You are considered a veteran in the music business yet you are only 24, is that right? What made you decide to pursue music at such a young age? When did you write your first song?
I was a middle child. My brother's older and autistic; and then my younger sister. So being a middle child I sang to get my parents' attention. I old hop up on the table and sing Ricky Martin "Shake Your Bonbons." It was sort of a call out and I loved singing. I wasn't even good. I was just loud. After September 11 was when I started writing songs. It changed for me the direction of what I wanted to do with the songs and the world I wanted them to live in. I was 13. Then I started gigging when I was 14 or 15. I would go and play my set and have to leave immediately because I was under 21. I didn't really start touring full-time until I dropped out of Berklee College of Music that's when I was like, "Well, I need to do this for real. " I think one of the things I'm lucky to have is the sheer lack of a back- up plan. So when things weren't working, it wasn't about doing something else to supplement it, it was about making it work. And it's been working so far.
Do you ever think you'll go back to school?
I think at some point, I'll probably go back to school. Just recently, I've been wearing a lot of different hats. One is as a songwriting instructor at festivals. And another is an advocate for national autism awareness. There is where some more education could help me a little bit more with things like diplomacy. I've always been one of those intuitive people. This is my lawyer's party and one of the things that he said that I take to heart. He said I typically don't know the right answers but I know what questions to ask. And that's where I am as far as school goes. We'll see what happens.
You spend a lot of time out on the road. Tell us about that.
It definitely has its difficulties. I'm down to doing about 150 shows this year which is still a lot but it's been a little more manageable because I'll have more of a home life. I think the hardest part about it is sleeplessness and you know, I'm young and I can kind of abuse my body in that sense to put in the effort and pay my dues. The thing that was eye-opening to me was from a quote from Carol Burnett, she's one of my favorite actresses. She said that if all she ever did was act, she would have had no characters to draw from. There came a time where I was writing a lot of songs about traveling. I wasn't living enough. You have to go back to your well.
Let's talk about your new album. I heard you wrote it out on the road. I had a chance to listen to some of your new cd and I'm very impressed. I especially love "Plastic Soldiers."
"Plastic Soldiers" was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend and mentor in my life, Ani DiFranco. I was living in Washington, D.C. at the time and we had lunch. Ani said to me that as a songwriter now is a time more than any other time where it's your duty to write the songs that need to be sung not just write the songs that you feel like writing or even the songs that other people want to hear. You have the responsibility to write the songs that need to be sung. For me, I never looked at my job that way before and then there I am in Washington, D.C. thinking I have a lot of work to do. But that renavigated my writing not just sounding good and being artistic but that I wanted to write stuff that has to be listened to not so much easy to listen to or nice to listen to but has to be listened to. Woody Guthry had a really cool way of doing that with songs because he put politics and social issues in the lives of other people and he just told their story. So the politics and the social issues they weren't preached to the listener, they were felt by the listener. We live in a country that is so divided that my goal with the "Plastic Soldiers" song was to write something that could just be felt as opposed to heard no matter what side of the fence you're coming from. That's what I was shooting for on "Plastic Soldiers" to have it be a statement apart from whatever side of the political fence you're on.
And I read that "Too Hard to Hold the Moon" holds a special place in your heart.
Yeah. That was a weird one to walk through. When I was writing that song, I thought it was actually about the moon. I'm a big Jimmy Webb fan and he's got a song called "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." Linda Ronstadt did and I just heard Glen Campbell did it. I know Jimmy and I wanted to write a rebuttal to his 'cause I guess to me he didn't explain why the moon was harsh and cold, so that's what I was trying to do. Then I realized after it that I was actually writing about the relationship between my mom and my dad. My dad is an alcoholic; he's been sober for 21 years. But, I would have never been able to touch that with a 10 foot pole if I thought I was writing about that at the time. Which brings up another thought. Joni Mitchell said, "You're always writing about yourself even when you think you're safe." Now that's the case with that song.
I saw somewhere that you have a pair of shoes...
These shoes. I love these shoes. Who said something about my shoes? I got these shoes at a Salvation Army like 7 or 8 years ago. And I just love these shoes. I almost gave them away to some guy who really dug on it. I was ready to part with them and we didn't connect again. Yeah, they're just shoes. I think everyone else is making a big deal of it. They're not like lucky shoes or anything. They're just shoes.
Kathy Strain spent most of her life outside of Philadelphia and has enjoyed Broadway shows for most of her life. Kathy moved to San Antonio, Texas in 2001 with her husband Ken and 3 children. She holds a degree in Public Relations from the University of Texas at San Antonio and runs her own Public Relations company. She loves to contribute pieces on the arts to several outlets and enjoys writing about talent and sharing it with the world. |