Interview by Kit Burns
Katie Marie is probably one of the youngest singer/songwriters that you’ll read in these pages. The fact is, the talent pool among twentysomething musicians is a tad shallow at the moment, especially when it comes to female solo acts. The problem is the cookie-cutter assembly line that cranks out either Britney (and probably soon Colby) clones like there was no tomorrow. But Marie takes a different approach, finding inspiration in the soulful grooves of ’70s pop and R&B.
Kit Burns: You’re only in your early 20s yet you’ve already released two albums. What progress do you feel you’ve made creatively – in other words, lyrically and musically – between both CDs?
Katie Marie: The first album Reach For Me was released when I was 19-years-old. I was fortunate enough to work with a great producer, Bernie Larson, who was my first mentor in the music industry. Bernie, having written or co-written 9 of the 10 songs on the album, “coached” me through the process of recording these songs, seeing that this was my first experience recording original songs in a studio. The third song on the record “Cold, Cold World,” had originally been recorded by a rapper that worked with Bernie, but Bernie and I decided to re-write the song with more of an R&B feel so that I could record the song. This is the only song I co-wrote on the Reach For Me album but I feel that it was a great creative learning experience and a great introduction into the world of writing music, which lead me to my second album Share My Air, half of which I wrote. For the Share My Air album, I worked with a different musician/producer, PJ Olsson. PJ is the current lead singer of the Alan Parsons Live Project and was the second wonderful mentor that I had the opportunity to work with. The goal for the second album was to get more involved in the writing aspect of music now that I had experience recording an album. PJ and I began by writing a few songs together as a way of introducing me to this side of music, and we worked so well together that those few songs turned into a full album. Before I began working with PJ, I had been writing lyrics in journals and while working with PJ, I was able to pull ideas and thoughts from these journals and make them part of our song collection, as well as writing new lyrics for the songs throughout the process. PJ encouraged my creativity and challenged me every step of the way to put everything I had into each and every song. I feel that the opportunity to first record an album with direction from a producer, and then co-writing and recording a second album with a different producer, was a wonderful progression for me creatively. It gave me a great chance to learn from two different, very talented musicians, with very different styles and allowed me to take on a creative style of my own. It helped me learn how very involved songwriting is and how the lyrics, melodies, harmonies, and instruments all fit together to give the song the message and the feel that was intended from the writer’s perspective.
Burns: There’s a distinct ’70s vibe that I sense on Share My Air. You weren’t even alive yet in the ’70s. How did that come about?
Marie: I’ve actually heard that comment quite often about the Share My Air album, and I think that because I listened to music from that time period when I was growing up. Some of the melodies that give a ‘70s vibe came quite naturally to me. When PJ and I were developing the melodies for some of the songs, I had a natural tendency to sing ‘70s melodies and harmonies. I’m sure this tendency was a result of growing up with those sounds as well as working with PJ, whose “’70s vibe” influence rubbed off on me.
Burns: What records did you listen to growing up that weren’t part of your generation? For instance, music that you picked up from your parents?
Marie: I listened to quite a few records that weren’t necessarily a part of my generation and most of those did come from my parents, my dad in particular. Some of the artists that I heard around the house were Rod Stewart, the Eagles, the Beatles, and of course my favorite still today Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable album (which I enjoy listening to in the remade version by Natalie Cole).
Burns: How old were you when you made the decision to break into the music industry? What inspired it?
Marie: For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for music. I’ve always been inspired by the message that can be sent through a meaningful song, and I’ve always dreamt that someday, my songs could inspire people in the same way that so many songs have inspired me. From the time I was young, I was always heard singing around the house and imitating famous artists, and through it all, I developed my own style of singing. Throughout my high school years, I was a very serious student and so made my education a priority. However, I never let go of the passion I had for music. After my freshman year in college, at the age of 18, I decided to go out to a local recording studio and record three songs that I had gotten instrumental tracks to. After hearing my three-song demo, my dad saw potential in what I could accomplish and contacted musician/producer Bernie Larson, who lived in the area at the time. Bernie saw the same potential as my dad, and that is what led me to record my first album.
Burns: The music business can be cold and ruthless. Were your parents supportive of it as a career choice?
Marie: My parents were very supportive of my involvement with music from the beginning and still are to this day. My dad actually made the initial contacts with both Bernie and PJ, without which, I never would have recorded an album or gotten into songwriting. I definitely would not have experienced half of what I have in music without the support of my parents, and I will be forever grateful to them for the opportunities I have had. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Burns: How much input did you have in the musical direction of Share My Air?
Marie: When I started writing songs with PJ for Share My Air, I took many cues from him. This being my first major writing experience I was timid about expressing my thoughts and feelings on paper and then translating them into songs. As I mentioned before, PJ is a wonderful mentor who did a good job of encouraging me along the way and his passion for writing rubbed off on me. I guess all the encouragement paid off because when it was all said and done. We each wrote half of the record, with PJ performing much of the instrumentation, me writing most of the lyrics, and a joint effort between us for the melodies.
Read Full Post »