NewTracks New Artist: Kristn

NewTracks New Artist: Kristn

Kept busy performing on musical theatre stages here and in Australia, Kristin Paulse, aka Kristn has taken two years to follow up on the release of her debut single Seasons. The mid-January release of Kristn’s finger-snapping, toe-tapping RnB single Chasin’ was supported by being featured by NZ On Air Music on their NewTracks compilation this February.

What’s your actual name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Kristin Paulse and I was born in South Africa, but New Zealand has been home for 18 years now. I play very basic/beginner chord level, piano and guitar. Enough to write songs to, but not enough to play any instruments in front of people!

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Music classes in every level of school was incredibly important to me and my (now) career. I couldn’t really afford to pay for lessons or to study music/arts after high school so everything I learnt in school, especially in school musicals and my intermediate rock band, all of it is incredibly instrumental to where I am today in music.

Any other projects we might know you from?

I dip my hands in a few pies so you might know me from the gig scene or musical theatre scene. I was part of the NZ touring production of Madagascar The Musical (I was the hippo), I was part of the cast of Little Shop Of Horrors at Court Theatre in Christchurch and right now, I’m currently part of the Australian touring cast of Hairspray The Musical. Outside theatre, I’m also the other half of the RnB duo, Citris iNK with Nick Taylor.

What’s the background story of how Kristn came to be? 

I’ve always wanted to release my own music so I just did it. I got back into songwriting about four years ago and wrote my first single, Seasons. I wanted to use my own name but I wanted my artist name to be separate from my full name for a distinction between Kristin Paulse, the actress/performer, and Kristin the artist, for strictly original music. People always mess up the spelling of my name but using ‘EN’ instead of ‘IN’ and it’s a massive pet peeve of mine, so I decided to remove the second vowel in my name completely!

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

I was a pretty dramatic child and teenager. I used to write a lot. My writing when I was younger was very direct and specific. Now, I’d say I like to write a bit more poetically. I love using metaphors. The only thing that’s remained the same is that I’m a very personal writer. I can only write about what I know. Music-wise though, since Seasons I’ve gained SO much more experience and confidence in myself and my abilities, so I don’t second guess as much and feel comfortable making music that I like – not so much what I think others might.

How and when did you come up with the name for the new project?

I mean as I said above, I wanted to separate my brand as an actress and theatre performer from my brand as an artist so that’s where the name came from. I also didn’t want to use my last name because, besides people not pronouncing it correctly, my last name could change one day but my first name is mine. I’m still trying to figure out my brand as Kristn. I think it depends on each song I release. A different brand campaign for each song. For example, for Chasin’ the brand was definitely cool and sexy. Like TLC’s CrazySexyCool. That’s the vibe I want for Kristn I think because it’s so far from Kristin Paulse.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

Debuting on the Hot 20 NZ Singles Chart at #13 with my debut track Seasons. I remember waking up from a nap and seeing myself tagged. I honestly thought it was a scam before processing what it was! Definitely a highlight.

What makes Chasin’ stand out for you as a single?

I LOVE the production of it. Will Henderson and I just work super well together and are pretty in sync when it comes to ideas and vibes. When he laid down the first foundations of it I was like, “Oh my god, how did you read my mind like that?” Because all I gave him was a very rough demo of me singing along with some basic chords on the piano and some reference tracks. He nailed the brief perfectly.

What is the story behind Chasin’?

I like to refer to this song as my ‘simp’ track. It’s all a bit of a laugh really but Chasin’ is about this guy I went on one date with a few years ago. We had this super spontaneous, perfect night together. He lived in Wellington and I had to go back to Auckland the next day. It was such a perfect night… But then he wouldn’t really text back and I didn’t want to bombard the guy either by texting him heaps so I was trying to play it cool. I’m a big believer that if someone is into you, they’ll make the effort, otherwise, they’re not worth your time. So I couldn’t understand why I was still chasing after this guy that was clearly ghosting me.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

The hook before the chorus, “I’m never chasin’ but I’m running to you. ‘Cause you might be the one so I’ll run to you.” It was the first few lines of the song I wrote and instantly knew it was a bop.

Who did you record/produce the single with and where?

I wrote the song while driving to and from Whakatane. It was maybe a week or two after that date and I was just really thinking about the date and analysing everything. I was laughing to myself thinking, “Girl you went on ONE date with this guy like… This isn’t you.” And then sort of just started singing the hook to myself and I was like, oh wait, that’s kind of a vibe.

So I (safely) pulled out my phone and voice recorded the hook and then worked backwards and wrote the first verse reflecting on the date and singing my thoughts really. By the time I reached home in Auckland, I had written the full song!

Last year before I took off for Hairspray in Australia, I had just started Citris iNK and had recorded a couple of tracks with them. I didn’t want to abandon Kristn after Seasons and I knew I was going to be in Australia for a long time so I forced myself to hop in the studio and record Chasin’ before I left. I knew Will Henderson through Andrew Papas and I liked his work, so I hit him up and literally jumped in the studio four days before my flight.

I was also a little bit sick (not Covid). I barely had a voice when we started the session so it’s a miracle we pulled that out! Vocal warm-ups, a singer’s best friend. It was such a fast track in every way.

How do you generally work out what would make a good single?

To be honest, I don’t know. I mean, a ‘good’ single to me is music that I personally like. If I like my own single, enough to put out into the world… then it’s good and I don’t need anyone else to define it as “good.” But commercially… Like I said, I knew when I wrote the hook it was going to be “good” haha.

Who else is in your team?

I’m independent so right now it’s just myself, Will Henderson as my producer, and Lil Sister PR for publicity.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

With both Kristn and Citris iNK, definitely have some more tracks coming out very, very soon. I can’t wait.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

  • Citris iNK: Knowing You’re Mine
  • JarnaConnection
  • Tsenate: Superstar

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

I haven’t been eligible for funding until this year. It’s really difficult for newcomers when so much of the criteria is based on an existing fan base/followers. NewTracks really helped though for Citris iNK. Advice for others would be just to keep trying. And definitely invest in a PR agency. Lil Sister PR was so crucial to the promotion and success of both Citris iNK and Kristn which helped tick off some of the criteria I definitely could not have done without them. Incredibly grateful for their work.

Were there any NZOA criteria you struggled with in the application? 

Crazy enough, before Chasin’ I could only meet 4 of the 10 required criteria. Two days after Chasin’s release, I met 9. The closest one I could possibly get was “have at least 5,000 monthly listeners” on a streaming platform. Chasin’ had reached over 3,000 in monthly listeners on Spotify at the time, two days before the application deadline, and I just took a leap of faith that it’d reach 5,000 and submitted it anyway. On the day of the deadline, it was well over 5,000 monthly listeners!

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Not so much blogs but on YouTube; I love NPR Tiny Desk, Scary Pockets and Colors. I discovered a lot of cool, underground artists and musicians on those channels. I don’t listen to as many podcasts anymore but Dissect Podcast is a super awesome podcast that ‘dissects’ culturally significant albums, track by track.

Who did you make the video with?

I filmed the music video on a day off from Hairspray the Musical in Melbourne. It was filmed and directed by Melbourne-based videographer, Murray Enders, Garrett Eckerson as director of photography and choreographed by Hairspray cast mate, Tony Oxybel. I was extremely fortunate to be styled by Melbourne-based stylist, Garth Ernstzen and have my hair done by another cast mate, Zahrah Andrews.

Any last words?

Thanks for having me!