THE LANSING CITY PULSE
MARCH 24th 2020
Written by Rich Tupica
Known by her stage name, KANIN (pronounced “Cannon”), she’s spent the last year steadily gigging across the state playing three-hour shows while also recording new tracks on the regular. Aside from performances at Common Ground Music Festival and Lansing JazzFest, earlier this year she also performed at the legendary Blue Bird Café down in Nashville.
“I just started writing songs and really performing probably around two years ago,” said Thelen, a local eighth grader who not only sings, but also plays guitar and piano. “Actually, the first time I sang in front of an audience, I was up North. I sang karaoke in a local bar.”
Her mother Michelle Thelen, who helps manage the budding singer-songwriter, said that fateful karaoke night at The Alden Bar (now the Torch Lake Beer Co.) proved to be a pivotal moment.
“She got up there and people ignored her at first,” recalls the proud mom. “But as soon as she started singing, they put their forks down and she got a standing ovation at the end. She came back to the table and said, “Oh my, God! That was so much fun. I want to do it again.”
From there, the young musician never looked back.
“I really started at about 9-years old, just doing covers,” she said. “When I started singing in public it was mostly at hospitals, nursing homes and charitable events. I noticed at a young age that when I shared my voice, I could change how people were feeling in just a few moments.”
This week, amid the gloom of the pandemic, she drops a new single, “Torch Lake Breeze.” It’s a summery, Michigan-inspired original tune she hopes will brighten peoples’ days a bit. The song will be issued with two versions — a “sunset-bonfire” version and a dance mix. This is a follow-up to her 2019 single, “Looking at You,” a rustic-yet-poppy tune she cut at Glenn Brown’s studio in East Lansing.
“I’ve never been in love, so none of my songs are about that yet,” Thelen said. “A lot of my songs are about going up North in the winter to our cottage in Rapid City. They’re about friendships.”
Due to the lockdown happening across the state, a March 25 in-studio radio performance and interview at Lansing Community College’s station has been moved from their airwaves to a livestream broadcast via Instagram on LCC Radio 89.7-WLNZ’s account. The show airs from 8-8:30 p.m.
While the future is uncertain for area musicians, and with her school being closed; Thelen is using her free time to hunker down, write and record her forthcoming album. Much like her new single, the Great Lakes State heavily inspires the record. Looking back at her pervious works, the new album will likely span and blur genres.
Listen to her moody cover of “Hallelujah” and then spin her soulful Billie Eilish cover, and it’s obvious she’s already developed her own brand of indie-Americana. Her set list also comprises tunes from some of her other idols: Johnny Cash, the Lumineers and the Head and the Heart. Of course, as a toddler, age-appropriate heroes enamored her.
“I loved Disney music and things like that,” she said. “I was very into Disney princesses when I was little.”
As she grew, so did her list of influences, thanks to her parent’s being avid music lovers.
“We play music all the time at the house, more than television,” said her mother. “When she was really little, she just started singing all the time, emulating everything on the radio.”
Soon, the young vocalist was shooting for the stars, albeit from the family’s living room.
“When she was 6-years old, she told us she was going to win a Grammy,” her mother recalled. “Then, after that, every year on Grammy night she’d dress up in different outfits and accept her awards. I can’t imagine her doing anything else. However, we’re pushing for her to go to college.”
As for her live performances, KANIN is actually a duo. Backing her up are fellow teenaged musicians, guitarist Addie Martin. On top of that, she’s also already in the loop with some of Lansing’s music-scene veterans. Over the last couple years, while still in grade school, she’s worked alongside Donny Brown, Ricky Nalett, Kathy Ford and Rachel Curtiss.