Kirsten Opstad
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Kirsten Opstad

Los Angeles, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2015
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter




"Kirsten Opstad -- Fear of Swimming"

Somerville alt-folk singer-songwriter Kirsten Opstad’s latest release Fear of Swimming bursts with plucky, quaint acoustic tunes. Following a few solo albums as well as a release from The Crazy Exes from Hell -- the folk-punk band consisting of her and Steve Subrizi -- Fear of Swimming is Opstad’s first professional full-length collection.

Opstad, like many artists, turned to Kickstarter to help collect funding for the project, and she kept friends and fans updated on the fundraising progress as well as the recording process itself on her blog. While Kickstarter allots 30 days for a project to raise its fundraising goal, Opstad reached (and exceeded) her goal of $5,000 in just twenty days. The album was recorded at Interstellar Records in early November 2011 and was released on January 10.

Magic Eye provides a sunny opening and sets the tone for the majority of the album. Opstad’s chirpy voice and quirky, acoustic, simplicity make it seem like she could easily win over fans of Kimya Dawson. The majestic, Medievally-tinted Unkeepable Oath best demonstrates Opstad’s springy, cute songwriting. Meanwhile, the bond between her and an injured bird attests to her earnest, sweet spirit. Her lyrics are tongue-in-cheek almost as often as they are heart-on-sleeve. Along with all the peachiness of the album is the sense of vulnerability she admits to, in the album title and elsewhere in the lyrics.

Most of the songs are paced similarly, sharing a bright and chipper mood, but that’s not to say that the tracks blend one into the next. And while Fear of Swimming begins with sunshine, it ends with Back to Sleep, a bittersweet lullaby in which Opstad sings, “And I can’t sleep / Knowing you’re out there without me / And I can’t move / Knowing that you’re moving on.”

--Sarah Ruggiero - The Deli Magazine - New England

"Shoestring News (Show Review)"

I recently ventured to Cambridge, MA to attend the release show of Kirsten Opstad's CD Fear of Swimming at the legendary Club Passim, and it was a performance that kept this usually shy and retiring author swaying, stomping and bopping in her seat. It wasn't on my agenda to write a review of this show but I love to write about the things I love --and I am besotted by Opstad's energetic, original and just straight up damn good music.

Kirsten Opstad wielding her weapon of choice.
Photo credit: Rebecca Opstad

Kirsten Opstad's a singer-songwriter with attitude. Disarmingly adorable with wide baby blues, a girlish speaking voice and bouncy blonde curls to round out the picture, Opstad is nevertheless no Pollyanna. Put a guitar in her hand and she's the musical equivalent of Huck Finn with a slingshot: a wild child whose words smack you right between the eyes. Her lyrics aren't exactly your typical take on life, love and the whole damn thing: unexpected turns of phrase, deliciously discordant flourishes and a razor's edge wit make for a rich listening experience. Indeed, she's one of the most nimble wordsmiths this music-lover has ever heard and a breath of irreverent fresh air in a musical climate wherein "put a ring on it" is considered on par with Oscar Wilde. Also, many of her songs are hysterically funny --not too surprising as Opstad is also an accomplished improv comic who regularly performs at Boston's famed Improv Asylum. But while her tunes frequently elicit laughs, they never devolve into hack or novelty songs: her words are too smart, the emotions too honest. In short, with rollicking melodies and en pointe observations, Opstad is one to watch...and to listen to, again and again.

Oh! Which brings me back to her new CD Fear of Swimming! In true shoestring fashion, Opstad secured funding to produce this CD via clever use of the donation site Kickstarter, a great way for creative professionals to get a financial leg-up from supportive fans. But a word of caution to all potential kickstarters out there, this isn't your run-of-the-mill begging site. You have to have talent and a project worth supporting!

And so when friends and fans alike gathered at Club Passim on Saturday, January 14th to celebrate Fear of Swimming's release, it was really quite magical, and I say that as a cynical person who is not one to use such adjectives loosely. There was a collective feeling of pride in the air, pride in an artist making her own way, her own breaks. And Opstad was not above sharing the day with a wonderful crew of musicians that she obviously appreciates and admires. Opening for her and providing musical back up was the phenomenal Kristen Ford Band, a group of musicians that I do believe merit their own stay tuned. Another treat to be savored was Michael Descoteaux's freneticjazzyfabulous turn on keyboard, and while this is probably TMI, the colorful Descoteaux strongly calls to mind a young Gene Wilder which, strange chickie that I am, I find rather sexy. But perhaps one of the best moments of the show was when Steve Subrizi --Opstad's bandmate, together they form the outrageously wonderful "folk-punk sensation" The Crazy Exes from Hell-- took the stage for a number with Opstad and the two delighted as only crazy exes can. - Shoestring New

"Fear of Swimming (Album Review)"

This past week, Kirsten Opstad released a studio album. She's my bandmate and one of my best friends, so of course I'm going to write about how good it is. That's what I'm supposed to do. One might actually suspect that there was something shut off inside of me if I didn't leave some sort of internet-documented evidence that I enjoyed this album that my partner worked so hard to record.

Here's the thing though: it actually is seriously good.

For those who already know and love Kirsten, this is the album we all hoped she would make. For the uninitiated: do your heart a quick favor. This is a half hour of two- to three-minute songs that will almost definitely make you feel better than you feel right now.

Kirsten Opstad sings with the weathered yet energized charm of a hip young aunt who lets you drink her liquor, tucks you into her afghan after you pass out on the recliner, and makes you an omelet at noon. She's been through all the same bullshit you're going through, and while she'll promise to cut the bullshitters "in the throat," she seems to want nothing more than to lift the spirits of everyone close to her, even--maybe especially--the women she doesn't love anymore.

Fear of Swimming is the kind of album a depressed person can and should memorize. It starts with a burst of resigned frustration, bangs and soars through the usual barrage of guilt and loss, and ends with a wistful shrug on the way to the rest of the world. Each song is a note passed during class--some sweet, some cruel, some glum, some funny, but all desperately honest.

Stylistically, it sounds somewhere in between The Mountain Goats circa The Sunset Tree (with intended compliments to Jon Crawford's production) and Kimya Dawson at her least precious. But the songs are all Kirsten's; to hear these songs is to get to know the singer. And take it from her fake ex, Kirsten Opstad is a great person to know. -

"Metro Boston - Kirsten Opstad Album Release"

On Saturday, Opstad releases her “Fear of Swimming” CD, which is full of bright and folky songs that feel cute upon first listen. But beneath the whimsical is something wistful, and silly analogies and fun instrumentation that at first make you smile may later make you reflect. - Metro Boston (print)

"AfterEllen New Music Tuesday - Album Review"

The debut full length from this Boston native is cute, quirky and
could easily be used to score the the next Ellen Page indie rom-com.
She definitely reminds me of Kimya Dawson, both vocally and her
instrumental cadence, but I would also add some Garfunkel and Oates
for good measure. Opstad is a storyteller whose songs play as though
she's relating her day to a friend. -

"Local musician raising funds for her art"

So why is Kirsten Opstad asking for 5,000 dollars? She feels compelled to do so for the very reason she is also being whisked away to record her first full-length album in a studio: her music. Because of her music, a filmmaker named Whit Scott wishes her to compose a song for the soundtrack of his upcoming documentary Rolled. Afterwards, he is leaving her alone in the studio, for however long or short it takes to produce an album.

Opstad lives to entertain. With her band mate, Steve Subrizi, she comprises Crazy Exes from Hell, but on her own she is a dedicated singer-songwriter. It is for her talents in the latter role that Whit Scott has appeared on the scene and introduced her to, the method Scott used to raise over $30,000 dollars for his film.

“My Kickstarter campaign is going incredibly well. I’ve raised almost $4,000 in less than two weeks. I now have until October 23 to raise the remaining $1,200. I’ve been so lucky to find support from my friends, family, and fans. I know I will make it to the goal, I just need to reach out and tell my story,” says Opstad.

While this would be her first full length album produced in a studio, Opstad has gone guerrilla prior to this, marshaling her day to day resources to get previous recordings done absolutely straight from her home. “The first album I made, Short Sappy Songs, was recorded in a pay-by-the-hour music store recording studio. So, technically it was a studio in that I stood in a little room away from the guy mixing, but I wouldn’t call that a studio album. My second album, More of The Same, I recorded in the bedroom of my Somerville apartment. Though I hired a friend to record my latest solo release, A Little Unhappy EP, it was still recorded in a living room in South Boston. It’s kind of sweet actually, on one of the tracks you can hear the birds outside the apartment.” says Opstad

Opstad adds that writing a score for a film has been a challenge. She loves the trailer music, Wake Up by Arcade Fire, in front of Where the Wild Things Are, and the soundtracks to The Royal Tanenbaums and I Heart Huckabees. Not only is she a musician, but she also does improv and works as a lighting designer. - The Somerville News

"Kirsten Opstad is off to record an album"

Local musician Kirsten Opstad has met her fundraising goal and is in the preparation stages of recording her next album. Thanks to the campaign she initiated, as reported in The Somerville News last Week, she has raised enough capital to take the project to completion.

Filmmaker Whit Scott wasn’t the only person Kirsten Opstad knew who succeeded with Kickstarter. He approached her to do a song for his film and raised $30,000 for that same project via the fundraising platform. In addition to featuring her musical skill in the film, Scott promised her the use of a studio, provided that she can reach a goal of $5000 with a Kickstarter campaign.

And Opstad did just that. She attained a sum of 5,301 dollars, a small percentage of which will be given to Kickstarter and Amazon for processing the campaign. Scott’s Kickstarter ceffort for his film Rolled ended at the beginning of September, while Opstad’s campaign began at the close of the same month and ended Sunday, October 23.

Opstad explains, “I had to put together a budget to determine what the goal should be, estimating the actual production costs (recording, mastering, duplication), gift-fulfillment costs, and travel costs. Initially, $5,000 seemed like a reach, but Whit was confident that I could raise that amount, so I went for it.”

In addition to Scott’s advice, Opstad studied Nathaniel Hansen’s blog on raising money through Kickstarter, Hansen is a fellow Emerson alumni, and Edgar Rosa, one of his students and a current member of the school, also provided great insight. Other established social networks help to enable the monetary network that Kickstarter creates. As of Sunday morning the endeavor has been shared on Facebook 515 times. Opstad cites Scott’s success with Kickstarter as an example of it’s potential for achieving one’s goals. “Somerville’s own Honk! Festival raised over $10,000 on Kickstarter this year.”

Of her collaboration with Scott, Opstad said, “We’ve been in touch quite a bit recently. I’ve just finished writing the song for the film so there have been many email exchanges. They are in the middle of shooting the film, so he’s a little crazy, but he’s a great motivator. My success is his success and vice-versa. I’m thrilled to be part of this project.” She heads into the recording studio November 1.

“I’m very excited for Kirsten. She sent me a version of the song I’ll be using in my film and it sounds amazing. I can’t wait to listen to her whole album, which I’m certain is going to be beautiful,” says Scott. - The Somerville News

"Kirsten Opstad at Precinct"

Watching Kirsten Opstad on stage at the Precinct in Somerville reminded me of what it must have been like to see Ani Difranco before she was Ani Difranco. Kirsten’s about her height and size and carries the same acoustic guitar. And though the music styles are a bit different—Kirsten is already willing to play with more than Ani has so far—I did get the feeling that I was seeing an artist that, sometime soon, is going to make it so big.

Kirsten Opstad, born in L.A. but now living in the Greater Boston Area, wears two hats, both of which come out when she’s on stage. She does improv comedy for the Improv Asylum of Boston, and also writes and records her own songs. The comedy comes out right off the bat, before Kirsten hits the stage. “Hand me that beer,” she tells me, gesturing at the Guiness in front of me, “I need to look like a badass.”

One of the things that really struck me during her forty minute set, and continues to strike me at each re-listen, is that Opstad somehow produces incredibly accessible music without ever losing merit. Her songs are catchy and fun—some even have sing-a-longs and dance breaks—but the words coming out aren’t nearly as simple as the four chord progression. Songs like “Embracing My Vices” and “A Little Unhappy” are fun to listen to, until you recognize yourself in the lyrics. “The shit I write about isn’t funny,” Opstad says. “But I learn to cope through laughter, so I put it with major chords and it just works.”

It’s a concept that makes a lot of sense when listening to her latest release, A Little Unhappy (EP). The songs are ones you’d roll down the windows and blare on the highways, but then you get lyrics like “I’d leave anything for you,” or “Why do we stay/our love is a grave?” and you can’t help but think, What if Patty Griffin was singing that?

Opstad, who is happily unsigned to any label and self-funding these endeavors, has a true talent, a fiesty stage presence, and fills a certain kind of space in the musical spectrum. She’s angsty enough when you need her to be, and then she’s funny, and then she’s got a tearjerker or two. Few possess Opstad’s versatility, or even the ability to bridge the fun-sounding melody with the not-so-fun lyrics of real life.

From where I sat at Precinct, a tiny table for two in the middle, I had a feeling I rarely get anymore; that knowledge that I’d be able to say “I knew her when.” - The Buzz About


Fear of Swimming (2012)
Keep Your Stupid Moon (w/ The Crazy Exes from Hell 2011)
A Little Unhappy (2010)
More of the Same (2009)
Short Sappy Songs (2008)



Kirsten Opstad is a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter.

Her latest studio recording, Fear of Swimming (2012) is an eleven song collection of dark, mostly uptempo songs that catalogue the multiple narratives of a contemporary twenty-something. Thematically the album takes sex, grief and social anxiety out to family dinner where they scowl through smiles and wait for the check. George Dow (The Noise Boston) aptly describes the album as, “a collection of dark yet positive reflections on the trials of life. The incongruity of Kirsten’s vocals and her songs’ subject matter is the secret sauce that makes this record so thoroughly enjoyable.”

She recently returned to Los Angeles after spending nearly a decade living in Boston, Massachusetts. As a recovering LA ex-pat, her songs are laced with images of dirty New England winters and are lyrically driven by a decidedly East Coast anti folk attitude. Formerly one-half of the folk punk duo The Crazy Exes from Hell with songwriter and poet Steve Subrizi, she revels all things angst-driven and theatrical.

Her songs have been featured on the Hulu Original Series Battleground, the independent feature film Rolled, in Ilene Fischer’s lesbian farce Girl Hopping and in countless comedy revues. As a solo performer and with The Crazy Exes, she has toured throughout the United States.

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