R&B singer makes her Columbus debut with 'From Then' EP
Growing up, Kristan Omor didn't stay put for long. Her mother specialized in opening casinos, so her family would move to cities like Memphis, Biloxi and New Orleans, open a casino, then pack up and move again. After leaving Chicago when she was six months old, Omor moved 13 times.
Her father could rarely find a job in the same city, so, to help bring some stability, Omor's grandparents moved in with her family when she was 7. One day, Omor's grandma heard her singing in the back seat, and she liked what she heard.
“She'd make me put on these mini concerts after school every day. She would pick the songs, and some of them were not age appropriate. I was singing songs about making love and stuff at 8 and didn't know what I was singing,” said Omor, laughing. “I spent like eight years doing concerts at home for grandma, but it was just with her. My mom didn't know I could sing until I was 16 when I sang at an open mic in high school.”
Omor got more serious about music when she attended the University of Pennsylvania for marketing and landed a spot in a cappella group the Inspiration, which led to gigs at the Washington National Cathedral and a performance for Aretha Franklin. She also joined a hip-hop group, Like Mindz.
After relocating to Columbus in 2010 for an ill-fated job with Abercrombie & Fitch, Omor enrolled in singing competitions, getting cut just before the TV round in “The X-Factor” tryouts and making it to the top 10 in Andre Harrell's Superstar Soul Search, a contest put on by the Uptown Records founder and former CEO of Motown Records. “You entered your original music, and then people voted for it. I got sent to Detroit to audition for [Harrell] in person,” Omor said. “It was cool to have my original music appreciated by so many people.”
Last year, Omor decided to finally record an EP of her own music and flew to D.C. to work with producer/musician BrotherSpanky, her old bandmate from Like Mindz. The two worked on songs that eventually became From Then, a five-song EP Omor will celebrate with a release show at the Harmony Project Community Space on Saturday, Dec. 16.
The songs were informed by the '90s R&B Omor grew up with and the Philadelphia soul sounds that surrounded her at Penn. “There were all these songs we'd written in college that no one had ever heard before, and I felt like I needed to get those out. I needed to close that chapter,” she said. “I wrote a lot of sad songs, heartbreak songs, relationship songs. I called it From Then because it's like you're time traveling — this is the old Kristan.”
“And I hadn't performed any original music in Columbus; it had always been covers,” she continued. “I wanted to put something out here and have people know I'm an original artist.”