Kirstie Kraus ’12
Natasha Takes on the World
Kirstie Kraus ‘12 explains building a successful music career as just like building any other successful business. You invest in the product, you build a brand, and you find a market.
Early in Kraus’ collegiate career at Edgewood College, she made a decision based on her entrepreneurial spirit: She was going to own her own business. That business was going to be her music.
For the past few years, she’s been doing just that in the epicenter of country music– Nashville, Tennessee. With her first original record coming out this year and her first national tour under her belt, Kraus is making her lifelong dreams a reality.
“I have documentation. In school, they have those papers that say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be…’ and I said, ‘A singer.’ I spelled it so wrong and drew a stick person saying ‘La La La,’” Kraus said. “So, I declared my path pretty young. I mean, at 2 years old I was jumping on picnic tables and taking requests.”
Originally from Janesville and then De Pere, Kraus grew up going to Madison for Taste of Madison and Art Fair on the Square. It was a natural choice to come to Madison for her higher education. She immediately started looking for opportunities to perform.
“When I first moved to Madison and made the decision to go to Edgewood College, I put out a lot of emails to bands in Madison. ‘Hey, I’m 18, I would love to sing back up or lead or I’ll just play the keys, whatever,’” Kraus said.
One night during her freshman orientation, she left campus to go audition for a local band.
“I joined the band right away, was running cross country, was doing a bunch of music classes. That year was a blur for sure,” Kraus said.
After four years of school, campus involvement, and playing shows, Kraus took a year off of music after graduation to focus on a new sales job in Verona.
She was the youngest at the company by far and ended up getting the entire Midwest region doing inside and outside sales.
After settling in, she joined the Sun Prairie band Crosstown Drive, and started the band Thirsty Jones.
“Thirsty rhymes with Kirstie and Jones is like our band family name,” Kraus said. “It was so much fun to watch how quickly that band grew and became one of the top five that played the local festivals.”
Her band was taking off, and so was her career with an IT company that gave her a flexible schedule.
She’d been doing gigs in Nashville since she was 11, but with this new professional freedom, she was able to start going every other month for a year. The next year, she started going every month.
“I was working the band schedule around trips to Nashville, and then I just decided to move there,” Kraus said. The IT business was booming, and she had to decide whether to pursue that fulltime, of go fulltime with music. She chose music.
“It’s been years now that I’ve been able to do music fulltime, pay my bills, and make a profit,” Kraus said. “Being able to be an entertainer makes all the work and emails and phone calls and being your own salesperson worth it.”
Kraus has spent her life building a brand and a business, and it’s all culminating this year with her record release.
“This is the first time I get to say, ‘Hey, this is me as an artist, not just a singer.’ This is my take on my music, this is my voice, this is what I want to say,” Kraus said of her record, which fuses country, 80s rock, and “a lot of funk.”
One of her singles, Gotta Do, has the line, “What works for me, honey, may not work for you.”
“People might look at what I’m doing and say I’m crazy,” Kraus said. “But this is what I’ve wanted since I was a little girl. This is my job and my life. I’m going to continue writing, performing, and doing what I love.”