Meet Kirsten Thien, a modern rocker with a bluesy, sultry voice often compared to Bonnie Raitt or Sarah McLachlan. But ask this petite redhead with the sparkle in her eye and she will tell you, “I probably sound closer to Olivia-Newton John!” She laughs.
This month Kirsten performed at Joe’s Pub in New York City with other women at a breast cancer fundraiser, “Covers For the Cure,” sponsored by SpinOdyssey and featuring artists covering songs by breast cancer battlers like Dusty Springfield, Shirley Horn, Olivia-Newton John, Marianne Faithfull, Carly Simon, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, and others.
The show’s producer, Danielle Diagonale (aka Justynn Daniels), has a relative struggling with cancer and felt it was important to be proactive and help all those struggling with the disease. The money donated through ticket sales was given to The American Cancer Society for breast cancer research via SpinOdyssey, an indoor cycling event she’ll be riding in this upcoming March.
Kirsten Thien also performed in the benefit “What Rocks?” at the Orpheum in New York City in 2006, singing alongside Bill Danoff, together belting out the 70s favorite “Afternoon Delight” (written by Danoff). She and fellow alum sang and did stand-up comedy to raise money for a screening room for her alma mater, Georgetown University.
Kirsten did not assume that she’d one day become a rock singer. Having grown up in a conservative Christian household in Southern Maine, most of her music experience came from singing in church. The rock she did listen to tended to be contemporary Christian, including early Amy Grant and Twila Paris. Others like Linda Ronstadt would later influence her songwriting. As a teen, she became a big fan of more typical 80s mainstream pop, like Boy George and Cyndi Lauper.
But it was the jazz and blues greats Kirsten learned about much later, upon entering Georgetown that truly moved her. Joining the youth jazz group, Federal Focus (its name from a political action committee that sponsored them), everything changed. Kirsten’s mentor gave her a series of music tapes from the 1920s–1940s. She spent hours listening to Bessie Smith as well as early recordings from Ida Cox and Ma Rainey. The music spoke to her.
Today much of Kirsten’s music centers on love—and surviving relationships. She hesitates when asked if her songs are about women’s empowerment per se. For her, these are “bittersweet songs,” but if they sound or feel empowering to women, that’s okay with her. Kirsten comments that women have their own interpretations of her songs. When she plays one in particular, “Thank You (for Saying Good-bye)”, she is always amazed that after the show, women come up to her to explain what the song means for them personally. Her song becomes their story.
“Thank You…” is about surviving a break-up and realizing the new life you have without that person might actually be a better one. Though the song tends to speak to women, Kirsten wrote it after being inspired by a male friend who endured a rather shocking, painful divorce that led him down an unexpected path toward happiness.
Kirsten’s path this year includes recording a new album for a 2008 release. She also continues to participate in benefit concerts every chance she gets. Raising money for cancer and the arts is important to her and she likes what happens when people come together for a good cause.
“Benefits always bring artists and people of different ilk together in interesting ways. I always leave the experience with new bonds!”