IT would be tempting to come back to the U.K...
regarding my interviews but, with so much international talent on display; I have been speaking with Canadian artist, Kaia Kater. She talks about her Afro-Caribbean roots – how they affect and influence her music – the stories and inspirations that went into her 2016-album, Nine Pin; whether we can expect a follow-up – some of the new artists we need to check out.
I ask Kater the music scene where she is; whether she is excited to be in the U.K. (she is touring through January and February); the artists who inspired her growing up; why Nina Simone is an idol; the three albums that mean the most to her – and whether she has any resolutions/aims for this year.
Hi, Kaia. How are you? How has your week been?
Hey! It’s been great. Thanks for asking!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
I am a musician and songwriter. I play the banjo, piano and, most recently, the guitar.
Nine Pin was released in late-2016. What influenced the album’s songs? How would you sum up the record?
Sure. Nine Pin was a culmination of my time living and studying old-time music in Elkins, West Virginia - as well as my growing desire to write songs about my own life and perspective. There are a plethora of traditional songs as well as original ones; joined together by Moog, trumpet and dulcet electric guitar songs.
How does it feel looking back at the album? It has gained huge praise! How humbling is that?!
It is humbling: I had no idea it would receive the positive attention that it has. It’s nice to see a piece of your art – of your heart, really – affecting people in such a way.
Last year; you went on a U.K. tour supporting Rhiannon Giddens. What was that experience like?
It was a lot of fun. I’d never played to such massive crowds before and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was lovely to open for such a seasoned and powerful performer as Rhiannon - I learned so much from watching her show every night.
Toronto is where you are based. I have not experienced too many Bluegrass/Blues artists from that area! Is it quite a rare sound there, do you think?
Sure - but not more than anything else. Music of all styles has the ability to travel and reach new ears. There’s quite a lot of fantastic old-time musicians in Toronto for that reason.
Canada is among the most fertile countries for music. Why do you think this is so?
I believe that the government has a large part in it: arts agencies help to fund musicians, dancers and visual artists. We get further along in our careers because of the generous aid being offered to us.
I notice similarities to Nina Simone (in your music). Is she someone you are inspired by? Which artists are most important to you?
Ah yes: I’m definitely inspired by Nina Simone.
I’ve loved her since I was young; she just had a way of performing that was quite entrancing. In my piano lessons, I’d request (to learn) her songs. I learned Forbidden Fruit once when I was thirteen and performed it onstage. It was the first time I’d sung and played live.
It was terrifying, but also gratifying, because I was belting out Nina’s words.
Can we expect any new material this year at all?
Yes. I am currently writing for my next album - due late-2018 or early-2019.
How important is your Afro-Caribbean background to your musical identity? Has your heritage and family played a big role?
Yes, they have. I’m sure families play a huge role in any artists’ life, whether positive or negative. My family is quite eclectic and extremely loving and encouraging. I do mine our past for poetry or song material; but, I think that’s an affliction that tempts every artist...like Sartre speaking about the ‘madeleine’ cookies of his childhood at such lengths. It’s not about the cookies: it’s about the point in time during which they took place: his boyhood.
IN THIS PHOTO: Courtney Marie Andrews/PHOTO CREDIT: Laura E. Partain
If you had the chance to select the three albums that mean the most to you – which would they be and why?
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
It’s a classic.
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
A feminist/womanist Hip-Hop anthem.
Bob Marley – Kaya
For obvious reasons - I was named after that album.
Is there any advice you would give to fellow artists coming through right now?
Forgive and celebrate yourself…
You are not perfect; not every show will go incredibly. You’re human. Have fun and move on. Most of all – play. Joke around: don’t be so serious. Develop a mantra. Mine is: “I love myself, I accept myself; I am worthy”. Before you hit the stage, or in the lowest moments in your career (filled with the most self-doubt); repeat your mantra...
I know you are in the U.K. and Ireland to tour through January and February. Which dates are you most looking forward to? How do you find the British/Irish crowds?
I love the crowds overseas!
There’s such an appreciation for Folk music in the U.K. (Ireland and Wales). That is very rare and special. I love sharing my songs with you all. I’m looking forward to playing at Celtic Connections in Glasgow - because I’ve admired the festival for a long time. I’m also looking forward to playing Leap Castle in Roscrea because…you know…it’s a CASTLE.
We don’t have too many of those back home…
Do you have any ambitions of resolutions for this year at all?
To love myself more fully and completely.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Really?! Wow…okay, okay; um….
How about Coyote by Jonathan Byrd? That’s one of my favourites
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