Kaia Chesney
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Kaia Chesney

Tucson, Arizona, United States | SELF

Tucson, Arizona, United States | SELF
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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Kaia Chesney @ Plush

Tucson, Arizona, USA

Tucson, Arizona, USA

Kaia Chesney @ Creations

Tucson, Arizona, USA

Tucson, Arizona, USA

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Kaia Chesney makes delicately gorgeous indie pop.
She's got a gentle, feather-light voice, and, at 20 years old, she is just getting started.
Still, she's feeling a little constrained by Tucson's music scene.
Since her first public performance at age 17, Chesney has played at all-ages spots such as The Living Room, Dry River Collective and Solar Culture. And although she enjoys those places, she doesn't feel there are enough venues in town that support the type of music she makes.
"People would much rather watch a girl band onstage when they have silver wigs on and a tap-dancing percussionist than to watch a girl sit there with a guitar," she said.
Chesney, whose tattooed arms are as colorful as her opinions, has been in Tucson since she was 10. Originally from Maryland, she moved here from Kansas in 2000 to be with her mom.
She attended Sabino High School but not "successfully," and spent some time teaching in Africa before returning to Tucson. The Midtown resident now works as a nanny for two children.
Both solo and with her group, Kaia and the Nazarenes, Chesney writes all the music and lyrics. She recently signed to 1912 Records — a local label founded by 20-year-old Rob Easter of Tucson.
"I just love her music," said Easter, who started his label in January. "What sets her apart is she's an individual."
Chesney's soft singing voice is similar to the dreamy, atmospheric vocals of Victoria Legrand of Beach House.
She said she's tried being in bands and creating music in a more collaborative way, but it didn't really work out.
"I'm not flexible when it comes to writing music with other people," she said. "I'm kind of a pain that way."
It's a trait that has its ups and downs: rewarding when she hears the finished product, but there's less motivation for bandmates to play music that's all hers.
Most of her tunes are love songs with exaggerated scenarios to help people relate, she said, often with themes of nature in the lyrics.
Chesney points to two of her favorite artists, Rocky Votolato and Pedro the Lion's David Bazan, for their vivid lyrical illustrations as inspiration.
She said women have a difficult time being considered really great lyricists.
"In Westernized thinking, it's much more impressive for a man to be so emotionally illustrative and vulnerable as opposed to a woman doing it, because it comes as something people would expect in our culture," she said.
"If a woman sings about her heart being broken and wanting to drown in tears, it's not as impressive as if a man sings it."
- Arizona Daily Star

Folk-rock singer-songwriters in Tucson have always been a dime a dozen, God bless 'em. It's encouraging, of course, to know that so many bedroom musicians want to share their talents and innermost thoughts with the rest of us—and sometimes, they rise above the pack, as does this promising 23-year-old with the gorgeous honeyed alto.

Chesney's album also arrives well-equipped with a bunch of songs for which the age-old pop-song structure works to their advantage, rather than simply being the default mode. Although she has been compared to Feist, Laura Veirs and Dolores O'Riordan, Chesney's voice recalls a sweeter Chrissie Hynde. She and engineer J. Fen Ikner, who played many of the instruments, create arrangements that hint at the restrained modern twang and darker underbelly of the Cowboy Junkies.

She and Ikner make the most of her songs, turning "Without You" into a jangly rocker, and weaving vibes into "Thirsty" to give it a retro-cocktail lounge feel. There's a bittersweet melancholy on "Matthew," and the title track is almost a swinging lullaby.

The most beautiful song on the record is "Only One," which boasts a hauntingly gorgeous melody and a dramatic booming sound mix to complement its expansive pastoral mood. It sounds like Joan Baez fronting Fleet Foxes. And the lyrics are moving in their frank plainness: "I have seen what it is to love / and when it's gone, how it hurts."
- Tucson Weekly


Springtime, EP, 2009
"Springtime" track featured on KXCI (Tucson) radio
Circa 1952, Full-length album, 2011
-Various Tracks featured on Arizona and California radio stations, streaming on all tracks



It all started out with an 8 year-old girl under bed sheet forts singing Mariah Carey songs into a hair brush. Though she may have strayed from the styles of her pop-infulenced teachers, the now 23 year-old Kaia Chesney has grown into a well-rounded songwriter and musician. Her eclectic tastes are complimented by her unique voice, presenting songs that invite audiences into her own intimate experiences of emotional turmoil and triumph. Kaia has spent the last five years performing in Southern Arizona alongside bands such as Saxon Shore, Unwed Sailor, Sera Cahoone, and MeWithoutYou. Kaia is well known in the Tucson community for her serence vocals, but the delicate folk chords and new variations of pop melodies she produces compliment her vocal elegance to create an ambience of distinctive sound not familiar to other music.

Sometimes compared vocally to Feist, Joan Baez, and even Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries- her comparisons are just as contrasting as the style of music she produces. Critics have described the music in saying, “[she] has a rapturous vocal style that feels like enchanted air bouncing off of canyon walls, with a palpable sweetness. (Tucson Weekly).” Kevin Smith of The Arizona Daily Star announced, “Kaia Chesney makes delicately gorgeous indie pop.” Currently, Kaia is touring the West Coast as part of her debut album release. In August of 2011 she was nominated as Female Vocalist of the Year for the Tucson Area Music Awards. As Kaia completes her first album’s tour and returns to the desert, she continues to write while playing regularly in the community and surrounding cities with band mates Sarah and Andrew Ling, Jordan Andow and Fen Ikner supporting her.