Whatever you do, don’t call her a pretender. Brooklyn-born Krissy Krissy has been channeling her authentically soulful roots ever since she was born Krislyn Rivera in the heart of working-class Bushwick. After being kicked out of her Pentecostal Church when she was just 15 for kissing a girl (and liking it) she took off on her own musical adventure, eventually being discovered in a local karaoke bar.
When she released her first single “Dream” last year on her debut album Above All, the bright bold (and out) singer-songwriter began capturing the attention of industry heavyweights like Funkmaster Flex and Vashtie, who called her “a rising star.” With more than a half-a-million YouTube hits and a Freshman Pick of the Week honor from MTV (!), the 24-year-old’s been channeling sometimes tumultuous life lessons into songs about love, overcoming jealousy and finding peace with grief.
As she packs her bags for a new fall tour that kicks off in Nashville on Sept. 8 with Real L Word faves Hunter Valentine and Girl in a Coma (looks for 20-plus dates in select cities around the country), Krissy Krissy comes clean about her Pentecostal roots, pin-up tattoos and critics who accuse her of not being “gay enough.”
AfterEllen.com: How are you getting ready for this all-new female tour?
Krissy Krissy: I’m doing 1,000 push ups a day. Nah, just kidding [she laughs]. I’m just focusing on staying positive and keeping positive energy and people around me. I’m packing and repacking and steady practicing.
AE: If you could duet with these two bands, what might we expect as far as a song choice?
KK: I would say a song about telling everyone who doubted us to “go fly a kite,” if you know what I mean. I think we all have a lot of passion and so much to prove.
AE: You have an interesting section on our website where fans can “peep” your tattoos. What’s the most recent tattoo you got inked and what’s the meaning behind it?
KK: My most recent tattoo was a pin-up chick on my right forearm. I named her Dakota Mayweather. I always wanted a pin-up chick and when I saw this one I fell in love. It was impulsive, but I’m glad I did it.
AE: Those girls in Hunter Valentine are ink masters. Can we expect that you’ll be adding more ink on the road?
KK: I would love to! Hopefully we have time in between gigs to go and get some more.
AE: Your debut EP – which I was listening to this morning – is generating buzz all over the social media world. Many of the songs sound like they could be top 40 hits, while others are more introspective. What inspired them?
KK: What mostly inspired these songs were the things that I went through – from having a suspicious partner to a dream that is coming true right before my eyes. It’s conceptual writing. Being raised in church allowed me to take a song and become one with it and sing it in hopes that the congregation would believe what I sang. I take those same theories and apply it so my songwriting and performing. It’s in me to sing about things that I want people to agree with. Sort of waiting for an “amen.” Feel me?
AE: Definitely. You just alluded to “Dream,” which has been very well received by critics and fans alike. What’s the story behind it?
KK: The story behind “Dream” is fairly simple. It’s something that I have been doing my whole life. I’ve always wanted to be a singer. I’ve always wanted to be on a stage singing to hundreds of thousands of people. So I wrote and wrote about that moment where I’m living that dream in the song – and in some ways I am!
AE: How does your sexuality play into your music?
KK: It doesn’t. I just sing about real things – from a love that was lost, to the death of a parent. Everyone can relate to all of those. Sexuality doesn’t play a role in any of it.
AE: What about your Pentecostal roots?
KK: My Pentecostal roots helped me become obedient and disciplined with my family and those of authority. It was a strict lifestyle and I stood out all the time. I guess in some ways that helps me now, too.
AE: I understand that you were kicked out of your church’s choir for kissing another girl when you were just 15. You eventually left home and focused on your music. How do you think these experiences have shaped you as a person and as an artist?
KK: Yeah. It was a hard time in my life back when I got kicked out of church. The only choice I had was to keep going forward. When I had to move out, I had to figure out what to do to move forward. And when I was dumped, guess what? I pushed forward. I’m glad I don’t settle for defeat. It’s a Brooklyn thing.
AE: What , if anything, would you do differently?
KK: I would spend more time with my Dad.
AE: You’ve said the song “Above All” was inspired by your father’s death. How are things with your family now?
KK: We are very close. I am a sister of five and an aunt of nine. I’m the little sister, so in some ways I was favored and in some ways I wasn’t. We all sing, so we competed against each other all the time. We became each other’s best friends. It’s insane how much we are alike. We were raised in a very poor place, but it was rich in love and fun.
AE: How did they react to the song about your father?
KK: My family knows that “Above All” is a special song and they all have a special place for it. We react the same way. It keeps my Dad alive.
AE: What kind of music were you exposed to as a kid?
KK: I was exposed to a lot of Christian music, mainly Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary. I was raised in the church, so I know a lot of gospel music.
AE: Who are some of your musical influences today?
KK: Some of my influences now have been Melissa Etheridge, P!nk, Adele, Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. These women speak the truth in their music, they come from all different walks of life and their music is what they all have in common. It’s amazing when you think about it.
AE: It’s a wide range of musical styles. For your upcoming tour, each band is also bringing a different sound. What do you hope to contribute musically?
KK: I just want to bring “feel good” music to the stage. I want people to be able to laugh, ponder, cry and cheer all within 30 minutes, and to bring them on my emotional roller coaster.
AE: You’ve been criticized for “playing it straight” in music videos with men as love interests. How do you react to the criticism?
KK: I honestly don’t care. I wanted to show the world that I have an acting side to me. Why should it matter? People pretend to play guitar and piano and sing in movies all the time. It’s acting. So what? My first introduction to the world was my video for “Dream.” I was in a flannel shirt and cargo-pants. I was getting questioned if I was gay. I don’t really see why it should matter. I am who I am. I’m not ashamed of it.
AE: Can we expect a different video approach for any of your newer music?
KK: There will be hundreds of videos to come depicting everything. I’m excited for that!
AE: Since releasing your EP, you’ve inspired a lot of hardcore fans to follow you on Facebook – and you have something like 50,000 followers and counting on Twitter. You’re also doing a lot of live shows leading up to the tour. What’s the craziest thing a fan has done to try and get your attention?
KK: Wow. They message me some crazy things. I love when they send me personalized videos pretending to be me and they sing my songs. The craziest was when I was in Philly and a lady flashed me her chest. Totally cracked up on stage cause the minute I noticed was the minute she fell. That was hysterical. Ahh, good times, good times.
AE: You play Philly again on Saturday – maybe she’ll do a repeat [laughs]. Besides your guitar, what are the three can’t-live-without items you’ll be packing for this tour?
KK: My phone (so I can keep in contact with everyone), my blanket (so I can rest) and my headphones (so I can zone out).
Want to share your own version of “Dream?” Visit Krissy Krissy’s YouTube page to upload your video. Her favorites will be posted to her website.