Music Interviews
2:11 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

Kat Edmonson 'Just Wasn't Made For These Times'

Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 4:30 pm

A lot of the songs on Kat Edmonson's new album, Way Down Low, have a timeless sound, due in part to her own timeless-sounding voice. But she isn't above revealing her influences: The song "Champagne," she admits, was crafted with a particular American songsmith in mind.

"I was trying to write a song like Cole Porter," Edmonson tells NPR's Melissa Block. "Me and a million other people are trying to write a song like Cole Porter."

A Texas native, the 28-year-old Edmondson began composing music at a young age.

"The first song that I remember writing in its entirety was when I was 9 years old," Edmonson says. "I wrote it on a bus, on a field trip. It was called 'Mystery Man,' and in retrospect, it was the beginning of my exploration of what it was like to have a man in your life, because I didn't. I grew up with my mom; it was just the two of us. Although I was writing from the perspective of that being a boyfriend, it had very much to do with my father."

Sing a song about a mystery man

When God made him, I think he had a plan

to fool all the girls like he did me

Never did ask him to leave me be

Oh, why'd he go away?

Mystery man, come back to me someday

Making Life More Like The Movies

While her mother worked long hours, musicals on VHS tapes would entertain little Kat.

"I would watch Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye," Edmonson says. "And there would always be some kind of romance happening, and there was always some scene where [they] go to a nightclub and some performer would come out. And it was always some famous performer like The Andrews Sisters or Louis Armstrong. And I actually thought that's what it meant to get older. My idea of what adulthood looked like. At some point, I had to face the fact that it wasn't and it was a little disappointing. And that gave me impetus to try and make life like that."

If she wanted to, Edmonson could belt out a song, but, as she says, "I'm really in love with the subtler side of things. I often employ subtlety and nuance in my voice. But I really do anticipate that I will start singing — belting, if you will."

But less Judy Garland, more doo-wop.

"When I tend to belt, it kind of reminds me of like a more '60s girl doo-wop kind of belting," Edmonson says. "Recently, I did experience a little bit of that when I sang 'Hopelessly Blue' on the album. We actually hadn't planned on recording it, and I was just nervous as all get out to lay down some tracks that I wasn't really comfortable singing. But it worked out, and I realized it was a new place in my voice that I could develop."

Giving Back

Edmonson got funding to put the album together from Kickstarter, asking listeners to contribute to the project. In the video introduction, Edmonson demonstrated that she'd do about anything to get the album made: give dog pedicures, shovel snow, fix someone's sink.

"I thought there would be some humor in that without looking too terribly desperate," she says, laughing. "I think it's really fantastic. Where I didn't like it too much initially — and maybe that was my pride — it's an entirely viable way to raise money. The industry is so different now. And, to boot, [I] get to know my fan base a little bit better and what they liked. What an affirmation of support; it was over 350 people, and it just felt like a tidal wave of love when it all went down and I was able to fund the record. It was a great opportunity to give back and thank them."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUCKY")

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. Listen to singer Kat Edmonson, and you might find yourself drifting, floating through time on her delicate voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUCKY")

BLOCK: Kat Edmonson is 28. She grew up in Houston, and she wrote most of the songs on her new album, "Way Down Low."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LUCKY")

KAT EDMONSON: (Singing) Happiness feels like this, your heart upon your sleeve. There's a place in time and space where we can all be free.

BLOCK: Kat Edmonson told me she's been writing songs since way back.

EDMONSON: The first song that I remember writing in its entirety was when I was 9 years old. I wrote it on a bus, on a fieldtrip.

BLOCK: Nine.

EDMONSON: It's called "Mystery Man." And in retrospect, it was the beginning of my exploration of what it is to have a man in your life because I didn't. I grew up with my mom. It was just the two of us. Although I was writing from a perspective of that being a boyfriend, I think it had very much to do with my father.

BLOCK: Can you sing it?

EDMONSON: Sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: I'd love to hear it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MYSTERY MAN")

EDMONSON: (Singing) Sing a song about a mystery man. When God made him, I think he had a plan to fool all the girls like he did me. Never did ask him to leave me be. Oh, why'd he go away? Mm-hmm, mystery man, come back to me someday.

BLOCK: Wow. Kat Edmonson, you had a lot going on when you were 9 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHAMPAGNE")

EDMONSON: (Singing) I'm never going to drink again, at least not with the finer men at a celebration, offering my patience from the Appalachian. I couldn't resist one little kiss, but...

BLOCK: You know, a lot of the songs on the new album, on "Way Down Low," the songs that you wrote have a really just timeless sound, and your voice sounds like it could be from another time. I'm thinking of the song, in particular, "Champagne," which I love, which sounds, you know, to me, very Cole Porter-y, I think.

EDMONSON: I was trying to write a song like Cole Porter.

BLOCK: Ha.

EDMONSON: Me and a million other people are trying to write a song like Cole Porter.

BLOCK: Yeah. Why not? Right? And it's all sort of about, you know, blame it on the bubbly, right?

EDMONSON: Actually, it was somewhat of a true story. I was feeling a little bit pinched the next morning, and I sat down and started writing that song and had a good laugh with myself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHAMPAGNE")

EDMONSON: (Singing) I am singular and most off-key when bubbles get a hold of me, taking the equation of the fermentation and...

BLOCK: That sounds like quite a party.

EDMONSON: Oh, as usual, the party in my imagination is much grander than that...

BLOCK: Ah.

EDMONSON: ...than the actual one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHAMPAGNE")

EDMONSON: (Singing) I'm his story...

BLOCK: How do you think you came up with the sound that you have? Was it something you worked on, or did it feel like it just was part of you?

EDMONSON: I grew up watching musicals, and that was really where the music began. My mom was working long hours trying to support us and would often pop in a VHS to entertain me. And I would watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye. And they - there would always be some kind of romance happening, and there was always some scene where they would go to a nightclub, and some performer would come out. And it was usually some famous performer like The Andrews Sisters or Louis Armstrong. And I actually thought that that's what it was like to get older, my idea of what adulthood looked like.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M NOT IN LOVE")

EDMONSON: At some point, I actually had to face the fact that it wasn't, and it was a little disappointing. And that gave me impetus to try and make life like that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M NOT IN LOVE")

EDMONSON: (Singing) I'm not in love. I haven't got the world on a string. I don't believe in Paris or spring. And I don't wait for rings.

BLOCK: If you wanted to, could you belt out a song?

EDMONSON: Yeah. I can. I'm really in love with the subtler side of things. I often employ subtlety and nuance in my voice. But I really do anticipate that I will start singing - belting, if you will.

BLOCK: We'll be moving into the Judy Garland musicals then.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EDMONSON: But - yeah. But then - but it won't be like that. When I tend to belt, it kind of reminds me of, like, a more '60s girl doo-wop kind of belting. Recently, I did experience a little bit of that when I sang "Hopelessly Blue" on the album. We actually hadn't planned on recording it, and I was just nervous as hell, get out to lay down some tracks that I wasn't really comfortable singing. But it worked out, and I realized that it was a new place in my voice that I could develop.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOPELESSLY BLUE")

EDMONSON: (Singing) I didn't see what lay ahead. The fault line underneath our bed. The space between us just, well, and I'm so hopelessly blue.

BLOCK: I'm talking to Kat Edmonson. Her latest album is "Way Down Low." You got funding to put the album together, Kat, from Kickstarter, right? Crowd sourcing, asking listeners to contribute to the project. And I was watching a video that you did, saying basically, I'll do anything. It shows you giving a pedicure, I think, to a dog and shoveling snow and fixing somebody's sink. Did it feel like that as you were working on this that basically, you know, I will do anything to get this album made?

EDMONSON: Yeah, I did. I thought that there would be some humor in that and without looking, you know, too terribly desperate.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EDMONSON: I think it's really fantastic. Where I didn't like it too much initially - and maybe that was my pride - it's an entirely viable way to raise money. The industry is so different now. And, to boot, get to know my fan base a little bit better and what they liked. And what an affirmation of support. It was over 350 people, and it just felt like a tidal wave of love when it all went down, and I was able to fund the record. And it was a great opportunity to give back and thank them.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?")

EDMONSON: (Singing) What else can I do for I am so in love with you?

BLOCK: Kat Edmonson, it's been a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks so much.

EDMONSON: Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: Kat Edmonson, her new album is called "Way Down Low."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?")

EDMONSON: (Singing) I am so in love. I'm so in love.

CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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