Singer, pianist, songwriter
Classically trained Canadian pianist Chantal Kreviazuk has become one of Canada’s most prized singer/songwriters. Introspective and challenging lyrics based on tough life experiences filled her late 1990s releases Under These Rocks and Stones and Colour Moving and Still. Kreviazuk’s emotionally deep songs may have seemed a little too heavy in comparison with the sugary-sweet pop songs and angry rock that ruled the radio airwaves, but the songstress has maintained a contingent of dedicated fans both in the United States and her native Canada.
Kreviazuk’s parents, Jon, owner of a swimming pool business, and Carole, played the violin and harmonica to their only daughter while she was still in the womb. Once born, Kreviazuk started banging on the piano as a toddler. Born on May 18, 1973, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the tot wanted to take lessons like her two older brothers, Trevor and Michael, but was told she was too young. At age three, she was picking out songs one note at a time on the piano. “It was like she was a prodigy,” her mother recalled in Chatelaine. At five, her mother gave in and Kreviazuk began studying piano. Kreviazuk went on to win competitions and study voice. She also took after her brothers in that she was drawn to sports, and took up horseback riding. As a teenager, Kreviazuk felt insecure, misunderstood, and unpopular, feelings she later claimed kept her from openly writing and performing her songs. But while studying at the University of Manitoba, Kreviazuk began singing publicly. She sang jingles for local commercials and the Canadian national anthem at hockey games. She also worked as a singer in Winnipeg hotels.
In 1996, about 100 demo tapes per week from hopeful artists were landing on the desk of Mike Roth, a head talent scout for Sony Music Canada. Roth was “floored” when he heard Kreviazuk’s and flew immediately to Winnipeg to meet her. Roth told Chatelaine that most new artists require a certain amount of work before they are ready to record for a major label. With Kreviazuk, he recalled saying, “Wow, this is a diamond here, totally ready. Just open the door and let her go.” Despite her lack of performing experience, Kreviazuk signed one of the most generous contracts Roth had ever offered a young, unknown talent, reportedly worth $1 million. While most new artists take one or two years to record their first record, Kreviazuk’s debut album, Under These Rocks and Stones, came out seven months after signing with Sony. The single “God Made Me” pushed record sales to more than 200,000 copies in Canada and another half-million worldwide.
The singer’s first major songwriting effort was the result of a 1994 moped accident in Italy that nearly killed her. After major reconstructive surgery to her femur and face, which included the insertion of four plates and 16 screws to repair her shattered jaw, she spent a month in the hospital. Back home, her rehabilitation and
Born on May 18, 1973, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; daughter of Jon and Carole Kreviazuk; married Raine Maida, 1999.Education: Attended University of Manitoba.
Began playing piano at age three; signed by Sony Music Canada, 1996; released first album, Under These Rocks and Stones, 1997; released Colour Moving and Still, 1999.
Awards: Juno Awards (Canada) for Best Female Artist and Best Pop/Adult Album for Colour Moving and Still, 2000.
recovery took a year. During this time, she devoted herself to songwriting and found solace in the task. She never regained feeling from her bottom lip to her chin and has scars on her body.
“When people have suffered, and when they’ve been through stuff, I know what it feels like,” the songwriter told Time International. Kreviazuk writes challenging and introspective lyrics that explore some of the more difficult times in her life. On Under These Rocks and Stones, the song “Surrounded,” which was about the suicide of her “friend-slash-love interest” Samuel, went on to be the album’s breakthrough single. “That song was like therapy for me,” she recalled in Chatelaine. The song “M,” on her second release, Colour Moving and Still, was about a friendship she developed with a girl who died of a brain tumor shortly after her thirteenth birthday. In concert, Kreviazuk will joke and laugh with her audience, and then belt out songs about death or homelessness. The singer’s words to live by, according to Chatelaine, are “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
Colour Moving and Still was a success in Canada and garnered Kreviazuk comparisons to fellow introspective Canadian pop superstar Alanis Morissette. The album explored issues of mortality and spirituality, and the songs “Before You” and “Until We Die,” were “unabashed love songs,” according to Maclean’s. “They say that with death comes life,” Kreviazuk said in an interview with the magazine. “I think it means that death changes the living. It can bring us closer together and be an incredible learning experience.”
Maclean’s also declared, “As Kreviazuk’s star continues to shine, recognition will come as surely as winter in her hometown.” But she found it tough to get her songs played on United States radio stations. The backlash against female singer/songwriters from Lilith Fair, an all-female music festival, and the rise in popularity of such angry male stars as rapper Eminem made it difficult for her to get airplay. And compared to the wildly popular, but sugary pop tunes of stars like Britney Spears, Kreviazuk came off as heavy and introspective. “People don’t really want to hear introspection right now,” the singer lamented in Time International. But she didn’t foresee selling out and writing bubbly top 40 pop hits anytime soon. “Once you’ve written something of meaning, it’s hard to go back.”
In December of 1999, Kreviazuk married fellow singer and labelmate Raine Maida, of the Canadian rock band Our Lady Peace. The relationship between the Canadian rock darlings was highly publicized in Canada, but Kreviazuk was hesitant to discuss the relationship in the press until after the marriage. Although she insisted the two had separate careers, Maida co-wrote two songs with her on Colour Moving and Still and produced a third.
In addition to her album releases and concert tours, Kreviazuk contributed to television and film soundtracks. Her cover of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” appeared on the hit soundtrack for the 1998 action movie Armageddon. For television, she recorded Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home” for the WB network’s Dawson’s Creek soundtrack, and the Beatles’ “In My Life” for the NBC series Providence.
Though mostly unheard in the United States, Kreviazuk’s second release was a hit in her native Canada, and she did maintain a dedicated throng of fans in the States. In March of 2000, she won two Juno Awards, which is the Canadian equivalent to the American Grammy Award. Kreviazuk won out over pop diva Celine Dion and alternative rock favorite Alanis Morissette in the Best Female Artist category. Colour Moving and Still beat out releases from Bryan Adams, Morissette, and Joni Mitchell for Best Pop/Adult Album.
Under These Rocks and Stones, Columbia, 1997.
(Contributor) Armageddon: Music Inspired By The Film (“Leaving On A Jet Plane”), Big Ear Music, 1998.
(Contributor) Songs from Dawson’s Creek, Vol. 1 (“Feels Like Home”), 1999.
Colour Moving and Still, Columbia, 1999; reissued with import bonus tracks (“Leaving On A Jet Plane,” “Feels Like Home,” “In My Life”), Sony, 2000.
Chatelaine, September 2000, p. 95.
Maclean’s, November 15, 1999, p. 136.
Time International, July 17, 2000, p. 57.
“Chantal,” Chantal Kreviazuk Homepage, http://www.chantalkreviazuk.com (March 30, 2001).
“Chantal Kreviazuk,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (March 30, 2001).
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