Interview: Kathryn Christie, Musician

This week we chatted with Kathryn Christie, a talented musician based out of Los Angeles. In the latest installment of our interview series, Kathryn discusses her interest in jazz, folk, and Brazilian music, her folk band Greenlee, and growing up in Denton, Texas.

Twenty Two: Let’s start with the basics. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

Kathryn: I am a musician, and my passion lies in performing and teaching. I have a Master’s degree in vocal performance (jazz) from the University of North Texas and I just moved out to LA last December. I’ve lived in Spain, I speak Spanish, and I’m actively learning Portuguese.

Twenty Two: Have you always been interested in music and performing?

Kathryn: Yes, I’ve been involved in music since I was about five years old when I started taking piano lessons. I joined choir around 5th grade, and I also played clarinet in the band. In high school, I started writing songs, playing at coffee houses, and getting into jazz.

Twenty Two: How did you become interested in singing jazz, folk, and Brazilian music?

Kathryn: My high school choir director, Gail Land, was a big influence on me. She encouraged me, telling me I had a jazz sound, and she even began teaching me how to improvise. My folk interest comes from listening to my parents’ music growing up — Simon & Garfunkel, The CarpentersJames Taylor. In college, I was introduced to Brazilian music, both from the Brazilian songs that cross over into the jazz repertoire, and from singing and playing percussion in the Brazilian Ensemble at school. I eventually was invited to sing in a great new band called, “Brasuka,” which specialized in Brazilian samba. The group was made up of some UNT faculty (including my amazing voice teacher, Rosana Eckert, and the Brazilian Ensemble director / percussion teacher, Jose Aponte) as well as some amazing local Dallas musicians. I was the youngest in the group by far.

Twenty Two: How would you describe your sound?

Kathryn: I try to go for a really honest, pure sound. I mean, that comes naturally to me, so hopefully that’s as honest as one can get. I tend to go for more mellow stuff. My own constructive criticism to myself is to go for more high energy stuff.

Twenty Two: In addition to being a solo artist, you’re also in the folk band Greenlee where you play the piano and ukulele. Can you tell us a bit about it? 

Kathryn: Greenlee is on hold for the moment, although we are in some deep planning stages. One member is still in Denton, TX, moving out here early next year. The other member, Julia Adamy, our bass player, lives in New York. In the meantime, I’m performing with a group here in LA, just under my name. [We’re working on some] originals, and really interesting arrangements and covers.

Twenty Two: What’s the process you go through when you’re developing new music?

Kathryn: I find myself writing vigorously whenever I go through a big life change, or some emotional shift. Heartbreak, you know. Since I’ve moved to LA, I feel that I’ve changed a lot, and I can tell already that my music is changing, too. I’ve also met a lot of great musicians out here that have influenced me, and helped me to grow already in these first six  months.

Twenty Two: Where do you find your inspiration?

Kathryn: I find a lot of inspiration in hearing other live music, both in getting new ideas, and just being carried by the beauty and excitement of live music. I love joining in that conversation. I still feel like I’m finding my own unique voice, but of course, that can be a never-ending process and one can go through many levels of musical self-discovery. Every day, the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. I have so far to go!

Twenty Two: Can you describe your typical day?

Kathryn: Lately, I’ve been loving my mornings. I try to rise early, and do my early morning coffee thing and steel cut oats! (I’m vegan.) Early morning walks with my dog have become part of my happiness, too. Musically, I’ve been trying to learn a new tune every day. (That’s jazz-speak for learning a new song… meaning, memorizing the harmony by Roman numerals.) [I’m] on piano, and memorizing lyrics too. I’ve been working on my piano chops more lately. I love to play and sing, and I want to be constantly improving. I’ll listen a lot, too — always try to listen to new music (or new old music… if that makes sense), get ideas, get inspired.

Twenty Two: How has growing up in Denton, Texas and living in Los Angeles influenced your work?

Kathryn: Denton is an amazing little city. So much is happening there musically, and it’s such a great training ground for musicians. Of course, the school is excellent. I learned so much both inside and outside of the classroom. (Outside meaning, gigging. Performing with musicians who are way above you musically is so humbling and enlightening.) I had a great few years in Denton, learning how to be a better performer, booking shows, playing around town, and writing. Moving to LA has really opened my mind in a really exciting way, something Denton could never offer. Of course, there is even more going on here, anything you could possibly think of musically. I’ve really enjoyed meeting new players here, both in the jazz and singer/songwriting crowd. I’ve played several shows here already, and I’m looking forward to playing more!

Twenty Two: Who are some of your favorite musicians at the moment?

Kathryn: It varies so much from day to day! Lately, I’ve been revisiting the Ella Fitzgerald American Songbook albums, Anita O’Day, James Taylor, and Steely Dan. (I sang in a Steely Dan cover band called “Naked Lunch” in Dallas for three years with my teacher Rosana.) Modern stuff — I really love Gretchen Parlato. Been checking out Emily King. Rosa Passos is my favorite Brazilian singer. I’m always checking out interesting indie / folk stuff as well. Lately, I’ve also been into a bunch of Motown and Ravel.

Twenty Two: When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?

Kathryn: I try to be really active, running and hiking. I love to cook at home. Practicing, both piano and voice. Learning new songs, listening to new music. I also teach voice lessons, and work part-time at the Apple store. I’m hoping to eventually teach jazz at a college level, as well as perform.

Twenty Two: What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Kathryn: I have a few shows coming up in LA — Genghis Cohen on July 21st at 7pm, also planning a “debut” jazz show in November. I hope to tour in the future as well. I just finished a recording session out in Denton with my jazz quartet — all of the new recordings are up on my website.

Twenty Two: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?

Kathryn: Always be learning! Practice every day, and get out of your comfort zone (advice I need to keep remembering as well). Support live music, and if you want to do music, then do it. Don’t let yourself get distracted.

A special thanks to Kathryn for giving us the opportunity to learn more about her work. You can keep up with her by checking out her website.

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