Krystle Warren is a multi-talented, Kansas City born musician who’s latest album Three the Hard Way invokes a sultry blend of gospel, jazz and blues. Warren’s husky and powerful vocals create a masterful blend with the instruments creating an inspirational, thought provoking piece of music. Although she now lives in Paris, Warren’s inspiration comes from the states, using a lot of background from her upbringing in church. This album steers towards the gripping topics of Black Lives Matter, political injustice and empowerment that tells a moving story for her audience. With songs like So We Say that pens the line “I Can’t Breathe”, with consideration to Eric Garner, this album raises an awareness in the minds and souls of its listeners.

Image by Jamison Kaye

How did the title Three the Hard Way come about?

Ben Kane who co-produced the album, he really didn’t like the title and we had a back and forth about it in the studio. He did some googling and he found out that it was some black exploitation film which I haven’t seen yet. I would love to see it, I love black exploitation films. But in the end, it just felt like the right thing to do. In a way, it was saying thank you to Angela who became a dear friend while I was stuck in the system who had a lot of faith in me. There was no other way it was going to be called anything else.

With the album what’s the mood or theme that you were trying to capture while you were writing? What did you hope people would take away from it?

First and foremost, I saw it as an assignment. It felt and still feels Kane gave me an assignment. Never once did I think, ok this is exactly what I’m wanting people to hear or what I want them to understand about this. I can say for certain that Three the Hard Way was an exploration to black music through black expression and celebrating that. Whether it be blues or gospel, soul any of that, it’s all from black people. In that sense, So We Say that was one where I did want to get a message across very much so. It was pretty meticulous actually.

How was your upbringing in the church? Your upbringing period in Kansas City?

Early in age we would go down to Spencer [Oklahoma] with my grandmother; basically it was like the kid drop off (laughs) church was a big part of it. Every Sunday we would go to church and at church my uncle Bubba was the preacher at. It was just part of my upbringing. I mean I didn’t really get a kick out of it, I hated wearing patent leather shoes and whatever dresses my mother found at JC Penny but I loved the music. The music was really what kept me interested and it was my first musical theory lesson and I came back to it. I’ve never been deeply religious but I do admire what comes out of it.

Speak about the major differences you see performing in the states verses in Paris.

I think there is a difference. Here in France they’ve never had a civil rights movement. With these songs, I think that it’s very much a letter addressed to the states because we’re very unique. As a performer, performing the record here it’s definitely different from performing in the states where I know that people know exactly what I’m saying.

Who are some of your musical influences?

I remember going upstairs in my mother’s house to the sort of rec room that led up to the attic and she has this old record player. Inside that record player she had some Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July, Jeffrey Osborne. I spent a lot of time in the attic going through those records. I grew up listening to very interesting voices. She also played a lot of Will Downing which I think started my obsession with tenors. I listen to pretty much any and everything. The foundation of it was definitely R&B and soul.

I know the album just released on the 18th but what type of feedback are you already getting about it? Has it been overwhelming?

It’s been overwhelming. There’s a fella who wrote me from D.C. saying it’s inspirational. A fella who tweeted me saying I had made his year. I’ve been told that this record is the truth and inspirational, that it was needed. I’ve never heard that about a record that I’ve made so it’s really touched me. Across the board I wouldn’t have expected this sort of feedback. Of course, it makes you feel good. All around I’m completely humbled, touched and all of that. It’s touched my heart for sure.

FEATURE IMAGE by Matthew Placek