Does the "W" in Kristine W stand for your last name, Weitz?
When I had my first dance hit, "Feel What You Want," in the UK, I did a radio tour, and every interviewer butchered my last name. The next meeting I had with the label president, he said, "You are going by 'W'!" Now that director Chris Weitz ("New Moon") is a big name in the movie business, everyone knows how to pronounce it!
What drew you to a career in writing and recording dance music almost exclusively? (Your 2008 holiday album, "Hey Mr. Christmas" threw a curve, featuring a piano-based ballad with Jim Brickman).
When I was a kid, I heard Donna Summer's voice and was blown away. I remember singing "Bad Girls" at school for a talent show and getting the evil eye from a few of my teachers (which made me love the experience even more). My mom, Donna Lee, sang jazz and standards and played the 12-string guitar. Very laid-back music, which is very much her personality. But I have always been full of energy, and dance music was just a good fit for me. I love jazz, and it is my roots, so I always stay connected to it and, after three years, have just finished a double-album of what I call "electro-jazz." Working with the great Jim Brickman was a dream come true.
What other artists, in dance or other formats, do you admire most?
Al Jarreau, for his amazing improvisational skills. Big Daddy Kane, an amazing poet and a beautiful person. And, he has one commanding voice. Luther Vandross, who can make you cry when you listen to him. And, Maxwell has such a cool, sexy delivery.
Are you ever in awe of your standing among the likes of Madonna, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey as the women with the most No. 1s in the history of Billboard's Dance/Club Songs chart? The general public may not realize just how much success you've earned on the survey.
I am so honored to be in the company of these amazing women. They are so talented. Having a mom who was a young widow, raising four children as a full-time working musician, I saw her focus, as well as the underbelly of the business side. I always focused more on becoming a great live performer. I've built a fan base one show at a time over years. It has given me a career and fans that feel like my family.
Dance music is in a great place right now on pop radio and in pop culture. What is your opinion of the artist that has primarily spurred the genre's current swell in popularity, Lady Gaga?
Dance music around the rest of the world has always been popular. That's why I could not wait to go to the UK and record. In the UK, people used to say to me, "Dance music is the pop music of now and for tomorrow." I have always held onto that. Its time has finally come in the U.S., and I am so thrilled. It can be very uplifting for people, and that's why I have always been so passionate about it. I think Lady Gaga is fabulous and has given dance more credibility because she is also a musician.Earlier in your career, you were signed to the RCA and Tommy Boy record labels. With your fourth album, "The Power of Music," released on Fly Again, have you found pros and cons to going the independent route?
I do miss the major label support sometimes and would love to partner again when it's right. The business has changed so much, however, with the closing of stores and with file-sharing. It feels like it will be awhile before labels find out what business models are going to work for them and what will be in the best interests of artists. I decided to start my own label after having been in talks with several label executives over a four-to-five month period. When all of them were let go, I decided to go for it.
You survived a two-year battle with cancer. How has that affected you as a person and as an artist?
When a doctor tells you that you have leukemia, it's like you're skydiving and your parachute won't open. You're completely in shock and in panic, and you have very little time because the disease moves quickly. I had acute myeloid leukemia (AML), so I really had to man up and make quick decisions about treatment, trust in my faith in God and focus on the fight of my life. The experience was terrifying, but it taught me to enjoy the people and the time you have now, because no one is promised tomorrow.
Last month, you served as grand marshal for the second annual Carnival Parade in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, followed by a performance at Club Manana. Sounds like it was a low-key, intimate affair?
Carnival in Puerto Vallarta is nuts. They go all out for it. I was in a convertible at the front of all the floats, and they gave me a big rhinestone crown. The parade wound through the city center, and they had a truck with speakers stacked really high - and "The Power of Music" blaring at about 200 decibels! The parade ended at the club, where more than 1,500 people stuffed their way in. It is so fun to perform there, and the DJ, Alex Acosta, was superb. I was going on about how great he was after my show, and he just stared and smiled. The club manager said, "Kristine, he can't understand a word you're saying." Just then, Alex said in a very thick accent, "Feel what you want!" I thought, "Wow, now that's the power of music, baby!"
On Saturday, March 27, you're co-headlining the "Night of a Thousand Gowns" charity ball and auction in New York City. Please describe the event and for whom it will raise funds.
I am so looking forward to my performance. This has become an annual tradition, and this marks the 24th year of the gala. Proceeds from the ball and auction go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids (which, since its founding in 1988, has raised more than $160 million benefiting people with AIDS, HIV or HIV-related illnesses in the U.S.) and to God's Love We Deliver (which aims to improve the health and well-being of those living with serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition. For more information, click here).
Having banked your latest No. 1 anthem, what's next for Kristine W?
I am currently working with a UK promotion team, as the single and video for "The Power of Music" are doing well overseas. I am off to Amsterdam in April and will tour this spring and summer, performing the hits. The fans will let me know what single to release next; they are my A&R person at the moment! I have also started the next album and will do my best to keep the world dancing.