Kiesza, 'Hideaway' hit singer, talks about her journey

Canadian singer Kiesza, behind the hit dance song "Hideaway," talks to CBC News about life, music, a broken rib and her decision to join the Royal Canadian Navy.

Calgarian singer's video went viral early this year

Kiesza's rising popularity

8 years ago
Duration 3:05
Young Canadian singer is catching the attention of some big names in show business, Deana Sumanac-Johnson reports

Kiesza, the singer behind the hit dance song "Hideaway," wears her signature hairdo even in interviews: bright red curls piled high on top of her head and shaped like a punk mohawk.

"I do it myself," she says.  "I guess this is not one of the styles they teach hairdressers how to do in hair school."

"Do-it-yourself" seems to sum up the life philosophy of the Calgary-born singer, whose full name is Kiesa Rae Ellestad. Or at least, "do it your own way."

While her pop peers were cutting their teeth on Disney TV shows and talent contests, 17-year old Kiesza decided to join the Royal Canadian Navy.

"My brother signed up for the Navy, and I was really obsessed with sailing at the time. I tend to obsess over my passions," says Kiesza in her interview with CBC News.

"I loved the bootcamp and the training. It was the actual Navy and the structure after it that I realized wasn't for me because they're building soldiers. It's a system and you can't really stick out, you can't be the oddball out in the military."

But some lessons learned in the military stuck with her. It was there, during the Navy singalongs, that Kiesza taught herself to play guitar. 


10 facts about Kiesza

  • Real name:  Kiesa Rae Ellestad.
  • Born: Jan. 16, 1989 in Calgary, Alta.
  • At age 17 Kiesza decided she wanted to join The Royal Canadian Navy and in bootcamp was noted for her shooting skills. 
  • Competed in Miss Universe Canada in 2005.
  • Started writing music at 18 to help deal with her parents' divorce.
  • Moved to New York City in 2010 to advance her music career.
  • The "Hideaway" music video, which went viral, was filmed in one take.
  • Kiesza fractured her rib while shooting the video​
  • Received an MTV VMA nomination for ‘Best Choreography’
  • The song sold over 136,000 copies in its first week


She managed to get into the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she honed her songwriting craft.

"Simplicity is what I've noticed is the most important thing. Instinct," she says of the science of writing a pop song.

"I feel like, when you turn on the radio and you hear a great song, you know it's a great song and you sing along.  We all know what a great song sounds like so we all have that instinct, it's just being able to accept your own instincts when you write that song."

While the ubiquity of "Hideaway" on radio may make her seem like an overnight success, Kiesza was actually writing songs for herself and other artists (Rihanna, Kylie Minogue) before ever having a hit of her own.

"Hideaway" came out in early 2014, and hit number one on the charts in the U.K. before it got any attention in North America. By July, Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman were inviting her to perform on their shows.

The success of "Hideaway" was largely boosted by the music video. To date, it has been viewed more than 134 million times on YouTube.

In the single-take clip, the camera follows Kiesza as she performs a dance routine down city streets: an elaborate choreography that doesn't show the singer broke her rib during filming. Kiesza says she just pushed past the pain.

"I love to finish things," she says. "It was an advantage in the music industry because, I never thought I would, but I met so many people who just don't finish things. And there are so many talented people who could be successful but they just don't finish. So for me, setting the date for the "Hideaway" video shoot , it just had to happen."

Kiesza just finished one major goal: her first full-length album, Sound of a Woman is coming out next week