How Scarborough R&B songstress Loony made the most of lockdown
Loony’s burgeoning musical career started to really heat up at exactly the right moment to have the flames extinguished by a certain global pandemic two years ago, but she’s rebounded from what could have been a fatal loss of momentum in fine style.
Indeed, the 20-something Scarborough R&B songstress born Kira Huszar is belatedly giving last year’s exceptional sophomore EP “soft thing” the proper hometown send-off it was never really allowed to have at the time of its June release with the biggest show she’s played to date in Toronto on Friday at the 1,400-capacity Danforth Music Hall. As it turns out, she’s managed to sustain that momentum under duress, after all.
“It’s definitely exciting. And a little nerve-wracking,” says Huszar a mere two sleeps before the gig. “It’s been so long since we put out tickets and every three months, y’know, it feels like we’ve changed locations to a bigger venue so that definitely makes it feel like a bigger deal. So I’m definitely excited but also a little anxious, as well. But mostly excited.”
Head-turning, widely praised singles like “White Lie” and “Some Kinda Love” and the proclamation “I love that Loony!” from none other than Sir Elton John on his Beats1 radio show — “That’s crazy sh- and I still don’t think I’ve fully absorbed it,” admits Huszar — were teeing her debut EP “JOYRiDE” up to be a bigger deal than anyone had anticipated, only to see it subsequently released precisely one month into the first of Toronto’s numerous lockdowns. Rather than let the abrupt derailment of her big coming-out get her down, however, Huszar and her go-to production collaborators Adam Pondang and Akeel Henry and, a little later, vocalist Nevon Sinclair found themselves “a little pandemic house” and immediately set to work on a follow-up record because … well, no one had anything else to do.
“I ended up quarantining with my producers so that was a whole experience,” chuckles Huszar. “But when the pandemic hit it felt super-hard not being able to create with the people who I normally make music with, so we ended up just renting this Airbnb – in Scarborough, of course – and locking in for a month, almost two months, and we made what we thought would be the next project. And once we had that sort of ‘mock EP’ done we just kept replacing songs and adding new ones as the year went on.”
The results of all that COVID-era labour were eventually unveiled as “soft thing,” a syrupy dollop of subtle, lovestruck late-night soul in the vein of Erykah Badu and D’Angelo that sagely lets Loony’s golden voice do most of the heavy lifting. Once again, heads were turned and praise was plentiful and Huszar even got to do a short tour of the U.S. — including high-profile festival dates at the Governor’s Ball in New York and Day N Vegas in (yup) Las Vegas — before everything went to hell and everyone was stuck at home again in Ontario.
“We really got in right as soon as things cleared up and got out right as things shut down again and no one in my band caught COVID. I feel super-grateful that I was able to get my feet wet in that time and build up this show,” she says. “I’m kind of shy, to be honest, so ‘live’ takes a lot out of me. But I’m here for it and I think I’m learning to love it even more even though it’s not the easiest, most intrinsic thing for me. It’s just crazy that something you made in your room or in a basement in Scarborough with some friends of yours resonates with people. It’s probably the best feeling ever.
“Also my band is insane. They’re so talented and they have so much charisma and they’re just amazing musicians so having them have my back feels like a little secret weapon. Being able to be out there, especially at a festival, it really feels like I can hold my own even on days when I’m feeling insecure and unsure of myself because I have this great team of people behind me who are all superstars.”
After Friday’s Music Hall performance, Loony and her accomplished band – directed by Drake drummer Adrian Bent and featuring Jonathan Aristide on bass, Kevin Ekofo on guitar and Jonathan Gateretse and Sidone Harrison on keys, are scheduled to make the trek to the Montreal Jazz Festival in July but, for the most part, she plans to split the summer between Scarborough and Los Angeles “trying to figure out what a new project would look like and trying to test myself creatively” in hopes of finally putting a record out under normal circumstances.
And yes, Loony prefers it known that she hails from from Scarborough, not Toronto, thank you very much. Like Oshawa’s Dizzy and Jessie Reyez or Brampton’s Alessia Cara, Huszar wears her suburban stripes proudly. She even brought media out to a pub in her very own neighbourhood for her very first industry showcase in late 2018 rather than making the traditional trek downtown herself.
“That was such a special night. That bar is one of the only bars in my neighbourhood and it’s literally a five-minute walk for me so that was such a fun night and it really was super-special,” says Huszar. “It’s a very ‘Scarborough’ thing to be proudly ‘Scarborough.’ I can’t speak for other places, but I feel like if you’re from Scarborough and you’re not, like, loud and proud about it then you’re kind of not from here.
“It’s such a big city and there are so many pockets and places with their own cultures but I feel like there’s something in the water over in the east end and I don’t even just mean Scarborough. Like, how many crazy, crazy people come out of Durham? It continues to shock me.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION