Sporting one of the most unique voices to be heard today, singer Kristen Cudmore shows a striking level of creativity on Wonderkind – the latest CD from Language Arts.
The band, which performs March 18th at Fratters, is the brainchild of the Toronto-based Cudmore, a classically-trained musician/composer in her own right.
Language Arts has been described as a band that fashions a unique pop sound that, “Is
married between jazz schoolers and classically-trained music nerds as is seen in her choice bandmates – drummer Neil MacIntosh, keyboardist Joel Visentin and bassist Soren Nissen.”
Cudmore, 32, who is originally from Nova Scotia, reflects on her journey as a musician, pointing out she comes from a family of accountants and relatives in the agriculture industry. “We have farming roots and accounting roots,” she laughs. “But my parents bought me a keyboard when I was younger because I was pretty hyper-active.”
Something clicked and a passion was born early on. Learning the guitar was soon to follow at just 12 years of age.
She later landed a scholarship to a choir camp, which was peculiar as she didn’t consider herself much of a singer at the time. “When I first started the band, I thought well if I can’t sing I might as well rap. I loved underground rap music and I had words that I wanted to say to the music. But I slowly started to build my confidence and made the notes a little longer.” And over time, her unique, rather ethereal vocal stylings started to take shape.
“Also, the reason I wanted to start guitar was because I was a Nirvana freak. My cousins used to make us mixed tapes of grunge music when we were little. They were older than us, and cooler so we were like, ‘They know what they’re doing’,” she laughs.
But other genres proved appealing too. Besides hip-hop, she also had a love for flamenco and classical guitar, which she focused on in her post-secondary studies.
Studying various eras in music history, with a growing appreciation for a number of styles, was fueling her creativity. She also played with lots of jazz musicians early on too, which stretched her improvisational skills as well.
For Cudmore, all aspects of a musician’s life bring joy, but touring pretty much tops the list. “I love it all, but touring is absolutely the best. You get to meet people in different cities and you can learn about different cultures. It’s great. It’s the best feeling ever.
“I channel everything I was feeling when I wrote the song and almost relive those moments and memories,” she explained. “You just don’t want it to end.”
As for the name of the band, Cudmore recalls wanting to incorporate a sense of how important rap lyrics were to her at the time. “When I named it, it was more about how I wanted the language to be equal as the art of the music.
“But it was also representative of some of my favourite moments as a kid.” As part of language arts class, the kids would get to go to the hall next door and watch magicians and musicians. “It was kind of a lightbulb moment for me; I thought, these are my people – this is my thing,” she recalls. “I always associated language arts with this really positive place in my life. So I thought the name works. It matches the sound, you know?”
On top of Cudmore’s vocals, the foundation of Language Arts’ approach is her guitar playing. Classically trained, from the school of the immortal Andres Segovia in both Canada and Germany, she has since ‘electrified her skills’.
Meanwhile, regardless of the challenges, she’s just as passionate about what she’s doing as she ever was. She describes music as one of the only things that really satisfies her in life. “It’s a need – it’s not a choice. It’s not about the years or the time or the money or the fame – it’s about fulfilling this need.
“The minute it stops feeling right is the minute I’ll have to stop doing it. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”