For Kristen Bussandri (G ’08), it was a fairly easy decision to leave her hometown of Montreal and move to the Big Apple. The singer made the move to pursue a Master’s degree in Music Business, so she could learn the best way to manage her own career. Just a few years after graduating, Bussandri was named one of “five Canadian musicians poised to break out in 2012” by one of the major national Canadian newspapers, perhaps proving that her time at NYU had paid off. VELOCITY sat down with Bussandri as she continues to promote her latest EP “Diamonds to Dust,” which can be downloaded for free here, and gears up to record her first full-length album this fall.
When did you start singing and writing songs?
I’ve been singing since I was able to speak and writing songs since I was seventeen.
Where does your musical inspiration come from?
I often find inspiration in other forms of media – films, short stories, books, newspaper headlines and other people’s songs. This week I was inspired to write a song called “Whores and Holy Rollers”, which is an expression I heard in a short film about Levon Helm on YouTube. Levon died last week and I’ve been listening to a lot of his music. Sometimes, a lyric just pops into my head and the song flows from there. Of course I’m inspired by events in my own life. There is a large amount of uncertainty tied to the musician’s lifestyle, and it’s both liberating and stress-inducing.
You were picked as one of “five Canadian musicians poised to break out in 2012” – does that make you feel any pressure, or just excitement and confidence?
A mixture of both! It’s definitely exciting, but now I have to deliver on a certain timeline, which is not always easy when you’re dealing with a creative project. For example, we decided to push back the recording of my album from the spring to the fall to focus on performing shows this summer and promoting my current EP “Diamonds to Dust”. I am honored by the positive press and am working hard to deliver the best music I can make.
Has your education from NYU helped in your singing career? What made you decide to do the Music Business graduate program?
Having worked for a record label right out of college, I knew I wanted to get a Master’s Degree that was business-oriented to help me manage my own music career and avoid the common mistakes that artists make. When I found out about the Music Business program at NYU, it felt like the perfect thing for me. The fact that I could move from my hometown of Montreal to New York for two years was a big part of my decision to enroll at NYU. I knew that the city itself would make me grow. The education I received at NYU has definitely helped me. It’s given me an excellent understanding of the music business as a whole and the tools to develop my own career.
Do you have advice for aspiring singer/songwriters?
Get out there and play live to get feedback on your material before you hit the studio. Your audience is your ally – they will help you pick your best songs and will point out your strengths and weaknesses. Videotape all your performances so you can make notes on what to do better next time (Roger Waters told Howard Stern that he still does this). Read the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. Don’t spend too much time on social media – it can zap your creativity and your time is better spent practicing. Do blog. The most important thing you need is to have killer material. You don’t need to have the best voice in the world or the best guitar chops – if you can write amazing songs you’ll get ahead. Find local musicians who love your music and are willing to play with you for free. If you’re a singer and you can sing many styles, find a producer who can help you determine what part of your voice is the most distinct. Be wary of professionals who want to charge you for their services, such as publicists and radio promoters – make sure you give your money to someone who will work hard on your behalf. Don’t go chasing record labels – build your career up to the point that they come to you. Believe in yourself, even when you get rejected, but be humble. Oh, and if you haven’t considered giving it all up out of mind-numbing frustration, you haven’t tried hard enough.
What can you tell us about the new album?
My new album will feature our 70’s tinged vintage sound that blends elements of gentle country, folky rock and soul. It will build on the mellow vibe of the “Diamonds to Dust” EP but contain more upbeat blues/rock songs in addition to the gentle ballads. I’ve been courted by some incredible producers, including multiple Grammy-award winner John Whynot (Blue Rodeo, Lucinda Williams). I’m really excited to bring to life another set of great songs!