Chicagoan Kiara Lanier shows audiences ‘American Idol’ quality

Kiara Lanier pic

Kiara Lanier’s cousin encouraged her to try out for American Idol.No stranger to performing on the big stage, her music is a blend of soul with a twist of jazz, electronic, neo-soul and alternative. And judging from her success on the top-rated television show, this is only the beginning. tony binns

Tell us about your American Idol experience.

I learned a lot from the American Idol experience. When you are in any kind of competition, you are being compared to people from all over the world. You inherently question and compare yourself … you need to be your truest self. That experience has helped me to really be my “truest” self — musically, in my heart and in my spirit.

How would you describe your sound?

I don’t generally live in one kind of category. Musically, my father brought me up on house music, reggae, James Brown and Dusties; whereas, my mom liked R&B, old ballads, classics and hip hop. I came into punk, electronic and alternative when I was a teenager, so I’m now bringing all those elements together. 

What is the title of your first EP?

The name, Tongues and Teaspoons, comes from two phrases from my grandfather. One being, “The only purpose of the tongue is to teach and heal” and in the second one he said that his knowledge could only fill a teaspoon, but he stays thirsty and he stays thirsty for scriptures. So this project is a lot about defining identity — nationally, spiritually, geographically, etc. — both the seen and unseen. 

What was it like performing for President Obama?

It was a great, great honor to perform for the President. I was invited by way of Theaster Gates, who is like the modern-day Michael Jackson of contemporary art. I met Mr. Gates through Khari Lemuel, who is a world-renowned cellist and vocalist and now my right hand man. We had a lot of fun; we will also be playing again with Theaster Gates in his 13th Ballad entitled The Accumulative Affect of Migration 1-3 at the Museum of Contemporary Arts on May 17.

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