Unknown Legends: Kiley Dean
In a long and in-depth interview for Rolling Stone interview series Unknown Legends, Kiley Dean shares her experiences about singing on tour with Britney, Madonna – for three tour in a row – recording with Flo Rida, Timbaland, and Bubba Sparxxx, and beating breast cancer.
Here are a few of the things she had to say about working for and touring with the Queen of Pop.
On how she got a call and got the job as backing singer on the Sticky & Sweet Tour:
I get this call from ‘NSync’s musical director I had met 10 years earlier. He goes, “Madonna needs a new singer. We need you to come in quick since we’ve brought in some girls and they’re not cutting it.” I went in and I killed it.
About what was it like auditioning for Madonna:
It wasn’t intimidating for me. I guess it’s just part of the world I grew up in. I walk in with these heels on and I own it. But she carried this really heavy, strong — as tiny as she is, she carries a very strong presence. I remember being like, “Oh damn, that’s Madonna.”
The first thing she said to me was, “Take those damn heels off.” [Laughs.] I’m really tall and I had these heels on. But I went in and killed the audition. And then I was her background singer for many years, the next three tours.
About rehearsing with Madonna:
I have never in my life worked with anybody who rehearses like this woman rehearses. It is wild. Even now, she’s going out on tour and, I believe, her rehearsals will start in February. She doesn’t go out until July. That is five months of rehearsal!
Some people love it. I do not like the rehearsal process at all. But it is wild. I’ve never seen somebody with a work ethic like that. I was like, “This is what it takes to be great. This is what it takes to be on the level that she’s at.”
She had a hand in every single decision, down to the eyelashes that we wore. I swear. I kid you not. She would come up and look at my outfit and go, “What lashes are those?” I was like, “Oh my God. This woman is amazing.”
We started out with just the band. Dancers do their thing in a whole other area. And there was a couple of months with just us. Then it turns into production rehearsals where where we all meet to put the show together. And she comes in and works with the band for a couple of hours. Then she peaces out and goes and works with the dancers. This woman is unreal. She goes into a whole different room and starts dancing. I’m like, “Oh my God.”
Slowly by slowly, bit by bit, this absolutely massive production comes together. And then we’re in Cardiff. That’s the very first show I did with her. The curtains drop and we’re in a stadium. I’ll never forget it. Every hair on my body stood up. I’d never experienced power like that.
On working together with backup singer Nicki Richards:
Very professional. We were very independent, but we come together and blend really well.
About her favorite Madonna songs to sing:
When we did “Take a Bow” in Macau, China, I was like, “This is next-level.” That was one of my absolute favorite Madonna songs. As little or big a fan of Madonna as you are, you’re going to know her music. She’s going to have touched your life in some way, shape, or form with one of her songs.
I think the coolest part is hearing her sing “Borderline” or “Lucky Star” or “Open Your Heart.” Those are always the ones where I’m like, “Wow, I forget how many years she’s been around, and how massive her hits are.”
About the MDNA Tour:
On that one, I became a little more open with the people I worked with. On the first tour, I was a little more closed-off. On this one, I befriended some of the dancers. I’d go out in these foreign places and just have a good time. That’s mostly what I remember. And working out a ton.
About singing lesser-known songs:
She had some really cool songs on that album. I like “Masterpiece.” I really like the piano one she did from that movie. She had some good songs on the record.
About the Rebel Heart Tour:
That was probably my least favorite tour, if I’m being honest. It was just where I was. I wasn’t in the space to tour anymore. I was ready to settle down. I got married on this tour. He proposed at the beginning of the tour, and we ended up getting married on a day off in L.A. in a chapel. I finished the tour, but I was ready to be done with that chapter of my life.
About doing 82 straight concerts:
It was a lot. And she was going out really late. She was going onstage two hours late. I’m not…it was just wild. People were getting angry. I was tired. I was tired. That’s me personally, though. I still love her. I love everyone I worked with. I was just done.
About going on tour again:
No… Let me not say “no.” If it was a residency, I could wrap my mind around that. But touring the world right now … it’s just not … I don’t think so.
Read the Full Interview at RollingStone.com.
Cover picture courtesy of kiley-dean.com.