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Kristine W:
Feeling Stronger and Ready for One More Try

In 1995, Kristine W burst onto dancefloors around the world with her single "One More Try."  Remixed by Rollo, the track was inescapable - and quickly climbed to the much-coveted #1 position on the Billboard Magazine Club Music chart.  She followed the success with two addition chart-toppers, "Land of the Living" and "Feel What You Want" - and then simply seemed to vanish!

While fans and DJs were forced to wait four years for her return, the small-town girl from up-state Washington - where she'd once prowled catwalks in bikinis and belting out jazz tunes to win a scholarship - Kristine was starting a family, making peace with herself and her record label, and growing "stronger." 

Still on RCA records, Kristine returned - with a new album and to her position atop club charts - last summer.  Her new set, appropriately named "Stronger", appeals to a wider spectrum of music listeners . . . but definitely doesn't ignore her club-rooted past. 

As she prepares for the commercial release of her newest track, "Lovin' You", Kristine W takes a moment to speak with YourMVP about her success, lack thereof, and hopes for the new album's future.  And find out why she and Elizabeth Berkeley have absolutely nothing in common - even though both are known as "Showgirls."

YourMVP:   You're a former Miss America contestant - and even won a couple of categories!  How did you get involved in that?

KW:  I was in a farm community, and a lady was scouting me.  I was winning all these talent contests around the state.  She told me she really wanted me to run for "Miss Tri-Cities" - and even came out on the track field.  I was a national javelin

champion.  She seemed to pop up everywhere.  She said, "You need to be Miss Tri-Cities.  You'll win Miss Washington and be in Atlantic City."  Then she started telling me it was a scholarship pageant, and that's when I thought, "Yep, I can do this.  That's my ticket to college right there."

Actually, that's something they always say, "This is a scholarship pageant, not a beauty pageant", isn't it? 

Oh, yeah.  You have to have talent.  A third is talent.  A third is swimsuit.  And a third is scholastic and interview.  It's a lot of pressure.  I won the talent, I won the swimsuit.  I walked away with about $15,000 in scholarships.  I left right after Atlantic City and went to University Nevada - Las Vegas.  I started working on my degree in Television Production.  Meanwhile, I was performing with other people's bands.  I'd sing jazz one night, country one night, rock-n-roll, disco - whatever it took.  My mom had performed for almost 25 years, so I'd grown up watching that.  I could go in and do almost any gig, no problem. 

You came from a long line of creative women.  How did that influence you?

It was very cool.  My mom was a really great performer.  She could definitely keep the attention of an audience.  She was pretty brilliant.  She played guitar and sang in dinner clubs.  Watching her perform every night, sometimes for six hours a night playing requests . . .  She worked really hard and had four little kids.  My father died when I was very young.  She was a very tough, strong woman.  My grandmother came to live with us when we were little, and she was also a musician.  Her mother was a performer in the San Fernando Valley in the '20s.  Her father was a really famous horticulturist in Sweden. 

You wound up in Vegas by way of college.

I knew I could put my way through college performing.  I could make some money there singing in some bands.  I quickly figured out that if you didn't have your own band, you were just going to be doing that forever.  Going from band to band.  Sleep with the guitar player, sleep with the . . . It seemed like the chick singers always had to sleep with the leader of the band to stay around very long.  I said, "Screw this, I'm not sleeping with anybody to stay around.  I'm going to start my own band."

In other reviews of your work, they call you a "former Vegas showgirl."  That brings to mind the movie with Elizabeth Berkeley.

Yeah, I was far from a show girl!  What I did wasn't nearly so glamorous.

With your looks, and being 6-foot tall, you could have been, though.

That would have been an easy out for me.  Very easy to be a showgirl.  If I'd gotten into the showgirl thing, I'd have never pursued the singing career.  It's kind of like waitressing, once you start making a lot of money, you never leave.  It's like hookers.  Once you start hooking, it takes you 10 years to leave.  You've got to be careful what you hitch your star to.

How did you go from performing on the Vegas strip to filling dance clubs?

I spent my weekends making trips to LA to write music.  I quickly got to understand what the record business was about.  Usually everybody is chasing what is now instead of looking toward the trend of tomorrow.  I knew that I'd probably never get a record deal in America, unless it was a singles deal, and I did get a singles deal with Atlantic Records.  It was in 1988 called "I Need Your Love."  It was big in the black clubs until they found out I was white, and then they didn't play it any more.  I started learning how the business really is, and how separated we are.  I was lucky.  I placed songs in different movies like "Roadhouse" and "Indecent Proposal."  I finally got an offer to go over to London and record, and I did it.  For three years I'd perform in Vegas for two months and then go to England for six weeks to work on this album called "Land of the Living."

That album had three #1 dance singles on it, but it still didn't sell well.

No, it's way too hip for the States.  They didn't get it over here.  It was so ahead of its time.  If you listen to that album right now, it works.  It's still ahead of its time, with production value and everything.  It's [European sound] is starting to get big over here now - with Sonique and everything - but we were doing that seven years ago.

How did the lack of success of that album affect you?

You get freaked out.  Your value to the record label's questioned.  The fact that RCA kept me was pretty cool.  I guess I resented the fact that "Land of the Living" wasn't worked more, so I was angry.  A lot of my anger was that my dad had died, and I felt pretty lost, too.  I was kind of mad that the album wasn't big, because it was kind of his tribute album.  I felt angry making the album, since nobody quite understood why I was going over to Europe to make the album.  My family looked at me like I was nuts.  A lot of people don't understand the music business anyway. 

You said you can't explain the business to someone not in it, but your partner is a dairy farmer.  How does a dairy farmer get a woman like you, a Vegas Showgirl?

A Vegas Showgirl - that's so funny.  <Laughing>  He doesn't understand it either, let me tell you.  <Laughing.>  He kept coming into my show, and he liked the original music and he liked the show.  He kept chasing me around.  He couldn't believe I wasn't wildly famous.  I think the fact that he was from Holland, he was attracted by everything being very dance-oriented.  He understood how fun dance music is, because that is pop music over there.  Over here, nobody even knows what is pop music.  Whatever is on the 'N Sync album or the Britney Spears album . . . there are like five different people that determine what pop music is.

On your new album, "Stronger", you successfully blend a number of different styles.

People and, "Were you trying to be more pop?"  The answer is no.  I was just trying to show the different styles of music  that I have performed and like to perform . Whatever you want to call it is I guess what it is.  It's music that I was really feeling at the time.  If it's more accessible, that's great.

After the struggle to get this album made, did you feel vindicated when "Stronger" the single went to #1 on the Billboard "Dance Music" charts?

Oh yeah.  Especially when that wasn't even going to be on the album at all.  It didn't make the cut in the original passes.  It was in ballad form, and it had such beautiful message.  The president of the label, Jack Roebner, decided to put it out as the first single.  I really respect him.  That's pretty major for the president of a label to be able to hear that song as something special.

It's very moving lyrically.  What inspired it?

Life, death and my fans.  First, life in my daughters.  Second, my grandmother slowly passing away through strokes over the last four years.  It was pretty intense.  Then to be running out doing shows, to try to keep the dream of this album alive from show to show.  Performing "Feel What You

Want" and "One More Try" and Performing "Feel What You Want" and "One More Try" and then slowly introducing fans to these songs and getting feedback.  I was thinking, "Man, if I make it through this, I'm going to definitely be stronger - if I'm not dead!"

My favorite song is the very R&B-flavored "That's How It Goes."

Yeah!!  I get a lot of inspiration from things I go through in day-to-day life, like people questioning your relationships.  That was inspired by people saying, "So, how's your relationship?"  or "Why are you two together?"  It's so difficult to try to explain your relationships sometimes.  So, instead of trying to get involved in all that psychoanalyzing, "That's how it goes."  They just together for reasons you can't explain, but it works.

You mention that pop music is defined by a handful of individuals.  I notice that "If Only You Knew" falls right into that sound, and it's very accessible - very poppy and uptempo.

Can I tell you that it was completely not planned?  When I got that song, before all of the rah-rah behind it, I fell in love with it.  I thought it was just amazing.  It sounded nothing like [the final product].

You also work with Livin' Joy's Janice Robinson on "Let Love Reign", who also wrote the #1 Dance single "Let Joy Rise" for Abigail [see our January 26 update for an article/profile of Abigail].

Oh, gosh yes!  I asked my friend Vince DiGiorgio if she would be in the area and if she would mind working on a song with me.  She actually arranged the whole thing, and it's amazing.  I think she's going to be a contender here.  You know, I think that one of the most exciting [working relationships for me] has been CeCe Peniston recording a song that didn't make my album, "Lifetime to Love".  I think that she just did a great job with it.  I was always apprehensive about giving my songs to people.  I thought, "How torturous to hear your song butchered!"  You take so long, and invest so much energy, in writing these songs.  I don't want to make money so bad that I'd let someone record them that wouldn't do them justice.  But she did it so well.

That's something that sets you apart from so many other people.  You write and record and play instruments.  Most are focused on only their voice.

Yeah, nobody wants to take the time to do those things, to really be an artist or step out.  It's everybody's fault, too.  The labels have made it so easy to get what they call "Pop Music."  They'll give you ten or 12 songs by "famous song writer one, two  and three" and they even tell you the percentage chances of you having a hit!  It's all formulated.  We're starting to lose our artists because there is no artistic input.  People don't really want to be in on the sessions.  They want to come in, sing, and be done.  I wouldn't want to even be in music if that were the case.

Your music tends to be a bit more sophisticated than most dance tracks.  On "Clubland," for example, you have a symphony!

Yeah, thank God for my A&R guy!  Vince DiGiorgio is a peach, man!  He let me do that.  I hounded him and hounded him.  He allowed me to have the Warsaw Symphony.  I don't think you see too many [dance artists] with a symphony on their album.  It was major work, let me tell you.  We were in Poland - because that was the only place we could afford to have them.  People ask "Why four years for the album?"  Well, that was about one year right there!  Try booking a symphony in Poland for God's sake!

You also took time out to have your kids, right?

No, I worked right through that.  J.R., my three year old, I worked until about three weeks before he was born.  Four weeks after that, I was right back up on stage in Vegas.  Elizabeth, I was five months along and playing Studio 54, which was a really hard show, and then after closing that I jumped on a plane to Frankfurt.  I was going - and playing gigs over there, too.

So, you were five months 

pregnant, performing in dance clubs, and recording an album.

<Laughing.>  Overseas nonetheless.

How do you do that?

We made our own little support group.  My mother and my partner's mother would watc the kids.  This time people could feel what I was doing with the album, so that kept me going.  It was much easier.  My mom kept saying, "This album has to be made.   Do it.  Do it."

Don't women draw strength from having their kids around?

Honestly, after the deflation of the "Land of the Living" balloon, I couldn't get fired up about this for me any more.  I was really over it.  The enormity of what it takes to try to get a hit record, and the odds that are against you . . . After I had J.R., though, I thought, "If I get this far, and I don't have the balls to keep going, what am I going to tell him?  That when the going gets tough, you bail out"?  When I was burned out, you get that hope.  You've got somebody else that is going to know exactly what you did or didn't do.

Tell us a little more about what's planned for the album?

The single "Lovin' You" [now moving up the Billboard Dance Chart] just got dropped, and everybody is abuzz about it.  There are some great remixes - Junior [Vasquez], Johnny Vicious, R.H. Factor . . . There are like nine remixes on the single.  We're excited, because they're all genius.  I have a really good feeling about "Lovin' You" because the response from radio has been really good.  I don't think it's going to be as much of a fight commercially as "Stronger" was.  "Stronger" was much more sophisticated.

"Lovin' You" is much more pop and new disco, which is very popular now.

Totally!  It's very fun and uplifting.  It comes out on January 18th on maxi-single.  It's something everybody is going to need right after the new year.  Let's get pumped up - because I'm "Lovin' You"!  <Laughing.>

To find out more information about Kristine W
check out these web sites:

Kristine W - Official Web Site
Kristine W Resource Site
Kristine W Clubland

Click here to purchase her CDs from Amazon.com

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