Multiple award-winning Kristyn Harris is a Texas-bred musical powerhouse with captivating western flair.
Just 23, this jewel of the south’s singing has been praised as “timeless”, “powerful” and “shimmering.” Kind, considerate and thoughtful best describes who Kristyn is whether off or on stage. Recently, her swing guitar playing, yodeling, songwriting, and energetic stage presence caught the eye of American Idol producers. Catch her American Idol audition on March 18. American Idol premieres on ABC this Sunday night, March 11.
How did you become a western swing and cowgirl music singer?
I grew up listening to classic country, and when I was 14, I aspired to be all things cowgirl. Though I was very shy, the singing followed shortly after. I’d never had singing lessons up until seeking some vocal instruction last year. The majority of my guitar playing was learned out of a book and from watching other people play.
Who has had the biggest influence on your music?
Devon Dawson has made a huge impact on me. It was her playing that ignited my love for western swing/jazz guitar chords. Not only was she a great guitar influence but I learned so much from her about stage presence.
Do you enjoy singing or listening to other music genres?
I like listening to any music that is good: lyrics that are witty or strike an emotional chord, instrumentation or arrangement that is sophisticated or just joyful and unique. I have the same goal when I sing. I want to connect with people through music.
Did you always have a horse growing up?
I got my first horse when I was 11, and then a few years later I had the chance to train my own horse when I adopted a wild mustang. Her name is Velvet, and she is one of a kind. She taught me so much through the process of bonding with her and training her. You could say she part raised me. She is one of my very best friends.
You appear in rodeos as a trick rider. How did doing stunts on horseback come about?
Legitimate question! What guitar player would be crazy enough to risk a broken arm? I was on a competitive gymnastics team when I was nine, and I’ve never lost that love for hanging upside down and testing physical limits. When I heard about an opportunity to take trick riding lessons, it was a dream come true, and a natural combination. My favorite stunt is the shoulder stand (upside down in a handstand against the horse’s shoulder) or the backbend (which is exactly what it sounds like, on a moving horse).
What do you do in your free time? Was there ever another life choice you wanted to pursue?
I’m not sure “free time” is a part of my vocabulary, although I do fit in time for trick riding, a small herd of cattle, and my own horses. If I happen not to be doing any of that, I love to write (not just songwriting), and soak up a day at home with family and friends—rather than living out of a suitcase.
What is one fun fact most people would not know about you?
I like to swing dance, even though I don’t have much time to do it. And, I love to downhill snow ski. You might call me a daredevil.
You are an excellent writer, too. Would you like to write a book someday?
Thank you! Before I landed in the world of music, I aspired to be an author when I grew up. I still hope to write and publish a book someday, I just don’t know when that someday will be. At this point, I don’t know what it would be about either – a western novel? A collection of blog writings? ”Observations of a Touring Musician”?
What would you say to someone who has a musical gift and wants to succeed like you?
Work hard is the obvious advice, but honestly if you have the gift and you also have the passion, working hard doesn’t even feel like work and you’ll do it anyway. My advice is to push yourself outside your comfort zone, constantly.
What are your future musical hopes or dreams?
Music is a universal language, and so I imagine most musical artists are like me – they want to bless people through their music. Beyond that, I have dreams of management/booking contracts, successful original songs, larger audiences, bigger venues, and playing the Grand Ole Opry – to name a few. And taking music on the road to see a few new countries, too.
Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas