Kristine Alicia burst onto the reggae scene with her new album Songs From Zion produced by Rory “Stone Love” Gilligan, released on February 17 and is set to take the world by storm. “Where did she come from? Isn’t she a gospel singer?” you may ask. Kristine Alicia is a singer/songwriter who was born in Jamaica but moved to Florida while she was in High School, where she still resides. She comes from a musical background and like many singers her musical talent started in the church. She is a classically trained pianist and also a music teacher. Kristine Alicia ‘s first album “Get Ready” put her on the map within the gospel genre. She received 2 Marlin awards for Best New Artist and Best Vocal Performance for “Jehovah Jireh” Kristine has performed throughout the Caribbean and the US (which is where I first saw her) but her biggest performance to date was headlining the 2015 Groove Party in Nairobi, Kenya in front of a crowd of 30,000 people. The album “Songs from Zion” is a beautiful album with tracks that are totally authentic, highlighting Kristine’s strong faith in a way that relates to all of us. I heard the 2 tracks released to the media, “Zion” and “Roll It”, that are so totally different from each other that I couldn’t wait to hear the rest of the album. Believe me you will not be disappointed, it’s one of those albums where you can’t make up your mind which track is your favorite. Enough from me, let’s hear from the artist herself in a phone interview I did with her recently.
Jennifer: At what age did you become involved in music?
Kristine Alicia: Music has always been part of my family. My father is a classical musician and a pastor and he encouraged me to become involved in music. I actively became involved in Junior High and High School, taking part in musical performances with the choirs and in shows. My father wanted me to have voice lessons but I was reluctant as he wanted me to be trained in classical music. That wasn’t my vision but I reluctantly took them and now I’m really glad I did. I attended college majoring in Mass Communications with a minor in music. I had ambitions of being an A&R person for a big record company but gradually the music took over. While in college I became a backup singer for gospel artist Papa San and this eventually led to the production of my first album, “Get Ready” in 2007.
Jennifer: How did you become connected with Rory “Stone Love” Gilligan?
Kristine Alicia: I had talked to my long time friend and photographer, David Muir, about wanting to break out of the gospel “box” and record music that has more freedom. Sometimes the Gospel genre can be restrictive. I wanted to include love songs, songs to dance to. I wanted to be able to wear pants and kick up my heels on stage, which is something that doesn’t reflect well with the gospel community. It doesn’t mean I am moving away from my faith, my faith is still very strong, which is obvious in the album, but I think there is a place where the two can blend and reach more people. David suggested that I needed to connect with a good producer and while we were on a photo shoot in Jamaica he introduced me to his longtime friend Rory. Rory gave me a track to work with and that really became my audition. Well he liked what I did with that track and sent me 3 more tracks which were released as singles. From the reaction to those tracks he suggested we work on an E.P. (laugh) the E.P. grew and became this album. It has taken 2 years to develop.
Jennifer: You have some really iconic musicians playing on the album, Dean Fraser, Nambo Robinson, Aeion Hoilett, Denver Smith, Lamont Savory, Kirk Bennett and Kevon Webster. Were you at the studio the same time as the musicians?
Kristine Alicia: No, they recorded the basics and I recorded my vocals over the top and then after my final vocals went on, other instruments were added.
Jennifer: It must have been sad to hear that Nambo passed before the album release.
Kristine Alicia: I didn’t get a chance to meet him but yes, when I heard it was very sad.
Jennifer: Was Rory a hard taskmaster?
Kristine Alicia: (laugh) I would say so. If I messed up it was pure cuss words but if he liked what I did he praised heavily too. That’s just him and I understand it. It brought out the best in me I guess.
Jennifer: The album has a variety of styles and it’s one of those rare albums that make it hard to have a favorite track. I know before hearing the complete album I was sure “Zion” would be my favorite track although I love “Roll It”, definitely a DJ song. Since getting the album though, I think my favorite track changes day to day. That being said, which is your favorite track?
Kristine Alicia: Hmmm. I think I would have to say “Cry”. When I wrote this track the lyrics came to me immediately. It’s a very personal track for me and very honest. I would get quite emotional when working on it and people have told me it had that same emotional connection with them.
Photo by David I Muir
Jennifer: The album has received some very positive feedback and within the first 24 hrs of sale, went up to number 10 on the iTunes charts. Was this a surprise?
Kristine Alicia: I knew it was a good album from the reaction we got back from “Zion” and “Roll It” but the level of support from people I don’t really know has been wonderful and it climbing that fast was exciting. “Roll It ” was only intended to be a single but after David Rodigan played it on BBC 1Xtra the reaction was so big we included it on the album.
Jennifer: That track really shows your versatility. There’s a little bit of a dancehall queen in Kristine Alicia.
So now the excitement of the album launch is over, what comes next?
Kristine Alicia: Well after the success of the album launch show we are looking to do more live performances and ultimately a tour. My manager David Muir is working hard on these things.
Jennifer: Yes, you said David was your photographer but I’ve only known him as your manager. I spoke to him about this and he said it took you a couple of years to get him to agree to be your manager.
Kristine Alicia: Yes. He is very good at it. It really helps to have someone who knows you well.