No place to hide for a shy singer now a rising star
Talented young Cornish songstress Kezia never set out to be a performer, but tempting invitations just keep winging her way.
With a debut EP of sensitive ballads hot off the press, recorded with the renowned producer John Cornfield, the 21-year-old's name seems to pop up in most references to fresh Westcountry talent.
And this shy girl from the former mining town of Camborne can boast an impressive gig list stretching through to the autumn.
It includes her own show at the University of Falmouth Performance Centre next week, a support with rising pop folk star Lucy Rose later this month, and a slot at the Kaiser Chiefs-curated Eden Session later this summer.
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"I don't really know how it's happened," confesses Kezia. "It really is the very opposite to my nature – I'd really prefer to hide."
She has, however, always loved music, she had piano lessons as a child and always wrote poetry and stories.
"I always thought that was the direction I would go in," adds Kezia, who took one year of a creative writing degree course at Falmouth, before dropping out.
"I don't come from a particularly musical family. Lots of my aunties sing and play. My mum liked John Denver and The Dubliners and I did too because I really enjoy voices.
"I kind of discovered the music I liked on my own, though."
As a teenager she found inspiration in the Lost in Music record shop in Camborne where she spent her pocket money.
"I would pick up the first album cover I liked the look of and see if I liked the sound of it, and I asked for recommendations," says Kezia.
Her sweet, but mature, expressive tones have been compared to Laura Marling, although she cites much older influences.
"I went through a few phases; I started out liking a lot of traditional folk music, then I moved on to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Leadbelly blues," she says.
"Then there was Fats Waller; he had such great big hands and would try to fit my fingers around the chords he was playing."
Eventually Kezia caught up with more contemporary sounds and started going to local gigs and festivals, then writing her own songs.
But performing was another matter altogether until one day, urged by friends and family she got up with her guitar in the Jacob's Ladder in Falmouth.
"It was awful, I think. I was doing long old ballady folk songs," she recalls. "Fortunately I had another gig booked the next night in Penzance, otherwise I don't think I would ever have done it again."
At the show she did meet lots of like minded young musicians, including another singer songwriter called Jack Mullen, and the pair have been great support for each other as their individual journeys progressed.
At first Kezia was so scared of singing in front of people that she would shake from head to toe before and during a gig.
One reviewer observed the authentic folk warble in her voice – in reality, she confesses, merely another physical manifestation of her excessive nerves.
"I still can't eat on the day of a show, but I am getting better," she says.
Kezia's proper jobs include running a music group for adults with learning disabilities and care work. In September she goes back to university at Falmouth to study History and Archaeology.
"Because performing is so unlike me, I need something quite to be getting on with," she laughs. "And I can never look at my gig list in its entirety – it's too scary."
So, here are just a few highlights from the ever-growing list.
An Evening with Kezia is at The Performance Centre, Falmouth University on Thursday, May 9. Other forthcoming live dates include tomorrow, supporting Cosmo Jarvis at The Barrel House Ballroom, Totnes; and May 17, opening for Lucy Rose at Princess Pavilion, Falmouth; May 24, supporting Ruarri Joseph at The Live Room, Taunton. She plays at the Eden Sessions on June 29.