Karisa Wilson is an award winning singer-songwriter from Michigan. Her debut album “Little Girl” won the WYCE’s Album of the Year Jammie, one of Michigan’s most prestigious indie music awards. Karisa writes and performs a blend of Indie pop, jazz and blues. She’s also a classically trained violinist.
Her name is Karisa. Ka-REE-sa. Please don’t say it any other way.
Drives her crazy.
Karisa is from the Greek, XAPIS. It means grace.
When they gave her that name, her parents could not possibly have known that they would leave her so soon. The day before Karisa turned 29, she lost her mom. The next year, she lost her dad.
Overnight, Karisa became an orphan and, along with older sister Zoe, surrogate mother to younger brother Nathan and little sister Vida, just 16 years old.
“Everyone knows the cliché,” she says. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Not surprising that’s the title she chose for her second album: Stronger.
“It’s a lot to deal with… the loss, the aftermath,” she says. “I started getting panic-y, and I thought, I have to keep making music.”
So she wrote a song, Stronger, inspired by a friend who had survived breast cancer. And it became a bit of a mantra for her journey back from loss and grief.
“I don’t want to dwell on the dark things in life,” she says. “The album is part of a conscious effort to focus on what’s good. It encourages me, renews me.”
Now an accomplished vocalist and guitarist, Karisa started her musical journey as a classical violinist. In high school she found her voice, and after college she picked up a guitar.
As she played local gigs in West Michigan, demand for her unique soulful blend of jazz, blues and folk—think eclectic Americana—grew.
She completed the recording and production of her debut album, Little Girl, in just eight months, and with help from engineer Greg Baxter and a few friends, managed every detail of the album, and planned every detail of the event.
The August 2007 release party at the historical Wealthy Theater in Grand Rapids, Michigan was an unexpected success.
“I was blown away when the event sold out,” she says. “They had to lock the doors.”
Karisa went on to capture the 2008 WYCE ‘Best New Artist’, as well as the coveted ‘Album of the Year’ Jammie awards.
Her parents are not here to witness her success. But their influence continues in her life every day as she works to forge connections through her music.
“I just try to be real,” she says. “I am writing from my life and experience. Rather than dance around and wear costumes, I try to get to that place in the music that is real.”
She says she can feel the moment when that happens, when performance becomes conviction.
“It’s amazing. People stop, hear, and take note.”
Karisa performs solo and with ensembles including Lou Musa, Curt Hines, and Michael Constantine (Lead Guitarists), Mark Lundell (Bass), Rob Mulligan and Eddie Eicher (percussion), and Joey Schultz (banjo). She has shared the stage with national artists Sam Phillips, Billy Bob Thornton, Talib Kweli, Tim Reynolds, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The Subdudes and many others. She has performed and recorded with national artist Brian VanderArk (The Verve Pipe), and has often been a featured artist in the Meijer Garden’s Tuesday Summer Concert series. Favorite venues include, Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, The Living Room and The Bitter End in New York City, Wheatland Festival, Detroit’s State Theater, Muskegon Summer Celebration, and several other songwriter showcases. Karisa has been featured in a host of publications and radio stations, and co-writes with songwriter, author and screenwriter Mark Barger-Elliot. She is a columnist for the music and entertainment magazine, Recoil.
She is a private instructor of violin, guitar and voice, and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband John.
Karisa Wilson performs – YouTube (4:28)
Karisa Wilson is West – YouTube (7:51)
Taste of Soul Sunday with Karisa Wilson – YouTube (6:01)
Karisa Wilson – Sad Portrait (songs from the second floor) – YouTube (4:15)
Karisa Wilson – Forest Walk (songs from the second floor) – YouTube (4:25)
A Family Affair – Karisa and Lucas Wilson – YouTube (4:19)
Karisa Wilson at Rocky’s Bar – YouTube (3:49)
Karisa Wilson & Sam Kenny – Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby Cover – YouTube (1:53)
Karisa Wilson – Dreams @ The Woods Lounge – 11/22/2009 – YouTube (3:47)
The Rockit King (feat. Karisa Wilson) “Dead Eleven Days” – YouTube (4:28)