by Nickie Shobeiry
Local to Devon, Kiera Osment is a 14-year old singer-songwriter with more talent than you can shake a drumstick at. Long-listed in 2013 for Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent competition and winning best vocalist at a London Song Academy competition are just a couple of Kiera’s achievements. Rest assured, we can expect plenty more from this piano-playing, guitar-plucking, pen-wielding artist.
**As it says on your website, you learnt to play the piano at age 6, and then learnt classical piano at age 9. Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a performing musician?** No, at age 9, I had no thought about performing - it was only when I got bored of singing my newly-written songs to my parents at 11 that I wanted to go out and play to an audience. So I went to my local open mic at The Reform in Barnstaple and from that moment, I got the bug for it.
Can you recall some of the first songs you ever wrote, and what they were about? Yes, I can - the first is one called Sunshine (there were a lot of songs about the weather in the early days!), then Hiking Up, written on a rainy when I was bouncing and dancing along in puddles. Next was Fade Away, which probably started the miserable trend in my songs. After that it was Lost Love; this song means a lot to the family, as it was written for my great-Grandma after she died. I wrote these when I was around 7 or 8, but they’re on my Soundcloud somewhere!
You play the piano, the guitar, and also the cello – have you got a favourite? My favourite is the piano - this is what has been by my side the longest. I did play the violin, flute, and clarinet once, but these instruments didn’t inspire me like the piano, guitar, and cello, although I still play them from time to time. I would love to play the harp and bass guitar, one day… I dream of having a big room full of different instruments.
What’s the creation process like for you? Are a lot of your songs very personal to your own life? All my songs are personal to some degree - a lot of them are inspired by other people’s experiences, but I try to connect myself to them as much as I can. The writing process seems to be a game of chance; most of the time, it seems the lyrics come first, but sometimes I sit at the piano and it all comes together, melody and lyrics at the same time. I never sit down and write a song for the sake of it; I have to get that moment of inspiration - in what I call my song-writing mode - and when I get that moment, everything else is dropped for it. The song-writing process is never the same each time.
Your song, Titanic, is beautiful. Where did the inspiration for this song come from? Actually, this song was based upon three individuals’ points of view - the first is a mother’s who lost her child. The second is the Titanic’s point of view, personified. The third is the lost child’s from the first verse, thinking about being rescued. I got inspiration for the song after reading a book about a mother who adopted the ‘Titanic child’ as her own, so it’s sort of based on a real life passenger. I’m currently writing a sequel to the song as there’s so much to say about the subject, and my sequel follows seven peoples lives, based on true events.
Your other song, Become A Little Wiser, is filled with positivity and inspiration. What’s the story behind this song? Some weeks before I wrote this, I had jotted down some lyrics about how I felt about home education, and then forgot about them. Then on Christmas Eve 2012, I woke up feeling excited about Christmas and the thought of the new year ahead, and wanted to write something uplifting. I remembered my old notes and added to them. I think the lyrics sum up my life really well - I am wandering along and hopefully becoming a little wiser, learning from people and my life around me. It’s about trying things and seeing where they go.
Do you feel that being home-schooled has effected you creatively? It definitely effects me creatively, as I never know what I’ll do from one day to the next - although I am doing some of the main subjects, and I even sat a GCSE recently. I can study how and when I want; if I want to have a mad afternoon studying Italy or something as random as finding out about law, I can. It never fails to excite me, all the things that I can do because of this. I’m living life now, instead of waiting until I’ve left school, and that has a huge impact on my creativity and writing.
Do you feel that your age has an effect on your musical career, or does it not make a difference? I do feel my age has an effect on my career, which can be frustrating, as a lot of people and venues automatically assume a younger person isn’t able to cope with live sets and a career. I believe people should book me on whether they like what they hear and my past experience - not on my age. Although I’m pretty shy off-stage, performing my songs is something I feel very comfortable with, and I’m very lucky to have my two minders by my side (a.k.a. my Mum and Dad).
If you had to pick three artists that have influenced your sound, who would you pick? I always struggle to answer this question, as I am the kind of person who flits from one genre to another! I’d have to say Ludivico Einaudi - an Italian contemporary classical pianist. My parents listened to a lot of Coldplay when I was younger, and I still do now, so I am probably influenced by them as well. Lastly, maybe Sarah McLachlan.
What are your top three favourite books? Number one would have to be Divergent by Veronica Roth, which I thought I’d hate as it strays from my usual genre of reading (which is probably historical romance [cringes]). Second is The Captain’s Daughter by Leah Flemming. I’m embarrassed as I can’t remember the name of the last book, or the author - but it was a wonderful book series about early settlers in Australia, following the lives of three families trying to survive in a harsh environment… despite my lack of memory about the names, the stories have really stuck with me.
You’ve played a live session on BBC Introducing Devon. How did you pick which songs to play, and how did it feel not being able to see your listening audience? I chose my three favourites at the time: Titanic, Become A Little Wiser, and Communication. It didn’t bother me too much that I couldn’t see the audience - it added some mystery to it that faceless people were listening. However, it was really weird for my parents who were listening in the same room.
You have played at many festivals, such as the Cornwall Folk Festival and Brisfest. What is it like playing on these larger stages? I think it’s easier to perform on a bigger stage - when it’s a very small venue and people are looking you in the eye it feels much more intimidating. Although some of my favourite gigs have been in a small, intimate atmosphere, it does unnerve me a little more.
What are some of your favourite on-stage moments? Supporting Roseanna Ball at the Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple this September was very memorable; I was in one of those bubbles where you feel like you’re waking up from a coma when the set is finished. That incredible outer-body feeling doesn’t happen at every gig, so it’s amazing when it does. Supporting Edwina Hayes was also really memorable – she’s a very talented singer-songwriter and lovely, although I was more nervous at this gig because I was a human disaster during soundcheck, but the nerves went once I started and I loved the whole set.
Do you have any favourite songs to perform? My songs Possessed and Twisted have been fun to play lately - I can go a little mad in places and people don’t expect it. A few high powerful parts, and in some places you can really whack the piano.
What advice do you have for anyone who’s just starting out on their creative path? Be yourself, take advice sometimes, don’t take everything to heart, don’t change to fit other people’s ideas about who you should be. Someone online once said to me, “Never let a seed of doubt take over”. I think all us musicians are a sensitive species, so it would be easy to be full of doubt.
If you could have any rider request in the world, what would you ask for? A huge bowl of my Grandma’s apple crumble, made from our allotment apples. It’s the nicest crumble ever.
Kiera is currently recording her first EP, due for release in 2015.