GoGirls Interview with Kathleen Blackwell
What drives your music? When did you first know you had to do this thing called music or bust?
Hmm...those are good questions! What drives my music? Well, I have always been inspired by music, since I could remember radio, musicals, MTV, I awe-struck by music, fascinated by music--it's not quite something that I can put my finger on, rather I find that music is a vehicle for me to explore. Music gives me permission to feel and to be in touch with my inner-being. I am first drawn to the chords, the beat, the vibe of a song and I am last drawn to the lyrics. Nine times out of ten, I'm not sure what a song may even be lyrically saying until I've made it a point to focus on the lyrical content! I know, probably many people are just the opposite and that's why that first lyric line of a song can make or break somebody's desire to hear the rest. With me, though, I am initially more in tune with using my right-brain to process a song, automatically asking myself, "How does this song make me feel?" With my classical piano background, as well, lyrics weren't really an integral part to the repertoire that I learned, rather interpretation was based more on melody phrasing of the notes. This stuck with me...until I started writing my own music a few years ago and then not only did I intuitively gravitate towards finding chord structures that allowed me to express myself, but I also "woke up" and realized that, "Wow, I have a lot I want to say and I'll be darn if lyrics aren't also important...maybe even more so!" So, to finally answer "What drives my music?" I'd have to officially say the combination of unique and compelling chord structures that allow me to explore the depths of my feelings, combined with the fact that for a long time, my voice was silent, dominated by others...until I went through some life-changing events that compelled me to find my voice and to lyrically speak "me." I have also been wildly driven by the question, "What makes people tick?" One of my favorite subjects is psychology and social psychology, so I find that I enjoy writing about people.
Describe your music style and name three musicians you have been inspired by and why.
My musical style is indie-pop-rock mixed with some modern-classical chord-structures. To my surprise as well, I have written with some jazzy chords, too, and those have turned out to be my favorite songs! Go figure, as I am primarily a musical lover of alternative-pop, grunge, radio hits and anything that's heavy :) I like loud, "balls to the wall" (pardon the expression!) music. I'm thinking, though, that my jazzy influence came from my love of soundtracks and Broadway musicals as a kid. Three musicians or artists that have greatly inspired me are: 1) Tori Amos for her stunning, stunning piano presentation mixed with compelling, thought-provoking lyrical content. Wow! I wanted to "be her." 2) U2 for their absolute dedication, musical prowess and gifted ability to "make an arena sing in peace." I also admire their vision to unite, their fearless approach to politics and their attempt to merge earthly "desires and destructions" with an outer-worldly approach. They have also managed to stay together and in a world where many things seem to be falling apart, I applaud that. As well, as a young child whose Irish, Air Force Pilot father was absent from my life, U2 filled this emotional space--their earliest albums some of their best. And they've always worked with tremendous producers! 3) Well, for number three, I'm going to combine a few, a) Lenny Kravitz, b) Seal and c) Soundtracks. While there is not a whole lot of correlation between the three (LOL!), I have to single-handedly say that without a doubt, I love Lenny Kravitz--I think that his music and his style rock! Amazing artist. Seal--wow, what an incredible voice, gifted and uplifting...beautiful, but with sadness. Soundtracks--what can I say--I adore soundtracks! A few of my favorites have been "Strange Days," "9 1/2 Weeks" and "A Chorus Line." I also have to mention Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. AND Urge Overkill (love them!)--for my generation, these bands did it for me, too.
What's your ideal venue atmosphere?
Intimate, as it ups the ante. Although, my dream is to play an arena show! Haha! I know--but I have this love for the way the crews move in and out of these shows, they set up imagination and when the lights go down and the show comes alive---wow, fabulous!
Describe how your music career has evolved since you first started performing.
Since I first started performing, my music career has expanded in the sense that what i bring to the live setting is somewhat different than my recorded work, so in essence, people who see me live see a different side of me.
How would you describe the music scene in your area?
Well, living in Los Angeles, the music scene is vast! As well, there are many of us here who are trying to pursue our dreams and play for the love of playing as often as we can. I find the hardest part is that for me personally, I want to be out there supporting other artists all of the time, alas much of the time I am also playing that same night, or rehearsing, or writing...and I think that many of us do the best we can to support each other, as well as try to gain our own audience and following.
What was the inspiration for your latest release?
Well, hard times--emotionally and financially! I was going through life-changing events that I couldn't understand, I had so many questions, I didn't know what I was doing, what my role was---I wanted to ask and answer the "why" question of it all. I was focused on writing about my inner-dialog mixed with my external experiences and I think when I aptly titled my album, "To Be Human," when I look back, I realize that title summed it all up. "To Be Human" was the question and the answer. Through it all, I found some resolve. Writing my album was one of the most beautiful experiences--out of the pain comes light.
What do you think is number one for a musician to think about before preparing for a CD project and do you have any tips on saving time in the studio?
Your songs! By all means, if there is anything that I have learned over the past couple of years, it would be to not be afraid to "face your own music." Take a look at your song structure, your opening lyric line, are there any details you can add, or change to make the story even that much better. Write from your heart and don't be afraid to say what you feel. Go to song critiques and get feedback BEFORE you go into the studio. I would say the number one ingredient in preparing to record your CD project is pre-production! As well, I might add, that for me, at least...if I hadn't had the best producer in the world (haha, I really believe that!), I'm not sure what my CD would have sounded like. Wow, though, a good engineer / producer can make all the difference in your final product. As for saving time in the studio, I feel that comes back to pre-production on the songs themselves. ALSO...one of the best things I did as a singer-songwriter, was that when I went into the studio, I was not "stuck" on exactly how I wanted the songs to sound--it's okay to leave some of your chords open--allow other players who come in to do their own interpretation--that brings in the magic. I firmly believe that when I work with somebody who is also creative, be it a producer, my graphic designer, a business partner--I WANT them to bring their own style and ingredients to the mix. So, in essence what I'm saying is "trust." Trust them to do their job!
What makes or breaks a musician just starting out in your opinion?
I think every musician has to learn to find a place of trust within themselves. This can be a very tough business. I know, I've been on the business side of it, worked for labels...I've seen how tough it can be. I am now on the artist side and I think, for me, the one thing that has been the toughest lesson to learn, to grow from and to build on is: Trust yourself, be true to you. Nothing else matters! "They" can go take a long walk! Haha! Love who you are because at the end of each song, each day--you have to live with you.
Describe your toughest moments in your quest for a music career and tell us how you overcame them.
The toughest moments for me in my music career quest have been balancing the left brain and right brain activities it takes today to really develop your own career! Today is so much about the 360 concept--being your own business, too!
What advice would you offer up and coming artists that get discouraged other than don't give up?
Network. Network. Network. Get out there. Meet people. Attend trade-shows and music conferences. Get feedback. Help others when you have learned the ropes! Have a plan A. Have a plan B, too! Remember your passion.
Tell us something you want the music world to know about you.
Well, I'm really excited that I just got singed with Gotham Records Music Placement! Woot! And on a completely different note, my biggest dream has always been in the International realm. I have always wanted to work for the UN, or work on peace-keeping missions, I have always wanted to help bridge communication gaps between people, nations.
What have you gotten out of being a member of the GoGirls community?
GoGirls Rock!! I have so enjoyed the community aspect of GoGirls--it is truly a fabulous gathering of female talent and artists and one of the most inspiring aspects of GoGirls from my observations and experience is that each member cares about their own community, their surroundings--they give back and work together to support each other. I remember the first time I saw Madalyn before I knew she was the founder of GoGirls--I had seen her on some instructional video talking about how to make your Facebook artist page work--LOL! I was so completely enthralled with this "cool chick" who seemed to know what she was talking about in the technical world (as that is my blind side) and she had it so together and then when I discovered GoGirls and realized that she was also the "fearless leader," I said to myself, "Wow, well, this has to be one helluva organization!" And it is!
Learn more about Kathleen at:
Copyright © 2009 Madalyn Sklar/GoGirlsMusic.com
Madalyn Sklar is a music business coach & consultant, blogger, social networks expert and author. She has spent over 13 years helping independent musicians and music business professionals achieve greater success in the biz. Her motto is: working smarter not harder. She also founded GoGirlsMusic.com, the oldest + largest online community of indie women musicians.
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