Katie Dunlap is an evolving pop artist with multiple influences from every angle. Here in this excerpt from daily life she explains her free-flowing candidness of writing her own music and how she continues to to inspires other around her.
Patricia: What influences or combinations of genres inspire your sound for “Ghost Town”? I listened to it on Soundcloud and it is not what I expected at all! It is very different from your previous single, “Numb”, which has more of a solid country sound.
Katie: When I wrote "Ghost Town" with my best friend in a high school band practice room, I didn't have a concrete idea of how it was going to turn out in the studio. When I released "Numb," I had absolutely no clue I was going to change my sound to pop. For the longest time, I wanted to be the next Miranda Lambert or Martina McBride. Right now, I'm at this point in my career and life, where nothing is set is stone. My music changes with the tides. I have the ability and freedom to explore different sounds and genres without a record label or array of people telling me it's wrong. That's why I love being an independent artist. I truly feel like I'm my own person, and if you know me, you know I gotta be a strong independent woman.
Patricia: Who are some prominent country artists that you absolutely love?
Katie: Living in Nashville as a pop artist, it seems no matter how hard you or your music tries to stray from country music, people will naturally always try to associate you with it. If I'm being honest, the country music I grew up loving I don't really hear on the radio anymore. With that being said, a few artists such as Cam, Chris Stapleton, and even a few artists/songs on the TV show Nashville I find have really re-embedded in us the purity, honesty and love country music is all about.
Patricia: Do you record and produce your own music or have a team of people helping you?
Katie: I'm really fortunate to have decided to work with Chris Love as my producer when I was getting ready to graduate from high school. I've worked with him for a little over a year now, but I've known him a lot longer than that. When I was a freshman in high school, he was solely my drum line teacher at Sam Ash. Now, Chris produces for a living and has become very successful. I don't know what I would have done with my songs if I didn't have a producer by my side. I had the vision but I needed the expertise. It's great because every time I'm in the studio, I get to watch Chris work with ProTools and how he handles the sound equipment. It's made me much more interested in the production aspect of creating a song. I hope that one day, I can produce my own record and be able to credit Chris on an even bigger scale.
Patricia: Did you have classical training in vocals or instruments?
Katie: I've taken lessons in virtually anything you can think of. I've done vocal lessons, piano lessons, drum lessons, drum line lessons, guitar lessons, violin lessons, etc. A lot of what I know I discovered on YouTube. YouTube is a wonderful tool for improving your musical skills. But, I credit most of what I know to a woman named Pam Ward. She taught me not just how to play piano well. She taught me how to play it right in a performance setting. She gave me vocal tips and exercises. She's an artist and therefore helped to mold me into my own artist.
Patricia: What vibes can we expect to hear in your future music?
Katie: I'm all about the vibes. A lot of my music on my EP that I'm releasing soon is music that you're free to dance to, do homework to, chill to, cry to, you name it. As far as music that extends beyond my EP, I can't say. I write all the time, and each song is unique and inspired. You'll never hear the same song twice from this girl.
Patricia: Do you plan on writing a full length album sometime in the future? If so, can you tell us any details while we wait?!
Katie: A lot of artists write a full length album in the span of a year or two. Because I've never released an album before, I've got songs that I've technically put on the "back-burner" that I would want on that full length album. The only form of an album that I'm releasing soon is my debut EP. It's called Hear Me Out. Out of the 5 songs that will be on it, only 2 of them I wrote before starting the recording process, which means that the other three no one but close friends and family have heard. And yes, it's pop.
Patricia: Do you have a musical family that have supported you, or any musicians that you have paid attention to from an early age that you can say encouraged you to move forward and start writing your own songs?
Katie: If you mean my musically-inclined family, that does not technically exist! My mom is a marketing manager at a major shipping company, and my dad is a retired Navy veteran. Nonetheless, they've fully backed me on my music since day one and for that, I'm truly grateful. My parents exposed me to a variety of artists that have inspired me to pursue my own musical career. People like Freddie Mercury from Queen, Stevie Nicks, Damien Rice, The Dixie Chicks, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kelly Clarkson, Eminem and JoJo have all increased my adoration for music, songwriting and the art of performance. Taylor Swift was the one who got me to even pick up a guitar and write. I figured, Taylor Swift makes it look easy. I can do it too. And so I did.
Patricia: Tell me a little bit about your general background and how the music world has affected you and pulled you in.
Katie: "Pulled in" is an understatement. I was drug in against my will, blindfolded and handcuffed. Music is the only good form of abduction that exists. I've always loved playing music ever since my granny let my brother Dylan and I bang on pots and pans in her living room as kids. I found it to be a way of letting my inner passion out in a positive outlet. From then on, I got more involved in chorus and theater. It was the first time I ever tried at anything. I sometimes got solos or leads, but then I had teachers who said I wasn't good enough or as good as some of my classmates. But I believed in myself, so that's all that mattered. Throughout my childhood, all I did was move from state to state, at first because of my dad being in the Navy and then because of my mom's job. A lot of the time I was in my room, alone playing with Barbies or writing short stories, because I clearly had a lot to say as a child. I got a guitar for Christmas when I was 13. I started writing songs that sounded exactly like Taylor Swift songs. Then, they gradually became a bit more edgy in lyrics and melody. That turned into me defining myself as a pop artist and I haven't looked back.
Patricia: If you don’t mind, please name a few quotes in either songs or literature that have rang true to you and may help others that are also trying to make it as an independent artist.
Katie: I don't have many, but one quote in particular that I have debated on getting a tattoo of or not is a Sleeping At Last quote from his song "Saturn." "How rare and beautiful it is to even exist." As a teenager, I've definitely found myself swimming in the deep end of the depression pool. But when I found that song and heard that line, I was reminded of my purpose and that is to make people happy with music.
One song I've been profusely listening to lately is Sia's "Bird Set Free." In the chorus she roars "I don't care if I sing off key. I find myself in my melodies." That's truly how I feel as a singer. I don't sing to please anyone but myself. Songwriting is like a message and singing is the bird that carries it off to a better place.
Patricia: What is a guilty listening pleasure for you?
Katie: I don't feel guilty listening to anyone or anything. I think every genre or musician is special in their own way and should be treated as such. But, with the social stigma society has placed on my beloved Nickelback, I'd have to say they're my #1 guilty pleasure. I sometimes listen to Chad Kroeger's voice just to take me back to better days. I think they're an amazing rockin' band and I don't care what anyone says. Nickelback rules.
Patricia: Do you perform in public?
Katie: Absolutely! I love performing. My roots are in performing with chorus, theater and school talent shows. Now, I like to play songwriter's nights and any showcase I can be apart of. More often that not, you'll find me performing in front of the mirror. I'm always looking for ways to improve upon my performance skills. I used to be terrified to stand in front of people. I still get nervous, but now I find I'm more unapologetic with those nerves. I just put my heart out on the line and hope there's applause at the end. So far, so good.
Patricia: How do you balance your musicality with your other possible obligations?
Katie: My musicality will never change. I will always be involved in music. But, it is true that sometimes life gets in the way. It can prevent me from performing or cowriting or going to the studio. I have to deal with or focus on that one priority momentarily, but I can always find time to write a song about it though!
Patricia: What do you hope others find in your music?
Katie: I want people to get lost for a minute in my music. I want people to experience what I experienced as a little girl, growing up and getting through each move with a pair of headphones and some tunes. My music is a reflection of who I am. Cut out the lip ring, the colored hair, the intense and dry sarcasm. Want to know me? Listen to my music. I don't expect everyone or really anyone to like it, but I hope they find that my soul resides in it. I would never speak these words in public if it wasn't for song.
Katie Dunlap and her music can be appreciated through the following: