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Singer Kassie adds soul to The Big Chill

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Kassie Caines brings her soulful sound to Tony Brannon and DJ Felix Tod’s The Big Chill at venues across the Island each week (Photograph supplied)

Kassie Caines knew she had some pretty big shoes to fill when she signed up as headliner for The Big Chill.

The 22-year-old took over from Joy T Barnum as the popular group’s lead singer; prior to that she didn’t have a regular gig on stage.

A mighty set of chops and some good advice helped her through it.

“I had the opportunity to talk to Joy and she was so enthusiastic and gave me some tips for how to survive the season,” said Miss Caines, granddaughter of the late PLP leader Dame Lois Browne Evans.

“One thing she told me was there’s room in this industry and on this Island for two black girls with natural hair who can sing.

“Oftentimes people try to compare you to someone else, but Joy was so sweet and just told me to do my thing. If she does her thing and I do my thing and we celebrate each other in the process then that takes the pressure off.”

DJ Felix Tod and promoter Tony Brannon started the Friday night summer parties at the Sea Breeze Terrace two years ago. They’ve since expanded to The Dock at Waterlot Inn on Wednesday and Saturday nights and Pickled Onion on Sundays. Miss Caines and Mr Brannon also perform on Mondays at The Hog Penny Pub.

Miss Caines confessed she had to learn how to hone her voice in order to make it through the five nights — and sound good. “There would be some days I wouldn’t have any voice left,” she said. “I also had tonsillitis earlier this summer. I try to drink tea and lots of water and get lots of rest. I’ve also taught myself how to use different parts of my voice. Even if I’m hoarse the notes still come out okay, but in the beginning I was scared to go on stage when I wasn’t at my best.

“I would look at Tony and Felix and say ‘I don’t think I sound good’. But [Tony] told me it’s like walking and running a marathon. You have to build those muscles up.”

The group picked up a Best of Bermuda Award for Best Music Venue this year.

“It’s just been an all round good time,” Miss Caines said. “We do music across all the different genres and decades and we just have a ball. It’s hard to explain, it’s just one of those things you have to experience for yourself. The venues have great views, great food and music and it’s just a really great time.”

The trio started practising back in February. The Big Chill used to have a more “house, acoustic vibe” until Miss Caines added her soulful tone to the mix. She got her start singing in church and school choirs in Philadelphia; in her sophomore year she tried out for a solo. “I sang All of My Help Cometh From the Lord. It’s a Brooklyn Tabernacle song and the music director was completely blown away by the fact I hadn’t done anything like that before.

“He was known for being a very sarcastic man and would make lots of jokes, so the fact that he said, ‘Seriously, this is what you should be doing’ really resonated with me.

“It also boosted my confidence and after that everyone started looking at me like, ‘Why were you in the back of the alto section this whole time?’”

Her parents, Rev Kenneth Glenn Caines and Tina Evans Caines, were once well-known radio personalities. Dame Lois, who died in 2007, was Bermuda’s first female lawyer, the first black woman elected to Parliament, the first female Attorney General and the first leader of the Opposition. Miss Caines had to make certain that her own career path made sense to her.

“I come from a family of lawyers, which is a prestigious and legitimate job, so to go out and try to become a singer in a field that’s make-or-break was scary,” she said.

“Some people with the most amazing voices don’t even make it, so I had to learn how to trust my gift and just thrive in it. I feel really blessed to be able to sing as frequently as I do because of lot of Bermudian musicians don’t have that opportunity.”

Miss Caines hopes to write her own music and record her own songs.

• For more information visit www.the-big-chill.com or Facebook group “Big Chill Bermuda”.

Kassie Caines brings her soulful sound to Tony Brannon and DJ Felix Tod’s The Big Chill at venues across the Island each week (Photograph supplied)
Kassie Caines brings her soulful sound to Tony Brannon and DJ Felix Tod’s The Big Chill at venues across the Island each week (Photograph supplied)