Kristine Alicia ADD

Interview: Kristine Alicia About Songs From Zion

02/25/2017 by Gardy Stein

Interview: Kristine Alicia About Songs From Zion

Angels. That's what I heard when I first pressed play on Kristine Alicia's album Songs From Zion, and they haven't left me since. The interview with her convinced me that, as artist as well as in real life, she is the kind, wonderful person that shines through her songs. From her immigration to Florida and her travels to Kenya to the collaboration with Rory StoneLove, Kristine answered Reggaeville's questions in her unique calm and kind voice, a voice that makes me regret that this is not an audio-file:


Thank you so much for making time for this, I'm actually very honoured!

I'm the one who is honoured! I heard your album and am supposed to review it, so it only makes sense that I ask some questions about it.

Ask away! Anything you want to ask...

How do you feel on the eve of the release?

I'm very excited. Today is special because this evening I'm having the release concert. So I'm peerforming the songs and I feel good about it because it's a great plan. I get to meet the people and sign CDs and stuff, and then tomorrow I have the official i-Tunes release and thing, I love it. I feel very good about it!

Are you performing with a band tonight?

Yes, with a band from Miami, with horns, a full section. It's a band that I regularly play with.

Before we turn to your album, maybe you can introduce yourself in a few words.

Sure. I was born in Jamaica, but my family migrated to the States when I was a teenager. My father is a pastor and a musician, he taught music in Jamaica. My mum is a teacher as well. I grew up here and I was always involved in music because of my dad. And then of course singing in the church... As I got older, I furthered myself in singing, but I always did background-singing, I only got the confidence to try and do lead singing after one of the artists I did background for kind of just encouraged me, saying 'Yo, I like your songs, I really like what you are doing!' His name is Nigel Lewis, he is known as a Soca artist. I don't know if you know him, his best known song is this (sings: Follow di Leader Leader Leader…). Anyway, I was doing background for him and then also Papa San. Nigel produced my first album in 2008, so from that I just started to take this thing seriously. And then I did a bunch of Gospel singles, so I kind of established myself as a Gospel artist back then.

Do you perform as Gospel artist in the States?

Yes, I did, even in the Caribbean. It was a Reggae-Gospel album, but it was still considered Reggae. So I would perform at Reggae festivals, Christian festivals and Gospel festivals in the area.

And now we have Songs from Zion! When did you start to work on that one?

Two years ago, with Rory from StoneLove in Jamaica (laughs).

That really surprised me. However did you get him on board?

My manager now, David Muir, was a friend back then and kind of gave me advice what to do. I was thinking about what to do, I wanted to take the music a step further, to expand and do more. And he was giving me advice and said, 'What you need is to up your productions a little more!' and then he felt that a meeting or a collaboration working with Rory would be great, and working with him turned out to be fabulous. Rory gave me a great production.

Definitely! All the tracks are recorded with live musicians, right? Hearing the album, you gave a lot of space to the instrumental parts, there are a lot of soli in the songs. Was that intentional?

Yes! When Rory and I started working together, he told me that his vision is that Reggae is respected once again, you know, the authentic feel of Dub where the music is able to give breath and give its own message. We... even as I was writing the songs, he's like 'Let's make it real, let it speak!' and I love that. Because I think we, I want to respect Reggae so much, so even though an artist can have his or her own voice, the music has its own voice as well. It was important for us to "get married" in that way, where the music speaks so that Reggae comes out and my voice kind of supports it in that way.

Are the tracks produced exclusively for the album? I mean, apart from the Real Rock and the Heavenless riddims which are on it.

I can't tell you for every single track, but the Real Rock riddim was specifically done over for the album. It was like an idea, my manager and I were talking about the history of Reggae, and this Real Rock popped up in our conversation because it was such a huge hit of the DJs back in the days. And then he said 'Why don't you write a song to it?' And then I did and they loved it. And Rory said he wanted to keep it authentic but record it again to make it more fresh. So that's one example. Some of the other tracks were produced recently, but they will be used for other artists as well in the Black Dub family.

Did you record the vocals also at Rory's studio?

Yes, all of them. That was a good experience! (laughs) I had to fly back and forth...

Do you travel to Jamaica on a regular basis, apart from producing the album?

Yes! I still have family there. My sister lives there, my mum and some cousins, so I used to go there every year or twice a year... I mean, Jamaica is still my home, Florida is just an extension. So yes, I go back home often, but recording the album I had to go a lot more frequently.

What about the feature, who is Zia?

I met her once when going down there, she is fabulous. I love her voice, I love her versatility. I liked her style because I am a fan of Adele and Amy Winehouse, so when I heard this Jamaican singing like that, I was like 'What is this?' And that song she's on, it's inspired by Ella Fitz-Gerald, a Jazz singer, so she fits perfectly. That was Rory's idea, to put her on there. It was a spontaneous song, I played him the original and said how much I loved it and he said 'Ok, let's put it on a Reggae track!' It just happened from there, it's one of my faves!

Speaking of the lyrics, many of them seem very personal.

All the songs are written by me. There are two that are co-written, but I'm glad that Rory gave me the freedom to say what's on my heart. That's what makes you enjoy doing the music, anyway. And that's what made me stay doing music to deliver what's really on my heart. And I think everyone experiences things, everyone is going through stuff, and I wanted to reflect that it doesn't matter whether you are from Jamaica, America, Australia, you know, we all as humans have that thing that we just need to hear answers or we want to get relief from pain, we are all on this journey- We all want to know when something is going to happen, and we are all kind of waiting for an answer from God. So I think these songs help, if anything, at least we have hope, knowing that we all are going through this together.

Yes, I find especially the title track Zion it's so beautiful, saying put all your hopes in Zion.

That's what I wanted... to me, if I don't do anything else as an artist, that's what would be the biggest joy for me, knowing that people say 'I listened to the Songs From Zion and I was able to see or feel the hope.' That is it!

There's a lot of emotions in all of them, like My King... is it dedicated to your husband?

Yeah, I wrote it when I first started to talk to him, so it was definitely inspired by him. And then... just inspired by other kings who I feel deserve respect. Sometimes they don't get the respect they need. But he still inspires me every day and I just want everyone to know that there are men out there who are Kings! (laughs)

Another thing I noticed, on the cover-art, you wear a lot of beautiful jewellery, necklaces and bracelets. Where did you get them from?

It's very African. I went to Kenya about two years ago, and it's been... I always loved African art, I love how Africa is intertwined with Jamaica, so I love that style. I feel like the Songs From Zion represents Reggae, but then our history is from Africa, I wanted to show that combination, of Reggae with our ancestral roots from Africa, so that's how I wanted to be styled.

Did you bring these from Africa?

No! Here in Florida, they have a lot of that influence as well, there are stores who sell that... it was a specific friend who has that styling company and who actually loaned those items to me.

What brought you to Kenya?

It was kind of like a great surprise. I had just started working with Rory but I got a call from a promoter in Kenya who knew my music from my Gospel songs, right? So they were like 'Hey we love your songs, they are doing well over here, we want you on our New Year's Eve concert!' which is a big Gospel concert over there, probably one of the biggest. So they flew me and my manager over there to work with their band, I went like a week before the concert. And it was good, it was fun! I loved it. Just being in Africa for the first time was a fabulous experience. To see how there were just a lot of similarities to Jamaica, to see how much they loooove Reggae, to see real respect to you as an artist carrying the message... it was good. A long flight! (laughs) but it was good.

Do you plan to go back?

They've been asking me to come back... I'd love to! So, hopefully, when this album is coming out and they hear it and they love it, that will lead to some kind of tour or something... that would be awesome! Speaking of, is there anything planned? Will we see you in Europe? I have a couple of shows coming up that were booked just because of the singles that were released, but we haven't yet put together a solid long-term tour so I'm looking forward to that happening in a few months or so. My manager will book me on the festivals in Europe, maybe for next year.

Apart from music, what do you do? What is your daily occupation?

Apart from music, I teach music! (laughs) So when I'm not doing music myself, I teach private lessons, piano and voice, like my Daddy, I love it. And then I go to a private school part-time and teach them musical production and performance, like right now we are working on Beauty and the Beast on this one school and I'm very excited about that. It's fun! It makes me happy. Nice. Keep up the good work! Yes. My dream is that people get the message of hope from this album, really, because there is so much going on. And there is actually a cycle like every year you hear something worse and worse happening. As long as we live on this earth, we always need something to rely on. And I hope that this music and this message will bring people to not just a temporary fix, but a long-lasting fix. And that they realize that they can live and live to the fullest by being in Zion, despite Babylon. We can live physically in Babylon, but our spirits and our minds can still be in Zion. That's really all I want. I'm coming from the Gospel, and we should realize that our labels don't mean anything if we can't sing as one or show each other love. All these labels are just distractions from how we are really connected, as people, and I hope the music shows that. It's not about I am this, I am that, we all have the same hopes and desires!