Kristen Mark Westwood is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer with a penchant for vibrant storytelling and poetic contemplation. Known for his deft musicianship, insightful lyricism and honest stage presence, fans have compared the Guelph-based Westwood’s organic confessional folk to the likes of Bruce Cockburn, Noah Gundersen and Iron & Wine.
His debut album, What I Heard, What I Saw (2019), offers a vivid 12-song folk meditation on stories pulled from the pages of the Gospel of Mark. Collaborating with award-winning producer/guitarist Murray Pulver (The Bros. Landreth, Steve Bell, Red Moon Road), Westwood renders flesh and bone, ache and longing to characters that have shaped conviction and creativity in the religious and irreligious alike for generations.
“Growing up in church, I heard these stories so often that I thought I knew them, but I was wrong,” explains Westwood. “This album was born from nearly a decade of unlearning and rediscovering, letting go of ‘knowing what it means' and getting to know these stories again like you would get to know a person. It’s my journey of stumbling through hard questions towards a kind of spirituality that is more honest, more gritty and ultimately more human.”
What I Heard, What I Saw was critically well-received, spending several weeks on Spotify’s New Christian Indie playlist (2019). The album was nominated for Folk Album of the Year and the single, “Oh My Beloved”, for Folk Song of the Year by the Gospel Music Association of Canada (2020).
Classically-trained as a pianist and guitarist, Westwood spent six years honing his songwriting craft while working as a student chaplain in Winnipeg and Saskatoon through the early 2010s. In 2018, he emerged as a promising Canadian songwriter, reaching the top-100 in CBC’s Searchlight Competition by popular vote for his song “Joshua,” and completing a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, where he focused on the material for What I Heard, What I Saw.
At home performing in multiple settings—from intimate house shows to packed concert venues—Westwood has toured across Canada, and performed in Europe and the USA. His most recent single, “Speak to the Night” (2020), is a poignant Christmas song co-written with his partner, poet Fran Westwood, to address issues of homelessness and displacement in their (then) home city of Toronto.