What is your name?
Katie Anne Mitchell
What is your genre of music?
This is always the difficult question. I was musically raised around the folk community, but I like putting my own little macabre twist on things, so I’ve been settling on the term ‘witchy folk’.
Give us a little bio about you.
From anthropology graduate student to actor to singer/songwriter and storyteller, Katie Anne Mitchell has settled on the term “creative universalist” to encapsulate all manner of artistic sins. Her debut album “The Many Lives of Mockingbird” was a reflection of her diverse approach with a half-audiobook/half-song concoction that is reflective, humorous, and just a little bit mad. Her forthcoming EP ‘Alice’s Land’ (due out in 2020) will be just as strange in its own way. Sh’ promises. Mitchell is currently running her one-woman story and song show ‘The Songs of the Nearly Forgotten’ in which she explores the themes of isolation, femininity and finding your place in this world through conducting a seance. That’s right. A seance. With chanting and all that jazz. As one fan describes on watching her perform at Folk Alliance International that watching her is like watching the musical’ Theatre of the Absurd.’ She likes that. She currently lives in Los Angeles and is a lover of wine, cheese, and trouble.
What made you go into music?
I worked for six years for this radio program Art of the Song and their affiliate subscription-based streaming website Standing ‘On project. It was a small company, so I was actively involved in recruiting and interviewing artists, going to festivals, and championing artists rights. I fell in love with the community and knew that I wanted to be a part of it. From there, the songs just started showing up to me and I went along for the ride. I’ve always loved writing and the melodies came naturally so it was just a matter of time, I believe.
Are you a signed? Nope, just me
You released your new single ‘Alice’s Land’, tell us more about the single.
The single is the title track to my forthcoming EP, which I would say in general focuses on stories of women who are try to find and define their place in society. I think of it as a collection of women’s coming-of-age stories at different stages of life.
What is the meaning behind the single?
Alice’s Land uses the classic figure of Alice in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to explore the confusion, isolation, and anger we feel when our perceptions of ourselves differ from how we’re seen and the role we’ve been assigned by society. It’s this young woman who sees this discrepancy and is struggling to break out of this box she’s been put in and the resistance she encounters when she tries to redefine herself. You can find the lyrics here: https://www.katieannemitchell.com/lyrics.
Describe the track in two words.
What was the writing process like?
I actually wrote this track in three pieces over about two years. I put the first part of the song on the first album and I sang it differently and it had a different meaning even. Then, I went back to it about a year later, these other lyrics and this other part of the story showed up. The last part was that I actually wrote the bridge in studio off of a poem that I had written about 3 days before.
What was the recording process like?
The single was produced by Scott Mickelson, who is an absolute genius on arrangement and direction. I feel like this single was a true collaboration of his vision and mine. Scott doesn’t take any bullsh*t and makes sure you get the best you can get out of the song. It was a challenge, but in the end, that was so worth it. I needed that pushing. I truly believe that many times producers are the unsung heroes behind a song (pun intended).
Who did you work with on the single?
Beyond Scott (who also played guitar, bass and ‘oooo’ed alongside me toward at the end of the song), there was Frank Reina on drums, Simon Rochester on keys, and Luke Kirley on sousaphone.
Will we see a music video for of the tracks?
Yes! I’m in talks right now with an award-winning Italian director Francesca Nobili to make a video for it. She just sent me the first draft of the treatment and production design last week and it was AWESOME. It’s amazing to me how Alice’s Land is becoming more than just a song, but it’s going to inspiring this other piece of art by Francesca as well. I’m thrilled.
Will we see a EP or Album this year, if so what can we expect?
The Alice’s Land EP will be coming out early 2020. I can’t wait
Do you have any shows coming up?
Yes! Check out my website
What else can we expect in 2019?
For the end of this year, I’ll be doing hopefully a few more of my solo shows and working hard to finish recording the EP. We’ve recorded most of it, but he’s based up in SF and recording is not cheap, so it’s basically finding time and funds to finish up the recording process.
Do you have any collaborations coming up with any upcoming artists? Beyond working with Francesca, not at the moment, but I’m open to it!
Would you be up for collaborations if other musicians wanted one with you? And who would they have to contact?
Absolutely! They can just reach out to me through my website: https://www.katieannemitchell.com/contact .
Do you play any instruments?
Yes. Guitar and keyboard. I am not a genius on either, but they work well enough at the moment for my songwriting and for live shows when it’s just me in an acoustic venue.
Who are your influences?
So many people, but I’ll say, right now, some of my musical heroes are Anais Mitchell, Gretchen Peters, Sam Baker, Darrell Scott, Vance Gilbert, Stevie Nicks, Nina Simone…and on and on. I also love to draw from non-musicians as well…Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Brene Brown, to name a few.
How do you get inspiration to write songs?
I get inspiration through several places. Obviously, like most writers, I take my personal struggles into the songs, but I also try to actively look outside through literature, stories of friends or family, political issues, or general philosophies I’m exploring. I would say I’m a relatively slow writer. A song for me has to have a strong story behind it and that takes a while to uncover. It usually starts with a concept which I think more and more about until one day a line pops out (usually along with a melody) and then, if the line sticks, I build a song around it.
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
I would LOVE to be able to do art full-time —music, writing, performing. I know it’s strange given Alice’s Land, but I would love to eventually do a children’s music album in that time as well.
When you’re not doing music, what do you do? I work a number of small contract gigs to keep myself afloat, but in terms of the things I like to do, I love writing, hanging out with my wonderful dog Bones, and my equally wonderful fiancé Tony Glaser (who is also a musician, and a damn great one at that). We’re in the middle of planning our wedding so that has been what we’ve been doing in our free time. We’re so excited.
What was the song you listened to most that influenced you to go more into the music scene?
This is so difficult to pinpoint. I came across a lot of great songs that drove me toward music, but the one that’s really standing out in my mind at this particular moment is Sam Baker’s ‘Broken Fingers’. Art of the Song did an interview with him and I remember hearing this song for the first time and the story behind it and the raw vulnerability and it felt like an arrow went right through me. The way he delivers it, the incredible piece of storytelling….I knew I wanted to someday be able to capture and relay that kind of honesty, even in some small way.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
I have a dear friend in the folk community who’s an incredible songwriter who told me something to the effect of ‘You have to be more than pretty’ meaning that I sometimes had to work harder to get folks to see beyond their first impression of me ….and also work hard to not let myself fall back on what other people define me as. It’s not easy to do that. It’s important to claim yourself and steer your own ship. That’s a challenge for me, but I’m working on it!
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians not about the industry and just as an artist?
Life is long. I know the adage is typically that life is short but, if you’re like me, I believe that can create some unnecessary anxiety and push artists to feel overwhelmed to reach this certain standard in a small amount of time. It can be paralyzing. I believe it’s important, especially with art, to let it grow, to sit still long enough to listen how it wants to be put out in the world, and to be gentle enough with yourself to allow you the necessary time to grow and develop your skills as an artist. It’s ok if it takes you longer than you thought it would. It’s ok if you’re not a natural at first. It does not mean it’s not worth putting it out into the world. Take your time to get to where you want to go and don’t worry if the destination isn’t what you originally thought it would be.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
“It’s the folk singer’s job to comfort disturbed people and to disturb comfortable people.” ~Woody Guthrie, I’m not sure I always abide by this, but I definitely try to incorporate it in my artistic mission.
Where in your hometown is a must go to visit?
McCabes in Santa Monica. Great music, great community.
Your coming off tour;
1/ Where do you go first? Most likely Albuquerque. I’ve done the drive so many times by now and I lived there for five years so I’ve got a ton of friends still there I can crash with.
2/ Who do you see first? Those folks I mentioned. In particular, my friends Phil and Gay (they’re married) are like family. I always stay with them when I drive through town.
3/What do you eat first?
Green Chile. Man, I miss good green chile.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget? Instruments, cables, a piece of jewelry or clothing that makes me feel confident, a little bit of whiskey (that also helps with that confidence), most importantly, a sense of play.