Every Tuesday the popular bar, An Beal Bocht Café, hosts an open mic night. The event has been known to bring in a diverse group of artists, including R&B singers, guitar soloists and folk bands. The familiar atmosphere has been a haven for Jaspers for several years, and has seen its fair share of campus musicians take the stage. However, not many have made as strong of an impression as Kiri Cormack, a student in the School of Education. Her powerful voice graces almost every open mic night, and she has captured the attention of many An Beal patrons. Her beautiful renditions of songs such as Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” are consistently met with enthusiastic applause. Luckily, The Quadrangle had the opportunity to sit down with Kiri and ask about the story behind her talents.
Quadrangle: You have a really great voice, how long have you been singing?
Kiri Cormack: A long time. Yeah, since… I hate when people say “Since I could talk, I’ve been singing,” but it’s kind of true. I just used to sing a lot in the car. My mom would go to work and I would go into work with her and we would just jam out in the car. I’d also make up my own songs, singing in my hairbrush. I would always sing, and I’d get in trouble for singing in class. During tests, they’d ask, “Who is singing? Kiri, stop humming.” I wouldn’t even know I was singing, I’d be in my own world. I’m a weirdo.
Q: Aside from car jam sessions, have you had formal training?
KC: I tried for one year. I did musical theater, that’s what I went to school for at my first college. Then, I was required to take lessons at Berklee where we would do voice exercises, but I never really had a teacher.
Q: Why did you transfer?
KC: Well my first transfer [from Wagner College] was because I didn’t think I was cut throat enough to be in musical theater, on a professional level. I didn’t want it as bad as everyone else did. So I thought, “You know what, that’s a sign to me.” Through my two years there, I wrote a musical and put out two CDs, and I thought, “I’m a songwriter, I need to write,” so I went to Berklee. I think I realized then that with musical theater and with Berklee, I just didn’t want to be in classes that teach you music, I feel like that’s more something that I learn, that I self-teach everything. With piano, I just improve by playing on my own. With singing, I only improve with singing on my own.
Q: So your relationship with music is pretty much personal?
KC: Not solely personal. I still struggle with whether I want to do it as a living or not. But, going to school for it, no. Maybe taking occasional classes, but nothing that depends on a grade and graduating. That, to me, intimidates me. It should be more fun, and not cutthroat. Music is more therapeutic for me, is really what it is. Music is therapy.
Q: So the part that music is going to play in your future is still not decided?
KC: I think about it every day. My first step is to graduate with my masters and get it out of the way. I say it like I don’t love what I’m doing, but I really love education. But, the guys that are in my band that I met at Berklee have pretty much convinced me that I’m moving to Nashville when I graduate. It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere than New York. I am very fast paced, “go, go, go” all the time, I need to do fifty million things at once, but at the same time, I love everyone working together. I don’t like the cattiness, especially in musical theater.
Q: We’ve noticed you’ve done some interesting covers, so I’m assuming your inspirations are very varied?
KC: Oh yeah. All over the board. I listen to a lot of pop jazz. I love Jamie Cullum, I listen to a lot of Kings of Leon, musical theater. If you put my iPod on shuffle… I know that everyone says, “I like everything,” but I’m serious. I like country music, like I love, “America, drinking beers, yeah!” but I also love like jazz and all of that “[scats]”. People are like, “Who are you?” and I’m like “Yo, I don’t know, let me just do a tap dance and sing a melody.” Oh and I love rap. I listen to Drake all of the time, and I love Lil Wayne. People ask me, “Kiri, what kind of music do you play?” and I’m like “I don’t know. I don’t know what to call it.”
Q: So why did you decide to start singing at An Beal?
KC: Education has a lot to do with it. There’s a lot of reasons why I wanted to do [education]. One being that you have summers, weekends and sometimes nights. No matter what, I need to be around music, to have it in my life. I was looking for open mics, and I found “Tuesday nights at An Beal Bocht.” Living in OV, right next door, it was perfect. Literally next door, it couldn’t have been more perfect. This school is everything that I needed, everything that I wanted, and An Beal was right there. I’d only discovered it after I transferred and it was a sign that this is where I needed to be. This is it, found it, got it, third try’s a charm.
Q: How many years have you been doing the open mic night?
KC: I’m going on my third now, this is now my third year here. My friend Josh just came down to An Beal too, because my third CD is coming out, and he came down to perform some stuff.
Q: Do you put your CDs out yourself?
KC: Yeah. I’ve done everything. I mean, I have a sound engineer and a CD crew, but I write all of the songs and do everything else.
Q: Where do you record?
KC: Nashville. So that’s why they tell me I should just stay down there, maybe I will.
Kiri Cormack performs Tuesday nights at An Beal Bocht and can also be found on YouTube and at http://www.kiricormack.com.