Chanteuse Niki Kennedy really stands out in a crowd.
It’s Oct. 17 and the Rivoli on Queen Street is packed with Indie Week revellers. A 6-foot-3 Kennedy is among them, cheering on some of her colleagues from the Coalition Music program.
During a break in performers, the Bathurst and Dupont resident (who just “sold out” and moved down by the lake) laughs about her unusual height, and admits she is wearing heels.
“I’m hoping that works to my advantage,” she says, a smile on her lips and in her eyes.
The 23-year-old New Zealand native is beaming. It’s been a good year for her. She’s a part of the Coalition Music development program, which has helped launch the careers of rock bands Our Lady Peace and Finger Eleven.
She was also named the runner-up in Bell Media’s Spectra Talent Contest, which came to its conclusion Sept. 28. Throughout the competition, Kennedy won an Epiphone Masterbilt guitar, a Yoga Sanctuary membership and a photo shoot, as well as master classes with Canadian producers, vocal coaches and writers.
“It was a huge learning curve,” she says of the nine months she was involved with Spectra. “It got me writing again, and I met some good people to do what I love.
“It gave me the oomph that I needed to go into this program and keep working toward that end goal.”
Kennedy describes her music as being in the adult contemporary vein. She cites Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Adele, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Wonder as her influences, but admits she doesn’t want to be pigeonholed.
“[Adult contemporary’s] got that crossover thing, but I like way too many kinds of music to allow myself to just do one thing,” she says.
She enrolled in the Artist Development program with Coalition at the end of August, and has been in love with the opportunities it’s given her: exposure to industry professionals that “have more experience than you can imagine.”
“I feel like I’ve walked away with a whole new tool kit going forward,” she shares. “I’m just excited to keep those connections active and keep writing.”
Kennedy is focused on both short-term and longterm goals. She’s driven, having graduated from high school at 16, and from the Randolph Academy in the Annex at 18.
As for what’s next, she’s got an EP due out in the spring, and she’s hoping to have a single available in the new year.
“I’m looking forward to finally having a debut release that I’m really proud of,” she says. “[Coalition Music] has allowed me to network with people that I wouldn’t have been able to get a response to an email prior, so my priority there that those connections are kept active.
“The dream is to have a long, successful career and I’m a true believer that hard work can do anything. So, I believe that it will happen.”
Given that her sultry two-song set about love sent the Rivoli audience into a tizzy, she’s well on her way.