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.” 

– Shannon Webb-Campbell for Filly.ca

Erika Kulnys connects deeply to audiences with her powerful voice, authenticity, innovative piano work and infectious joy. She opens hearts with her passion and commitment to social change. A native of Nova Scotia, Erika’s performed internationally in venues ranging from the Bitter End in New York City to the World Social Forum in Caracas. Her album, Angel on the Road, won Music Nova Scotia’s Inspirational Recording of the Year and was a finalist in CBC’s Searchlight Competition for Canada’s best new artist. Her new album, Rise Up, released at Copenhagen Pride, garnered awards from Ireland to Florida (First Place Cork Folk Festival’s Songwriting Contest 2016, First Place People’s Music Network Social Justice Songs, Honourable Mention Rhode Island Songwriter’s Association Contest, Honourable Mention, Posi Awards, Finalist Canada South Songwriting Competition, Finalist Ottawa Grassroots Festival to name a few) and charted Top Ten on Folk DJ and Roots Charts. Erika won a $25, 000 Watson Fellowship to study music and social change in six countries, was a finalist for the International Acoustic Music awards, and has received international airplay including CBC, BBC, and NPR.

Erika’s sixth studio release, Rise Up, is a social justice-themed album, recorded at Signature Sounds by Mark Thayer (James Taylor, Josh Ritter, Richard Shindell) and featuring musicians Dave Mattacks (Paul McCartney), Laurie MacAllister (Red Molly) and Jim Henry (Mary Chapin-Carpenter). Rise Up travels through folk-pop, Americana, and rock to explore the depths of human love and suffering, and calls us to unite globally for peace and equality. Throughout, Erika’s songs reflect universal human experiences with passion and acute honesty, while the album’s production uses the many colours of strings, dobro, percussion, and harmonies to create a living landscape of sound and story.

Erika’s 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. Though her roots grow deep in story-telling folk traditions, Erika is also a classically trained pianist, a poet, and composer 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 Centro Cultural in Sao Paolo, theatres across The Maritimes and the United States, including The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. She’s played festivals such as Lunenburg Folk Harbour, Harmony Bazaar, Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Cleveland Music Festival, Rhythm of Life, and performed her song, Rise Up at the closing ceremonies of the final 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. In 2016, Erika toured Rise Up in Denmark, Ireland and the UK, Canada and the U.S., and toured her first release, Hurricane in South Korea, Spain, Jamaica, Venezuela, and Brazil. Erika toured Angel on the Road and 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, Quebec, Ontario as well as Nova Scotia, playing venues such as the Evergreen Theatre, the Music Room, and the West Dublin Hall.

Notable Awards and Recognitions

2017 Invited to showcase at Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, Northern Ireland
2017 Invited to perform at Acoustic Yard Festival, Ireland
2017 Invited to write with Grammy winner Drew Ramsey and writer for the show, Nashville, Gareth Dunlop
2016 Winner, First Place Cork Folk Festival’s Songwriting Contest
2016 Winner, First Place People’s Music Network Social Justice Songs Showcase Contest, Northeast Regional Folk Alliance
2016 Honourable Mention Rhode Island Songwriter’s Association Contest
2016 Honourable Mention, Posi Awards
2016 Finalist Canada South Songwriting Competition
2016 Finalist Ottawa Grassroots Festival Sing-a-long Contest
2016 Recipient of grant from Music Nova Scotia for Rise Up
2015 Music Nova Scotia Inspirational Recording of the Year
2015 “Winner” (made 3rd cut) of CBC’s Searchlight Competition
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 (2015, 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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