Christian Kuria isn’t afraid of taking chances. As a matter of fact, his career has been a series of leaps and bounds that has gotten him here today with unexpected twists and turns along the way. His first project was released right on the precipice of the pandemic and he had to learn to maneuver the start of his career in isolation. But now, things are looking different and his career is burgeoning.
“I’ve been looking forward to this my entire life,” Christian Kuria announces proudly ahead of his Oakland, California show at the New Parish. It’s only a few miles away from where he grew up and he’s going to take a breather back home before playing a sold-out show, maybe have a home cooked meal. He grew up going to shows at this venue and this time, he would be the one taking the stage. “Touring is different than what I thought it would feel like,” he shares. What did he think it would feel like? He’s not really sure, but he says you don’t quite expect all of the logistics; getting on a plane, making sure your guitar sounds right at every moment. “You don’t think of all those things when you’re dreaming about it. But now I’m looking forward to the tiredness of the tour. I’ve always dreamt about the day when music makes me a super busy person.”
He was born into a musical family, it’s basically in his blood. His family was always involved in ministry and church music. His mother sang and his grandmother was a pianist, but it wasn’t until middle school when he became a bit more autonomous with music. “My friends wanted to start a band. And truth be told, I just wanted to be accepted so they told me I was the bassist,” he laughs. “I thought, ‘okay I guess I have to get a bass now.’”
Nobody in the band knew how to play any instruments at the time of their inception, they really didn’t know what it meant to be a band either, but that’s where he thinks his artistry really was born by being pushed into a creative corner. He used that opportunity to pick up a guitar, used that as a stepping stool to learn the bass, and eventually began to write songs for his middle-school side gig moonlighting at the local Battle of the Bands. He struck inspiration from listening to 90s and 2000s punk and grunge rock, which may be a surprise if you listen to his music now. “It wasn’t until later when I discovered John Mayer and that flipped my entire musical understanding,” he explains about his strongest musical influences. That’s really when he began to listen to Blues and R&B, giving him the blueprint for what his career would eventually look like one day. That’s when he truly realized the potential of the instrument he picked up years ago. “That’s the musical language I speak,” Kuria says about his guitar, a counterpart that feels almost innate to his musicality now.
“When I’m writing a song, I’m very selfish emotionally,” he admits. There’s a lot of honesty in his music, but sometimes he still learns new things about himself when he’s writing a song, whether it’s about his own feelings or perhaps a new skill. “There are a lot of moments where I’ll be singing the songs and I’ll discover all sorts of new perspectives, which is really cool.” This is especially true with the songs on his latest EP ‘Suspension of Disbelief’, which really forced him to do exactly that, suspend his disbelief.
“There are songs on the project that touched a frame of thought where, almost to your own detriment, you are hopeful. Whether it be in a romantic relationship, a family relationship, your own perspective on your own life,” he shares. This is not only true of his personal life, but also on a global scale. In a time when he was making music and building his career, the world was shifting and undergoing a change on a mass-scale with the pandemic. “You almost have to suspend your disbelief, you almost have to completely ignore the doubts,” he says. This project attempts to capture that feeling with its melancholy but blithe tracks, like ‘Deep Green‘, a standout.
“I love the juxtaposition of like, like a happy song, or bright sounding soundscape, with something that sounds tragic lyrically,” Kuria says. Isn’t that kind of the nature of the lives we’re living, he asks? He put out his project ‘Borderline‘ at the beginning of 2020 and the rest unfolded somewhat unpredictably. “I played one show in San Francisco and the next week, the entire world shuts down. How do you write about anything other than this massive emergency?” It was a challenge for him and he admits that the first few songs on his most recent project were written out of isolation. He even used this time to experiment and play with his sound a bit, resulting in what he thinks is now the strongest musical identity he has. “Our entire understanding of reality was so deconstructed and it was sort of the same with my own artistic identity.” Amidst all of this were small beacons of light, though and from that struck the inspiration for songs like ‘Toroka‘, which is named after the Swahili word for “escape,” a nod to his Kenyan heritage.
As he continues on his tour, which has taken him all around the world, and revels in all the tiredness that comes with it, he’s sure of one thing: that he doesn’t want to stop. He wants to keep expanding his creative pursuits, dipping his toes in new waters, and suspending his disbelief along the way. Who knows where it’ll bring him next?
Words: Anjana Pawa
Photo via: Press