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 artistic heroes of our time.” -Shannon Webb-Campbell, Canadian Music Journalist and poet

“Sometimes an artist possesses a voice that reaches out and seduces your senses, Erika Kulnys has one of those voices. Let’s be honest here, there’s no way you can hear that voice without falling under its spell. The depths of engrossing story-telling that pervade every track on this album are so strong it’s almost possible to reach out and touch their intensity. -Folkwords, UK

“The Music Room in Halifax was packed to overflowing last Friday night for the cd launch of Hurricane by the amazing Erika Kulnys. Erika and her group of talented musicians wowed us for two and a half hours of music, most of it written by Erika. This Halifax daughter is destined to be our next Sarah McLachlan.” –Terry Paul Choyce, CDKU, Canada

“The possessor of a quite extraordinary voice, Rise Up, the seventh studio album by Kulnys, finds the Nova Scotia resident in fine form reflecting on matters worldly as well as closer to home…The aforementioned Roaring For A Revolution, the cream of the crop, bears a healthy relation to Anais Mitchell in style and indeed delivery. Kulnys powerful and soaring vocal is the winner here without doubt, bringing the poignant lyrics and melody to life. -Lonesome Highway, Ireland

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 at events like the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival and the World Social Forum in Caracas. Her solo album, Angel on the Road, won Music Nova Scotia’s Inspirational Recording of the Year and moved forward in CBC’s Searchlight Competition for Canada’s best new artist. Her first professionally produced album, Rise Up, was released at Copenhagen Pride and 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 etc) and charted Top Ten in North America.

Erika’s writing has been compared to Leonard Cohen, Suzanne Vega and Joni Mitchell and is interested in deconstructing the other, inspiring people to transform their personal challenges, and being true to ourselves and our planet. She also works with youth, queer folks, and women using songwriting as a tool for healing and empowerment. Erika recently won the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace’s Kim Phuc Youth Award, along with El Jones, for working towards a more peaceful culture through the arts. 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 release, Rise Up, is a social justice-themed album, recorded at Signature Sounds by Mark Thayer (who has recorded James Taylor) 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 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. Erika grew up singing folk songs with her mother in the women’s movement and the peace movement from New York to California to Calgary to Guatemala to Nova Scotia. Though her roots are deep in story-telling folk traditions, Erika is also a classically trained pianist, a poet, and composer who pushes the boundaries of genre. Erika’s musical scope ranges from ancient folk songs to rock-pop and she has the gift of writing meaningful songs that remain intimate, tender, and joyful while being political. 

Erika sang in choirs in Canada 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 studied tabla and volunteered teaching music at a school for disabled children in India, and explored folk music’s influence on the peace movement in Northern Ireland.

Erika has also written classical music and poetry. Erika’s composition, “Salt,” scored for bassoon, oboe, cello and soprano was chosen to represent Oberlin College at the Midwest Composers Symposium at the University of Michigan and was featured on Oberlin Conservatory’s promotional CD. Erika’s poetry has been published in 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 venues 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 Pride (Halifax, Copenhagen, Akron), 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.

Erika loves working with others and has collaborated with artists such as Bruce Guthro, Ferron, 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 Dar Williams, Richie Havens, Guy Davis, Josh Ritter, and Richard Thompson (Oberlin Folkfests). Her band has included Rose Vaughan, Andrew Sneddon, 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 (Americana) in Denmark, Ireland and the UK, Canada and the U.S,. She toured Angel on the Road and her four releases of 2014: double album, Revolution (alternative-folk-world), WINGS (Americana), Year of the Water Snake (folk) and Angel on the Road (folk) in Cuba, Canada and the US, playing venues such as the Evergreen Theatre and The Music Room. She toured her first release, Hurricane in Ireland, Northern Ireland, South Korea, Spain, Jamaica, Venezuela, and Brazil.

Notable Awards and Recognitions

2018 Semi-finalist UK Songwriting Competition
2018 Showcased at the East Coast Music Awards, Halifax NS
2017 Performed Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, Northern Ireland 
2017 Wrote with Gareth Dunlop (writer for the show Nashville)
2016 Played Copenhagen Pride Mainstage
2016 Co-Winner of The National Voice of Women’s Kim Phuc Youth Peace Award 
2016 Showcased, Nova Scotia Music Week 
2016 Winner, First Place Cork Folk Festival’s Songwriting Contest (national Irish competition) 
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 Played Stanfest Mainstage
2015 Winner, Music Nova Scotia Inspirational Recording of the Year 
2015 Regional Semi-finalist of CBC’s Searchlight Competition 
2015 Performed at the final Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s closing concert
2014 Played Harmony Bazaar Mainstage
2014 International Acoustic Music Award Finalist for Best Female Artist of the Year 
2010 Recipient of Nova Scotia government grant for Revolution 
2007 Phoebe Poetry Competition finalist 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, Tracy Chapman, Nina Simone, Jane Siberry, Tori Amos, Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, Silvio Rodriguez,  Buffy Saint-Marie, El Jones, Adrienne Rich, Lhasa, Tracy Chapman, Melissa Etheridge, Suzanne Vega, Michael Jackson, Amelia Curran, Bessie Smith, KD Lang, Karine Polwart, Dolly Parton, Regina Spektor, Anais Mitchell, Pete Seeger, Melissa Ferrick, Neil Young

Selected Appearance list for Erika Kulnys

  • East Coast Music Awards, Halifax NS (2018)
  • Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, Belfast (2017)
  • Acoustic Yard Festival, Westport, Ireland (2017)
  • Suzie Wollenberg Folk DJ Showcase, Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (2016)
  • Copenhagen Pride, Mainstage Performer (2016)
  • Whelans, Dublin (2016)
  • Casa de Cultura, Iberostar Grand Hotel, El Mejune (opening for Raul Torres), Cuba (2016)
  • Hotel Parque Central, Habana, Cuba (2015)
  • Michigan Women’s Music Festival, MI (2015, 2014, 2004)
  • The Commodore, The Bluebird Cafe, Two Old Hippies Nashville, TN (2014)
  • Rhythm of Life Festival, OH (2014)
  • Dorje Denma Ling 25th Anniversary with Jenn Grant, Asif Illyas and John Campbelljohn (2013)
  • 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 2007-18)
  • Pete’s Candy Store, The Living Room Lounge, The Sidewalk Cafe, The Brooklyn Lyceum, The Bitter End, CBGB’s Gallery, NYC (2006-7)
  • Central Cultural, Sao Paolo (2006)
  • The World Social Forum, Caracas (2006)
  • Sin E, Dublin (2005)
  • Oberlin Folkfests (2001-5)
  • Cleveland Music Festival, Peabody’s, Cleveland (2004)
  • Pride, The John S. Knight Convention Centre, Akron, OH (2003)

Erika’s Music has been played on hundreds of stations internationally including

  • WFMT The Midnight Special
  • CKDU Inner Connections
  • Sirius XM
  • Stingray
  • CBC Week-end Mornings
  • CBC As It Happens
  • Mostly Folk
  • Venezuelan Community Radio Stations
  • After Midnight Dublin South FM
  • Adam Wilson’s Quiet Revolution
  • BBC Radio Shropshire
  • Kansas Public Radio
 

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