Written by Maria Arroyo
With the lockdown in place for Delaware County, I find myself trying to connect with people as often as possible, even more specifically, those who can keep reopening my connection to a world all about music. I recently had a chance to have an interview with jazz singer/songwriter Kat Edmonson, who has for sure managed to keep herself busy amidst all the chaos right now. Edmonson was also recently feathered in American Songwriter, so immediately I was a tad starstruck. Being a songwriter myself, that’s a HUGE deal.
While this question can be quite obvious for some, it always fascinates me to see how the highs and lows of being a musician can be vastly different from one person to the next.
“What do I enjoy the most? Making music is something that I’m good at and it feels really food to be able to do something I’m good at,” Edmonson says. “What I hate the most? When I lose sight of the former.”
Dreams. Lovers. Losses. Expectations. Humanity. The list could go on forever, but these are just a few things that can cultivate inspiration for songwriters across the world. Personally? I’ve always used songwriting as a way to understand the world I’m living in. To understand why certain things happen to me when they do, the way they do, and to truly uncover how I feel when I’m faced with these situations.
“I often write from home but can get inspiration anywhere I am!” Edmonson adds, “Music happens to me, it always has since I was a little kid- I just have to tune in to it. It’s always available and sometimes it comes down like rain and sometimes I have to get really quiet and pay really close attention in order to hear it. I normally write about the human condition: love, hope, discouragement, longing, fear, dreams, courage…”
Something that tends to stop our inspirations from meeting us halfway is roadblocks. Whether they are physically stopping us, or mentally and emotionally stopping us, there are inevitable. So the way I see it is you have two options: 1) Pretend they don’t exist or 2) face them head-on.
“The biggest roadblock I’ve had to overcome so far is getting over my expectations of what success looks like. I’ve had a lot of success but there’s no way to be in this business and not have dreams dashed however, that’s not a reason to not be in the business,” she explains. “It’s, rather, the reason to be vigilant in keeping one’s motivations in check. No matter what, at the end of every day, you make art because you love it. Any other motivation is a sure-bet to confusion and suffering.”
Another aspect of any career that one chooses to walk into, plays with the scale of work vs personal life. Some days it’s easier to throw myself into my work: between writing articles, listening to the next single or album to be released and having a social media schedule to write, from holding myself accountable for my own music, it can sometimes feel like there’s no way to keep the scale balanced. Fortunately for Edmonson, her scale is pretty integrated between the two.
“My partner is a musician and we make music together. He co-produced my most recent records with me,” she explains. “He understands what I do and I understand what he does so it’s never really an issue. I don’t have kids. My other obligations have to do with running my record label and managing my affairs. Those things can be all-consuming and, therefore, I don’t spend as much time being creative as I’d like.”
I’m not the first to tell you that COVID-19 has brought a lot of businesses to a screeching halt. I’ll admit, I thought that there was no chance of me losing my job, as I work full-time for the front desk at a Hilton Hotel. It’s a 24/7 service that just never stops. It wasn’t until another hotel called our front desk and inadvertently spilled that our hotel was closing that it hit me… and hit me hard that I was going to be without a job. Within the next 3 days, I was stuck at home, which hadn’t been the case since I started college 4 years ago. For musicians, there are a lot of opportunities that have been snatched away from them, income sources that may never come back.
“I think the most immediate way is that it’s affected our income. We’ve lost the guaranteed opportunities we had and the means for potential opportunities,” Edmonson continues, “Most everyone is faced with operating online now, alone. We’re learning completely new skillsets in order to do this. It’s a really difficult time for musicians and many are faced with getting jobs outside of music.”
Now I’m a pretty optimistic person, so I have found my personal silver linings in all of this, and have even learned a few things, and that’s exactly what I wanted to know from Edmonson.
“There’s so much to learn every day from this situation! One vital thing to learn is that denial and procrastination lead to unnecessary deaths. We’ve got to wake up and stop thinking exclusively about ourselves. We have to act on behalf of everyone. We have to act on behalf of our country and our world – not just on a state by state basis. Covid-19 does not care about state boundaries and regulations. People who are not following the precautions of proper distancing are a threat to everyone. It’s not a political issue. It’s a human issue.”
Even though this industry has taken some massive hits, Edmonson says that this only makes her motivations stronger, and she’s going to keep doing what she does best.
Edmonson has also taken some time to curate a special playlist for TIDAL that features songs that she’s been listening to during her time in quarantine.
“I think I’ve been looking for warm, honest, hopeful music to ground me during this time. I’m not drawn to wistful music about longing or deeply sad music right now. I don’t really want to escape or get lost right now. I’m ready to face whatever’s ahead and be okay.”
Take a listen to the playlist yourself here.
She also answers a lot of curiosities I have surrounding the interests of musicians’ views on the music industry.
“If I could change anything about the industry it would be how big corporations have figured out how to take most of the money away from the artists,” she stated. “Companies like Spotify pay so little and have figured out how to make the artists literally work for them by becoming Spotify brand-promoters. This is really the model for most online platforms now. It’s not cool.
The internet has completely changed everything. When digital music began, if record companies were smarter about learning the new technology and how to sell digital music and streaming, it might not have been so disruptive to how artists get paid. But the companies snoozed and iTunes and eventually Spotify and Amazon, etc. won-out. The major labels ultimately made deals with those companies and the content creators (the artists) are now the last to get paid. This has ultimately got to change.”
As we wrapped up the interview, I asked Edmonson if she had any words of wisdom to pass onto the readers and her fans: “Your intuition comes from a place of peace, never from fear,” she says. “Trust your intuition. It’s everything.”
Edmonson also shares her new show that airs every Sunday at 7 PM Eastern Standard Time at https://Kat.Live. “It’s evolving each week and I’m really excited to see how it grows!” She shares excitedly. “I plan to keep doing this for a long time.”
Be sure to give her newest project which is her Dreamers Do LP a listen here. Dreamers Do reached number one on the Billboard Traditional Jazz Album chart and on iTunes, and was names Deezer’s Jazz album of the week! She mixes her original compositions with “reimagined mid-20th century classic Disney Songs.” What’s not to love??
Connect with Kat Edmonson