Kat McGivern is not afraid to tell you what she thinks, and you’ll definitely want to listen.
The Boston-based firecracker began her music career at age 13, performing at a local open mic night. Growing up in a family of musicians, Kat initially taught herself traditional Gaelic ballads and started classical training shortly after. Eventually her influences shifted to Bob Dylan, The Cranberries and the ultimate image chameleon, Madonna.
Abandoning classical music in college, she released her first album Armor followed by the more rock-influenced Alice Lost. Her overwhelming passion for what matters to her became a running theme in her songwriting when it came time to pen tracks for her latest EP.
“I dropped out of college so I could record my first album. Then I quit music for two years to bartend and go back to school,” Kat explains. “I realized that I couldn’t walk away from music. So I recorded My Kamikaze Heart, about my inability to walk away from the things I love.”
Released on November 23, 2010, the 7-song EP was produced by Anthony J. Resta and features the brass, assertive title track, which reached the Top 10 on FMQB’s AC Top 40 chart.
Already a multi-instrumentalist, tackling everything from vocals to guitar and keyboards, and a prolific songwriter, Kat is always looking for new outlets for her boundless creativity. She’s finalizing the launch of her own line of jewelry and trying her hand at photography. But music will always be her passion.
“I see myself a bohemian Judy Jetson with a bad attitude,” boasts Kat McGivern. In a sea of cookie-cutter pop stars, this is one girl who’s not afraid to stand out.
Kat thank you for agreeing to do this interview. I had a great time listening to your music and getting to know a bit about you.
Your Bio starts with you dropping out of college to make music and then returned to school– pretty courageous that. Would you tell us a bit about your life before College, your influences, musical and personal?
Even before college my life was always about music. But growing up I thought I would become an opera singer. I studied classical voice for years before I realized that being a singer songwriter was my calling. Being able to sing the songs I write is everything to me. I think I was 8 when I wrote my first song, so ever since then I have been a songwriter.
You wrote and recorded two EPs during that time ‘Armor’ and ‘Alice Lost’. What made it so important for you to record at that precise time in your life?
I was running as far as I could from this idea I had of a conventional life. I had wanted to record, and write, since I was in Junior High school, so when I finally got the chance to make my music it was all consuming. I had what one would refer to as a fire under my ass to make something of myself.
There is no question about your passion, and honesty, all of your music has a delightfully aggressive, ‘This is the way it is, quality’. By the way, I love the photo of you as a devil. Often I have heard artists say that their performing persona is what they would like to be. Would you say that this is your personality on and off the stage?
I have always been a “this is the way it is” type of person. It’s a quality people either love or hate, but I’ve never been able to be anyone else. Take me or leave me this is pretty much it.
There is great energy and a vital feel in your storytelling, What inspires you to write?
Life. My friend’s lives, the experiences that I have. Some of the songs I write seem like love songs and they’re not. For example ‘Napoleon’ is about a boss I had who made my life really difficult. I felt like if I could write a song about him maybe I could hate him a little less. I quit a week later.
“I want more than a boyfriend
More than your trust
More than the labels you’re sticking on us
Don’t want the sun, not the moon
Boy, don’t give me the stars
Baby I just want your heart”
I love your lyrics. I have written on the need to avoid writing lyrics, or poetry, in such a way that it would be better suited for a diary, or a journal. So many singer/songwriters miss the importance of making it new and fresh. You have a creative and hard lyrical edge to your verse, while writing about things of the heart-universal that could easily be mundane. That is just good songwriting. Would you give us a little workshop on how you came to write ‘Label Me’ from a songwriter’s perspective?
When I wrote ‘Label Me’ I had just started dating this guy and he was really concerned with what our “ label” was and it seemed really shallow to me. I also had been recording My Kamikaze Heart and was having a really hard time funding the project, without the support of a record label. I remember thinking about all labels we get stuck with in life, just so we can have the things we want. You can’t put everything or everyone in a box.
What makes a good song for you?
A good song stands the test of time. Cyndi Lauper’s true colors was one of my all time favorite songs growing up. When I was a child I loved the song, because it was pretty, as an adult I love the song, because that’s how I feel about the people I have loved in my life. A good song can move you to tears, inspire you to improve yourself, comfort you in your darkest hour, or explain the emotions that you can’t discern.
“I’m so fed up I just can’t get up to go and leave
I’m so broken I can’t find another vein to bleed
And I’m so sorry that you’ll reap the benefit of this
Cuz baby I don’t give a shit.
The title song on your last EP ‘My Kamikaze Heart’ holds no punches and gives your take on an inability to walk away from what you love. Is that a personal issue with you?
Absolutely, I am the most stubborn person I know. When I decide I want something I have to have it, even if it kills me. This has been true with my obsession with music.
Your Press seems to like to remind you that you are a Pop Singer, as if you aren’t doing it quite right. Songs like ‘Kamikaze Heart’ kinda tweak the genre; the very thing that I love about your work and would call ‘positive’. Is this intentional? Do you see a minus side to re-sculpting a genre?
I really love pop music because everyone understands it. It’s popular because it’s accessible and I want to write music that’s people want to listen to, and yet still makes them think. I look back at artists like Bob Dylan and they were able to write popular music that had substance. My goal is to write a song that says what the world is feeling at a moment in time.
Your vids are curious to me. You appear as the solo singer/songwriter and then we see the rocker on stage; two performance styles and two different approaches and song types. Which works for you the best? Which do you see your fans responding to the most?
I love both! I have been playing solo since I was in the eighth grade, so it’s a complete comfort zone for me. But my band is amazing and I love being able to put on crazy shows. I want to be able to always do both.
“I cannot find the light I lost in your eyes
I cannot find the time you took from my life
I cannot find the light I find in your eyes
I’m only gonna burn it down this time”
‘Burn It Down’ is my favorite. Great keyboard backed lyrics to a powerful, power chord driven refrain, and a sticky hooked “I can not – find the light – I lost in your eyes” Here is a tune other songwriters, me included, wish-ed we had written. Tell us about how this terrific song came to be.
I had a lot of anger back when I wrote this. My heart had been broken for the first time ever, and I felt like I would never get that feeling or moment back. This song is a manifestation of teenage angst at it’s best. I felt like I had lost my innocence and all that was left was rage.
What is the thing you are working the most on, as a performer?
As a performer I am always looking for new opportunities to grow, but right now I would say I am working on performing more. Right now my goal is to get my music out there, as best I can.
Let’s go back to the photos. I got a kick out of the dress-up pics you had done – there is bit of the theatrical in you – is that something you would like to incorporate in your stage act at some point?
There is a huge part of the theatrical in me. I love clothes and staging so I think as my live act grows it will include more of the theatrical. Brit Woollard took those photos. She’s one of my best friends and an amazing photographic talent, so it’s easy to play dress up with her.
Will we see some good performance videos from you in the future?
I am going on the road in September, with Ingram Hill and the band, and I are planning on filming a lot of our time on the road. So check the website for fun video clips.
You also have another biz-thing going, you design and sell hand made jewelry, tell us about that- and the link.
Some of the jewelry is hand made and some of it is factory made. I love making things and I believe accessories make the outfit. Enough people asked me where they could get my accessories that I decided I should be selling them at shows. You can pick up some of the items from the merch booth at my shows and very soon from my website.
You are also getting involved with photography? Very cool!
Yes! I am totally an armature photographer, but I have been having a lot of fun learning how to be on the other side of the lens for a change.
You are working on a new album ‘Candy Pop’, a title that, after listening to your songs, and reading about you, makes me smile. Tell us about the project and who’s involved?
Kandy Pop is really just a fun project. It’s super pop songs about being young and single and looking for Mr. Right in a sea of Mr. Wrongs.
You said you are about to do a national tour with Ingram Hill. That’s pretty exciting. Give us a rundown – what and where. I’m sure folks would love to come out and see you.
We will be on the road for 20 dates in September with Ingram Hill. All the dates will be up on KatMcGivern.com the band and I are super pumped to be playing with such an established act. We can’t wait to get on the road.
If you were granted one wish for your singing/songwriting career what would be that wish?
I would love to be half way across the world and hear someone I have never met singing my song. That’s when Ill know that I have had an impact on the world.
Okay! You are ‘A Bohemian Judy Jetson with a bad attitude’? Where did that come from?
Lol, honestly I was asked to describe myself and that’s a hard thing to do. Anthony Resta the producer for Kamikaze Heart has pictures of the Jetson’s hanging in the studio and I noticed that Judy Jetson has my hair and style but I am sure I curse way more than she does. So that’s where it came from.
What’s coming up for Kat McGivern?
Right now the band and I are really looking forward to going on tour. It’s our first tour and we are really excited. When I get back Ill be hitting the studio to work on the new record.
Thank you so very much for your generosity and your honesty. It has been a pleasure.
Dave and I wish you the very best and we are sure that is exactly what will come for you.
Thank you so very much for having me! It has been an absolute pleasure!
Kat McGivern ‘Burn It Down’
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