Exclusive Interview: Kat Somers

“Whatever emotion I feel I know someone else out there has felt.  Someone out there has felt betrayed, or over joyed, or useless, or unstoppable… I write what I feel because I know someone else has felt it and I want to connect with the people through my music.”

Kat Somers is a singer/songwriter/music producer based out of Virginia. She first began writing and playing music when she was 12 years old and has since then evolved into the authentic artist she is today. Wanting to control every sound that goes into her music, she started teaching herself production two years ago. “I wanted to be able to translate what I heard in my head to what you hear in your speakers”. Not only does she take the lead in the creative aspect of her career, but she also is continuously learning the business side of the industry to manage and promote herself as an independent artist. It is very apparent that Somers does it all for her love of music.

Everything she makes has meaning and is intentional. Showing raw emotion and discussing relatable topics, she wants to connect with others. “I love hearing what other people hear because what I write has a meaning to me but might have an entirely new meaning to someone else”. Somers is true in her music and is not afraid to share how she feels, even when some topics may have initially been hard to write. Understanding her mental health and acknowledging that journey in her music has helped her grow and created a community of people who have similar experiences.

Read her interview below where we discuss her growth as an artist, the tough parts about pursuing music, the story behind her newest single, “to keep you close to me”, and what she has been doing amidst COVID-19.

With a vocal timbre reminiscent of Mandy Lee of Misterwives and production similar to Chelsea Cutler, you will want to give Kat Somers a listen.

What made you want to start releasing your own music?

Kat Somers: My first release was when I was 14.  I recorded a bunch of songs on this tiny handheld recorder (I think it’s actual purpose was for voice memo recordings…).  There were maybe 10 or 12 songs on it and I made a bunch of copies and just started passing them out at my high school.  And I release music now for the same reason I did then, I just love sharing what I’ve created.  I love my music, I love the way it lets me connect to people, I love hearing what other people hear because what I write has a meaning to me but might have an entirely new meaning to someone else.  It’s just such a cool way to communicate with each other. 

What is a distinguishing aspect of your music? What makes you stand out?

Somers: Sound wise, I think producing my own music definitely helps me stand out.  I love discovering new sounds through playing with production.  On my track haunted, when the beat drops there’s this backing percussion that sounds like an echo-y high end sound that I made just by playing with different reverb effects and timing on a recording of me snapping my fingers.  I’ve gotten to create so many cool instruments like this!  I’ve also focused a lot on my vocals.  Not just singing or breathing exercises but also focusing on how I say words and what my intentions are with them so that I carry my emotions and what I’m feeling through that sound.  

Writing wise, I write what I feel.  At first that was hard, it was difficult to put out music that shared exactly what I was going through because I was nervous for people to see different sides of me.  Social media teaches us to do the opposite of that; we spend a lot of time and energy trying to show everyone we’re doing okay all the time.  I didn’t want to put that energy into my music.  

I hope if there’s a way I stand out it’s that I’m not afraid to show that my life is a shit show and my head’s a little messed up, and that I do all that I can to make sure it doesn’t stop me from doing what I love!

Your first single, “Ghosts,” was released in 2018. How have you changed since then?

Somers: I released “Ghosts” only two months in to teaching myself how to produce music.  So I have learned a LOT since then for sure!  I started making sure I hit a certain amount of hours in the studio or out writing/doing creative exercises.  I looked at my music through a creative lens and through a business/marketing lens.  I had to come to terms with the fact that I can’t only create, I was going to have to learn the business of how to market my music if I wanted anyone to hear it.  I still really struggle with this and making the time for everything is difficult, but overall keeping the goal of sharing my music and doing what I love keeps me motivated!  

I’ve also learned a lot about myself. I started putting real work into understanding my anxiety and my depression.  Long story short; it was absolutely worth the time it has taken to come this far with my mental health.  I have more grace for myself through my creative process and more mental and emotional stamina to be able to put what I’m feeling into words. 

My sound has definitely grown too.  Shortly after “Ghosts” I released my first EP Bloom as a collection of songs that I wrote and used to explore different sounds as I was learning production.  The whole EP is full of experimental sounds.  After that I felt like I was able to start defining my sound.  Both “Haunted” and “to keep you close to me” really capture my production style and vocal style and I love listening back on my older stuff to see how I’ve grown from those productions.

Do you work with anyone else creatively?

Somers: Yes! Working with other creatives is so, so important to me. It’s the best way to get new perspectives in a mutual language of art and sound. I work a lot with my friend Carter (Wabasha) who has done a remix of “Jump In” and I’m featured on one of his tracks. We bounce a lot of ideas off each other and I can always get inspiration from him! I’ve done some writing with other artists for their tracks and also have a few artists in my circle that I bounce ideas and inspiration around with and are always worth mentioning for all their support: Eron Constante, Moshe Ackerman (who did the master on “Haunted” and helped me finalize the mix), Wes Fowler, and Alex Bochel (who did a remix of “Bloom”)

How hard is it to balance every aspect of your artist career?

Somers: Although I work with a lot of creatives on writing and production, I handle every part of my career myself: I have written, produced and mixed all of my songs, I do all of my own marketing and pr outreach, I book all of my shows and plan all of my releases. It’s exhausting but I love having a part in everything that I do.  I’m definitely looking forward to getting a team together though to help push my music forward!

What is more rewarding? The creative process of making a track or the end result?

Somers: That’s a great question… The creative process is filled with these “aha!” moments where you finally get a sound to work the way you hear it in your head, or you write a line that literally makes you stop and go “well D A M N didn’t realize I needed to get that out” or just when the song starts coming together and it feels like a real song.  There’s tons of those moments throughout the writing and production process that I absolutely live for.  The end result is like this celebration of all those parts you listen back to and remember writing/creating.

Do you often envision what a song will sound like before it’s finished? Or do you create freely and stumble upon the resulting sound?

Somers: This definitely changes all the time. When I’m starting production it’s an open field and I play with different sounds and rhythms and as I start layering sounds and finding a direction then it becomes about translating sounds that I hear in my head to fill the track. 

Do you create songs to understand or to express things you have learned?

Somers : A B S O L U T E L Y.  “to keep you close to me” was ALL about processing my habit of seeing the best in people and it backfiring on me.  “Haunted” was about working through understanding my depression.  I write a lot of songs about my challenges with mental health or relationships or in reflection about past relationships.  Whatever emotion I feel I know someone else out there has felt.  Someone out there has felt betrayed, or over joyed, or useless, or unstoppable… I write what I feel because I know someone else has felt it and I want to connect with the people through my music.

How do you keep yourself inspired? Do you do anything special to get in the creative mindset?

Somers: It changes all the time!  Getting out and doing new things is the best way to get into the creative mindset.  In the spring and summer I sit out on my roof in the evenings.  In the fall I was hiking almost every other day in our woods just walking new paths and taking my journal with me.  Some nights I would just get in my car and drive.  Going to other artists shows, meeting new people, taking weird jobs (I worked at an antique store for a bit, I did landscaping last summer, I worked as a bartender for a while until covid-19 shut everything down).  Creativity doesn’t come from staying routine, so just getting out and doing new stuff with new people keeps me inspired.

Can you talk about the inspiration behind your newest release, “to keep you close to me”?

Somers: I wrote and recorded this song as a demo two years ago about how difficult it was for me to cut a toxic person out of my life. And how it’s always been hard for me to do that. I have a very intentional habit of seeing the best in people. It has always been important to me to give people the benefit of the doubt and to forgive others (if they apologize or not) when they’ve hurt me. I think because of that it’s been really hard for me to recognize when a relationship is causing more harm than good and it’s led to me being taken advantage of. I realized that in these toxic friendships I would start ignoring that hurt (“blur the lines”) so I wouldn’t tarnish them or our relationship. It very honestly felt like I was poisoning myself to keep my friends clean so that I could justify keeping them in my life.

I was doing that to keep these people “close to me” .

That’s not friendship. That’s not love. That’s not healthy. And it took me a really long time to accept that not everyone has good intentions and not everyone cares about you the way you care about them. And you can’t make them.

I wrote and produced this song two years ago and never finished it. And when I pulled it out of my old projects and dusted it off, I didn’t want to add anything to it. I didn’t have to write a second chorus, I didn’t need to write a bridge. I wrote everything I needed to when I was feeling all of this two years ago to get through what I was processing. And that’s how I wanted to release it.

I feel more loved in my life now than I ever have. I feel valued by my friends and family, I feel fulfilled with my music, and I feel confident on my practices to keep my mind healthy. And even though everyday isn’t easy, today is really great.

What does this release mean to you?

Somers: Spring is such an awesome, awesome season and it always gets me inspired to pursue newer and bigger things and it was perfect timing for this release.  SAD season is tough and we’re finally through it and that energy is really motivating. Everything around you is growing, it feels like a good time to start working on yourself and goals and grow too.  I think winter pushes us into survival mode.  Spring is all about growth and making beautiful things!  So with this release I’ve been motivated to write more and produced more and already have new releases lined up for the summer!

What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?

Somers: “Haunted” for sure. It was a huge breakthrough in my writing for me.  I felt incredibly true to myself and I was terrified to put it out. I wrote the song while I was working through how to tell my family and friends that I was battling depression and didn’t feel like I had control over my mental health. I had started going to a therapist who asked me why I hadn’t told anyone in my life how I was feeling, and I didn’t even have a good answer for her.  I was just scared.  And she challenged me to find at least someone I could tell.  That was hard.  And so I wrote this song while I was working through all of that.  And then after I wrote it and shared everything with the people in my life I felt comfortable sharing it with I decided I’d release it.  Because I couldn’t be the only person who’s been through that.  

I ended up connecting with a lot of people and it’s been just a huge beautiful part of my life to have been able to get through that and help others who are going through it feel understood.  And that means more than anything and it’s definitely what I’m most proud of with my music.  

What has been the toughest part about pursuing music?

Somers: I went to a four year college and studied fungal pathogens.   So the transition to focus on music was really hard, for a long time I felt life I totally wasted 4 years and a lot of money to study something that I wasn’t going to use for the rest of my life.  I loved my time at Virginia Tech and I have made connections that are life long.  I LOVED what I studied, I loved my job as an RA, and I loved being a part of soulstice and other groups.  But it took a long time to accept that my path was different than a typical college graduate and different than other musicians.  But I’m learning to be in the moment and just love what I do!  Doesn’t matter where I am or how I got here it just matters where I’m going.  

Family gatherings can kind of suck, there’s always someone wondering when I’ll start focusing on a real job/career.  But I’m happy with what I’m doing and I believe in myself and to me that’s what matters. 

How are you getting by these days? What’s keeping you busy?

Somers: I spend a lot of time outside on my mom’s farm where I’ve been living quarantine out at.  A lot of mowing, taking out trees, burn piles, moving piles of firewood…  It’s a great work out and gets the endorphins going for sure haha.  I also play a lot of No Man’s Sky, I’m obsessed with this game.  You’re a space traveler and you can travel to different galaxies and there’s tons of planets, literally too many to actually see them all.  It’s such an awesome escape from everything to sink into that game when I’m overwhelmed with anxieties. 

I am SUPER fortunate to still be working a few hours a week from home.  In the beginning of March I had just started a new job with a non profit, Kid Pan Alley, which brings song writing programs to elementary schools and teaches kids what song writing is and spend the week sharing stories and writing songs together.  Paul, the founder, leads the kids and provides the music but ultimately the kids write the song.  With schools closing we started providing free songwriting workshops online for the kids, it’s been awesome to bring music to kids especially when everything feels so overwhelming.  It just brings me a lot of joy to be a part of it! 

Any words of wisdom to other artists during this worldwide crisis?

Somers: You don’t have to use your new found free time exclusively for art.  You don’t have to use your new found free time exclusively for art.  To be honest. this goes for everyone.  You don’t have to use your free time to work out or clean your whole house or learn how to code.  

It’s really easy to feel guilty for not taking advantage of the free time a lot of us have now that gigs have been postponed until further notice and a lot of us lost our supporting jobs.  Don’t do that.  Don’t feel guilty when we’re all in this uncharted territory and some of us are filled with anxieties of providing for ourselves or our families, we’re anxious about what happens in a month or two months or six months. It’s okay to be anxious.  Don’t add feeling guilty to that list. 

Find the balance of being productive and acknowledging your need for self care.  Put your mental health first.  

Also, If you’re lucky that your grandparents or parents are still alive, call them and say hi.  

What was your first music purchase? Does that artist/band still have an impact on you today?

Somers: I didn’t purchase it myself, but the first cd I ever had was John Mayer’s album Room for Squares.  I took it EVERYWHERE.   We played it on every car ride.  John Mayer’s music was the first music that made me think about lyrics and see them more as fun to sing but a way to share what you’re feeling and express yourself.   I listen to it whenever I feel homesick or sad.  It just reminds me why I love music so much and all it’s done for me! 

What’s next for you?

Somers: Writing as often as I can, getting the hell out of this house when quarantine lifts and playing a lot of shows in new cities.  I have new releases coming this summer and I’m just excited to keep writing and keep connecting with people.  

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