Nanobot: In the last 2-3 years, how have you seen your musical career change / develop?
Katey Laurel: The biggest difference has to be the connections – getting more connected not only locally but nationally, and getting my name out there through conferences, putting together the Denver Soundtrack (a great source of resources and info for local musicians), as well as helping head up the Denver Dozen songwriter’s group. I’ve found a great network of support, not only from fans, but in meeting and getting to know and play alongside fellow musicians.
Two commercially released cd’s, and a third in the works, tentatively scheduled for release in early 2013 – Can you take us through the writing process?
Previous to beginning work in 2006 on Upstairs/Downstairs, I’d had 3 independent home recording releases / demos. Upstairs/Downstairs was my first studio release and I owe a massive debt of thanks to Paul Andrews for helping me get into the studio for that.
2011 I was helped out with a rather successful Kickstarter campaign to get the From Here CD going (partially because I was one of the first artists in Denver to do so). I think that being innovative as an artist is crucial to getting yourself noticed. Kickstarter certainly helped me get noticed, not only by publications such as Westword, but also raised the bar in terms of fan support.
How many songs would you say you’ve written that DON’T end up on a cd?
Honestly, I have a catalog of about 209 songs that I’ve written (or co-written) and performed but only have recorded roughly 50 commercially.
As an artist, there is kind of a Brain Dump process you go through — writing whatever is there, sometimes almost just to get through to write the next one – it’s like mining for Diamonds, you’ll go through a lot of rocks…
Do you ever pull something off the shelf that you worked on before and try to re-work it?
Not typically, though it’s not a hard and fast rule. As a matter of fact, one of my most popular songs “Everything I love” was one I wrote 5 years before it got re-worked into what it is.
Realistically, as I progress and develop as a writer, I almost don’t want to revisit my earlier works. It’s like a famous painter going back to when they first picked up a brush and trying to make something new from it. It was what you did then, and I feel I’d rather continue with the process and direction I’m currently going, though it really has to do more with progress as a song-writer than it is about generating numbers.
You had mentioned that the balance is starting to shift from performing your own songs to writing songs to publish. You are obviously talented as a performer and as a song writer… What would you say the balance is at this moment?
Right now – it’s still very much a performance based existence; it’s still my main gig. Playing live is where I meet new fans, and get my name out there. I am still only beginning to seek out the “writing-for-others” aspect, but am hoping in the next few years to move more into that.
Have you noticed any themes in your song-writing? If so, have they changed through your career? (For example, has it become easier to write love-themed songs since you’ve been married?)
(Laughs) I feel like I, for sure, wrote a lot more “Break-up” songs before I got married, but nowadays I feel like I write 3 basic songs – there’s the “Cute & Innocent” love song; a thoughtful / introspective or even spiritual song; and a dark/ sad/ break up song, and sometimes those blend.
“The Wheel,” for example, it’s a dark song, lyrically at least, about things falling apart. At the same time, it’s a rather bouncy and light sounding tune, and I enjoy the juxtaposition there. I feel like I rotate through themes, so I don’t just write a story, or whatever, but in the past few years I’ve certainly become more ‘positive’ in general.
The songs and themes that tend to resonate with people are the ones that I like to have stick around.
You’ve had the chance to work with lots of artists and producers – who have been some of your most inspiring?
Neilson Hubbard – an absolutely fantastic Producer. He was so gentle and sweet and breathed life into my songs. He has the innate ability to be creative on command, and the “From Here” album is a testament to him pulling the best out of each song. His demeanor and confidence made it easy to hand over my songs, and he gave me such a “Good Gut” feeling about it. (Ed. Note: On the “From Here” liner notes, Hubbard is credited with ‘ Vocals, Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Keys, Wurlitzer, Vibes, Glockenspeil, Magic’ – and this makes Nanobot smile)
Katie Herzig, Matthew Perryman Jones – so happy to have been able to work with them, I’ve admired their voices for years.
Recently, I’ve been able to do some collaborative song-writing with Megan Burtt, and Bob Rea here in Colorado, and Morgan Bracy out in Nashville.
Having had the chance to hear some of the songs you’ve been working on as of late, I certainly noticed an intentional stretching/broadening of your style. To your credit, you seem to slide across genres with relative ease. What are some of your favorite new songs / styles we can look forward to hearing?
I’m for sure progressing in the straight forward Folk/ pop style, but there are various moments of inspiration that can take you off in any number of directions. There are some areas I’m experimenting in actively, but not trying to force something that doesn’t work or feels too unnatural. I feel like it’s important to let yourself go in those directions and see where they can take you. Recently, I’ve been dabbling in Country. A song that’s been a lot of fun to perform the past summer is called “Make Hay.”
What empowerment has Internet marketing given you as an artist, and in what ways do you feel Internet marketing can hinder and artist?
It’s very easy to ignore if there is not a physical tangible thing, a cd in your hand. I can’t tell you how many songs make it to the ipod but I rarely get around to playing them. Additionally, because there are no filters for the internet market, anything and everything goes and the quality is diluted.
On the other hand, I have received feedback from people in Brazil and Germany who would have NEVER heard of me if I were relying only on live performance and non-internet marketing. There is a certain advantage to having such a range of exposure.
What are the top three tips you’d give to an aspiring song-writer?
First off – there are no dumb ideas, write everything… Don’t try to edit as you go, or you’ll drive yourself crazy and not let the creativity flow. Write now, edit later.
2nd – Listen to a lot of good songs- they will begin to make sense to you
3rd – Read… a lot – develop a vocabulary to allow yourself to express emotion and situations that go beyond the surface.
Would you tell us about your label, Roaring Twenties, and other projects you are involved in?
Through Roaring Twenties, we are working on my Put Up Your Periscope EP, hopefully we’ll be able to get that wrapped up soon. Me personally, I’m preparing to shop a few songs around Nashville, and those trips are always inspiring in their own right.
I’m also working with artists in terms of licensing and publishing mostly for use in film and television. I have a company called One Way Music Services, and we have a few hand-picked artists like Jessica Sonner and Dan Craig, each great solo artists in their own right, but together they have a project called ‘Oh, Starling’ that has created special and unique Christmas and holiday music arrangements. I’ve been working with Rachel James (of Rachel and the Kings), Carbon Choir and Aaron Espe.
My good friend and producer Dave Hedin (Two Birds and Put Up Your Periscope) also has some great music coming out soon, so be on the lookout for it!
Thank you very much for your time. It has truly been our honor to sit down with you today.