By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Los Angeles singer-songwriter Kat Parsons has plenty to say.
Parsons, www.KatParsonsMusic.com, on April 3 will release “Talk To Me,” the first of three EPs that she will release this year. Her Chicago fans no doubt are rejoicing over the news, and Parsons herself has deep connections to the Chicago area – she graduated from Northwestern University with a theater degree, and her debut album, “Framing Caroline,” was released on Chicago-based Waterdog Music.
Her fans continue to play a big part in the music she makes. In late 2010, she launched a Kickstarter campaign and her fans responded generously, giving more than $19,000.
I had the chance to talk to Parsons about the new EP and her music career.
Q – “Fall For It” seems like an extremely personal song. Do all your songs come from personal experience? How are your fans responding to the song?
Most of them come from personal experience, though that can be a broad term. Some may be from observation or what I hear from others about their triumphs and struggles and I often find something in them to which I can relate.
Well, only the Kickstarters have gotten to hear the song and I’ve gotten really fun feedback! People have been listening with their windows down on sunny days, even in Chicago I heard it was 70!!
It is a really fun song to blast at the top of your lungs and that is what I am hearing from them.
Q – Of course, Mike Flynn, head of A&R at Epic Records, co-produced the song. He had some kind words about you, saying that you had a unique voice. What did you learn from working with him?
I had a really good time working with him. He has a really positive, encouraging vibe and was fully on board with the song and the form and sounds related to it.
It was great to see him in action.
Q – You are planning to release three EPs this year, starting with “Talk To Me.” How did you decide to take such an approach?
I’ve always been interested in experimenting with sounds, in dressing my songs up in different clothes. What would it sound like in a simple dress, or in a fluroescent outfit with crazy face paint, or dressed up as a lollipop or in a matching velour track suit?
So I set out to make three different EPs with three different producers to try out three different sounds.
It was quite an adventure and I think each EP has its own vibe. The second one is like eating a piece of cake, it’s very sugary and fun and bouncy (and even has a reggae approach on one of the songs!) and the third is my most spare recording yet featuring my ballads, though there is an orchestra on one of the tracks, which is not spare at all.
Q – Your fans have been very generous to you when you have turned to them for financing your records. Did that surprise you at all? Does that make you even more confident in your music, knowing that people want to help finance your records?
You know, I feel so lucky and grateful. Yes, I am always surprised and excited and encouraged.
It is easy to get lost in my own bubble when I am working at my music and to get to connect with people and know that my music means something to them is the best gift I could ever receive.
Q – “Talk To Me” was produced by Warren Huart, known for his work with Aerosmith and The Fray. How did you hook up with him and what do you think he brought to the table?
Warren, with engineer, Robin Holden, have tons of experience and are really good at seeing what a person is best at and bringing that to the forefront. He has produced some amazing music and really knows how to cut through to the heart of a song.
He also really values live instruments, which I do also, so he gets the best musicians to come in to play and then he makes everything work together. Both he and Robin did some quite impressive playing as well!
He also has a really great ear for harmony and we had a great time coming up with some cool vocal harmony in the songs. He came up with a syncopated line of harmony for “Talk to Me”, which I adore.
Q – The music business has vastly changed since you released your debut album, “Framing Caroline,” on Chicago-based Waterdog Music in 1999. It seems like more and more musicians are now doing what you did and going the indie route. Do you think it is harder or easier being a musician these days?
Hmm….I don’t know! I think there is much more opportunity for musicians these days and that is really empowering. I think that it is easier/more possible to make a living as a musician now because it is easier to reach people and find the people who love your music and with whom you connect.
You can find your community and then there are lots of ways to build that relationship through social media. However, this requires that you wear more than your “artist” hat, which is easier for some than others.
It seems like music fans look for and are hungry for new music, which is so cool. There are now tons of avenues on the internet that support this.
It just requires that, as a musician, you be somewhat savvy about reaching people and managing to stand out among all of the music that is out there. There are a TON of amazingly talented musicians and I think there is enough pie for everyone.
It’s just a matter of finding your tribe, which takes some work, well, actually takes a lot of hard work! That is my experience, but I also think there are so many paths to “success” that someone else’s experience could vary greatly.
Q – What are your touring plans for this year? Will you be getting back to Chicago?
I hope so! Right now my plans are for the West Coast and East Coast but I hope to make it back to Chicago soon!
Q – Do you have any dream collaborations or projects?
Of course. I mean who wouldn’t love to work with Thom Yorke and Radiohead?