We caught up with Maidstone-based artist KATE BOWEN following the brilliant release of, ‘A Time Before’. Read now!
Hi Kate, tell us about yourself?
I’m Kate, and I’ve been writing songs since I was about 16. I started taking music lessons when I was 7 starting out with the recorder then the trumpet whilst at primary school, I then took percussion and drum lessons in high school and taught myself how to play guitar, bass and piano. I played in orchestras and ensembles throughout school and at university as well as a couple of years back home after graduation.
I listen and play music every day – I love travelling and going on holiday to explore new places, but I always miss my guitar when it can’t come with me. I’m currently living and working in Maidstone, Kent. All of the instruments you hear in ‘A Time Before’ are played by me apart from the percussion lines which were created and performed by John Merriman.
What is your songwriting process?
I love playing guitar, and most of my songs stem from chords and messing around with sequences – I also play piano, and again my songs start with a melody or a chords sequence. On my first album ‘The Things that Define Us’ some of the lyrics came first, especially those songs that I wrote whilst travelling or thinking about my travelling experiences, but for the majority of the songs I have written the chords/music come first.
Tell us about your latest release ‘A Time Before’?
I’ve spent the last almost ten years, either studying to be or practising as a mental health nurse. So music has taken a back seat – I have written songs most years in that time that I’ve been happy with and with lockdown and a change in job role. I was able to write more and arrange some studio time. ‘A Time Before’ is a selection of the songs I’ve written since 2011 inspired by travel, friends and family, and about finding some headspace after a long day on the wards.
You recorded ‘A Time Before’ at Crown Lane Studio in Morden, South London with John Merriman and Bill Sherrington, what was that process like?
I’ve known John and Bill for many years: they are both incredibly supportive, and there’s always a lovely atmosphere at the studio whether you’re recording or rehearsing. To feel relaxed whilst recording is so important to me – the worst state to be in is to be stressed and uncomfortable as the music will never sound as good as you want it to – I’m a laid- back person, and that is reflected, I hope, in the music I write and release, and that is aided by the guys at Crown Lane. They also have the advantage of having a fantastic coffee shop on-site – ‘Metronome’ – which serves a great cappuccino!
You have travelled extensively in America, to over 25 States, has this influenced your writing?
Absolutely. I first went to the States in 2009 after I graduated from university. I love the National Parks, especially Yellowstone and all the bears! I have done a few small group adventure tours which included four weeks travelling from Seattle up through Canada to Alaska, we camped the majority of nights, saw moose and bears and sea otters, and had a few beers around the campfire.
The song ‘Dawson City’ was inspired by the place and the album cover from ‘The Things that Define Us’ is me ‘jumping’ over a glacier near one of our campsites. The song ‘Interesting World’ was written in between trips to the States and I’d love to go back once we are allowed to travel again.
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
I like to think that my music brings a sense of calm. I like writing music that can get you through your morning commute or to unwind after a long day or to chill and reflect. My music is very personal: it’s about my experiences and my friends and family’s experiences or things that I see and read about.
When lyrics come to me as I’m playing guitar and keyboards, I write them down, and I think they mean one thing, but when I read them through later, they can mean something completely different. All of my favourite songs are ones that make me stop and think, and I hope that when people listen to my music, it makes them stop and think too.
Who are your non-musical influences?
Holidays and travelling for sure and anywhere that gets me out of my own head and makes me appreciate that moment in time like walking up a hill or a mountain and admiring the view. People I meet, books I read, things I watch on the TV, Covid and Brexit, and my friends and family. I’m not always good at finding the right words to say at the time, and they find their way into my writing instead.
‘Be Myself’ is a good example of this: I was irritated about something, and I got it out on paper, and I felt better about it as a result. ‘Don’t wait too long’ is dedicated to members of my family we’ve lost in the last few years and a reminder to myself to make the most out of every day and that you may not get another opportunity.
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
Over the years I have played in pubs and small venues with my guitar in the UK, but I think my favourite ‘gig’ was playing in bars and on a boat in Alaska. The people I travelled within my small group had all met as strangers, but they all got behind me and my music, and I hope, added something to their trip as it did to mine.
We stopped for coffee on the road one day in the middle of nowhere and someone that had seen me play the night before remembered me and congratulated me on my playing – I’ll never forget moments like that. I have received some lovely feedback about ‘A Time Before’ from friends, family and people I have never met: it all means so much. When you write music in your bedroom, and your audience is mainly two cats who generally sleep throughout, it’s so nice to have it so well received.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
We are all living in strange times – the series of lockdowns have been positive for creativity and musicians, and other artists have been inventive in finding ways to get their music out – take Taylor Swift’s latest releases for example.
However, gigs on whatever scale have been stopped which is hard on a lot of performers: online performances and live streaming have become really popular, but there is no feeling quite like hearing and seeing your favourite artists in person and being part of a crowd singing back at them and being part of something.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
I hope to receive my Covid vaccine soon and for things to start to return to a new ‘normal’. I have really missed seeing family and friends: sharing my music with them has been really positive and has given us something different to talk about! I would love to play some local venues, and I would love to write some new material I am pleased with to share with the world!
FVMusicBlog January 2021
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