Monday, July 13, 2015

Q and A With Singer/Songwriter Kate Vargas

Photo by Brett Lindell
My first introduction to Kate Vargas was through the independent alternative to SXSW known as Couch by Couchwest.

Initially, I was enamored with her voice, but after digging into her music, there is a depth and maturity to her songs that belie her years.

Kate's 2014 album Down To My Soul will take you on a musical journey.

I had the opportunity to conduct a Q&A with Kate recently. Here are the results.

My first exposure to you was through Couch by Couchwest 2015. Lets just get this out the way. The voice. You introduced the song. Normal speaking voice. Then you started singing and it was an "Oh Wow" moment. When did you realize that you had such a unique singing voice? Or do you?

I suppose I have realized that, yeah. The voice was released when I was 16 years old after many years of trying to sound like the cute little voices that I was hearing come out of some popular female singers at the time. I really wanted to sound like them. But, at a particularly pivotal time in my young life, I opened my mouth and all my emotions were sonically released in a way, that I’m often told, sounds nothing like my speaking voice. *shrug* Perhaps it’s the voice of my soul and not my body.

How important is something like Couch by Couchwest to independent artists?

It’s always important, for me, to have avenues to get my independent artist songs out to independent artist supporters. Sometimes I don’t know where to find those supporters and they don’t know where to find me. Couch by Couchwest has really helped us find each other. It’s a truly wonderful thing.

I just stopped trying to define genres anymore. The only thing I’m interested in is music I like. Your music falls into that category. How would you describe your music?

I think it’s being described as Americana and I support that description. Because really that just means a mush of good stuff.

The music business is tough. Always has been. But now it’s easy to get music out, but increasingly difficult to get it noticed. How does a new artist navigate the current state of the music industry?

I don’t know if my navigation skills are particularly smooth, but I’d say ask a lot of questions of anyone who will answer them. The more I ask, the more I learn. In an industry that’s constantly changing, I need to always be open to learning. (I think that goes for life, in general.) So just substitute the word ‘industry’ for ‘world’.

I found your music because I don’t rely on familiar channels. Who do you think your audience is?

I’m constantly surprised by this. I’m happy to say that I’ve found no obvious common thread.

There are a lot of twists and turns within many of your songs. Tempo changes, time changes, dynamic changes, even style changes. How does that happen during the songwriting process? Or does some of that happen during the recording process?
That is something that happens during the songwriting process and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why. Sometimes it feels like I wake up from a trance and a song is written. I have little memory of what occurs during the process.

You live in New York City now. Your bio says that you are from Albuquerque, NM. How much of your music is influenced by the southwest and how much from NYC?

I have a strong connection to New Mexico and that certainly presents itself in some of my songs. The songs “Sisters of Loretto” and “Mama Watched Me Sink” are both based on New Mexican stories.
I think, as a songwriter, I will always be influenced by my surroundings. Hopefully. In NYC, we’re all squished in this tiny space and, because of that, we get to hear a lot of other people’s stories. I try to be a good listener. If I’m listening properly, I’m writing properly.

With the music you write and play, you may described by some as having an “Old Soul”. I know what that phrase means to me, but what does it mean to you? And do you think it’s accurate? Why or why not?

I have been told that quite a bit. When I was younger, it made me sad. I didn’t want an old soul, I wanted a new one!
But now I embrace that. And I feel proud when people say it. I think about souls a lot, as you might be able to tell from the title of my album. I like to think that mine’s been around the block once or twice. A well-worn soul.

How important is social media to an artist in today’s climate?

It’s super important, I suppose. I’m still getting the hang of it. It’s a lot of remembering- to tweet, vine, Facebook, Instagram…every day! I’m working on it. It’s not my favorite thing.

What is in the near future as far as shows, recording, etc.?

I recently returned from my first performances outside the US and I’m still catching my breath a bit. I have a few shows in in the next 2 months in New York and New Hampshire, details are on my website.
The big project is my 2nd album, which I’m just starting to record with my friend Jamie Muffett, who is a really fantastic producer here in NYC. Very excited to release a killer album with him.

Enough serious stuff, if you’ll indulge with five inane questions:

On a scale of truckstop to Kentucky Derby, how would rate your headwear game?
Is Beastie Boys’ “So What’cha Want” video on the scale? If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I can rock a beanie.

Stranded on a deserted island, what three albums do you have?
The choosing is torture but, if that’s the game…
Nina Simone’s
Silk & Soul, Tom Waits’ Mule Variations, and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Sharks. Respect, fascination, fear, or a combination?
The percentages don’t add up, but I’d say 50% respect, 50% fascination, and 80% fear.

How many times is it okay to reuse the same bath towel?
What color is the bath towel?

How much do you regret agreeing to this Q&A right now?
Not one little bit!

Any parting thoughts?

Just an extension of gratitude to you and your readers for supporting independent music.

Kate Vargas' Links:

Here is the song from Couch by Couchwest that turned me on to Kate Vargas' music:

1 comment:

  1. Great interview of a very talented young artist! Thanks for including the song from Couch by Couchwest. It brings the interview to life!