23. Katherine CHE Interview

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This week’s TideBreakers Exchange Interview is with Katherine CHE, a multi-talented artist currently releasing music on YouTube and ReverbNation. Katherine’s music is playful and instinctive, with a healthy dose of heart. With a voice that channels the soul of Nashville and wide-ranging lyrical subjects, you’d should go check her music out right now!

Ok, so first of all, would you like to introduce yourself in your own words and what it is you’re creating?
I am a multi-passionate artist currently focused on creating music. My main instrument is my voice. I usually play the guitar as well.

One thing I always like to ask people early on is: what’s the dream?
My dream is to get into a stream of creativity and public appreciation for that creativity so that I can make a very comfortable living through my music – singing, songwriting, performing. I currently host a TV show, and I would love to take that to the next level as well. And, since I design a lot of my clothes, I would also like to have a clothing line at some point.

How can I/we help you achieve that dream?
Currently, the best way to help me achieve my dreams would be to join my fun tribe on Patreon. I have been surprised and delighted with how buoying having the support of my patrons on Patreon is. For as little as one dollar a month, you can make a true and unique positive impact on my ability to create my music. I FEEL the support of each or my patrons in ways I have yet to be able to fully articulate, but I think it is like people physically lifting another person up. The more people lifting, the more supported the liftee feels and the higher that person can be lifted.

Inspiration

It seems like you have a very wide assortment of creative interests: photography, baking, writing – you even play multiple different instruments! Do you find that the creative processes inform one another in any way?
Sometimes it is hard to separate them. I also ask, “Do I need to separate them?” I can really fire on all cylinders for a creation – write a song, record it, edit it, produce it, design clothes for a photo shoot and video, … Then, I eat my yummy food! :-)

You cite your upbringing in Nashville as a very big influence in your musical output, but you seem to have moved around a fair bit since. How do you think these various different locations have altered your view both in writing and listening to music?
Well, first, I have to say that Nashville really informed me as a musician even more than I realized until I started getting back into it. Growing up in Nashville was a treat. In my memory, every time people gathered together, the instruments would come out. People would play and sing. It wasn’t until recently, that I found out some of those people we were “singing by the campfire” with were heavy-duty players in the music biz. So, the scene I was introduced to had a high level of virtuosity, and it was a little intimidating. It also set a high bar.

I love all kinds of music and music from different cultures and parts of the world, too. I can see it has all influenced and inspired me. As I move forward, I would like to do some projects that incorporate more specific references to some world music. For instance, I would like to explore Tibetan rhythms.

Your father sounds like he was a key figure in your musical education. Can you describe a significant memory where influenced you to follow your passion for music?
Your father sounds like he was a key figure in your musical education. Can you describe a significant memory where influenced you to follow your passion for music?

Well, my dad was a natural musician. He easily played all sorts of instruments. I do remember when I went to sign up for band in elementary school, I went in with the intention of signing up for flute (as many young girls do), but I ended up signing up to play the trombone like he did in elementary school (and played in a band when he was in his 60’s, too). I was always trying to win his approval. In addition to his influence on me as an artist, he demonstrated great love of music as a listener. He took me to a wide variety of live performances. And, he played all sorts of music around the house. I just remember the huge smiles of appreciation on his face when he would listen. I also remember moments from the live performances, little snapshots. He took me to see Beverly Sills WAY before I had any interest in opera; so, her music did not capture my attention; so, I looked around at the audience. I’ll always remember the look of absolute RAPTURE on the face of one old man in the crowd. I learned how music impacts people from my dad and the experiences he gave me.

One thing you have mentioned reawakened your interest in music is your son – how do you think your relationship with music has changed since having children?
LOL! Well, that is a part of the journey. I do think now how the songs I write and sing will impact him. I definitely don’t want to sing anything I don’t want him to hear. I have also written songs that he has asked me not to perform for one reason or another, and I respect that. I am a mom first. At the same time just putting myself in the public eye impacts him. I wrote a song called “In the Hamptons” that all his classmates know and many of the kids at his school know it as well. Just yesterday, he arrived at the party, and one kid yelled out to him: “Hey, where do we live?” The answer they wanted was “In the Hamptons.” I can’t live my life trying not to have any impact on him, but I do my best be mindful of my impact.

Have you noticed any radical differences in the way you approach the writing or listening process? What sort of a divide do you think you have between music and lyrics?
Well, I love both – writing and listening. I started writing words before I started writing songs, and for many years when I was not producing music I was writing poems and articles and books, but I was still involved in music – as a listener, and I was always surrounded by musicians. When I write a song, usually both come together, and then the refinement process begins – working on both music and lyrics. And, my songs continue to evolve through time.

When listening to music, what do you think attracts your attention the most?
It really depends on my mood. But, I love everything about music – the lyrics, the beat, the littlest detail, the feeling the music evokes. I am a student, and I pay attention to everything I hear. Every time I listen I try to bring fresh ears. I listen to and appreciate all kinds of music. Seriously – from stomp dancing to opera, from rap to easy listening, from Flamenco to Folk. Love it ALL. I do tend to listen to a lot of reggae and pop.

Creation

What must a song have for you to want to play it? This counts for both self-written songs and covers. Is there any one thing that you find irresistible in a song?
Connection. I need to connect to the song to want to play it. If I don’t get the song, there’s no point. I need to be able to inhabit the song completely.

When you start to write a piece, do you find there’s much dialogue between the lyrics and the music? Do you find that the process of writing one alters or informs the other in any way?
Yes, but I do not have a formula on that. I write and tweak both together at the same time… sometimes focusing on one aspect or another but usually both together.

On average, how quickly do you tend to write songs? Is there any one aspect that you find takes longer than the rest?
Some, rare times a song will come in to me in a flash pretty much complete. More often, I get part of a song and then need to really sit down and work out the rest. Most usually a song evolves as time goes by. I think that is true of my own songs and other people’s songs. I am the Queen of rewriting lyrics to songs, too. If I love a song and something about the lyrics but there is something about the message that I don’t feel comfortable inhabiting, I’ll rewrite, sometimes completely. An example is the song “Greensleeves.” I LOVE that haunting tune, but the lyrics are all about being jilted by a lover. I just don’t want to go around singing about that; so, I have actually written all different kinds of lyrics to that song, including Christmas lyrics and Spring lyrics. I don’t know how to average that!

As you are a multi-instrumentalist, how do you go about selecting the instruments you include in your songs? Is there much experimentation that goes on, or do you set out with a clear image of what you want to write?
I usually use the guitar and piano when I write a song. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I start with the voice. I grab my voice recorder and sing the song into it. My creations start with my voice. Then, as I work on refining, I will sit down with my guitar or piano (or often both) and hash out the refinements and write out the music.

How do you classify a song you’re writing as complete? Do you find that once you have it in an arrangement that works you’re happy to keep it as is, or do you continue to tweak and alter it, even if it’s recorded in a ‘completed’ form?
There are so many different levels of complete. The first level is the level when I am ready to play it for someone else. Then, when I am ready to play it for an audience. Then, when I am ready to make a simple recording. Then, I am ready to make a more produced recording of the song. And, I continue to tweak for each level and each recording and sometimes for each performance. To me, songs are living things that are never set in stone. I do understand, however, the notion of performing a song like a popular recording because people like the comfort of the known. Personally, as an audience member, I like a mix. Even if all the songs are known to me. I like to have some be like the familiar recording and some presented in a fresh, new way. Also, every time a new musician joins the team – whether in recording or on stage – they bring something unique to the mix.

Life

It certainly sounds like you’ve had an interesting life even before you’ve started with your music venture! How have these different careers affected your relationship with music?
Well, everything we do informs us as people, as creators; so, it is all in the music, all in the decisions I make. My beliefs have changed through my life, and that is certainly reflected in my songs and the songs I choose.

Do you think that being perhaps more focused on something else in the past means that you are now more driven with music?
I have always been driven with everything I love to do. I have only had a few moments in my life when I was doing “work” that did not ignite my passions; so, I have been fortunate that way. But, I think making the decision when I am no longer a kid to dive into this world takes a level of commitment that many people who are not kids are not willing to make. I am willing to make it, and I trust that will be what helps me to attain the level of success I intend to achieve.

Are there any world-views that you developed that you incorporate into what you’re doing now?
Absolutely! I believe we get back what we put out into the Universe, and that goes to how we do everything in our lives.

You’ve mentioned that you’ve worked as a life coach and have even written a book based on your philosophies; do you think that this process enabled you a perspective on creative projects that was inaccessible to you before?
Yes. I now get that I tap into a Universal Energy when I create, when I do anything really. Having a good relationship with that Universal Energy is key to my process now.

In what sort of ways has helping others altered your outlook on your own ventures?
Doing the work I did helped me to see the powerful, positive impact one person can have on others. I try to bring that to my music as well.

Being a parent is evidently an important part of your identity. Do you try and inspire your own child in a way that your father inspired you?
In a way it is the same. My dad was just about the happiest, most content-with-his-life person I’ve ever known. So, he modelled that for me. He was not, however, a deep thinker. He didn’t ponder over his happiness or question it. It just was. I am a thinker, a philosopher at heart; so, I bring the discussion of the power of happiness to my son’s awareness. We’ve been having philosophical discussions about life and energy and the universe and reading philosophical books together since he was about three or four years old. When I was pregnant with my child, I was presented with the notion that the child chooses the parent. I was a little horrified because I was sick as a dog, lying on the floor puking for the entire nine months of the pregnancy, and I thought “what kind of child would choose THIS as a mother?” So, I sent out a big resounding message to the Universe: “This is not me!” And that led me to profoundly explore the logical next question: “Who or what, then, is me?” So, from that I sent message to the Universe about my hopes and dreams and the hopes and dreams for my child: health, strength, the knowledge he is loved, and the confidence and joy to follow his dreams.” Those are still guiding principles for me as a mom. I think my dad’s principles were probably different.

What advice would you offer to someone just starting out with their own online creative project? Are there any pitfalls you can warn against or kernels of wisdom you might impart?
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started. A fancy website or a personal app or whatever bells or whistles are calling you are not necessary to get rolling. Start with your truest genius and find ways to make money on that and as you do, funnel a portion of WHAT YOU MAKE back into expanding your online presence. Social media can be wonderful. Find a platform that resonates with you where your ideal clients hang out and learn how to use it to promote what you are doing and who you are. THANKS!

I’d like to thank Katherine for her time and insight and definitely wish her all the best of luck in the future!

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