Kiana June Weber

As the world’s pre-eminent Celtic Fiddler, Kiana June Weber has reached No. 1 four times on the Billboard World Music charts, been featured with the Grammy Award-winning Carlos Nunez, and toured with the Tony Award Winning Musical “Come from Away.”

Putting her accolades aside, we wanted to dig deeper into her fearlessness - her tenacious pursuit of a unique career path, her mission to make the world a better place through music, and her commitment to truly listening to her body and soul. Inspired by her courage, grit, talent, and generosity, here is her story.

You have led such an incredible musical career touring the world since you were 19, performing in front of millions of people, recording 4 global No. 1 Billboard hits. How did it all start? How did you have the courage to pursue this career?

I don’t know that I ever thought of it as courage at the time, but rather bravery to explore and try. Ever since I started playing violin I knew I didn’t want the traditional orchestra job, but I knew I loved violin. In high school, we flew to Reno to perform at the American String Teachers Convention. It was such an eye opening experience because it was really the first time I learned about all these “alternative” versions of what a violinist could be. It blew my mind!
I have always been drawn to women in the arts that choose the unconventional path - like Joni Mitchel for example, and this eye opening experience was just the spark to show me some options. I remember sitting on the plane flying back from that weekend thinking, “I wonder if I could do this … make a career as an alternative styles violinist.” There weren’t many examples of that at the time, and the ones that were examples weren't making a living at it. I just kept following the dream with open arms to see where it might go.

You talk about touring with Barrage as an “unpopular” decision at University of Michigan, and how it changed the trajectory of your career. What inspired you to do it anyway?

It was as simple as, “If I don’t try now, I’ll always wonder.” My dad backed me up too. As unpopular as it was, the feeling was this: school was always there. If this didn’t work I could always go back. However, touring with Barrage, the group that has truly blazed the trail, even I would say created the genre of this alternative music I love - THAT was a once in lifetime opportunity.

"I just kept following my dream with open arms to see where it might go."

Tell us about the brave decision in 2017 to leave your gig with the band Gaelic Storm and go out on your own?

That decision was a long time in the making. It largely just wasn’t feeling right anymore. I knew it in my gut - that deep sense of knowing when we really listen to ourselves. I think women have this so naturally, but we are taught again and again not to listen to it. Anyway, I pushed it down, tried not to listen, and as often happens, the suppressed feeling came out in other ways: pain in my shoulder, anxiety, lashing out, really terrible insomnia.

Eventually in the spring, I finally said enough is enough, I have to listen to this feeling, this knowing. It was terribly frightening because I didn’t have a plan - not at all. I have always said I’ll strike out on my own when ….. ( fill in the blank here) - putting it off until I have something certain set up, something stable and ready to jump in to. But the hectic schedule and pace of life in Galeic Storm kept me from doing anything else, from creating my own path. So I had to jump, with no net at all.

There were a few scary months, and then all of a sudden things started to click. I finally had time to rest and heal and I needed to do this first. And then, I started to look out at new things. People and opportunities started to find their way to me, and pretty soon I was getting calls from Grammy award winning artists, dance show producers, and Broadway composers.

Is this life of music and touring everything you dreamed it would be?

Yes and no. I always say to myself that living this way has the highest-highs and lowest-lows. There are sometimes when you look around at your life, and think, “Is this even possible? How is this real.” And others where I think people would be surprised at the lack of glamour and just sheer difficulty.

What has been the hardest thing for you about foraging this path?

Lack of female mentors, definitely. I really hope to change that for the next generation. I struggled at so many turns and often thought, “If I only had someone to ask.” I am delighted to say that this culture is changing.

"Complexity is the beauty of life. We are not meant to fit neatly into boxes."

You are passionate about helping musicians stay healthy while touring after taking a restorative life “pause” from your hectic life of touring. Outside of music, what are some of your hobbies and passions that help you take care of your mind, body, and soul?

It really hit home for me when I realized that I needed to heal physically and mentally before I had anything of value to add to the world. And I think in a strange way the world-wide pause of COVID has forced many other people to experience that in different ways. I am hugely passionate about artists’ mental and physical health. For me this has taken the form of physical fitness - I am a certified yoga instructor, but also really into running and hiking. I also love nutrition - there is nothing more directly important to how we feel that the fuel we put in our bodies, and I learned this the hard way touring. I ended up getting a diploma in Nutrition and Health Coaching to heal myself first, but it has ended up really being a way to connect with and help other others.

When you feel defeated, or simply worn down, how do you push yourself to keep going?

I feel like I have really learned that when those moments arise an element of self care and compassion is needed first. And then I push on by remembering why I do this. Reaching out to the world with music seems to be my voice, my way to help make the world a better place. I believe music has the power to elevate people and connect them, to teach empathy and social emotional communication and that is the kind of world I want to live in - one where people are kind, empathetic, and not afraid to be creative with their lives.

Tell us about a time where you felt you didn’t “fit in,” and how you reconciled that feeling.

I think that perhaps that is just something you start to care less and less about (thankfully). I have found it really hard sometimes feeling like my love for different things makes me not “fit” into either fully. Like having a foot in the classical music world and the Irish trad world makes me not fit into either, or that being American and Irish somehow makes me not fit fully into either place. I just have to remind myself all the time that complexity is the beauty of life. We are not meant to fit neatly into boxes and this is what makes the world interesting.

If you had to choose one piece of advice to the future generation that they would never forget, what would it be?

To remember to always back yourself. Support yourself, believe in your own worth above all else because there are so many people in the world to tell you otherwise. And to truly shine with your own light - it will attract the right kind of people into your life.

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