Wisconsin native Kirstie Kraus was a favorite in the Midwest, opening for such acts as LANCO, Eric Paslay and Granger Smith with her own band. But a move to Music City is usually inevitable for an artist with ambition, and if there’s one thing Kraus has, it’s ambition.
Kraus released her album Yes You Can last year, and 2023 has been a busy year for the singer/songwriter with the duet “Tide Down” with Mark Mulch (Priscilla Block, Randy Rogers Band), and her duet with UK country artist Thomas Cavanagh, “Who Am I Gonna Love.” That song has become an important one for both artists, and it led to Kraus playing England’s biggest country music festival, C2C (Country to Country), with Cavanagh last March. And in what was a surprise to Kraus, she learned that she may be just as popular in England as she is in her own country.
“Thomas reached out to me because I was on a livestream with one of his co-writers,” Kraus said, “for a brand in the UK called Live Country Sessions. Thomas and I ended up writing, and then we thought maybe we could do a duet. And then I heard ‘Who Am I Gonna Love,’ written by him and another friend, and me I said, This is it! This is the one we’ve been waiting for!”
“Thomas was playing C2C at the O2 Arena,” she said, “and I told him, Yes, I will gladly come to London and play C2C with you at the O2! I joined him on two of the days, sang harmony on his stuff, and then we performed the duet as the big finale. You can’t say no to an opportunity like that. It’s their biggest country music festival, Thomas Rhett was there, Lady A was there, Midland, it was awesome. It was a pinch me moment, the day we walked into the O2 and got recognized and people started asking us for autographs. People had my CD in hand. It was surreal. I was across the world and people were recognizing me.”
Kraus had primarily played cover material before moving to Nashville, but for the past few years has worked on her own songs exclusively. “I played Lower Broad for three months when people were starting to come back from the pandemic, when people were starting to travel here again,” she said. “But I had almost eight years band experience before coming to Nashville, and I didn’t feel like playing downtown was something I needed to do. I needed to focus more on original music and writing and my own voice as an artist. Playing downtown is a great avenue for people who need more stage experience and band experience, but I just highly encourage people not to get stuck down there.”
Kraus is now working on new material on Music Row for her next release. “When I recorded my Yes You Can album I primarily recorded at Sound Kitchen in Franklin,” she said. “We did the mixing and everything down there. Now I’m using Black River Soundstage and BMG, with Jeff Huskins producing, he was in Little Texas.”
“My whole life has been about music,” she said, “and people see I’m passionate and working hard and they’re so good to me. It’s all about networking and who you know and treating people well and helping others. And when we do that it makes the job so much easier. I take all the help I can get but I do all my own booking, and I’m persistent. Most of my stuff is written by me alone, though I do co-write several times a week. But I was recently at a writers’ retreat at CMT where we were talking about how we have so many appointments that we don’t make enough time to write by ourselves, and I’m wanting to change that.”
You can follow Kraus at www.kirstiekraus.com.