Kat Quinn: Kind of Brave

Kat Quinn

By Andrew Shilling

Kat Quinn moved to Astoria three years ago when she was told her music wasn’t country enough for Nashville.

After discovering her talent for playing guitar and writing music while attending the University of Notre Dame, she soon began playing for friends. It wasn’t long before the young singer-songwriter took her newfound talent to the stage and the road.

Although influenced by country music, her twang didn’t meet the Tennessee standards, forcing Quinn to explore and expand.

Since moving to New York, she has released numerous EPs and singles, licensed a song to Happily Ever After – a film by John Klein – been featured in an iPhone app add called VoxBox, and competed in the Battle of the Instant Songwriters on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

I recently spoke with Quinn about her new single “Little Roses,” the road to Astoria and her take on the current state of the music industry.

So what brought you to Queens?

One of my best friends from high school was living up here and he was with his friends from college. Their lease was almost up when I was moving here and they were already in Astoria and they loved it. I had a couple other friends here and everyone was just raving about Astoria, so we found a place here and now it’s just me and my friend from high school.

Is songwriting something you’ve always been interested in?

It’s not what I’ve always done, and it wasn’t even really a conscious choice. I started playing guitar in high school, not really very fancy guitar playing. I never took lessons. I just looked up chords to the songs that I liked to sing. It was never in front of anyone. It was just for me and having fun.

One day, when I was in college, I was playing and I was kind of upset over a boy situation and the song just kind of fell out. I thought, “that was fun.” So it just went totally out of control from there.

What inspired you to play in front of people?

It took me a while. It took a lot of encouragement from very close friends, people who could hear me through the walls pretty much. I never planned to make it a career. I wasn’t really comfortable playing in front of anyone, but I showed a song to a couple good friends who liked it.

I brought them to my voice teacher and she sent them to a producer and a recording artist in L.A., and she thought there was some potential there. That was really the turning point for me. It gave me a whole different attitude towards singing and songwriting.

What brought you to New York?

I wanted to be here for music. I went to Nashville first, right out of college, for about eight months. I thought I was doing more of a country thing, but then when I went there I realized I wasn’t really. I felt like it would probably do better here in New York.

I’m from Boston originally and I had friends here already, so it also felt kind of like going home. So it was definitely the right move for me.

Did it meet your expectations?

I really had no idea what it was going to be like. I had no clue, I just knew it was a good place to go for music. I had never been here before in any sort of musical realm, so I came with no expectations. I found such a great community of people who just love music so much, and they love writing. It was really such a welcoming place that really encourages creativity and originality that I hadn’t really found elsewhere.

What kind of influences did you have when you started writing your own music?

I was really into country music at the time, which is what brought me to Nashville. I thought I was writing country songs and to the untrained ear it probably sounded like country songs, but then when I went to Nashville they told me it wasn’t really what they did there.

Has that changed since you came to New York?

Absolutely. As soon as I realized I wasn’t writing country songs, I was able to explore other types of songs to write and experiment with other instruments in other genres. It was kind of like a good realization for me to find out I wasn’t playing country and it was more indie pop.

Where do you find yourself playing shows?

I usually go to Brooklyn or Manhattan, but I have played in Astoria and I will be playing there again. I also play a lot outside of NYC.

How did you find places to play when you first got here?

It really started with open mic. I had no music contact at all. All of the friends I made have all been through open mic nights.

How important is it for you to be a part of a music community in New York?

I think that’s what is really cool about New York – it’s such a big city that there are all these little communities, otherwise you just get lost. I’ve been a part of a few of them, but they overlap. There are certainly different groups that play with each other and collaborate with each other. I’ve become a part of a few of them and that’s been wonderful. I met a few girls that I play with a lot and we formed a collective, and we all play with each other.

So you have yet to release a full-length album. Have you found singles and EPs to be more effective?

I’ve done two EPs now. I released my first single and I have another one coming out, and I think it’s easier to really focus and make the songs the way you want them and then release them in a shorter release as opposed to a full album, which can be financially straining. I think it’s also more fun to release what you are working on now. It has also become a new attitude for me, but I’ve been really happy with the way things are.

How do you write your songs?

It’s different every time for me. There really isn’t a formula – I wish I understood it better, maybe that would make it easier. A lot of times I’ll be messing around on the guitar and a song will just fall out.

A lot of times I have a notebook with me and I write things down in that. I wouldn’t really call them poems, but more of a train of thought that I will put with the guitar and form into a song. Or I’ll write a bunch of terrible songs in a row and I’ll take my favorite piece of each of them until I make something I’m proud of.

Do you do all of the writing?

I do write everything. Most of them are solo writes and I do the occasional co-write. But I always do the lyrics on the co-writes.

Do you find it difficult playing the role of marketer for your music?

That’s the part that comes least natural for me. Making the music is the fun part and that part is less fun. I think I’m still working on that, on how to market and how to get the music out there once you have something you’re proud of.

I have to force myself to do it, I’m not a natural social media person. I’m really trying to tweet more, and that reminds me that I should tweet today, I haven’t done that yet. But I am on Instagram and Facebook and I’m really trying to become more active on those.

Is it still possible to make a living playing music?

There are other avenues to make money, and I have slowly started pushing more towards making more money for music. I am still not at a point where I feel comfortable quitting a day job, just because nothing is really guaranteed. One month you might make a lot and one month it isn’t so. I’m also at a point now where I’m more about gathering fans than thinking about taking a gig because it pays more than another one. But there are definitely ways to make money.

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Posted by on Oct 30 2014. Filed under Entertainment, Featured Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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