By Susan Poizner
Special to The Toronto Sun
She's small, with long dark hair and an infectious smile. But Kyra Levy's sexy and powerful voice could knock Madonna's socks off. Her band Psycho Key has just recorded its third album, Jetty. It's a compelling mix of rock, acoustic and world music. It instantly captivates the listener, and the more you listen, the better it gets.
"We wanted to get out of the rat race. We wanted to be closer to nature," says Kyra Levy on opening a recording studio in St. Lucia with friends.
Levy doesn't have a multimillion-dollar recording contract. Instead, the 29-year-old Torontonian has found another way to make the music she loves. She is one of four people to set up a recording studio near the rainforests of St. Lucia. The income from recording local artists and tourists helps Levy and her band continue their work.
Levy has already had a small share of fame. At 14 she landed the role of wheelchair- bound Maya on the popular CBC series Degrassi Junior High. She continued working on Degrassi for four years. But after graduating, the question for Levy was: What next?
Like other actors and singers, Levy juggled a number of jobs. She did TV and radio commercials, and acted in a few plays. She worked at the reception of City TV for a while and later became one of Much Music's voice-over artists.
And when acting work was thin, she took a job as a receptionist at a doctor's office. In 1996 she even worked with children at Club Med in the Dominican Republic. That's when her life changed.
"I met Nic when I was working at Club Med," says Levy, referring to her fiance and partner in Psycho Key (www.psychokey.com). "Within our first six weeks of meeting we wrote nine songs."
They then met Nicolas Jolliet, a Swiss musician who had come to the Dominican Republic for a holiday. "We started off as a duo, but six and a half years later we have a five-member world rock band and have already completed three albums," Levy says.
Levy suffers from the neuromuscular hereditary disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, which affects her legs and arms, making them relatively weak. She wears braces on her legs and walks quite slowly.
But it didn't stop her from travelling with Nicolas to India, Turkey and Central Asia to film a documentary. Her band has also done gigs all over France, where their music has been featured on local radio stations.
Their bread-and-butter income will now come from The Place on Earth (www.theplaceonearth.com), the recording studio they opened in St. Lucia with partners Clint Adjokha (who plays bass in Psycho Key) and his wife, Karen.
In addition to recording new and established artists -- they recently had Zjames, Rod Sewart's saxophone player who has also played with Eurythmics in the studio -- they are hoping to attract tourists who want to enjoy a tropical recording vacation that would be cheaper and more inspiring than booking a recording studio in Toronto.
Her band will be going on a European tour from June 17 to July 17.
"We wanted to get out of the rat race," Levy explains. "We wanted to be closer to nature and to enjoy the good weather.
"Our time in St. Lucia is like time in Paradise. And here Nic and Clint run the studio and I do back-up singing and administrative work."
But there's always time for developing and recording their own music -- the thing Levy loves to do best.
(Susan Poizner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a Toronto-based freelance writer.)
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