She sits in front of the warm glow of a computer monitor. Her left hand reaches out to gingerly touch the face of an electronic piano keyboard. The keys black and white contrast each other nicely in their systematic rows.
Her fingers tap lightly, while a backing track plays through speakers placed surrounding her on a table in this creative space. To her right is a machine with glowing buttons calling out to be pressed. They flash bright lights.
This device is used to interject samples and sounds into the recording program she loads off the hard drive, resting near the glowing computer screen.
The space is where she does her work, making music and putting into practice skills she’s learned.
She’s from the Battlefords, but went away and returned. You might have seen her around. Going by the stage name Zayda, she’s played multiple events and venues in the community.
Of the many performances, you may know her best from Live at Lunch, Night Markets at Splish Splash, the Dekker Centre, Open Mic at the Downstairs, or performing at recent festivals and gatherings. She’s also performed at events in Saskatoon, most recently the Saskatchewan Food Truck Festival.
When it comes to her musical background, Zayda (Brittany Keller) says a big part of her influence is from family. This influence pushed her all the way to Nelson, B.C., where she enrolled in the Contemporary Music and Technology program at Selkirk College. There she had the opportunity to learn from recording artist Kiesza. Kiesza is most known for her hit single Hideaway. Kiesza also went to Selkirk College, is originally from Calgary, and has since moved to New York.
“She was really inspiring to work with,” says Zayda, reminiscing about her time in Nelson.
Not only was Zayda involved in workshops and producing a gala event with Kiesza while at Selkirk, she spent three years there gaining two diplomas while taking a double major and graduated in 2016.
She says her first year was general studies, then in her second she studied audio engineering and music production. In her third year she studied performance. This performance year was one of her favourite experiences, getting to work with her own band, and also planning a showcase with many others.
She had to pick all the musicians she wanted and all the songs. She chose to do all originals, except for two songs.
“It was really, really fun planning my own show and watching it come to life.”
Since graduating, she’s moved back to the Battlefords to be near family and work hard to pay off some school debt. Zayda works full time at River Heights Lodge as a food service worker and also works at the Dekker Centre when she can. She’ll work box office, lights, sound, whatever they need her for.
Speaking about family, she relates how she was musically inspired.
“I guess I’ve been singing mostly my whole life,” she says.
She tells how her grandfather was in a band that toured, and that her mother plays guitar and sings. She fondly remembers how at Christmas her mother would break out a songbook, sit on the bed with her and her brother, and sing them Christmas songs while playing her guitar.
She also remembers frequent family reunions with extended family. Uncles, cousins and others would gather around the fire to join in for a proverbial campfire sing-a-long.
It’s from those experiences Zayda took to picking up a guitar when she was 10 years old, and mostly taught herself. Before picking up the guitar, she had taken piano lessons for a few years. She’d participated in Kiwanis music festivals during that time. She really enjoyed sitting down at a piano and playing, but eventually gave up the lessons because she wanted to learn to sing.
At the age of 14, Zayda started taking singing lessons. At the same time, she also started recording her own stuff on the computer. She says she used a program called Mixcraft her parents bought for her. She used the program up until her first year of college at Selkirk, when she was introduced to the types of software they used.
“It really helped me get out of my comfort zone,” she says speaking of the school experience. “I used to be really nervous performing and felt like I couldn’t actually express my talents in a performance because I was so nervous.”
Being at school really helped with that, she says.
The teachers there were really encouraging.
There, Zayda was able to play with several bands and is still, through long distance, in one of those bands.
They’re called Pareidolon and most of the band is based out of Vancouver, where they live. Considered a progressive metal band, they currently send Zayda songs to which she’ll write lyrics, record demos and send back the material. Then when she goes to visit, she’ll hopefully get to spend some time in the studio where one of the members works, to lay down some tracks.
The group has an album called Aporia and is available on most music platforms. This first album is from when they were all in college and recorded it there.
For her future in music, Zayda says she has personally recorded many of her songs in the past and wants to record more in the future. She has two songs available on several music platforms. If you search on something like Apple Music you can find two songs by her: Watchdog and Rhett.
Currently, she has 10 songs that need to be finalized and mastered, but says she’s also started writing a whole other album.
She says she’d like to apply for some funding, and hopefully go to a nice studio and get a demo recorded from her work. She says she wouldn’t mind having something done locally in Saskatchewan; a local homegrown album.