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In the Mix with Kiki Stack

Jun 27, 2016 11:20AM ● By Paul Cotruvo

In the Mix with Kiki Stack

As I have said many times before, I am one of the luckiest musicians around. I get to perform with some of the best singers in the Bay Area, and the talented Kiki Stack is one of them. Hailing from Lafayette, Kiki embodies the true sense of an artist, not only as an amazing singer, but as an accomplished songwriter as well. Her passion for writing and performing original music created the band Dream Posse. Kiki’s love of music, along with her husband and local legend Tom Stack, helps keep music alive in Contra Costa County. Every year, they put on the Lafayette Community Music Festival at the Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette, featuring many local artists performing original material. You may have seen Kiki singing in her duo, Hard Rain, or rocking her best Stevie Nicks in The Big Jangle, or pouring her heart out in Dream Posse, but whatever the case, here’s a little Kiki, up close and personal: 

PC: How old were you when you first decided you wanted to be a singer?

KS: Well, about as far back as I can remember, probably 4 or 5 years old, I loved to mimic and lip sync. My dad played all his favorite records and he was a big fan of female pop singers in the sixties: Barbra Streisand, Sarah Vaughan, Shirley Bassey, Eydie Gorme. He loved Aretha, too. I would practice my performances using an upside down nail polish bottle as my microphone. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, spells out what it means to me!” I loved hamming it up!

PC: What was the name of your first band?

KS: After performing solo and with lots of different choral groups, playing guitar, and writing songs of my own, my boyfriend at the time, Rick Lilley, asked me if I wanted to be the plus one in a 4+1 that included Kelly Pine, Mick Mestek, and this great rock/soul player from Richmond named Michael Griggs. I was only seventeen and didn’t have the chops, but he liked my attitude and decided to give me a chance. The name of that band was Vertigo. We played Top 40 and went out on the road throughout the Northwest, Midwest, and Canada, back when you could play five or six nights a week in places like The Red Lion Inn in Missoula, Montana, or anyplace that had a lounge or disco room. It was a real crash course in night club performing.

PC: Tell us a little about the local bands you’ve been a part of over the years.

KS: After returning from a few years on the road and surviving several different renditions of that band, including the funk band Diamondback and the disco band Person To Person, I joined up with a group of seasoned Bay Area songwriters and started writing and working primarily in the studio. It was a 5-year endeavor called 1000 Lights Project. Other bands that followed were Visitor, which was made up of some of those players, and The 45’s, which played at good old Abernathy’s in Walnut Creek, as well as Mountain Jack’s in Lafayette. After a long break, I formed Dream Posse and began to focus on original material again. And, most recently, I’ve enjoyed performing with the tribute band The Big Jangle.

PC: Who are some of your influences?

KS: I think most everybody is influenced by the music of their formative years, and I think my era was particularly good. The late sixties and early seventies provided a plethora of great songwriters and styles. The quintessential rock band of that era for me was Led Zeppelin, with Bad Company soon to follow. Soul, rhythm and blues, and funk in mainstream Top 40 were just awesome at that time. I idolized Lydia Pense of Cold Blood. She was the epitome of white soul. But, I also loved the great singer/songwriters of that time like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, and, of course, Stevie Wonder. I have always loved big vocals. Yes was another great band from that era -- really complex classical rock music, and then Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. I was definitely a rock n’ roll child! As you play music through the years, you take a little bit of all your favorites with you in your performances.

PC: What is your process for writing your own songs?

KS: My approach to songwriting is a collaborative one, stemming probably from my limited ability to play instruments. Brainstorming ideas with others enables me to work with talented musicians that provide different styles and perspectives. The main thing is to stay away from critiquing one’s self during the process because we can tend to over think things. It does take some confidence and a little bit of courage to put ideas out there like that, but it can be very rewarding.

PC: What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

KS: When I got the call from guitar player/songwriter George Tickner, one of the forming members of Journey. We had met casually a few years before and become friends after meeting in Primo Music in Walnut Creek. He invited me to join him and other talented songwriters, among whom had formidable professional backgrounds, such as Jack King and Steve Roseman. Ross Valory helped out on bass and provided a space for us to rehearse. Neal Schon joined us for a few hot guitar solos too. It was a thrill and a little scary at first. I mean, they were all quite a bit older than me, other than Neal, and very seasoned, but I had that attitude I mentioned earlier, and I ended up fitting in quite well. We wrote our own music, did a lot of recording, and had a lot of fun. But, unfortunately, we had a lot of disagreements too, and ultimately our project, 1000 Lights, with all of its promise and possibilities, became what I call “a great learning experience.”

Then, in 1987, I received a call on the payphone in the salon I worked in at the time. A friend was working on Eddie Money’s new album and apparently someone didn't show up for a studio session and they needed a vocalist, pronto. At this point in my life, I was winding down my music career because I had become tired of working the late nights, and I was in the salon full time. Studio work, however, and working with L.A. producer Richie Zito was a job I couldn't turn down. I ended up singing on quite a few songs, two of which made it onto the album. Now, this was pre-production work, so my credits were in fairly small print, but Mr. Zito really appreciated my hard work and I was rewarded with a gold record. It's a great feeling, I have to admit. And, like all gold records, it hangs proudly in our hall bathroom.

Honestly, the period I'm in right now, writing and recording with Dream Posse, is about as rewarding as it gets. When we release our CD later this year, I'll be checking a big one off my bucket list. We’re very proud of our own music and style.

PC: If you were a song, what song would you be and why?

KS: That's an interesting question and kind of a tough one because I have a moody, complex personality. I guess I'd have to say “As” by Stevie Wonder. It's a strong and powerful song about true love. The lyrics inspire me to see love in such a deep and enduring way, and there are many voices singing with the lead. That's my choice right now, I think. Pure love expressed in many different ways with many voices.

Quote of the month: “Let there be songs to fill the air.” Robert Hunter

Paul’s Picks for July:

July 7: Queens & Thieves, Downtown Pleasant Hill Concert Series (next to Jack’s and Sweet Tomatoes), 6:30pm

July 8: The Killbillies, Fridays on the Main, Downtown Martinez, 6 - 8pm

July 10: The Bell Brothers, Summer by the Lake, Pleasant Hill City Hall, Gregory Ln. and Cleaveland Rd., 6pm

July 15: The Big Jangle, Home Brew Fest, Pleasant Hill Park, 7 - 9pm

July 15: The Used Blues Band, WiseGirl, 1932 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, 9:30pm

July 16: Blues and Brews Festival, Pleasant Hill Park, 2 - 6pm

July 16: Ken Cooper, Rocco’s, 2909 Ygnacio Valley Road, Walnut Creek, 8:30pm

July 16: The Von Trapps, Wisegirl, 1932 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, 9:30pm

July 23: Lavay Smith & the Red Hot Skillet Lickers, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 8pm

July 24: James Clark, Elvis Impersonator, Summer by the Lake, Pleasant Hill City Hall, Gregory Ln. and Cleaveland Rd., 6pm

July 31: The Sunday Paper, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 4pm




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