Indie singer-songwriter Kate Tucker is a living reason why some of the best recording artists out there are almost never heard of (or simply heard). I never had, until a friend of mine alerted me to her and the indie-film project she’s involved with called Everything Went Down, a film that hasn’t even been completed yet, yet just the promotional material from it alone has me already proclaiming it as the American answer to Once. The film is currently being funded through a Kickstarter drive, whose link is both here and at the bottom of this page.
Kate’s music also caught my attention, and a lot of the same eclectic single-artist sound that you find in singers like Cat Power, Neko Case and Martha Wainwright, has a place in Kate Tucker’s songs, with some of the Americana of Josh Ritter thrown in for good measure. I guess my point is indie music is awesome, why doesn’t the rest of society agree with me?
Kate Tucker finally has my attention, so that’s all that matters for now.
I talked to her via Skype about her music and the film.
CM: Where you making solo music first or just after the Sons of Sweden?
KT: I started out as a solo artist as a necessity, because when you start out, you can’t really command a lineup that’s going to stick with you. But definitely from a very young age, when I decided I wanted to be a performing songwriter, I knew I wanted to have a band, and it’s always been very important to me to have the communal aspects of playing music, so it’s a huge reason that I do play music. it’s just that experience of coming up with a song and actually arranging it with other people. It’s an exchange that is unparalleled. So when you can develop a steady lineup for a band, you become like a family. And also, you can really commit yourself to a sound, and that’s been important to me. Being a singer-songwriter, I have gone back and forth about whether or not I should call myself a band name. I hesitate even today to play solo shows, because when people hear Kate Tucker, I want them to think of a sound, not the solo artist.
I think that I’ve been very fortunate, it happened rather quickly. When I first started recording, I recorded a solo EP (Euros Turannos), and one of the guys who worked with me on it happened to be a neighbor of mine in Seattle (Nick Danielson)–I kind of developed a friendship with him and brought him along to record what became the Sons of Sweden record, and he was a main collaborator on that. We worked together over the years since then, but what happened with The Sons of Sweden was I brought those guys on to record those songs, and when we got out of the studio, we decided we had such a fun time hanging out for a couple of months that maybe we ought to be a band. So, I was thrilled because that’s what I always wanted and we had a really good run, it was a lot of fun. I still play with some of them. I actually just played a show with Ed O’Brien and Mark Issacson, the guitarist and bassist [respectively] in Seattle a couple of weeks ago. But I’ve always wanted to keep the same people, and have that sort of family. I actually have that happening here in Nashville, and I’m pretty excited about it! We have our first show in a couple of weeks!
CM: Was there a reason Sons of Sweden discontinued?
KT: I think what happened was a couple of things. When everyone signed on, we were just having fun, and it wasn’t necessarily the dream of everyone in the lineup to do this professionally. So, that’s always hard. None of them had been in bands before that were anything beyond just hanging out and playing some music with their friends. Then, eventually, we started to have different ideas about vision, and so I kind of decided I would pull back and make sure that I was being true to what I knew that I wanted to be doing sonically in my life as a pursuit or goal. One of our members became a police officer in the midst of us touring, so that was difficult, because we were getting a lot of great show opportunities and he was always awesome about it and super flexible, but he started to realize he wanted to do something different, something very different!
CM: It’s like the antithesis of being a rock star, really, to be a cop! [both laughing]
KT: He’s a pretty awesome cop, I’ll give him that!
CM: So basically, this movie project Everything Went Down comes along–I spoke with Dustin Morrow the director and told him it reminded me of the movie Once with Glen Hansard–It has a very similar vibe, and he told me that Once was indeed an inspiration for the film. When you came into the picture, what was that like for you?
KT: I received an email from Dustin, whom I’ve never met before, and he said he was a fan and that he’d written a screenplay, incorporating what he thought would be me and my music into the storyline (Specifically, the story is not about me nor MY music). He had already come to me having written the screenplay, but while he was writing it he’d been listening to my music over and over, and was really hoping I might be willing to lend my music to the film, and then also, since the character was a singer-songwriter, he asked if I would like to act in the movie. I didn’t know if I should take the request seriously, but it was a very serious request, and he laid it out with–and I always joke with him about it–”a long-winded and in-depth” explanation of his plan. I had been working with a director named Miriam Bennett on some music videos, and I went to talk to her about it, and I talked with some other friends, because I was just afraid that either one of my friends was playing a joke on me, or I would just be a terrible actor and ruin this guy’s movie! We talked a little bit more and we decided to just go for it.
I think the first time I met Dustin, he came to a show in NY, and I didn’t meet the lead actor (Noah Drew) until we started shooting. We just did Skype rehearsals for a couple of months, so it was kind of an unconventional approach, but no matter how it would have gone down, it would have been strange for me because I’ve never done it before.
Where Are You (I Am Already Gone)
CM: Did you have to re-record anything for the film, or are these the same versions of your songs that are already available?
KT: I think what happened was, when he approached me, it was before Ghost of Something New had been recorded. I was very excited about the prospect of providing music for a film, but I was less excited about acting, so I was telling him “I got plans for this new EP, and we’re going to be in the studio–We could use those songs, too”. So, in that sense, we did record songs, not for the movie specifically, because I was already writing and planning on recording them, but there were not yet released. But then it ended up that the movie took a little longer than we thought, and I was ready to release this collection of songs. I don’t remember if there was anything new in there. Of course, there’s a good amount of scenes where songs are being performed live–Entire songs or almost entire songs are being recorded, so, that how it’s the modern-day musical, I suppose.
Second trailer for Everything Went Down
CM: That’s what Dustin talked about, he said “I want this to be a musical, and it’s not going to be a musical where people suddenly break out into song”. It’s a musical where people are going to be doing the song as if it were incidental, and it’s kind of the same way Once was done too. Did he want you see Once, or did that matter to him?
KT: I have seen it, and it did matter to him, he wanted to make sure I watched that. I also watched Wendy and Lucy by Kelly Reichardt–she was from the Northwest, and he really wanted me to understand that he was concerned with setting it in the Northwest, and since I was a Northwest artist, he was especially drawn to that idea. Of course, I was like “Uh, I have some acting friends, how about this girl or that girl?”, but he really wanted to find someone who was involved with music that could play the part as well.
CM: What are your biggest influences for what you do now musically? The people that are doing self-released or indie records are very indie-folk or alt-country. There’s a much broader palate now than there ever was for people that make acoustic music.
KT: I would say for current artists, Neko Case is a huge influence for me. I just love her and I think that she’s a poet. I could just listen to her records till I die and be happy. And then also, I think that what you hear sonically–I’ve always loved Cat Power. I love how dark she can get. I love the big sounds that she gets off her electric guitars, and just the ache and longing in her voice–She’s got a voice like no other. And Cowboy Junkies–I grew up listening to the Cowboy Junkies from basically high school on, and just the sweet, simple storytelling. And they’re Canadian, but they capture this very American sensibility, and so after listening to them and finding out they’re Canadian, I thought “Well, I’m from Ohio, I can do this too!”, because it totally gets me.
Almost (early version; Rockwood Music Hall, NYC; 2/12/11)
Now I live in Nashville, so it’s even more exciting to see a little bit of that culture. I have a degree in English [Lit], and I loved reading Southern gothic authors, and just getting into that American literature in general. I actually taught high school when I graduated, just for one year and then decided I wanted to pursue music full-time, and I got to teach American Literature. So, I think that that’s what influences me the most is story–Story in our tradition has a lot to do with Americana, and Americana in the broadest sense of the term is going to an antique store on some state route that’s been forgotten. This week I was trying to buy a schoolhouse on Route 44 in Ohio because I just had this huge dream of putting a studio in it, and it went up for sale while I was there, and I missed it because someone else got it. But just incorporating all of that–I grew up in the middle of nowhere, I have a family full of truck drivers–It’s just part of who I am, and there’s something raw about it, and there’s just something lonely, and there’s something that’s edgier than just acoustic or folk music, and I say that with no lack of respect for the folk tradition in any way, but sonically, I have always been attracted to rock and roll, and that’s why I almost always play electric during the show. The more that I record, the more I want to at least use both, if not use electric guitars as the main. I’m not a lead guitar player by any means, but I leave the solos to other people that can bring it at the right moment. But it’s so great, because that’s exactly what you’re talking about, [Americana is] a very broad and sweeping genre, and it’s a cool time to be playing music–They are getting bigger, and they’re at the AMA’s every year now. They cover folk roots, rock roots. You got artists like Alison Krauss, Lucinda Williams, The Civil Wars, even Neil Young or someone who fits right in there…
CM: He’s Canadian, too! [both laugh]
KT: Right! But it doesn’t matter where you’re from, or how loud you play your guitars, or how quiet you play your ukelele. There’s something that brings it together that I like.
All My Love (Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, OH; 9/3/10)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kate’s film project Everything Went Down has achieved its initial fundraising goal, but you can still donate to the drive and get several goodies as a reward (Like a digital copy of the film for a $25 donation).
Everything Went Down.com
Official website for the film
Kate’s official website