Krystle Dos Santos brings the sounds of the classics to modern audiences by keeping her own pace
The warmth of her voice even translates well in a conversation over the phone. Vancouver-based, but Edmonton-raised Krystle Dos Santos’ space-filling voice is timeless and somehow brings the sun out even on the cloudiest of days.
Drawing inspiration from classic artists like Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, and Etta James, Dos Santos seamlessly weaves jazz, soul, funk, blues, and pop together to create a genre that, needless to say, gives everyone the warm feels.
“As a kid, my dad had his [record] collection and I read along to “Part-time Lover” by Stevie Wonder on the little 45 record jacket, so it’s certainly always been in my life,” Dos Santos says. “When I was 16, when I first started driving, my dad gave me the Etta James Best of record and I wouldn’t listen to anything but that when I drove around. My family’s not very musical, but they’re definitely music appreciators.”
Working as a professional singer now for about 10 years, Dos Santos has released three albums. Her first self-titled debut (2008) won Urban Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards; with her second 18-track album (Fame Fatale) out since 2011, the singer is now finally working on her third, but it’s been a long time coming.
“For a while there I just felt blocked or scarred or whatever from bad experiences through music,” she says. “I was supposed to do a third album like four years ago and it just did not work out for so many reasons. I think I just sort of got allergic to the whole idea of making an album or trying to salvage it. It was just such a hurtful time.”
But when she met her writing partner Jonny Tobin, things changed for the better.
“He’s young and eager and so willing to push me in all directions,” Dos Santos says. “We’ve got like 11 or 12 songs written and it feels so good … I feel like this is the best writing I’ve done to date.”
With her sultry tone and smoky voice, the 35-year-old shifts through genres with ease. And her new album already has its own thing going on. Dos Santos describes it as more old-school R&B production with a nice gritty and bluesy-rock vocal to bring some depth, compared her previous jazz and pop-heavy tracks.
“It kind of has that organic sound to it and it’s gonna be a little more rough around the edges, a little less polished,” she says. “I kept on referencing Alabama Shakes and kept thinking I want this record to sound like Alabama Shakes, or like Allen Stone from Seattle, or Charles Bradley who just died this past year—he’s got that waily, unbelievable voice.”
For now, she’s on the hunt for the right producer to start recording, feeling no rush to release the album until she’s happy with the end result. She reached out to Emily King’s Brooklyn producer and India.Arie’s Nashville producer and both got back to her, to Dos Santos’ surprise, so she’s hoping to collaborate with one, while working with a local producer for the bulk of the album—but nothing’s set in stone yet.
Dos Santos will play with her longtime Edmonton band, the Black Mambas, who are Jamie Philp (guitar), Kim Lesaca (bass), Kevin Brereton (drums), “Downtown downtown” Cam Browne (keys), and Brett Miles (saxophone).
In an exceptional set, Dos Santos plans to hit a little of everything, including some beloved classics, a few covers, and a bit of material from her 2016 Citadel cabaret Blak, which tells the stories of black Canadian icons that changed history through music.
Sat., Feb. 24 (8 pm)
Krystle Dos Santos and the Black Mambas
Rocky Mountain Icehouse