December 15, 2017
If you don't know the name, now's the time to learn about the amazing woman who followed her dreams to Paris with a few hundred bucks and an acoustic guitar. Kate is an upcoming folk singer/songwriter with an amazing passion for freedom and music. She gave up everything and risked it all to follow her heart, some would say she had "starving artist syndrome," but I'd say music flowed out of her soul so powerfully she couldn't ignore it.
Leaving New York City and traveling across the European countryside alone is a bold move, and Kate is a bold artist. Follow her now on Spotify and listen to her first rustic album, Heroine, while you read this review.
After Kate and I finished talking about the beautiful snowy weather, she likes to watch the snowfall as well, and our rambunctious cats, we talked about good old Cleveland. She’s been here a few times for horse competitions and she’s promised to let us know if she comes back!
Courtney A Ramey: How did you know your soul was unbalanced when you were living in New York?
Kate Grom: I had been there for about seven years and towards the end of that time period I started to feel like I was a little burned out. I think it’s really hard to be a working artist in New York City because it’s a tough city, I have so much love in my heart for it though. There’s a reason people say if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere. I think I was just hitting a wall where I was working in the music business as well as pursuing my music and it was getting really hard to do both things.
People aren’t buying records like they used to, it’s much harder to make a living with your art unless you have the ability to tour all the time. I knew I needed to get out and look at everything in my life from a distance and asses what the next step was. Was I going to turn music into a hobby or really bite the bullet and forsake comfort for my love for art and music? I wasn’t expecting the opportunity to work with Stewart Lerman on my debut record Heroine that came out this year, it was sort of a serendipitous opportunity. A lot of good things came out of that decision. I’m glad I moved out of the city but with that said I was really glad I had gone there in the first place and spent so much time experiencing life and the music scene there and the other places I have lived over the years, I wouldn’t be the artist that I am.
CAR: Tell me about your relationship with the American Countryside
KG: I grew up in a town called Frenchtown New Jersey, it’s an extremely rural area, I would spend a lot of time out in nature and reading books like The Wind and the Willows where there’s animals that are characters, or even The Chronicles of Narnia. That’s what always reminded me of home, kind of whimsical stories. I began creating my own stories over the years and that’s what lead to me writing. It’s a really great place to listen to music, there’s not really tons to do in a rural place so you have to really challenge yourself to go find things that are exciting and one of those things is music. Growing up on a farm was awesome, it set me up to know that there’s responsibility in everything you do in life. I’d collect eggs from the chickens and we have organic grass fed beef and everything.
(When Kate’s family starts selling their beef nationwide we will be the first to know!)
CAR: How much money and how many possessions did you have when you left New York?
KG: That’s actually really funny that you just asked that because I just found a hundred dollars in my pocket!
CAR: Perfect timing!
KG: Well I was planning a wedding, I was about to get married and I was commuting every weekend to the farm to help with the programs. I knew it was going to take a lot of time to save up and it was hard, I knew it would be difficult going on the road. I played a couple of shows on my last tour where they were supposed to feed us and somehow they didn’t or the kitchen shut down right before so we had to get McDonald's or something and try not to get sick on the road. But when leaving I had a couple hundred dollars and my guitar.
CAR: How was riding a train, alone, in the U.K?
KG: I was riding and visiting friends, I had early trepidations about leaving but I learned a lot of freedom can be good for you. I had just gotten out of a really bad breakup and it was really exhilarating, usually when I travel I very much keep to myself, I really want to take the world in. Every time the whistle of the train blew I knew I had to write a song about it, it reminded me of the freedom that was happening in my life. The song is about love, loss, and freedom. There is a lot of freedom in giving up things that are not good for you and sometimes loss can be a really good thing and you may not know it at the time.
CAR: Where did you find the quote from Nora Ephron that helped inspire your debut album Heroine? On a cafe wall or deep in a book?
KG: I found that quote in 2012 when I first moved to New York City. The quote said, “Put a little bit of heroine in your own life” and the meaning is be your own hero. There aren’t very many female writers who talk about being heroes, it’s mostly a man thing. I wanted to write about it, I found that quote and I actually started channeling it towards the record’s direction a couple years after that. I had started to journal, I’ve always been a "journaler" but I always journal in a paper book or notebook by hand, and for a brief stint in New York when blogs were starting to take off I decided to try starting my own blog, not a public one but a private one where I would just journal. I followed a lot of poetry blogs and stumbled on it there.
CAR: What made France and the French people so special?
KG: In France, and specifically Paris, the culture is one that supports artists. From what I’ve heard, if you’re an artist in Paris you actually get paid a certain salary to be an aspiring artist to encourage art and music, but once you’ve broke the market and are getting paid for your art they stop paying you. It’s actually like a thing in France to actually go be an artist because you can actually survive off of it. Being American I did not have that luxury when I was over there. You can feel it in the environment and in the conversation when you talk to people and just around you, culturally you’re surrounded by people that support art, love music, it’s a part of who they are and they’re proud of it, and it’s not like the struggling artist syndrome we have over here. Specifically compared to New York City, there were times when I really was a struggling artist, it’s hard over there but it’s totally different. It’s encouraged me, and I’m sure others, to be in that setting.
CAR: How was the language barrier?
KG: I was taking French classes for like a year, so when I went over there I had basic conversation down. It’s a beautiful language. The language barrier didn’t hold me back too much, I found that if I spoke enough basic conversational French then I asked if they spoke English, most people would be honored that I tried and switch over to English. Which was really nice because I’ve been warned, “Don’t even try to speak English, they don’t like Americans.”
(Kate ultimately came back home because of her family, but still has a love for her second home overseas.)
CAR: Your song "Whiskey Eyes" talks about big brown beautiful eyes sweeping you away because they remind you of whiskey. Did alcohol play any role in your life?
KG: Not necessarily, I’ve always enjoyed every now and then coming home to a glass of something if the mood strikes, but that song was really inspired by my husband and his big beautiful brown eyes. I think one night we were celebrating, an anniversary or something, but we were sitting outside and the sun was going down and shining straight through our whiskey glasses and it looked just like his eyes. It was beautiful, all the embers and golds, and I was inspired to write that song about him.
CAR: What would you say to someone who was like you, in their twenties and aspiring?
KG: I would say that it’s kind of now or never, the journey starts now, don’t wait. No matter how nervous or scared or whatever you might be, just do whatever you can to get out there. Start writing, start playing, even if it’s just one song in the middle of the night, play for your friends and ask them if anything sounds worthwhile. If you believe it in yourself and have a bit of a musical ear then start going for it now because it’s a long journey and everybody’s story’s different. But yeah, the time is now, that’s what I would have told myself when I was probably about 21.
We ended our conversation talking about the falling snow again, and while you’re drudging along in the cold, remember to look around and enjoy the beauty that it brings as well.
Kate’s currently touring and will be at The Black Box in Franklin, MA. for more info on that click here.
If you want to know more about her and her music click here.
Interview by Courtney A. Ramey