Biography

Erika Kulnys“By possessing the ingenious intellect and activist zeal of Ani DiFranco combined with the poetic skepticism of Leonard Cohen, Kulnys is artfully cementing her place in the history books of unsung artistic heroes of our time…Hurricane tampers with the ballad-aesthetic of early Tori Amos, as her achingly honest, yet beautifully created craftsmanship is as vast as the North Atlantic Ocean. Spin the cheekiness of Dolly Parton with the overt sexuality of Kinnie Starr, then dash the toe-tapping rhythms of Newfoundland’s Colleen Power to conjure up a sense of her multi-dimensional musical talents.” – Shannon Webb-Campbell for Filly.ca

“Through song and music, she is dealing with the hard topics, not an easy task in these times, but a worthy one. Her songs kept my attention and her voice, reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, was full of beautiful and surprising turns.” – Ferron, Canadian Singer-Songwriter

A prolific and inspiring songwriter working across genres, Erika Kulnys writes heart-opening songs that will move you to tears and make you question the way you see yourself and the world. Her powerful voice has a striking range of timbres and emotions and her humour and honesty onstage make her music accessible to folks young and old, and across cultures. Erika’s album, Angel on the Road, a record of songs of love, healing and peace, won Music Nova Scotia’s 2015 Inspirational Recording of the Year award, was in the top ten on local charts, was a finalist in CBC’s Searchlight Competition for Canada’s best new artist and received international airplay. Erika was a finalist for Best Female Artist in the 2014 International Acoustic Music Awards for her song, Had to Come Home, which was recorded with the support of an EMBP grant in 2010.

In August, Erika will release Rise Up, a social justice-themed album, recorded at Signature Sounds Studio by Mark Thayer (artists such as Josh Ritter, Richard Schindell). Rise Up features musicians Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention, Paul McCartney), Richard Gates (Patty Larkin), and Jim Henry (Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Paula Cole). Rise Up tells stories of love, social justice and freedom. Watch the title track here.

Though her roots grow deep in story-telling folk traditions, Erika is also a classically trained pianist, a poet, composer and a performance artist who challenges boundaries. Erika’s musical scope ranges from ancient folk songs to gritty rock and she has the gift of writing meaningful songs that remain intimate while being political. Erika writes about real human experiences with joyful conviction and tenderness, inviting her listeners to not only witness, but to experience creativity at its core.

Erika grew up in Nova Scotia singing in choirs and then went on to study music composition, piano, and creative writing at the United World College (NM), Oberlin College and Conservatory (OH), and won a Watson Fellowship to participate in groups working for social change through music in Ireland, Venezuela, Jamaica, Brazil and India. She worked with revolutionary bands in Venezuela, recording and touring through small villages in the Andes, and performed with Battakare, an ensemble of youth in Sao Paolo who create and perform samba-influenced hip hop. She volunteered at a school for disabled children in India, and studied folk music’s influence on the peace movement in Northern Ireland.

Erika has made waves in classical music as well as poetry. Erika’s composition, “Salt,” scored for bassoon, oboe, cello and soprano was chosen to represent Oberlin College at the Midwest Composers Symposium and was featured on Oberlin Conservatory’s promotional CD. Erika’s poetry has been published in numerous literary journals across the US, and her poem, “Las Noticias en Traduccion” was a finalist in Phoebe’s competition judged by Anne Carson.

Erika has performed at major venues internationally such as The World Social Forum in Caracas, Centro Cultural in Sao Paolo, theatres across The Maritimes and the United States, The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville and the Bitter End in New York City. She’s played festivals such as Lunenburg Folk Harbour, Harmony Bazaar, Cleveland Music Festival, Rhythm of Life, and performed her song, Rise Up at the closing ceremonies of Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival onstage with Holly Near.

Erika loves working with others and has collaborated with such renowned artists as Ferron, Bruce Guthro, Paul Jefferson (co-writer of You’re Not My God with Keith Urban), Rose Vaughan, El Jones, and Scott Macmillan, and opened for artists such as Dave Gunning, Dar Williams, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Richie Havens, Guy Davis, Josh Ritter, and Richard Thompson. Her band has included Rose Vaughan, Asa Brosius, Sara and Kamila, Daniel Gale, Pam Mason, Guy Mendilow, Stefan Amidon, Jordi Comstock, Adam Fine, Jeff Torbert, Keith Mullins, Duncan Macmillan, Naomi Morse, Scott Macmillan and Elvie Miller. Erika has played in Canada and the U.S., South Korea, Spain, Ireland, Jamaica, Venezuela, Brazil, touring her album, “Hurricane.” Erika toured her four releases of 2014: double album, Revolution (world-alternative), WINGS (pop-country), Year of the Water Snake (folk) and Angel on the Road (folk) across the North and Southeastern US, Cuba, as well as Nova Scotia, playing venues such as the El Mejune, The Evergreen Theatre, and the Music Room.

Notable Awards and Recognitions

2015 Music Nova Scotia Inspirational Recording of the Year

2015 “Winner” (made 3rd cut) of CBC’s Searchlight Competitions

2014 International Acoustic Music Award Finalist for Best Female Artist of the Year

2010 Recipient of EMBP grant for Revolution

2007 Phoebe Poetry Competition winner judged by Anne Carson

2005 Recipient of $25, 000 Watson Fellowship to study, write and perform Folk Music for Social Change in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Brazil and India

Influences

Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, Tori Amos, Indigo Girls, Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanes, Lhasa, Tracy Chapman, Melissa Ferrick, Melissa Etheridge, Suzanne Vega, Michael Jackson, Amelia Curran, Bessie Smith, Karine Polwart

Selected Appearance list for Erika Kulnys

  • Casa de Cultura, Iberostar Grand Hotel, El Mejune (opening for Raul Torres), Cuba (2016)
  • Hotel Parque Central, Habana, Cuba (2015)
  • The Commodore, The Bluebird Cafe, Two Old Hippies Nashville, TN (2014)
    Michigan Women’s Music Festival, MI (2014)
  • Oberlin College Cat in the Cream, OH (2014)
  • Luthier’s Co-op, Art Walk, Sam’s Pizza, Northampton, MA (2014)
  • Dorje Denma Ling 25th Anniversary with Jenn Grant, Asif Illyas and John Campbelljohn (2013)
  • Rhythm of Life Festival, OH (2014)
  • Oberlin College World AIDS Day (2010)
  • United World College of the American West (2009)
  • Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, Harmony Bazaar Festival of Women and Song, Pennybrook Festival The Music Room, The Company House The Carleton, Al Whittle Theatre, The Evergreen Theatre, Saint George’s Church, Saint Andrew’s Church, St. Matthew’s Church, The Shambhala Centre (Nova Scotia 2007-15)
  • Pete’s Candy Store, NYC (2007)
  • The Living Room Lounge, NYC (2007)
  • The Sidewalk Cafe, NYC (2007)
  • All Asia-Bar, Boston (2007)
  • The Brooklyn Lyceum, NYC (2007)
  • The Bitter End, NYC (2006)
  • CBGB’s Gallery, NYC (2006)
  • Central Cultural, Sao Paolo (2006)
  • The World Social Forum, Caracas (2006)
  • Sin E, Dublin (2005)
  • Laveries, Belfast (2005)
  • Oberlin Folkfest (2005, 2004, 2002, 2001)
  • Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (2004)
  • Cleveland Music Festival, Peabody’s, Cleveland (2004)
  • The John S. Knight Convention Centre, Akron, OH (2003)
  • RAINN Benefits, The Dionysus Club, Oberlin College (2003)
  • The Ship and Anchor, Calgary, Alberta (2003-5)
  • Freetimes Cafe, Toronto (2003)
  • Woodstock, Seoul, South Korea (2003)
  • BattleAxe Folk Pride Show: The Marquis Club, Halifax, NS (2002)
  • The Khyber Club (2002)
  • The Cat in the Cream, Oberlin, OH (2001-05)

Selected Radio Appearances and Radio Stations that regularly play Erika’s Music

  • CBC Week-End Mornings
  • CBC Mainstreet NS
  • CBC Daybreak Maritimes
  • CBC As It Happens
  • CKDU Inner Connections
  • CKDU Pirate Radio
  • East Coast Kitchen Party Radio
  • Homegrown Atlantic Radio
  • Mostly Folk
  • Oberlin WOBC
  • Dublin South FM
  • RGIN Internet Radio
  • Belfast NVTV
  • Venezuelan Community Radio Stations
  • Women of Substance Radio
  • Music of the People

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