Seeing Krystle Warren perform for the first time is a striking experience. First, there is the utter improbability of it all: she shuffles onstage with little more than a low- key hello, and proceeds to sing with an effortless power that completely belies her tiny frame. Hearing her fill a crowded club without using a microphone… that’s a Voice. And then there are her vocal stylings, which feature a melisma as rich as that of Wonder or Hathaway, but put all of that technique at the service of music that has never heard such a thing—folk and country, songs influenced by everyone from Nick Drake to Joni Mitchell to Willie Nelson. But when you’ve gotten past the incongruities, you quickly begin enjoying her for what she is—a wholly original singer-songwriter-poet in an age of few.
One would expect, judging from Krystle’s honeyed voice and sophisticated lyrics, that she’d come from a long line of professional musicians, but that isn’t the case. Born and raised in Kansas City, music was casual in the Warren home, from her grandmom’s eight track tapes to the lullabies her family sung around the house, to a brief and much-hated stint in the church choir. She herself remembers starting to sing at the age of four, but it wasn’t until she saw an ABC special on The Beatles at age 13 that she really became passionate about learning and performing music. Krystle learned her first chords by ear from Rubber Soul and Revolver, and her musical horizons quickly expanded to include grunge (Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden), classic Brit Pop (The Kinks, The Who, The Faces) and even jazz, in particular Betty Carter, Nina Simone, Kurt Elling and even Mel Torme. With these diverse influences, it wasn’t surprising that she quickly developed a sound of her own.