The Savannah Music Festival is bringing musicians from around the world to the coastal city. But for singer-songwriter Kristina Train, it’s a homecoming.
Train was born in New York, but spent most of her childhood in Savannah. She grew up listening to her mom’s collection of classical, jazz, and alt country records, and playing the piano and violin.
“We took mother-daughter violin lessons and somehow she lost her violin but I still had to play,” Train says with a laugh.
Train’s sound has been described as “vintage” and “timeless.” You may have heard her covering Aretha Franklin’s “I’m Wanderin’” in a Lexus TV ad last summer. Her style has been compared to singer Norah Jones and, in a recent interview with NPR, Bruce Springsteen compared her to Dusty Springfield, the singer most famous for the soul classic, “Son of a Preacher Man.”
“What more can you ask for than the Boss comparing you to Dusty Springfield?” says Bill Dawers, an editor of the Savannah music blog “Hissing Lawns.”
He first heard Train’s voice when she was a teenager, singing the national anthem at a school event.
“And I remember being floored by the just the sheer strength and power and just the beauty of her voice,” Dawers says.
Despite those successes, the 32-year-old says her career has had its share of disappointments and closed doors. Train’s second album, named after the title track “Dark Black,” was released in the UK in 2012 - but not in the United States.
“The hardest thing is putting yourself out there and not knowing if it’s reaching a single soul,” Train says. “I think when you give away a piece of yourself, when you do write your own music, and when it does have significant meaning to you, you hope that it translates to other people.”
Some of the meaning in her music is drawn from personal frustrations and losses - including the death of Train’s cousin in 2009 and a divorce in 2011.
But she says she’s ready for a new sound now. After three years in London, Train has moved back to the South - to Nashville - to work on a third album.
“It’s just time to lighten up,” she says, “Time to get happy.”
And getting happy means returning to her Southern roots.
“There’s a definite sound to the South. It’s a little bit lulling: There’s the rivers, the marshes, and that really reflects in songs and in music,” Train says. “I think it sounds like Georgia.”
This weekend in Savannah, Train says she’s ready to show off a whole new set list - and her lighter side.