Kristine W.

Straight Up With A Twist

Recording artist Kristine W. has had more consecutive number one Billboard club hits in a row than any other artist. Nine, to be exact.

What you may not know about this former Miss Washington is that she went on to win the Miss America talent competition singing, of all things, a jazz standard: "Summertime".

Ms. W has gone back to her roots with her latest effort, "Straight Up With A Twist," an album of jazz covers of her number ones as well as other songs, with some originals thrown in for good measure.

Here she is, for your entertainment, Kristine W!

MS: Hey, Kristine. I have always been impressed, no matter how many years go by in between us meeting, you always recognize me.

KW: I am really good with faces. I never forget a face.

MS: The first time I ever saw you perform was at The Factory. Your saxophone playing was off the hook!

KW: Killer! You must love this album then!

MS: I do. Jazz is obviously an huge influence with you.

KW: When I was growing up, I was in a jazz choir, as well as a jazz soloist. Also, my Mom was a jazz singer. She performed six nights a week at clubs. I got to hang out and perform with her musicians. They taught me a lot. I definitely lived jazz!

MS: By the way, I recently found out you and I grew up in the same state.

KW: Washington, yeah! I performed there recently this year and it was so much fun!

MS: You were also a Miss Washington and competed in the Miss America pageant. I love how you stated your current album was four years in the making because you wanted to do it right. Define that.

KW: I wanted to get the right musicians, pick the right songs. I wanted to review the songs and the arrangements, I basically wanted to show these cover songs in a brand new light and bring them to a brand new audience. Making sure what I did was framing the song, to put a beautiful frame around the song, so if someone is hearing the song for the first time they go "whoa, what a great song."

MS: You covered your own hits along with some other covers. Also, you did some originals too.

KW: Yes, I wrote a few original songs. One's called "Dream On". Also "Feel What You Want," which is the new single. It entered the jazz charts at number 23 and "Straight Up With A Twist" entered at number 32 on the jazz album charts. For my first dip in the pool of a genre I have never been in, I'm doing alright. (Laughs.)

MS: Not bad at all, and not surprising.

KW: Yeah, I have done some jazz in every dance tune I have ever done. My core audience totally knows that!

MS: I'm so fascinated that you chose to cover Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven."

KW: The lyrics to that song are really profound. When they wrote the lyrics initially the meaning was completely different then. But if you really listen to the lyrics, I thought: Wow! That could be about the environment, it could be about the Paris Hilton's of world and how they think the rules don't apply to them.

I remember when she went to Gucci in France and the store was closed. She stood out front with her entourage at closing time and she flipped out when they wouldn't open the door for her. It made me think about this song passage: "There's a lady that's sure all that glitters is gold, and she's buying the stairway to heaven. When she gets there she knows all the stores have all closed, but in a word she will get what she came for."

MS: Love that!

KW: I listened to that song and thought that's what's going on in the world. Led Zeppelin, I am sure, wrote it with a totally different concept, but the lyrics are so relevant to right now, I love it!

MS: Wow! That's great!

KW: I tried to pick songs for the album where everyone has had those moments, everybody can relate to it on some level. Looking at them with fresh new eyes, those older songs take on a new meaning right now.

MS: That never occurred to me when I was looking at the track list.

KW: Kristine W. overthinks everything. My mother tells me that all the time. (Laughs.) It's a cool thing, though. It makes you bring things to the table other people wouldn't think of.

MS: Let's not neglect your cover of one of your signature hits, "Stronger."

KW: The take on "Stronger" is pretty dramatic, really heartfelt. The arrangement that we did on that is really beautiful.

MS: With nine chart-topping Billboard club hits in a row, do you ever sit back and go "I'm number one"? (Laughs.)

KW: Not really. (Laughs.) I keep thinking of other ways to create interesting music that people will love.

MS: Tell me what you hope goes down with this project ultimately.

KW: Ultimately, I hope it takes me to a bigger audience, widen my territory so to speak. (Laughs.) So more people can hear my music and my voice. This was also a fan-driven album. Fans sent me email after e-mail telling me I should do it. It really was their idea. I've got to give them all the credit for them pushing me forward with it. I was really afraid to go into a genre I didn't know. Rolling the dice emotionally really takes a lot out of you. Without the fan support I probably would not have had the guts to do it.

Climb the "Stairway to Heaven" and log onto and get yourself "Straight Up With A Twist".

Michael Shinafelt

Michael Shinafelt has covered pop & dance music since he first burst on to the writing scene, interviewing everyone from pop icon Olivia Newton-John to pop artist E.G. Daily. Not to mention the many dance divas (male and female) who he has crossed paths with. Other interviews of note are Pamela Anderson, Heidi Fleiss, as well as cover stories on Margaret Cho and Kathy Griffin. Peace.