Club sensation Kristine W to take center stage at Denver PrideFest
June 6, 2012 | 9:39 pm
(Updated: January 17, 2013 | 1:48 pm)
You know her as club music sensation Kristine W, but once upon a time little Kristine Weitz was just a farm girl growing up in Washington State, reveling in a youth of disco and jazz. Even then she was on a path that would lead to a life on the stage: Adolescent beauty pageants and occasional shows with her jazz singer mother; the Miss America Pageant; a Las Vegas cover band that catered to blue hairs and gamblers. (She ended up playing more shows at the Las Vegas Hilton than Elvis).
By the mid ’90s she’d traded lounge versions of Air Supply for something more visceral: club music. She didn’t just want people clapping along to her music, she wanted them out of their seats dancing. Fifteen years later she’s succeeded beyond her wildest dreams, turning out more consecutive Billboard club hits than Madonna or Janet Jackson. Those chart-toppers include Fade, Stronger and Be Alright.
When her music isn’t blaring from club speakers, she can often be found performing nearby, especially during gay Pride season. She will be in Denver June 17 for PrideFest at Civic Center Park. It will be her first visit since AIDS Walk six years ago. Out Front Colorado caught up with her recently to find out how she’s weathering the death of one of her idols and handling her continuing success.
You hold the world record for most consecutive #1 Billboard club hits with nine and you have 16 overall. That must make you feel pretty good.
It’s pretty cool. We worked really hard at it. I’ve been performing my whole life; my mom and dad were musicians, my grandfather was a classical violinist.
Do you have a sense in advance if something’s going to be a hit?
I honestly don’t ever know it’s a hit until I perform it. It’s hard now with social media and everyone videotaping everything. The reaction of a live audience is my best barometer. That’s the truest reaction. What I think doesn’t matter; it’s how the audience reacts. I try to write songs I feel people need to hear.
Donna Summer just died at age 63. Obviously she was the queen of disco, the forerunner of club music. You did a jazz version of On the Radio. What does her loss mean?
My idol was Donna Summer and (when I learned) she passed away I cried for three hours. As a kid she was my hero. They called her music disco. House music is what they call it now. There would be no house music if not for Donna Summer and disco. We all owe a lot to her because she definitely championed it and made it commercial.
You’re doing several PrideFests this year, including Denver on June 17. What can we expect?
I’ll bring my dancers from Vegas. And a couple of special guests. We’ve put together a brand new show for the summer. This summer is more work because we’ve got new music. The new album is called #1. There are eight brand new songs on the album and we’re pulling some of those out (for PrideFest). New costumes and sketches, too. On our last tour we opened with “What I Like About You”; this year we’re actually opening with “Everything I’ve Got”, a single that will come out in July.
How has club music changed since you started in the late ’90s?
Club music was underground when I first started. “Everything But the Girl” was out when my songs were hitting. So that was like an enigma. My record One More Try had a little bit of a European feel in ’98 and that was my first big radio hit. Now you’ve got rock and jazz artists putting dance mixes on their stuff. People like Carrie Underwood. Now you’re connecting with the whole world on the dance charts. In the last 10 years (more mainstream artists) are wanting to cultivate a dance audience because a lot of people go out to the clubs and that’s how they hear new music for the first time.
Where does jazz figure into your musical repertoire?
Jazz allows me to go back to my roots. My mom performed jazz and I grew up around a lot of those musicians when her trio would come up to Seattle on the weekends. My mother has been bothering me to do jazz. ‘When you gonna do a jazz album?’ So I thought for her I’m going to do (2010′s) “Straight Up With A Twist”. And for my choir teacher in high school. If ‘d known it was going to take four years (to finish), I’d never have started. Both (jazz and club) are equally different because you use different muscles. Jazz is very controlled. There’s no room for error.
Who would you like to work with?
There are so many. Adam Levine would be fun. I’d like to write songs with a lot of different people. I guess if I started a list it would scare me. I think of people like Al Jarreau, some of the greats, cause you’d lean so much. I’d love to work with Lionel Ritchie.
How do gay audiences differ from, say, Las Vegas audiences?
When I started (performing) I put my band together to put myself through school at UNLV. I chose cover songs and put my own twist on them. I think Vegas audiences are more comfortable hearing something they’re familiar with, whereas you go to Chicago, New York or San Francisco and they like something new. In Vegas you only have their attention for a short period of time. They’re looking for the next slot machine. My show was like a live music video: six dancers and a backup video. I still do corporate parties In Las Vegas.
You won the talent and swimsuit portions of the Miss America pageant in 1982. What was that experience like?
I’d just had my 18th birthday and I was terrified, to be honest. I came from a farm community and I’d never done a (national) pageant before. I won a local and a state pageant. Then I went to the national pageant and it was terrifying. Yet I got a $15,000 scholarship. It helped me getting started in school at UNLV. It also taught me a lot about stage presence, politics, makeup and costumes.