Genre: Indie Pop | Americana
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Based In: East Nashville, TN
2020 International Songwriting Competition Finalist Winner
2009 International Bird Call Imitation Champion
From the award-winning gospel ballad "Pray For Rain" to the alt-pop single "Silly Silly Silly," Kristen Englenz makes wide ranging American music that blurs the boundaries between genre and generation.
It's a sound that's every bit as diverse as its creator. A classically trained pianist, Englenz studied the compositions of Chopin before adding John Coltrane, the Rolling Stones, Lucinda Williams, and Howling Wolf to her list of favorites. She focused on Fine Art in college — an education that taught her to combine traditional techniques with personal interpretation — and began writing original songs in her dorm room, taking inspiration from unlikely places. Even the birds outside her art studio seemed to have something to teach her. Englenz fell in love with their melodies and learned to repeat them with her own voice, eventually winning the International Bird Call Imitation competition in 2009.
Englenz's voice soon brought her to Nashville, where she became a fixture of the city's songwriting community. Years before "Silly Silly Silly" reintroduced her as an indie-pop innovator, she made her debut with 2016's Extent of Play, a folksy EP rooted in acoustic guitars, personal storytelling, and the smoked-glass swoon of Englenz's vocals. She widened that sound considerably with her full-length debut, ingénue, which arrived in 2020.
Produced by Wilco co-founder Ken Coomer, the album featured heartland folk-pop anthems like "Got Me With Goodbye" and bold rockers like "Rebound," setting Englenz's songwriting to a soundtrack of Telecaster twang, Gibson grit, and upright piano. ingénue also included "Pray For Rain," an atmospheric duet with The Blind Boys of Alabama. Shot through with haunting harmonies from the Grammy-winning gospel group and recorded at the iconic FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, "Pray For Rain" shone new light on Englenz, framing her as an Americana newcomer who could hold her own in the company of legends. One year after its release, the critically-acclaimed song was honored as a finalist in the International Songwriting Competition.
"Silly Silly Silly" marks the latest evolution of Kristen Englenz's songwriting. It's the brightest, boldest pop song in her catalog, laced with sparking synthesizers, a killer vocal hook, and a percussive pulse built for the dance floor. "I was listening to artists like Robyn and Sly and the Family Stone when I wrote it on my keyboard," remembers Englenz. After constructing a demo recording of the song — complete with stacked harmonies and throwback keyboard tones — she tapped Grammy nominee ( and fellow East Nashville resident) Aaron Lee Tasjan to produce. "I've always admired Aaron's creativity, because he seems to serve the song itself rather than serving a particular genre," she explains. "I wanted to do the same thing. 'Silly Silly Silly' uses colors and tones from different styles of music. Those sounds might be a little quirky on their own, but once they're incorporated together, they work in an interesting, unexpected way."
Unexpected, indeed. Already hailed as an integral part of Nashville's Americana underground, Kristen Englenz thoroughly redefines her sound with "Silly Silly Silly." The track is the newest chapter in a story that's still unfolding, with Englenz finding new inspiration in the thrill of discovery.
"I studied Fine Art in college, and you have to learn the rules — how to master perspective, shadows, shading — and do things the classical way before you can make art with your own interpretation," she says. "That's what ingénue was for me. It was my time learning the rules and using the tools in a more traditional way. It was my Blue Period as Picasso, and now I’m excited to explore and evolve into fun new soundscapes. I’m ready to enter my Cubism period and paint with new colors and shapes to see what that looks like."