2014 Featured Musician: Kate Callahan

Sometimes thank you just isn’t enough. Every year as a gift for donors who contribute $100 or more to our United Arts campaign, we commission local musician(s) to release an exclusive EP. This year our featured musician is the wonderfully talented Kate Callahan.

Nominated for a 2014 New England Music Award and Connecticut’s “Best Singer-Songwriter 2013,” Kate has three albums including her recent release Two Doors. A West Hartford native and Artist in Residence, Kate also teaches creative writing and songwriting to high school students. She has traveled the U.S performing her contemporary folk music and opened shows for legends Judy Collins, Noel Paul Stookey, the duo Aztec-Two-Step, John Gorka, and the late Bill Morrissey. To delve more into Kate and her music I asked a few questions.

What is your process for songwriting?

I write alone. I love it when it’s quiet and my apartment space is vacant and I generally write music first. I come up with chord progressions on the guitar and I play those until they really start sinking into my body and soul. I can imagine the best drummers playing along to them, to add more shape and dimension to the tune. From the chord progressions, I start to get images and notions of stories. Some of them are completely fictional, some are nonfiction and I write lyrics more laboriously then I write chord progressions. It can sometimes take weeks for me write lyrics but the process usually starts with the music.

You’ve been a singer/songwriter for over 10 years. How has the Hartford arts scene changed in that time?

10 years ago or so I was getting my feet wet at Sully’s Pub on Park Road. That club was one of the only clubs around that was really known for hiring and booking musicians who played originals. That was a scene and it was something that anybody who was out there writing, whether solo or with a band wanted to play at Sully’s. They did a wonderful thing there for the Hartford music scene. What’s happened over 10 years is that thirst for original music that audiences would find at a place like Sully’s has just blown up. People are craving original music. Many of the venues now in downtown Harford and surrounding greater Hartford are booking bands that play their own music. In that sense the Hartford music scene has really nurtured all of us out here who are really creating. I have to mention the Connecticut Music Awards which had their first season in 2012. The Connecticut Music Awards have really contributed to a sense of connection between Hartford and other cities, so that while we’re here as artists in Hartford generating and creating and performing we’re now not isolated from other artists in the state.

Tell us a little about the exclusive Kate Callahan EP you have created for the Art Council’s United Arts Campaign. What were your thoughts behind the EP’s songs and themes?

Dream Tree: A Retospective
Dream Tree: A Retospective

I love this project! I’m calling it Dream Tree because I’ve always thought of trees as a conduit between earth and heaven. When I decided on the 6 songs for the EP I purposely chose songs that felt like trees to me. There’s a song called The Lover. It’s about a journey, not gender specific, so a human journey of someone who is a lover of the earth, humanity and experience. Someone who feels almost purposely on their journey here on earth, that this lover would help others love. That song feels thematically in a sense as a connection between earth and heaven.

2012 and 2013 were big years for you, releasing the album Two Doors and winning Best Singer-Songwriter at the Connecticut Music Awards. What is in store for 2014?

I have a lot going on in 2014. I’m really happy about the projects and performances coming up. My band is going to be on Bleecker St. at SubCulture on April 13th in New York City which I’m floored about. That area of New York has such a legacy of folk music. Then we come back to West Hartford and one of the hats I wear throughout the year is that I’m the Artistic Director of the Heart Folk Festival which is a festival held at the University of St Joseph. What we’re doing this year is holding a Heart Folk Festival preview April 29th which is open to all and will preview a line up from the festival. There will be food and drinks and this will be held at the Governor’s mansion. I’m excited about a Mother’s Day show on May 31st. My band and I will be playing at the Unitarian Universalist Church in West Hartford. Then I leave on tour and I’ll be gone the entire month of June doing a solo acoustic tour in the southeast part of the country from Philly down to Miami. When I get back I’ll teach songwriting over the summer and then I’m really excited to announce a show at the Charter Oak Cultural Center on September 27th. This will be with the full band Kate Callahan and Echo Joy. We’re going to be introducing some new material and it will be a big night of music so we hope everyone will be there!

To learn more about Kate, visit http://www.kate-callahan.com/.

To watch a video of the making of the album, click here.

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