Toronto singer-pianist Karen Kosowski’s new album, Meeting The Future At Full Speed, is a bold, sweeping, sophisticated pop recording that comes from a better place than her previous release, the critically acclaimed Out Here At Sea.
“It’s a lot more positive and upbeat. The record in 2005 was very introspective and dark. This one is like, ‘Hey, I’m happier. I worked out some sh*t and I still have insecurities but I’m dealing with them,’” Karen laughs. “It’s about identity and getting comfortable with who you are.”
Meeting The Future At Full Speed is a reminder that time is ticking and one must jump in feet first, do it all, don’t hesitate, but take time for yourself and the people you love. Self-produced at her home studio and at Canterbury Music, the 10 songs range from the dreamy “Stars In Our Eyes” to the percussive “Land On Your Feet” and the empowering title track.
While she wrote most of the songs herself, “Can’t Fall Anymore” is a co-write with her husband, Marc Rogers of the award-winning soul-pop group The Philosopher Kings, who also plays bass and does programming on the album. His bandmates, drummer Denton Whited and guitarist James Bryan, also lend their talents. Karen plays everything else, keyboards, programming, tambourine and some acoustic guitar.
She funded the recording herself, but her ever-growing and supportive fan-base also stepped up. “I sent out an email to my mailing list asking for people to sponsor the string session; in return they would be able to attend the recording session and receive a thank you in the liner notes,” she explains. “The response was great and I was able to raise the money to hire the players and do the session.”
The string quartet, assembled by noted Toronto cellist Kevin Fox (Chantal Kreviazuk, Tom Cochrane, Shaye), breathes deeper emotion into the songs “Life Is Short Enough,” “Can’t Fall Anymore” “More Than A Sign” and “Faded Souvenirs.”
This piano-driven, cinematic sound is exactly the direction Karen has been working towards in recent years. “The progression from the record in 2005 to this record makes a lot more sense in comparison to some of my previous work,” she says.
Born in Winnipeg, Karen was put into piano lessons at the Yamaha Music School at age 4. The one time she complained about practicing, her mother said she could quit if she liked. That forced her decision not to and she never looked back.
Always interested in composing, the classical-trained musician wrote her first song, for Remembrance Day, when she was in the ninth grade and actually included parts for the flute and two-part harmonies. Later, she says, “I went through that ‘Oh, I want to be Tori Amos,’ when I was 16.” By 18, she bought a guitar and wrote songs on that as well. She even fronted a band called Eve. “We were wanting to be XTC — but it was really bad,” she laughs.
At the University of Manitoba, not surprisingly, she was enrolled in the music program, but by then she was interested in much more than classical composition and decided to drop out. “It wasn’t in line with what I wanted to do,” she says. “It was more of a ‘safe’ kind of decision thing.”
Just before moving to Toronto in 2001, she was exploring a rootsy, guitar-based direction and released a more rock-oriented disc entitled Optimist Party in 2002. In 2005, she switched it up to the more piano/synth-based Out Here At Sea, which she promoted on book store tours, as well as in the clubs. As months passed, she found she didn’t play much guitar anymore and wrote entirely on piano.
While touring behind Out Here At Sea, she test drove some of the new songs and found they all stood up well solo. “I can perform them on different levels: as a duo with my brother on a full drum kit; or with full instrumentation (with bass, additional keyboards and synths)… but in the end you can’t make a good record if you don’t have a song that can be played solo and still retain its identity,” Karen says. “From there, the songs that ended up on this new record are the ones that I had the most fun playing live.”
“Can’t Fail Anymore” was actually written with Marc for the synth project they co-founded called National Sound, but Karen felt it best suited her solo direction. “Your Day Will Come” was originally written and recorded for National Sound as well, then reclaimed by Karen and rerecorded with a different treatment for her own project.
The ones she wrote for herself from the outset include “Land On Your Feet,” an encouraging lyric about turning a bad strategy around; “Life Is Short Enough,” her first-ever happy love song about a guy who gets his girl to stop and smell the roses; and “Stars In Your Eyes,” which can be interpreted in a positive or negative light.
Karen, who is active online with her own web site, as well as her MySpace and Facebook pages, is more interested in promoting Meeting The Future At Full Speed online and creating a viral buzz by word of ‘net. “The way that people seem to find me so far is through their friends and I find that the people who tend to come to my shows want to spread the word,” she says. “The web, of course, is the ideal medium for that.”
As for the title of the album, she sums up her choice like this:
“You start out playing music and you think, ‘Wow, I really want to make a CD’ and then 10 years and several CD’s later, you’re like ‘Wow, where did that time just go?’ It’s a humbling thing, just realizing the process of life and how you can’t control it and it’s going really fast. So the title Meeting The Future At Full Speed best describes the feeling of the whole record — that sensation you get when you throw your whole heart into something.”
Selected Media Quotes:
"One of the top 20 independent CDs we found anywhere in the world in the past year." - IntelligentPop.com
”Piano-based singer-songwriter pop that is well written, produced and performed with real musical flare”
- Exclaim! Magazine
“Kosowski has gained notice by separating herself from the mass generica clogging the airwaves”
- The Gazette, University of Western Ontario
“a crowd so rapt you could hear a pin drop...her lyrics were like little monsters that bit you, bite you, and bite you." - TorontoIndie.com
"like Bonnie Raitt or Joan Armatrading sipping cafe au lait on an up day... quirky hooks to reel you in."
- NOW Magazine
“tremendous voice... striking power and sensuality"
- The Winnipeg Sun
”versatile vocals...catchy choruses...lovely”
- Eye Weekly
“Grass doesn't stand much chance of a growth spurt under Karen Kosowski's feet.” - Uptown Magazine
Karen Kosowski – vocals, keyboards
Marc Rogers – keyboards, synths
Greig Silvester - bass
Mike Kosowski – drums
Meeting The Future At Full Speed (coming 03.29.08)
Wish On A Star (2006)
Out Here At Sea (2005)
Live at the B-Side (live EP, 2004)
Optimist Party (LP, 2002)
Planet (EP, 1999)
Live at Rogue's Gallery (LP, 1999)
Land On Your Feet (Album Version)
Stars In Our Eyes (Album Version)
Life Is Short Enough
Meeting The Future At Full Speed
Love & Bandaids
Over And Over
Love You Anyway
Your Day Will Come
More Than A Sign
Can't Fail Anymore
Kosowski navigates the waters of acoustic pop
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Karen Kosowski is wading her way through the many female artists cruising the Canadian music scene. ...Karen Kosowski is wading her way through the many female artists cruising the Canadian music scene.
With her latest release, Out Here At Sea, Kosowski has gained notice by separating herself from the mass generica clogging the airwaves.
"It's time to start something new now," Kosowski says of her recent work. While the process involved "going through lots of phases and experimenting," Kosowski believes the extra effort was worth it.
"In the past I was heavily influenced by female artists," Kosowski admits. "Now I'm stripping away, and I'm playing with textures, but still keeping that pop sensibility. [Experimenting] has helped me find a sound that is more personal to me."
Although she has developed her own sound, the odd cover song still makes her set list.
"I like it when I go to shows because you can hear a song you know from way back, so I'll throw one in once in awhile," Kosowski explains.
Her choice of cover songs - usually Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead, or Jeff Buckley - has helped develop her lyrical style.
"I find if I listen and play diferent styles of music they all combine into my own," Kosowski says.
Kosowski borrows instrumental ideas, too. A selection of her songs include the Radiohead-inspired glockenspiel, and she is also influenced by classical music.
"I was a classical pianist as a child, so [writing] often feels like I'm going back to that when I use orchestral instruments."
Kosowski may borrow ideas, but she's also known for lending her talents to up-and-coming Toronto artists, an experience she finds extremely rewarding.
"I really benefit from making quicker decisions and it puts things into perspective, instead of getting emotionally caught up in the process," she says.
However, Kosowski spends most of her spare time working on a side-project, National Sound.
"In National Sound I write with my bass player, so I feel there's less pressure and everything doesn't rest on me," Kosowski says. "It's like putting on a different hat."
While she enjoys working with a band, Kosowski is adamant it will remain solely a side-project.
"it's pretty expensive to take a band on the road," she explains, "but I try to keep my accompaniment the same."
As for hitting the road, Kosowski is eager to return to the United States, where she hasn't toured since 2001-02, and she's also keen on touring Europe.
"it would be great publicity, as we haven't got lots of recognition there," Kosowski says. "More people know who I am in the States."
Kosowski is also excited about returning to the studio. "I've been thinking about an EP of maybe six or seven cover songs," she says, "because I've gotten requests to put them on CDs."
"I've been formulating a few songs, but I don't really know where it's going yet," she adds. "Probably something a bit more up-tempo and positive."
Karen Kosowski will perform a free show at the North London Chapters Sunday, March 12 at 2pm.
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"As I first saw Karen at Holy Joe’s during Indie Week this year, I walked in on a crowd so rapt you ..."As I first saw Karen at Holy Joe’s during Indie Week this year, I walked in on a crowd so rapt you could hear a pin drop...her lyrics were like little monsters that bit you, bite you, and bite you." - Lidia Vila
Out Here At Sea CD Review
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"One of the top 20 independent CDs we found anywhere in the world in the past year."--IntelligentPop..."One of the top 20 independent CDs we found anywhere in the world in the past year."--IntelligentPop.com
Kosowski has a great sense of melody. What’s keeping her album out of the top 10 is its relentlessly slow pacing, and a slightly canned quality some reviewers thought they heard in the production—although Kosowski, producing and mixing it herself and playing most of the instruments, got a terrific vocal sound and mixed it nice and loud, something more artists should do. Her lyrics are mainly cathartic/confessional, something many of us have heard before, but they’re a good deal above average for this category and she’s found powerful lyrical and melodic hooks whose marriage makes you sing along, even despite the pacing.
Here’s another artist who, perhaps working with a producer who can bring the best out of her, partly by urging her to explore a wider variety of tempos and feels, could easily be imagined dropping an album in our #1 spot. She has the tools to do it.
If you love pure vocalists, buy this record. Kosowski sounds a little like k.d. lang, and yes, her pipes are that good.
Out Here At Sea CD Review
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By Alex Molotkow July 13, 2005 Fans of the Sarahs — Harmer, McLachlan, and Slean — should immed...By Alex Molotkow
July 13, 2005
Fans of the Sarahs — Harmer, McLachlan, and Slean — should immediately acquaint themselves with Karen Kosowski. Piano-based singer-songwriter pop that is well written, produced and performed with real musical flare; it's not hard to imagine Kosowski winning accolades from LCBO catalogues and 30-something couples who "like to check out new music." If this sounds negative, it's not meant to be — Kosowski's talent is apparent, and her songs, though without much grit, are beautiful, melodic, and confidently performed. She clearly has the make of a serious musician — her ballads are complex enough to merit her legitimacy as a songwriter, and simple enough to avoid ostentation or gimmick. She has her formulas down, and weighed against genre conventions, her pieces are a cut above. For what it is, it's inventive — the songs contain genuine emotion and her hooks are solid while still being slightly unconventional. Her voice is confident, expressive and complimentary to her brand of songcraft — she has a niche, and deserves to be lauded within it. If you enjoy quiet, sophisticated radio pop but think Kate Bush is weird, you should surely adore this.
Out Here At Sea CD Review
"versatile vocals... catchy choruses...lovely" Rating: 3/5
Optimist Party CD Review
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"Kosowski snarls sweetly like Bonnie Raitt or Joan Armatrading sipping cafe au lait on an up day, an..."Kosowski snarls sweetly like Bonnie Raitt or Joan Armatrading sipping cafe au lait on an up day, and her tunes have enough quirky hooks to reel you in." Rating: NNN
Optimist Party CD Review
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"these 14 cuts are highlighted by Kosowski's confessional lyrics, soulful rootsy-pop songcraft and -..."these 14 cuts are highlighted by Kosowski's confessional lyrics, soulful rootsy-pop songcraft and - most importantly - her tremendous voice, which is growing into an instrument of striking power and sensuality"
Road to No. 1
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Canadian Musician Karen Kosowski will perform on campus this weekend. Like many children, Karen K...Canadian Musician Karen Kosowski will perform on campus this weekend.
Like many children, Karen Kosowski dreamed of becoming a rock star. Like not so many children, she actually became one; at least in Canada. However, Kosowski has the opportunity to prove her rockstar status to the UW-Eau Claire campus and Eau Claire community today through Saturday at The Cabin in Davies Center.
"I like to play at universities because they are a lot of fun," Kosowski said, "and because students love music and are big supporters of independent musicians. I like to think that I bring out the people who love real music."
As a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, dubbing Kosowski "independent" might be an understatement. The Toronto singer is director of Wildly Moody Music where she runs her own personal booking agency, promotes and performs her own international tours and designs her own original merchandise.
In the last four years, Kosowski has released three independent albums across Canada. Most recently in September she also founded her own online community for independent female musicians at EstrogenMusic.com. "I feel very lucky because I get to be creative for a living, travel, and work my own hours," she said.
Describing songs from her latest album, "Optimist Party," as being "honest and direct," the album acts as a "series of musical journal entries that article her personal process over the last three years as she went broke, fell in love and experienced the long distance disintegration of her family," according to her web site, karenkosowski.com.
This albu features Kosowski on electric and acoustic guitars, grand piano, organ, and five string bass.
Paul Butrymowicz, faculty adviser for University Activities Commission, first heard of Kosowski when he received an email promoting herself. Butrymowicz responded, requesting a press kit and CD. In December a UAC committee listened and voted her as The Cabin's featured female solo performer for the spring 2003 semester.
"She's got a real bluesy voice," Butrymowicz said.
Out of the 30 oto 40 press kits UAC considered for concerts at The Cabin, Kosowski received the most votes out of female performers. She was one of the top vote-getters overall, Butrymowicz said.
"There's a lot of competition, so if you can get a slot in The Cabin during the school year, you're doing good," he said.
Kosowski named such artists as Sheryl Crow, U2, Ani Difranco, Ben Harper, Coldplay and Jeff Buckley amongst her musical influences. In addition, she has shared concert lineups with such acts as Jeff Healey and 10,000 Maniacs.
The upcoming concert at The Cabin will include duo versions of songs from "Optimist Party", with Kosowski's bassist, Marc Rogers, as well as songs off her previous CDs and brand new songs.
"People have been responding very enthusiastically, and it's already surpassed my previous releases in terms of industry response," Kosowski said about "Optimist Party."
"It went to No.1 on the largest campus radio station in Canada (CIUT 89.5 FM)," she said, "which blew me away."
Supporting the 'Kos
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Grass doesn't stand much chance of a growth spurt under Karen Kosowski's feet. The former Winnipeg ...Grass doesn't stand much chance of a growth spurt under Karen Kosowski's feet. The former Winnipeg singer/songwriter has been putting the finishing touches on a new album since moving to Toronto last year. Nothing against Winnipeg, mind. Apparently, Kosowski needed the challenge of relocation and the unknown to help inspire her.
"This independent streak in me was gnawing at me and I wanted to hit the road, get away from everything that was comfortable and familiar, and take some risks! I didn't want to just spew out records without really having something to say... so I chose to explore and grow my personality so my songwriting woudl improve.
Kosowski will make it up to Winnipeg with plans to release second album proper, Optimist Party, at Academy Coffee Co. on Wednesday Sept. 25, at 8pm. Admission is $5 at the door, or free with the purchase of a CD.
Fans of her previous work shoudl listen up - Kosowski has upped the ante since last time around.
"Three years of writing, touring and growing can do a lot for a person. i've been immersed in the scene and had a lot of really great musicians play on the record, even saxophone and flugelhorn. Plus, I played a whole whack of instruments that no one's heard me play - electric guitar, wurlitzer, bass - so the songs are edgier, the texture is more lush..."
You can also catch Kosowski at an in-store performance at HMV St.Vital on Sept. 28 at 1 and 2pm. For more information, check out www.karenkosowski.com.
Keys to the [Information] Highway
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She must be thankful her parents made her take music lessons, because all that classical training se...She must be thankful her parents made her take music lessons, because all that classical training seems to have paid off for the St. Vital-raised Karen Kosowski.
Years of piano classes from age four until she turned 16 readied this singer/songwriter for the transition from classical to pop music - a change she was happy to make. "I found that I could relate better to pop music personally, and pop music was always something that I turned to for sympathy. You know the emotions are flying, so I found that it was my friend when I was in need and I really wanted to emulate that. I wanted to be able to do that for other people."
Inspired by performers such as Sarah McLachlan and Tori Amos, Kosowski, like many other solo artists, has turned to the piano as her instrument of choice. "It's always been such a solo instrument, and that was something I was really used to." but she is less serious about the strength and impressive power of her vocal skills, a focal point on her latest CD, Planet. "I'm a hack, honestly. It's just the piano training that's helped me to learn other things and pick up other instruments."
Her first CD was a live solo disc recorded at the Rogue's Gallery. Kosowski chose not to go the solo route for Planet, and worked up full arrangements with a band. For the CD release concert November 20th at Rogue's Gallery, she'll perform with the musicians from the sessions.
Although her status as a solo artist may have changed, Kosowski's position as an entrepreneur has not. She started the Wildly Moody Music record label as a way of releasing her own catalogue. "It's seeming to be the most feasible way to go these days, in terms of money. Plus I really enjoy doing a lot of the work. So I have fun and it keeps me busy."
Since becoming her own small business, Kosowski has been working on increasing online distribution and attracting more fans before heading out on an Eastern tour in the spring. Giving away CDs as online contest prizes and putting up music sampmles in MP3 format has already helped Kosowski broaden her site. And with two releases to date, she is well aware of its potential to make her music more accessible. "It's really starting to become an option now with some of the quality of sound that you can put up so people can sample it. Plus there's a huge audience that's growing all the time and they are searching out new artists on the web."
Original Material for one feature set (1 hour +)
In-Store Performances: 2 hours of original material and a few covers.
New York Minute (Don Henley)
Manic Depression (Jimi Hendrix)
Don't Dream It's Over (Crowded House)
Karma Police (Radiohead)
Lover, You Should've Come Over (Jeff Buckley)
There are no upcoming dates at this time.