Slow Burning Flame
Celeste Krenz - Biography There is something about Celeste Krenz. It's the voice, the delivery, the words...or maybe it's all of those. "The purest folk voice I've heard in years, and that little catch in her throat gives it just a touch of hillbilly soul. I was so enchanted that I practically held my breath," wrote Robert K. Oermann in Music Row Magazine Celeste's newest venture is co-owner of a new kind of company, High Horse Records, with partner and Nashville veteran Wyatt Easterling. High Horse Records is a label designed to use developments in the music-delivery business via digital downloads and the new virtual world that lays before us. As artistic director, her vision is to bring together performers who are dynamic and accomplished, and reach their audiences through the new technologies. Celeste saw her friends "repeating the same steps" and realized if they all came together with a new approach it would create a powerhouse. These artists can pool their talents and reach the new audiences while bypassing the pitfalls of the old system. In the continuing motion of blending past and present, her first High Horse Records release is a project she recorded with her mother. In fact, all of the songs on My Mother and Me are written or co-written by her mother. They are fresh and comfortable - surprising and evolutionary. In August, Celeste will release her second album as Rhythm Angels with Rebecca Folsom, Girls Like Us. Celeste Krenz was born and raised on a ranch in North Dakota. Her first musical memory is hearing her father and grandmother singing hymns. "As I grew up, my dad always had the radio on in the barn and we listened to a lot of old cowboy music like Kitty Wells, Bob Wills, Sons of the Pioneers, Hank Snow and Eddy Arnold." Celeste's childhood was full of doing ranch chores, riding horses, vaccinating cattle, clearing the fields of rocks and fixing fences. "There was only one TV station to watch. The Lawrence Welk Show was a staple back then. Here I was, just a little country girl, enamored with the youngest one of the Lennon Sisters. She was so glamorous in her red velvet dresses singing with a big orchestra. Even back then I knew that I wanted to sing and make music.' Celeste began playing guitar when she was six by studying a chord book. The first songs she sang were "One Tin Soldier," Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and Cat Stevens' "Morning Has Broken." Celeste's first big gig was at age 8 when she played guitar and sang at a wedding. Soon Celeste was listening to Emmylou Harris, Pure Prairie League, Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel, Minnie Ripperton and Bonnie Raitt. She started writing songs at age 15. A friend of her parents owned a bar, the Westside Lounge in Stanley, North Dakota, and invited Celeste to play. So as a junior in High School she put together a band and they packed the lounge once a month. Each year in high school she composed the songs for an original stage musical. Krenz attended the University of North Dakota for two years, but took a break to tour the country with an all-girl pop-and-folk group, High Heels. "We were on the road and I learned a lot about performance." She developed skills on both acoustic and electric guitar. After three years she moved to Minneapolis and got a weekly gig at the Calhoun Beach Club singing standards. "It was really stretching for me back then to sing songs that had been recorded by Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughan, and Eartha Kitt." Eventually she returned to UND and got her Bachelor's Degree in marketing. Celeste moved to Denver in 1990 where she developed a loyal following in a community that appreciated the honesty and warmth of her songs and voice. She became serious about composing, and began recording. 'I saw Shawn Colvin in concert and it was just so refreshing to see a woman playing solo with just an acoustic guitar. Back then funk and punk were the hot thing, especially in the Twin Cities where I had been playing. I had always written in the country-folk genre and so to discover that Shawn had built a whole career around this beautiful introspective music, minus the outrageous bells and whistles, was very exciting to me.' She met producer Bob Tyler and began recording her first album. She wrote, or co-wrote with Tyler, most of the material on Edge of the Storm and composed the title track with Tim O'Brien. Tim included the tune on his next record. Other musicians on Celeste's debut included Subdudes guitarist Tommy Malone (Joni Mitchell, Rosanne Cash), bass player Mike Chapman (Garth Brooks, Crystal Gayle) and drummer Milton Sledge (Trisha Yearwood, Marty Stuart, Garth Brooks). Krenz's second album, Slow Burning Love, went Top 11 on the national GAVIN Americana radio airplay. Celeste was now performing frequently with Tim and Mollie O'Brien and drummer Steve Ivey. Her third CD Hello Country, was an all old-time country tunes she remembered from her childhood. She turned to a classic folk sound on her Wishin' album though the songs were mostly hers. She also performed regularly with John Magnie of The Subdudes. Celeste signed a record deal with a hot folk and Celtic label, Blix Street, which was known for widely marketing Irish vocalist Mary Black and Eva Cassidy. Featuring a bigger production and more percussion than previously, the album Celeste hit the national World Beat radio charts and brought her new fans. Krenz also taught vocal classes at Denver's famed Swallow Hill Music Association for several years which led to her creating Singing Emotionally, a vocal coaching CD and booklet. She still spends time in Colorado each summer at Music in the Mountain her Performance & Songwriting Retreat she developed and runs through her alma mater, Swallow Hill Music Association. After 11 years in Denver, Celeste moved to Nashville in 2002, where she continued to grow as a performer and writer. Celeste's voice, described as, "a pure, sweet voice, as smooth as the great American plains" is embraced by audiences across the country and her catalog has grown to 9 albums. Celeste has sung on-stage with Brad Roberts of Crash Test Dummies, Bruce Cockburn, David Amram and Stephen Allen Davis. She has performed and written with Tim O'Brien, Mollie O'Brien, Subdudes keyboardist John Magnie and drummer Steve Amedee, and Jon Vezner (songwriter for Kathy Mattea, Faith Hill, Nanci Griffith). She summarized her first decade with recording Best of Collection - then 'til now. Then released her most personal album, Beautiful Soup, in 2005. "It was different than my other albums because I played all the guitar on it. Most of the songs were new ones I wrote after having a baby, an experience that immediately gives you a different perspective on life." Of her next album Celeste says, "I really enjoyed the stripped-down approach of Celeste Krenz - Acoustic. These are songs that as soon as I heard them or wrote them, I knew I wanted to sing them for people. They ring true to me as an artist. There is nothing contrived or artificial about this music. It's just voices and acoustic guitars telling life's stories in a plain, but poetic way. Sometimes in this hectic, frenetic, tense world, it's simplicity that cuts through and is heard." In 2006 she released an album Jon Vezner and Celeste Krenz - Transitions. The first six songs are sung by Jon Vezner and the last six by Celeste. In addition to her solo career, Celeste works on many diverse projects with her friends. Based in Nashville is The Secret All-Night Girlie Club with Sally Barris (who sang with and wrote for Kathy Mattea and Lee Ann Womack) and Diana Jones (who sang on several albums with the Gospel Music Workshop of America). Based in Colorado is Women in the Round with Liz Barnez and Rebecca Folsom. Rebecca and Celeste have now formed Rhythm Angels, a duet with tight harmonies and smart lyrics. They will be releasing Girls Like Us on High Horse Records August 2008. The critics say of Celeste's style and records: "An infectious blend of sweet vocals, story based lyrics and acoustic sensibilities." Billboard Magazine "Meticulously drawn songwriting, equal parts, torch and poetry, brain and soul." David Kirby, Colorado Daily 'Krenz sings it straight, but her sweet honey-coated voice lends it a different perspective." Michael Mehle, The Rocky Mountain News Celeste's legacy is music that reaches out and touches her listeners. How difficult is it to write songs about such closely held emotions? She says, 'In a strange way, I think they're the easiest ones to write, you can hardly keep them in, on the other hand, they're the hardest ones to perform. I feel like I'm telling my story for the first time, every time...it's very emotional. What I've realized is that although the songs are very personal, they have a universal message. Life is constantly changing, we all lose people we love and we are all looking for ways to keep love alive and find peace in the world. I think the trick is to squeeze every drop of joy from the time we have together. Try to do the right thing...life is short...make it count.'