Before rock ‘n’ roll and television, big bands, classy jazz and sumptuous singers dominated home radios and the silver screen. Kat Edmonson, who graces the Austin City Limits Live stage May 19th, reaches back in time with a vibrant voice that pours through her heart and soul to rekindle that simpler yet romantic era.
While Kat is currently captivating listeners from New York to Beijing with her whispery, wholesome words and loving lyrics, she still found a few moments to talk to us about her recently released fourth album, ‘Old Fashioned Gal,’ ahead of Saturday’s Moody Theater appearance.
Your voice is unique, and vital to the impact of these songs. How do you prepare before shows?
I don’t really prepare my voice. I sing to myself a lot, which often is my informal warm up.
Who are some of your major influences?
I learned music from old movies as a kid. I was watching Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Debbie Reynolds, Judy Garland, Doris Day singing acting and dancing. Those were my first influences specific to this record, and that’s what you’ll hear.
What’s one unknown yet interesting fact about you?
Here’s something that I think is a misconception about me that I could set straight. People might assume because of my influences and the style in which I write that I wish I could live in a past decade. With everything that I value, I love this time right now. Which is ironic, because at the end of the album I’m saying it’s ‘Not My Time!’
In 2009 you covered, ‘Just Like Heaven’ by The Cure…
I love that song. That was my favorite song to dance to in high school.
Describe your song ‘Canoe,’ from the new album. I hear it as a moonlit, jazzy jaunt down a river, like a dream date. I can see, “The fireflies lightning their cabooses.”
I am so glad you feel that way. I heard all the music and then I heard [the word] “canoe” and I filled in the blanks. The music will suggest what my lyrics will be next. The nature of the music—this isn’t a sad song, it’s a romantic song, or it’s a bouncy song, so is kind of cute. So what am I saying here? While ‘Goodbye Bruce’ and ‘A Voice’ were written from personal experience, the rest of the record was me living out imaginary circumstances.
‘Sparkle and Shine’ I wrote for myself to lift my spirits. But, I wrote it imagining Fred Astaire singing it to me, so it’s alive in my imagination. I imagined different characters singing these songs and, once I finished, I discovered I had a storyline as I was imagining scenes in a movie. So, I sat down and wrote an outline for a musical. It’s imaginary, but infused with my perspective.
How do you translate that feeling to your musicians?
I sing all the parts. I have all the arrangements in my head as I’m writing. I can hear all the instruments at once. My associate producer and drummer, Aaron Thurston, sat with me on each song on this record.
In ‘Goodbye Bruce,’ are you humming those notes and feelings out?
I wanted to perform it in the rawest form possible. I actually hear an orchestra, complete with French horns, for it. I produced it in the form closest to the form I wrote it in—which was me sitting on a park bench singing. It indicates the very personal nature and vulnerability within the song.
Is that a song about a past boyfriend or a life lost?
It’s about someone who passed away and I wrote it the day he died.
‘Not My Time’ is a great follow up to ‘Goodbye Bruce’ as the last song on the album because it’s an upbeat live-your-life kind of song.
That’s always my aim above everything else: are they gonna feel it? Is the intention of the song getting through? That’s all that matters. ’Not My Time’ includes trumpet, clarinet and me doing mouth trumpet. The solo is actually me.
Why was your song ‘A Voice’ described as a “microcosm of her emotions?”
I was going through great self-doubt. That’s very tied to my identity, and a devastating place to be in. I wrote ‘A Voice’ to express it. I was ashamed with the way I was feeling, yet I had the notion some other people were feeling the way I was feeling. It really was at the point of releasing it that I got a great sense of relief. Something shifted there: sharing it with people and getting that kind of feedback finally released whatever I had been carrying around.
With the title track ‘Old Fashioned Girl,’ do you feel the modern world has damaged romance?
We’re constantly being stimulated by our screens. It takes us out of the moment. We’re not connecting. The romance is always there for us, but we cover it up with all of these other things. Being in a quiet space is rather simple and you have thoughts, but it probably scares us all now. It’s actually very peaceful and makes this wonderful space for connection and creativity. We thrive there. We can’t create unless there’s a space to do so. I was putting a spotlight on our values and the romantics this song would reach.
So, other than Japan and China, where do you go from here?
I continue to try to share [the album]. I think I now understand what it is to release an album. It’s not about ambition or competition, it really is about sharing. Like a recipe that I want people to taste. The thing that I made is out there and affecting people. I am thrilled with every single unique person who hears this album.