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STAR Views: Kristina Cornell

By: Estella Pan

Photo used courtesy of Kristina Cornell

The headline quote on Kristina Cornell's official MySpace page is simply "...be happy." And, she has plenty of reason to be happy these days! She was added to Lofton Creek Records' artist roster, has walked the orange carpet at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards, had her own booth at this summer's CMA Music Festival/Fan Fair, and got to meet one of her musical heroes, Trisha Yearwood. On top of it all, she released her debut album to stores!

Many move to Nashville dreaming of signing a record deal, seeking longevity in the music business. This was not Kristina's goal, initially. She says, "I knew I wanted to be a writer. When we moved to Nashville, it was not for me to pursue music. My dad took and early retirement, I moved down here with my parents. It seemed like a golden opportunity for me to pursue my writing, and I got a publishing deal right out of the gate." It was through her writing that she met her first agent, "who cast me in all kinds of commercials and videos." [NOTE: Kristina has appeared in music videos made by Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, Lari White, Terri Clark, Lee Roy Parnell, and others.] Fellow writers and musicians convinced Kristina to take her shot at becoming a recording artist. "I have performed my whole life. It wasn't that I wanted to be the next Reba; it was just kind of all I knew. But, when I was writing and doing my own demos, they were always saying, 'You sound so different from anybody else. Your style's different. Why don't you think about doing the artist thing yourself?'" Once she decided to go for it, things seemed to fall into place quickly. "I was about three years in pursuit of it when I got my record deal. So, it really was kind of fast for me."

Upon meeting Kristina in person, one of the things you'll notice is her strong sense of self. "That is the benefit of not being eighteen. I think when you're younger and trying to make a career happen, you do a lot more of what other people tell you what they think you should do. I don't think when I was eighteen, I actually knew what I wanted, you know?" On the other hand, "Not that you can't have people advising you – good management is great! And, your record label has a lot of experience so you would hope that you could take some knowledge from them. It's never bad to have counsel, but at the same time, you've got to know what you want and go get it. I've lived enough life where you can't convince me that I'm anybody but who I am."

Photos used courtesy of Jodi Rich Photography
On the set of "Little Red Balloon"

Kristina lets her listeners know who she is through her songs; she shares writing credits on the majority of the songs on her album. "Lofton Creek Records was very, very gracious to me, to let me have as much creative control as they did, on my first project. And, I got to keep all my publishing on it. My producer, Dave Gibson, is a fantastic writer. Remember the Gibson-Miller Band? He's written some country classics, and we co-wrote five of the six songs that I have on the album." One song Kristina wishes she had written is her debut single, "Little Red Balloon." This tearjerker ballad talks about coping with and healing after losing loved ones. "That was the very first song Dave pitched to me for the album. Before I had a deal, we were working on a demo to get ready to pitch. I don't know how other artists do it, but the way we had it set up is everybody submits material to Dave. He weeds through to see what's going to be good for me. Then, he presents them to me." Upon hearing it, Kristina knew she had to record it! "I listened to it, and just cried! I still have my father, but it hit me so hard how this song would affect people who have lost loved ones. The song made my album and ended up being my first single." She shares the story of the inception of this song: "Dave, his wife Daisy Dern, and Steve Seskin wrote it six years ago. It was written out of 9/11, and there were 3,000 children at Central Park releasing their red balloons to their parents they lost in the Trade Center. Seeing that was very heart wrenching, and Daisy said they had to write that song."

Photo used courtesy of Kristina Cornell

Not all songs on Kristina's album include heavy themes. She also knows a thing or two about having fun – and that is the exact sentiment for her current single, "It's a Girl Thing," also the title track to her debut album. She divulges, "This is the honest-to-goodness truth: the first lyric of the song says, We can spend seven hours shopping at the mall/Have the greatest time together doing nothing at all. About a year and a half ago, my best friend and I blew off work. We just said, 'Forget this; we're going to the mall!' So, we went, and we were there for seven hours – no joke, not an exaggeration! Then, I was driving home that day and thinking, You know, how cool is that? We can spend seven hours shopping at the mall together…" and then it hit me. I was like, 'Hey, wait a second!' Between me and her, that is the complete subject matter of 'It's a Girl Thing.'" Kristina brought in two writers – Dave and Christopher Roberts – on board for the song "to make sure I had a guy's perspective on it." She adds, "Dave is actually the one who came up with the line in the chorus, Men don't understand/It's a girl thing. He told me, 'I'm admitting it – we have no clue!' Dave and Chris were very supportive of the song."

Every song on Kristina's will appeal to and can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and she's proud of that fact. "I have a few rules on my albums: I don't sing men-bashing songs – I love men, and I’m not going to dog them! I don't sing cheating songs, I don't sing drinking songs. I think my songs are what people are going through on a daily basis – we have to get up, feed our children, clean our house, go to work. They're real life situations. There are some love songs on there; we've all experienced love and the loss of love." Kristina makes special mention of her favorite song from the album. "It's called 'When the Dam Breaks.' Dave and I co-wrote the song about a woman who has pent up her dreams and feelings. She's never quite been gratified emotionally. The chorus, When the dam breaks and those tears start to fall/That old heartache that has her back against the wall/It's flowing like a river, and it's more than she can take/This could be the day that the dam breaks. I've got plenty of friends who are living their lives just like that." It's important to Kristina to touch real-life issues in her songs, and feedback on this particular song is especially encouraging. "It's actually becoming the fast favorite of a lot people around town, so we’ll see what happens with that one." Perhaps, this song will become her third single? "That would not hurt my feelings!"

Photo used courtesy of Kristina Cornell
Absolute euphoria!

Now that It's a Girl Thing is available for everyone to purchase (and you should get your own copy, by the way, because it is a fantastic album!), did Kristina visit her local music store to see her album displayed on the shelves? "You know what? A really good friend of mine called to congratulate me and he said, 'So, did you go out and buy it?' and I said, 'No... I guess I should, huh?'" She muses, "I've got so many copies myself, I didn't even think about it! Isn't that hilarious?" Letting lose a hearty laugh, she adds, "I should at least take a picture, right? I haven't even gone to the store to see if it's actually there yet."

Reflecting on the past year, Kristina is grateful for every moment. "I feel like God created me to be heard. I love singing; it is absolutely euphoria when I step on stage! It's unbelievable; it's an adrenaline rush, and the greatest feeling in the world!" She adds, "Also, when I check my e-mail, and there's a story that comes in from a little girl who lost her dad and I've given her some way to cope with her grief through 'Little Red Balloon,' nothing feels better than that. That's one of the highest highs I"ve experienced so far is watching three and a half minutes of my music touch somebody's life and impact them that way." Kristina values her fans' feedback, and she shows her appreciation to them by taking time to read messages and comments sent to her MySpace page. "Sometimes, it's 2 o'clock in the morning when everything else has finally stopped, there's nobody else I can write with, and if I called the record label, no one would be in. There's nothing else I absolutely could be doing except sleeping – and it's like, You know what? It's time for those people! Without them, I wouldn't have a career. That's what I signed up for – to be in communication with fans – and I like that. I want those lines of communication to be open forever." She adds, "I think people feel like they can talk to me, that I"m approachable and they can actually come up and have a conversation with me." The only one thing that matters is to know and see the impact her songs has on the lives of her fans. "Listen, if my music is that important to me that I'm going to write autobiographical songs – we've covered that my songs are all about touching people in one way or another. If I'm going to put my heart into my songs that much, then I want to hear what it's actually doing."

By the looks of it, Kristina is doing quite well – here's wishing her continued success!

STAR Country!

Photo used courtesy of Kristina Cornell
Kristina signing in her booth at Fan Fair, 2007

You attended your first Fan Fair as an artist, and your booth was beautiful!
Kristina: Thank you! Now that, I would love to take credit for, but I didn't do that! I felt so spoiled! Usually, I'm rolling my sleeves up and getting in there. But, my road manager said, "You need to be here on this day and this time." The first thought I had was, What about my booth? He went, "It's already set up." He was like, "You were actually going to come and set it up?!"

How have your experiences in acting and modeling helped prepare you for the music business?
Kristina: Entertainment is entertainment. Of course, being behind a camera and being in front of thousands of people. You learn how to hold yourself in a professional way and kind of, how to act around people. Seriously, I know that sounds silly, but there are so many people in Nashville who are in the music business. You could be in a restaurant eating fried chicken, and the guy right beside could be the president of Sony. You just never know. Modeling and acting definitely taught me poise. Acting is so much different than singing. But, it is very honing on performance. Doing my very first of my own videos, "Little Red Balloon," I went in knowing what to expect. They didn't catch me off guard, and it didn’t take days. It took just a few hours for my part, and we were on our way. I feel like I've been schooled my whole life to get me to this point."

What words of wisdom can you offer people aspiring to "make it" in this business?
Kristina: My advice to any up-and-comer is this: It is 95% tenacity and 5% talent. You have to put your head down, strap that shoulder to the treadmill, and walk and walk, because if you know that that is what you're supposed to do, then nobody can take that away from you. Don't mind what other people say, just keep going. Sometimes I feel like I'm on a treadmill walking really fast – and nothing’s happening! But, doors will open for you. I guess you have to have some narcissism, because you have to think that you are somebody, that you can do this! I think if you cross the line into being cocky, you'll get shot down in a heartbeat in Nashville. I also think if you want to be a country music artist, you need to live here and see what the culture is like – because it's different from everywhere else in the world. You have to build relationships; it's a very relationship-oriented business. You are the president of YOUR company, of your business, so you"ve got to be on it everyday! Start now; everyday I remind myself that I am the owner and CEO of Kristina Cornell, Inc. and decisions that get made – whether I make them or not – fall on my shoulders. I think the biggest part of the job is not letting other people decide who you are at the end of the day. You decide who you are and just go for it!

Photo used courtesy of Kristina Cornell

What is the source of your boundless energy?
Kristina: Well, let's think about this. I don't do drugs. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I exercise like a crazy person. I drink water like I'm never going to get anymore. I don't eat sugar. I have to get seven or eight hours of sleep a day. If I get four hours because I have to be up early to do an interview, then I will get three or four hours later in the day. If you prepare your body for each day and you prepare your mind, spirit, and heart, then I think you actually have something to give other people. And, you have to make time for yourself. Everybody is demanding and pulling on you, asking if you can do this or that. There has to be that hour or two where I say, "This time is for Kristina." I don't care if it's six o'clock in the morning; that's my time to spend for me. That's my way of preparing myself so that I can be upbeat and give to somebody else.

Of all the artists you’ve worked with, who has been your favorite?
Kristina: Lee Roy Parnell was one of the greatest people I've ever worked with in my life. He was just such a cool guy!

Have you written with him?
Kristina: No, I haven't, but I would love to! He's a great writer, and what a fantastic musician!

STAR Country!

Photo used courtesy of Kristina Cornell
Family ties: Kristina w/ her brother Ronnie and sister Tammy

Kristina has had several career highs this year. But, there is one experience she counts as one of her proudest personal achievements. She shares it here:

My sister was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer and had to have a bone marrow transplant, and I got to be the donor for that. This October will be three years ago. She's completely healthy now. She's the president of my fan club. That's something that really means a lot to me. I try to stay involved in Lymphoma societies. I think it's important that people get out there and donate and blood and marrow if they can. You're giving life to somebody. Without me, she had no shot. When I think about what my sister went through with single mom, two little girls, and always maintaining a smile. She's a miracle of God, she really is! She's right up there with the parting of the Red Sea, in my opinion! She's a huge inspiration to me. If she can make it through that, this ain't nothin'!



Visit Kristina at http://www.KristinaCornell.com!!

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