The usual adjectives to describe Kiesza’s rise to fame—rapid, dizzying, meteoric—don’t do justice to the surreal magnitude of what the Calgary singer has achieved. In 2014, her breakout hit “Hideaway” debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, and the ensuing album reached number one on Billboard’s Dance Chart. Now she writes songs for Rhianna, is the face for a line of Fendi sunglasses, and began 2015 singing on the Ellen DeGeneres show for the host’s birthday celebrations.
Kiesa Rae Ellestad, 26, had a background in theatre and ballet when she picked up a guitar while enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy. She started songwriting to express her difficult feelings, and within two weeks, her first song aired on Calgary radio. Ellestad left the navy shortly thereafter to attend the music program at Nelson, British Columbia’s Selkirk College. Her voice instructor there, Laura Landsberg, remembers, “It was very clear to me in her first lesson that she was a very talented singer.” Keyboard instructor Gilles Parenteau further mentored and encouraged her to record a debut album that won Ellestad a place in Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music. From there, her collaboration with rising production star Rami Samir Afuni unlocked her inner diva and showcased her powerhouse vocals over hook-laden dance beats. The apex of global fame reduces artists to one name: Prince, Madonna, and Kiesza is next. —Jamie Bliss