What’s not to love about the talented and beautiful Katey Laurel? The Denver native has not only shared the stage with PEV’s #1 favorite artist Trevor Hall, but is a self-proclaimed “hippie cowgirl”! While both of these facts certainly make Laurel stand out, it’s her talent that’s garnering the most attention; She’s already been featured as part of Microsoft’s “Playlist 7” and Heineken’s “Ultimate Playlist”, not to mention the singer-songwriter was one of 7 national finalists in the Nine West “Voices of Vintage America” contest.
It all started in the mountains of Colorado for Katey, learning an appreciation for music from her school teachers that eventually led to a scholarship to the exclusive private Huntington University in Indiana (she’s pretty good with a French Horn). Laurel says “I think studying classical music helps any musician master the concepts of theory, which ultimately just helps them ‘speak the language’ fluently with less time spent thinking about how this or that chord works or why the song sounds the way it does.” She’s taken these lessons and turned them into some wonderful collections, including the debut studio record “Upstairs, Downstairs” and her latest 8-song EP release, “From Here”. “From Here” was in part born due to the aid of a successful album fundraiser through KickStarter.com – a testament to the kind of support Katey’s music is receiving. We asked Laurel to get into “From Here”: “The EP sort of covers a variety of themes and emotions, but all are about my perspective at different times, in relation to life, love, relationships, attitudes and outlooks. There are ‘up’ songs and ‘darker’ songs, but they all arrive at the conclusion that life is a worthwhile endeavor!”
Laurel will be busy supporting “From Here”, so check out her schedule and try and catch her live. She’s got a lot of options laid out in front of her, so she’ll pop up on your radar on a pretty consistent basis. There’s whole bunch more to get into, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.
XXQs: Katey Laurel
PensEyeView.com (PEV): Your classical mastery of the French Horn earned you a scholarship to the exclusive private Huntington University in Indiana. How did that experience help shape you as a musician today?
Katey Laurel (KL): I think studying classical music helps any musician master the concepts of theory, which ultimately just helps them "speak the language" fluently with less time spent thinking about how this or that chord works or why the song sounds the way it does. Think of learning a language, and the more time spent studying and speaking it, the more fluent the conversation! I also had the dream of playing music soundtracks that has now translated into the dream of creating background music for scenes as a songwriter.
PEV: With a classical background what kind of music where you into growing up in Denver, Colorado? Was anyone your main influence?
KL: Haha! I actually grew up in the mountains where there was little classical music at all aside from summer conservatory/classical series in Steamboat Springs calls "Strings in the Mountains." My main influences were my elementary school piano teachers...there were several of them as they kept moving away... .and my high school band instructor. He encouraged me to prepare for college auditions, and I did! All the while, I listened to the world's only wind and solar powered radio station at the time, KFMU, which played Triple A and classic rock.
When I was in high school, there was the addition of a modern rock station in the valley and I became hooked on Bush, The Wallflowers, Better Than Ezra and a number of one-hit wonder 90s rock bands. I guess all the while I was secretly a pop-rocker....
PEV: Having jumped from classical music to pop and rock, how was the transition?
KL: Well, I guess that was the original road I was on anyhow...I sang in church, listened to rock and Christian pop-rock music as well as classic rock and bluegrass with my parents. Classical music was just another language and a challenge to me, so I studied it (it also proved to be a great way to get to college financially). I always wanted to be a songwriter.
PEV: You use noisemakers and bells to illuminate the joy, which also emanates from lyrical references to firecrackers and the deep blue sea, in your work. How has this approach, helped shape your live performances?
KL: I love to play various percussion instruments with friends of mine and side projects live. I'm just as happy singing backups and painting the picture with sounds and energy as I am fronting any performance. Maybe happier.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
KL: I hope my guitar is in tune. Then the second thought is usually, "What's the first song?" Just practical performance questions/thoughts. That must come from my classical background.
PEV: Any preshow rituals before going on stage or do you just wing it?
KL: Depends on the show. If there's someone on before me, I usually enjoy their show, if there's a green room, I hang out with the band backstage, chat with them and often look over lyrics (what a nerd!). Drink some water. No rituals I suppose! The closest thing to a ritual would be a quick prayer.
PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?
KL: Life experience provides more than enough fodder for interesting songs! Sometimes I write about love or anger or mixed emotions, other times I write about spiritual questions, and I even write story songs (Country). I'm usually observing what goes on around me for inspiration, and after they incubate for a bit, the song ideas eventually "pop" out.
PEV: Tell us about your latest release, “From Here”, which you’ve said, asks the universal question “Is this all there is?” What can fans expect from this work?
KL: The EP sort of covers a variety of themes and emotions, but all are about my perspective at different times, in relation to life, love, relationships, attitudes and outlooks. There are "up" songs and "darker" songs, but they all arrive at the conclusion that life is a worthwhile endeavor!
PEV: Do you ever find yourself getting writer’s block and if so, how do you get over that?
KL: I'm sure every writer/creative encounters writer's block at one time or another. I guess I don't usually force myself to write if nothings coming since I've seen enough years as writer now to know it eventually returns and there will be a creative spurt that produces a number of songs. I just "wait" for it sometimes.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Katey Laurel?
KL: I love black licorice. Most people I know don't. Oh yes, and I grew up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. I was a hippie cowgirl!
PEV: Having played music on such a high level for so many years, was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?
KL: I guess as I was looking at going to college for it, I hoped it would be a career for me. When I started writing songs in the early 2000's, that's when I really found my niche.
PEV: What one word best describes Katey Laurel?
KL: Curious. I'm constantly researching everything I happen upon to find out more. I think I take that approach to songwriting, relationships, business and love.
PEV: Having played all over, how is life on the road for you in the music world?
KL: I love to get out and meet new people and experience new places however, even if in my own backyard!
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play Denver?
KL: Denver is a great town to live in and play. My family and friends are very supportive. I just ran a successful album fundraiser via Kickstarter.com, I couldn't have done that without the support of my friends, family and fans!
PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
KL: I love the outdoors, hiking, walks in the woods, biking. I used to draw and paint too. I love to grab coffee with friends or work in the garden. I like to try new restaurants AND cook. Occasionally I'll read a good book. I also love movies...the typical.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
KL: David Berkeley. Also Neilson Hubbard (who produced my EP... he's also an amazing artist). I have had their songs (respectively) "Parachute" and "Do You Want To Start a Fire" on repeat this week.
PEV: So, what is next for Katey Laurel?
KL: It's time to support "From Here's" release in any way I can, so radio, shows and interviews as they happen, then I really hope to write some new material and record a new song I wrote called "Two Birds"... down the road, I may do a Pop-Country project too. Wherever the road leads!