I enjoyed a musical moment with Charlotte's creative community by sharing my song "Play Me." Don't miss Dan Hood showing off his musical chops on electric guitar. Dan arranged this song (which I had written for jazz piano) into a 12-bar blues for guitar.
February 1st, 2017, 11:30am in the birthplace of Bono and William Butler Yeats (Dublin, Ireland) my first radio airplay by Sean Brophy of 103.2 Dublin City FM. He mentions my name at the top of the show in a lineup with Fairport Convention (Sandy Denny) and the Oscar nominated song from La La Land (sung by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone). Esteemed company. Listen to Sean’s entire entertaining and diverse show by clicking the play button above or going to the mixcloud page here . Charlotte, NC and Bob Malone (who played piano) get a shout-out in the intro to my song “Keep on Talking” at 49:10. Many thanks to Alexis Bruce (my manager), Chris Rosser (recorded and mixed the cd) and the folks at Gat3 studios for their work on the song.
The "Something True EP Release Party" in December was a heart-warming reminder of how a community of people can support and encourage each other. Levin Chaskey captured the songs and the mood in the video below, Cheryl Hoover sang backup, Chris Rosser (who recorded, mixed and played on the cd) contributed his talents, fellow songwriters, artists, poets, professors, family, and neighbors attended and celebrated with me. Many thanks to Alexis Bruce and Charlotte Star Room for hosting. (Don't miss the video shot of the sketch my neighbor—whom I've known since she was born—drew of me that evening!)
You can buy the EP straight from me (send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org), from my website via cdbaby (go to music page), or your favorite online source. Also available from your favorite streaming sources.
Singer/songwriter/producer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Rosser (who recorded my EP and a full cd of original songs premiering early next year) will be in town on December 16 to help launch my 5-song EP. Everyone on my email list is getting access to a free stream and download of the title track (available now) and a free EP (available next week). If you aren't already on my email list, sign up before December 16th and I will send you the link! Details of the concert are on my schedule page. Thank you so much for your support.
On the day hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina, I was up in Asheville (which just barely caught the edge of the storm). I was walking along the French Broad river in the Olivette neighborhood when I came across a couple getting married. It was just the two of them, the minister, and a photographer. I was so struck by their deciding to get married even in the middle of a storm; they seemed so frail but also strong--choosing love no matter what the sky might portend. I wanted to sing something for them, but I couldn't think of what I would sing, even though I have sung for many weddings over the years. Right then and there I decided to write a song about that moment. As I searched for ideas, the larger metaphor of how dangerous and frightening our world is today loomed larger and larger in my imagination. I recorded this demo at the end of October as I finished up writing, so I could have a record of the song in progress; flawed though it is, here on 11/9 (the day after the 2016 election) I thought it was important to send out some light. It is in our darkest storms that we have to shelter each other—choose love. My daughter just turned 18 and voted with me in this last election. As I prepare to send her out into this dangerous world, I dedicate this song to her—and to all those who are frightened and despairing.
My friend Stacy Jennings Werner and her husband Eric hosted a house concert for me in Missoula, Montana with local musician John Floridis. If you’ve ever thought of hosting or attending a house concert for a musician, I hope these pictures will encourage you! It’s an intimate, special evening. (All photos by Jack Oates.)
My sister, Nancy Spragins, flew over from Seattle for the concert (and, as always, was a huge help to Stacy and great source of moral support for me).
Lots of great food including cherished family recipes (my grandmother's caramel cake!)
Tuning up and getting ready to play.
From left my cousins (Gingy & Peter Heyler, sister Nancy, and my Mom) along with other friends and neighbors made a great listening crowd
The concert was live-streamed by Western Montana's Facebook page. You can watch it (in two parts) on my Facebook Music Page
John and I played for 3 hours. One heck of an audience (40 or so in Missoula and 9,000 watching all over the world) stayed with us for most of the concert.
Stacy, John and me basking in the glow….. Stacy and Eric…the hosts (and friends).
I had a great time meeting the folks from the Connecticut Songwriters Association including President and Grammy-winning songwriter, Bill Pere, Kay Pere, Jan Gillies, Doug Hendren (whom I met at John McCutcheon's songwriting retreat), and...
grand-prize winner Jane Fallon (my roommate at Ellis Paul's songwriting retreat!).
Delighted to announce that my song, "Saving the Whales" is a top 10 finalist in the Connecticut Songwriting Association's Environmental Contest and will appear on the compilation cd. I will perform at an event on September 10 at Coogan's Farm in Mystic, CT along with the winners and other finalists (my roommate, Jane Fallon, at the Ellis Paul Songwriting Retreat won the Grand Prize!). Details and tickets here if you live in the area!
- Artist: Katie Oates
- Date: 09/10/16
- Time: 3:30pm
- Venue: Coogan Farm
- City: Mystic , CT
- Country: US
- Age restrictions: All Ages
Poet and friend, Lisa Zerkle, believes poetry belongs to everyone, so she conceived a way of merging poetry and art and displaying it in places where everyone can read and enjoy it. Her project, 4x4CLT, has been given a home at the newly-formed Charlotte Center for Literary Arts where Kathie Collins, Paul Reali, and Lisa have been supporting creative writers of all kinds (including me).
I am delighted to be bringing some music to their fall party which will be held in Plaza Midwood (behind Pure Pizza) on Saturday, September 3 of Labor Day weekend: beer, pizza, and poetry. No stuffy reading here from poets Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown, (in fact, please leave the kiddos at home)….
I have been enjoying collaborating as with Tom Hanchett, Mark Larson and Paul Walker as "Katie and the Wild Oates" this summer at various venues. Thank you to Daniel Coston for this picture of us at Great Aunt Stella Center. Here's a compilation video (shot and edited by Wes Cobb) at our last gig:
If you've ever been to the Northwest of the United States, you know how precious water is. Even in places people think of as rainy (like Seattle), the quantity of rain is much less than most cities in the Eastern United States get. A few summers ago I was driving across a long wide stretch of prairie and saw a thunderstorm way off in the distance. There was a dark line extending underneath the length of the storm system, and I realized the rain was evaporating before it could reach the earth: all that parched land, water just above and none of it reaching ground. It reminded me of the way we want so badly to connect to the people we love the most--and how often we fail. (Video by Wes Cobb.)
You never know what can happen when you become a fan of an artist you admire (as I admire blues piano virtuoso, Bob Malone). I supported his fabulous new cd, "MoJo Deluxe", by buying "play a track for your cd" in an indiegogo campaign. I never imagined at the time that he would eventually come to Charlotte in person to record a song I wrote for him to play ("Keep on Talkin'") at Gat3 studios. Chris Rosser was there producing (and got recruited to add a bass track) and Wade Starnes engineered. What a day. Videos of the day and recorded song to come with release of my first cd of original songs. Make sure you subscribe to my email and like my Facebook page for updates!
An old mill (Loray Mill in Gastonia, NC) with a storied past (see my prior posts about the mill strikes, Ella May Wiggins, and taking part in a cd project) gets a spectacular renovation into condos but with a nod to the past with the creation of the Alfred C Kessell History Center in the mill. I enjoyed playing music for the open house (hundreds of people turned out--many with connections to people who worked in the mill).
Ever encounter a big talker who loves himself/herself more than anyone else in the world?...that's the inspiration for this song. I wanted to write a fun blues song that virtuoso blues pianist Bob Malone could play for my first cd of original songs. (But Bob was not the subject of the song!) I wanted to give the piano player a chance to show off (and personify the big talker in the song). Mike Alicke does a nice job on the guitar solo in this version (with Edan Aldridge on bass and Paul Walker on drums). Video by Wes Cobb.
The older I get, the more grace I have for mistakes other people make. Sure it's entertaining when the occasional politician "hikes the Appalachian trail" or a vain celebrity makes a fool of himself or herself, but upon reflection, I think we all realize it's never wise to throw stones. Most of us end up falling on our face at some point or another. Why not have compassion for folks who are down on their luck--or perhaps have never been dealt a fair hand...because in the end, we are all only "two steps from disaster"....
This song will be on my first cd of original songs due for release in the fall.
(Video from "Folk Society Night", March 16, 2016 at The Evening Muse in Charlotte, NC with Mike Alicke (lead guitar), Paul Walker (drums), and Edan Aldridge (bass). Wes Cobb: videographer.)
If there's anything better than creating music, it is creating music with other people. I'm looking forward to playing in Charlotte's best listening room (The Evening Muse) on March 16 with a great audience (Charlotte's Folk Society is hosting the evening, so there's a full line up of musicians) and talented fellow band members (singer/songwriter and guitarist Mike Alicke, drummer Paul Walker and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Edan Aldridge). It will be a treat to have some of my bluesy/rockin' songs given a full treatment with instrumental solos and full drums. West Art Videos is taping the evening for me, so I'll post some videos at a later date. I'll play a couple of songs that I premiered a couple years ago at the Muse (Laughin' Through My Tears, Never Enough) and a rocking fast arrangement (thank you Dan Hood) of a jazzy song that I will close out the evening (Play Me) along with a number of new songs.
Last March when Si Kahn challenged me to write a song commemorating the 1929 Loray Mill Strike for the Mill Mothers Lament project last March, I studied Si Kahn’s Aragon Mill and Eric Taylor’s “Deadwood”. After about an hour analyzing these songs, I was thoroughly depressed. I realized I had sauntered into the Sistine Chapel to figure out how to paint.
One of the most difficult tasks for an artist (story-teller, poet, journalist, songwriter, painter, photographer, etc.) is to convey a controversial story in a complex way that touches an audience’s emotions without being preachy or moralistic. The best artists tell a story by painting a picture (either literally or with words and music). The details, colors, shading, inflections and angles draw the audience in allowing them to discover the meaning however they wish. Painting a compelling picture is the secret. So, if a picture is worth a thousand words, can one song be worth a thousand words? And if you are master songwriter, can you make one word worth a thousand stories? If you are Eric Taylor, the answer is yes.
In his song “Deadwood” Eric Taylor writes about the death of Crazy Horse (one of the Indian chiefs who soundly defeated the US Army’s 7th Cavalry Regiment [“Custer’s Last Stand”] at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876). The first verse sets the scene by describing men in a saloon in colorful detail—subtly conveying who, what, when, where, and even why by hinting at tantalizing layers of many more stories:
The good times scratched a laugh
From the lungs of the young men
In a Deadwood saloon, South Dakota afternoon
And the old ones by the door
With their heads on their chests,
They told lies about whiskey on a woman’s breath
Yes, and some tell the story of young Mickey Free
Who lost an eye to a buck deer in the Tongue River Valley
Oh and some tell the story of California Joe
Who sent word through the Black Hills
There was a mountain of gold
We know these men; we’ve heard their stories (many times). And when Eric Taylor sings the song he smiles with an awareness that we might even see him in that Deadwood Saloon. We settle back, ready for a familiar story. Then he launches into the chorus and slips the hook in without our even knowing it: “The gold she lay cold in their pockets.”
That single word "she" is a word most songwriters would not have thought of inserting. But by personifying gold—the object of the men’s desire—as a woman, Taylor surreptitiously causes the listener to instantly recall a thousand stories, movies and songs we know: the unrequited love of a passionate man, a hard-hearted prostitute who duped an unwitting man, a young woman murdered by a greedy man. The hook is in. Whether the men are victims or villains (or both—it’s up to the listener), we care about the story. We want to know what happened. The chorus continues while our unease grows until the sharp pull of the last line sinks the hook deep in our hearts, and we realize we’re caught.
And the gold she lay cold in their pockets
And the sun she sets down on the trees
And they thank the Lord
For the land that they live in
Where the white man does as he pleases
It gets better (or worse!) from there. The subtle bigotry in the second verse creeps in on you like a fog. And the very last line (with another single descriptive word about a boy sweeping the floor) will make you gasp out loud with the pain of recognition. I will follow my own advice and not ruin the song by talking about it, so listen to it here. But be warned: Eric Taylor plays for keeps. This song will never let you go.
For the holiday season enjoy the music video "In the Bleak Midwinter" with winter photos that my Dad and I took. Or join me live next week when I'll be singing Christmas music and original songs with Lucinda Lucas on December 16th at Eaglespeak coffee house in Charlotte (details here) AND Looking forward to reprising the Tony Abbot's "Angel Dialogues" (poetry and music) in Lexington with Staley Jordan as the angel on December 13. See below and prior post (Poetry Performance with Tony Abbott) about the event: