Interview with Erika Kulnys
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My mother got me into music, who got into music from her mother, and my grandmother by her grandmother before. My mom played fiddle, guitar, piano, flute, sang, and folk danced, and taught me songs from her Hungarian and Colombian and American background. I learned old country standards from Nashville and folk songs from Nova Scotia and sang in church choir because of her. I took an interest in popular music at age 13/14 and picked up guitar, having had a love-hate relationship with piano due to a stern teacher. Then I fell in love with a piano teacher who was the church choir director, and also a girl in my church confirmation class, and spent a lot of time in church. I did choral singing for years, performed in musicals, and began performing in my late early twenties.
There is no way I would have not gotten into music. My mom said I came out of the womb singing.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I like to spend time in nature, swim in rivers, hike up and paraglide off mountains, go to poetry readings, make brunch, fall in love, and work for social justice. Falling in love seems to be the biggest productivity boost for my music. And social issues. My activism and are inexorably linked.
Anything that makes my heart beat harder, my sense of justice ignite, and my joy bubble, that's what makes me write. Also, the cutting pain of loneliness.
How long have you been making music?
I came out of the womb singing. But seriously I have been singing since I was a toddler with my mom, and professionally since I was a teenager. I started my songwriting career in my twenties and started to focus on it in my thirties.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I am now based out of Halifax, and I hope to soon return to my country home on Lake MushaMush, where the wild birds and waters inspire peace and lyrics. I also work out of Berlin, Nashville, Santa Clara (Cuba), and Manchester.
Tell me about your most memorable shows, if you haven’t played live what is your vision for a live show?
My most memorable show was Copenhagen Pride's Under the Rainbow concert, the official release for my album Rise Up. There were thousands of happy people celebrating diversity, and I made some loyal fans.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
My favorite venue I have played many times is the Music Room in Halifax, Nova Scotia, 'cause of its acoustic and Steinway.
My favorite venue to play at will be Carnegie Hall! Or maybe opening for Joni Mitchell and Brandi Carlile at the Gorge :)
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
It would be a day-long songwriters festival called Songwriters for Change raising funds with
Mary Chapin Carpenter
with special performances by Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen, Bob Marley back from the dead :)
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into making music and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Follow your heart, learn your craft, learn the business, go to conferences, study songwriting, write your truth and be yourself.
To my younger self I would say, pay attention to long term planning and don't try to please other people.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Rise Up means the most because it came out of a place of intense suffering and compassion for humanity. Stand Together is also a very passionate song was healing to write and I hope reaches a lot of people.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
My favourite songs to play are ones where I can let my voice rip while playing the piano.
I enjoy playing this song cause it's fast and fun: https://erikakulnys.com/music/year-of-the-water-snake/track/loves-a-shark/ and I enjoy playing Stand Together cause I really mean the words: https://erikakulnys.com/music/stand-together-all-versions/
My song Keep Your Feet Moving gets requested cause it's fun to sing along to: https://erikakulnys.com/music/rise-up/track/keep-your-feet-moving/
What is your creative process, and what inspires you to write your music?
My creative process is, gather up tension, find an object or narrative to project that tension onto, releasing the tension in the process. Or, I go to the water's edge with my guitar and wait for god :)
Or I fall in love with a seductress and write grief-stricken love songs for years.
No, but seriously my general process is that I get a spark of inspiration, or an idea, and start to work with it, and get something intriguing, or hooky, and begin working from there. I edit as I go-which I learned over time. I used to write and then edit, but now I perfect each line and musical phrase as I compose it.
Do you have messages that you like to get across in your music, if so please tell me about them?
Oh, so many messages! Love, peace, solidarity, hope, freedom, justice, equality, reconciliation.
I wish for a world where all people are treated equally and live in harmony with mother earth.
Here are some links to my social justice music:
My Choice, for bodily autonomy:
Roaring for a Revolution, about healing from rape:
Rise Up, written in response to border, immigration, and environmental injustice. It is a call to action to all of earth's peoples to rise up together in solidarity with each other and the earth for justice, equality, and peace:
Stand Together: Refugees/immigrants/borders/incarceration/peace:
We are Peace/Somos La Paz:
This Time: About Covid and the state of the world:
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I wanna showcase and tour all over Canada, the USA, Europe and Latin America, and eventually Asia and Africa too! I wanna play for the people of the world, record many albums, play with Cuban pianist Alejandro Falcon on a symphony tour including Hamburg, Rio and Habana, and eventually, start a recording studio for youth struggling with mental health challenges.
How can your fans best keep up with you?
My fans can best keep up with me on my socials