Friday, March 31, 2006

Interview with Kate Laurel Smith

Welcome to the first interview for the The Walrus Report

On March 2nd I spoke with Kate Laurel Smith from Denver, Colorado

How did you get started in music?
I grew up surrounded by a culture of folk and bluegrass music and occasionally classic rock and roll (my parents, former-hippies, were great music enthusiasts who also; dabbled in folk instruments like mandolin, lap dulcimer and acoustic guitar and attended bluegrass festivals). When I was in first grade I started taking piano lessons, but they were inconsistent at best since I lived in the mountains of rural Colorado and my piano teachers kept moving away. My longest-standing musical commitment to date was the French Horn, the instrument I picked up in fifth grade band and took through college as my major. I graduated in 2003 with a BM in Music Performance, and have since gone back to my roots and decided that songwriting is much more suited to my life and vision as an artist.

How long have you been performing professionally?
Since the summer of 2003 (a little less than three years).

What is you motivation for playing professionally?
It's not so much "motivation" as it is "passion." And it is not so much "what you do" as "who you are." If you are a writer, there is a burn to create, and when so much of your life conflicts with your art (i.e., making a living), you are very willing to do whatever it takes to make your art the core of your lifestyle. The next natural progression in this step is to replace your income-earning with the business surrounding your art and passion.

Can you describe your music style for us?
I would fall most readily into the genre of "singer-songwriter," and my style within that genre would be most easily classified as folk or roots/americana since it incorporates elements of jazz/lounge, appalachian mountain folk music, alt-country, bluegrass, indie rock and pop.

What are some of your musical influences?
My most admired performers are all incredible writers (I can appreciate almost any style of music as long as the writing is compelling). To name a very few, I cut my teeth on Bob Dylan and the Who, started writing with the tunes of Natalie Merchant, Ben Folds and Over the Rhine echoing in my ears, and most recently frequent the discs of Damien Rice, Griffin House and the Counting Crows.

What inspires you when you write music and lyrics?
I am most likely to write words/melody in my head first nowadays, then go to an instrument and figure out how to adequately support it with an accompaniment. Sometimes I'll write simultaneously (words and music). Most of my inspiration comes from my observation of the world and my life's circumstances and all the thought processes that surround these. Hopefully I always have my spiritual eyes on during my contemplations. My biggest influence is the Truth.

What can people expect from a live performance?
An energetic and varied set depending on the mood of the venue and the audience. I often choose my set list on the fly when I'm onstage since I'm solo and I can do that without interfering with a band. This also applies to covers. I try to feel out what the audience would like to hear. In that way, it is very interactive. People can expect a variety for a solo performer (I'll play the keys sometimes, guitar sometimes, depending on the set). Every now and then a very talented cellist named Jason Embry sits in and adds a dimension I could never hope to achieve on my own.

What will someone walk away with after hearing a concert you perform?
Most of the feedback I receive from fans and new audience members after a performance is in reference to how much they felt through and related to my writing and vocal delivery. I have had folks write to tell me I "give them chills," "make them cry" and "help them have the most spiritual experience they can remember in years."

What can you tell us about your current project?
I am currently gearing up for my first professional studio project (after almost selling out of my first self-produced album Sometimes) in May. I'll be working with JP Manza at Colorado Sound in Westminster, the same studio and team of folks who have worked with Big Head Todd, Tim and Molly O'Brien and Norah Jones to name a few. I have a band of wonderful musicians coming alongside me for the EP, Confessions. It is a snapshot of the last few years of writing (a highly transitional time in my personal life) and will incorporate the universal themes of love, faith, love lost, forgiveness and loneliness. I hope to recut a couple of the most loved tunes from Sometimes at industry-standard quality so I can pursue radio airplay.

What is your opinion of the current state of the music industry?
Morally or technically? I believe the industry has always been about the marketing and money but is even more so today. A new musician is almost certainly asked to compromise some of their individuality and artistic vision for the marketing angle. It can be very discouraging for someone just getting started. I believe, however, that the face of the industry is changing due to the internet and several other strategic marketing aspects that were not present at the inception of the industry. Independent musicians have much more of a chance to succeed on their own while maintaining artistic integrity these days, and major labels are losing their appeal to the new crowd of musicians for this reason.

If someone is interested in booking you for a performance, what do they need to do?
It's really quite simple at this stage. :) Send me an email at and we'll work it into the calendar!

Do you have a web presence where people can check out your work?

thank you for your time Kate


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