluring singing could belt out of a tiny, red-headed frame.
Yet it does. This petite suburban damsel with a massive voice delivers unforgettable melodies fuelling pensive, emotive lyrics on Hot Air Balloon, an album that epitomizes the hearty tones and deep substance in her music. Inspired by the inherent heartiness and rugged nature of mid-1960s soul/Motown/R&B’s heyday, Hot Air Balloon is reminiscent of a time when the music was sincere, bold and proud.
Honing her artistic expertise since youth, Kaniuk is no neophyte to the world of song. From earliest recollections of a melody-filled home to her teens spent entertaining with gold-certified pop/R&B vocal trio Take Three and into her current solo career, Kaniuk has spent her life embracing music.
“I was moved by music at a very early age; knew it was going to be a major part of my life,” she notes. “It was always around; a part of my upbringing. I’d sit at the top of the stairs and listen to my mother play stuff like Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell on the piano. My father was also in a touring soul and Motown band years ago yet still performs locally to this day. My sister and I also performed together often when we were growing up.”
Taking those deeply-rooted influences and incorporating them into her own peerless sound, Kaniuk set the wheels in motion for both refining her abilities and creating a devout following with her eponymous EP in 2007. Intensifying that appeal and skill with a wealth of current and legendary influences, Hot Air Balloon is powerful, personal, expressive and vivacious.
“I write from a personal experience perspective. That makes the song writing process revealing even to myself. I expose and learn about what I’m actually feeling about things as I write This album has been a journey of self-discovery; full of truth-telling. I’m figuring out what I’m about and what I want in life,” Kaniuk reveals about the modus operandi behind these enthralling tunes.
Captured by producer Blair Packham (The Jitters, Andy Kim) at Rouge Valley Studio, Hot Air Balloon’s pensive sensitivity and forays into self-understanding prove Kaniuk’s work to be far more than sensationalized, over-produced and undervalued pop. “Our goal was to make an organic, earthy, though admittedly not low-fi album with the vibe of an Aretha Franklin record from 1965” says Packham.
“When I put on records by Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, something in their rawness and reality appeals to me,” Kaniuk smiles, pondering Hot Air Balloon’s direct inspiration. “It’s seeped into my songwriting and vocal style. Making a record is a really personal experience. You’re distilling your entire self into a few songs and putting it out there for people to scrutinize. That can make you anxious, excited, proud and scared all at the same time. It’s an emotional roller coaster in the best possible way.”
Hot Air Balloon is sure to find Kaniuk in increasing demand, most notably for its inviting essence. As the songstress continues to grow, learn, share and write in order to understand herself, she aspires to have the album’s songs help others understand their own characteristics in the process.
“I know in my heart that this is what I need to do so I’m not going to wait for things to happen,” Kaniuk concludes determinedly. “I’m drawn to be onstage, write and record. It’s what drives me, and I can’t satiate it any other way. I feel like there’s something distinct about what I do and I’m excited to share it with people. Because at the end of the day, it’s more than just a personal experience. I’ve always wanted to feel like what I am doing is relevant in some way and Hot Air Balloon is a way for me to reach out to people with my own experiences and music. When someone tells me how a song I wrote spoke to them, it shows me that it matters; has a sense of purpose; sincerity.”