Friday, October 8, 2010

Artist Interview: Kaitlin McGaw

A key presence in the San Francisco music community, I can't remember exactly where or when I first met the incredibly dynamic Kaitlin McGaw. But whether leading her own band playing her soulful originals, work-shopping songs, fronting a hard-working cover band or fronting her children's project, Kaitlin is dynamic, funny and unforgettable. She's also as down-to-earth as she is a powerful a singer and performer. I caught up with Kaitlin as she readied for a show at The Uptown, in Oakland on October 15.

Q: You write your own material, run Alphabet Rockers AND perform regularly w/a cover band. How do you keep these balanced? How do they related to one another in your experience?
Each of my musical projects came about from a very natural place, out of people I met, and inspiration I had for performance, writing and singing. I just never knew that a few years later, all three would be going full-speed ahead! It is honestly such a rush. Two years ago, I was struggling with how to represent myself as an artist, knowing I was doing children’s music, my own singer-songwriter performances, and then rocking AC/DC and 50 cent with my cover band. But then I had this realization, sometime last year – everything is a part of who I am. I love to rock. I love to make people happy with music and performance. It’s all the same, in a way. So now I feel like every show is interconnected. Of course there are cool moments when a wedding client has come to see Alphabet Rockers, or to see Kaitlin McGaw and the Mr. Right Nows. I think those moments really make it feel all connected.
As for how I keep it all together, I have come up with systems so that I know which bags I’m taking to which shows/rehearsals. I try not to get overwhelmed when I see that within a week, such as this one coming up. I’m going to be doing a wedding/rehearsal with my cover band, a show and video production session for Alphabet Rockers, and three shows and a rehearsal of my original material. Those are the weeks that I just take it all in. I take a breath and feel so grateful that I have these opportunities. And when it gets stressful, I just remind myself I work with some of the finest musicians and fun-loving people – it’s work, but we have a blast.

Q: You're one of my the more natural performers I know? When did you first get on stage?
Thanks, that’s a really nice thing to hear! According to my mom, I got on stage at age 4, somewhat uninvited, to sing with my favorite children’s music group, Rosenshontz. I was always singing, whether in church or in school – my first solo being the beautiful “Rainbow Song” by Kermit the Frog in kindergarten. But I think I really came into my own onstage through being in theater in middle and high school. My friends and I clowned around so much onstage, hamming it up for the audiences and one another. There was something in our rehearsal process, where after we’d reached a certain point, we pushed each other with improvisation, humor and natural reaction that just kept things so fresh and creative. I remember some of my first shows out here with my cover band, I just tapped right back into that playful part of myself and it worked just right onstage. In performing my own songs, it’s different. There is a storytelling experience that just comes from the core. I try to go back into the heart of why I wrote the song in the first place, and feel it again. Don’t know how that happens but it’s what I do to focus and it also makes me feel each song for it’s individual muse.

Q: You've a new(ish) band--can you talk about what listeners can expect at your upcoming gigs?
After a year of performing and touring solo on piano (2009), I really wanted to get a new band together. Prior to that I had played with a great trio called The Simple Things, which was bass and piano (I was just singing). So I figured this time I’d try something different. First guy I thought of was this amazing drummer I had played with maybe 4 years earlier, Terry Thompson. We always had such a great time and he plays with such spirit. I’ve built the whole band around the same premise: people who play with spirit and humor amidst the musicality. I recruited Dave Sampson (guitar) from seeing him perform with another band.
My co-writer (and trumpeter) Nick Phillips and I have been writing a ton of songs throughout over the past year or so, and the music is a cool mix of jazz and blues along with the stories I want to tell. That and some attitude!
Sometime this summer, in a room with Brad Hughes on sax, and Dave Fairchild on bass, I just realized we were having enough fun and hollerin’ laughing at rehearsals, that we needed a sexy name for the band. Since it’s a different line-up for every show, I dubbed the band the Mr. Right Nows. So expect fun, frisky attitude amidst heartfelt melody-driven stories.

Q: Describe your writing process? Do you have a regular practice? Collaborators?
I wish I was more of a Dolly Parton or Ryan Adams – a songwriter who writes song after song, day after day. This summer I challenged myself to write a song everyday for a week, and I actually got one keeper out of it! (A song called “Emergency,” which I wrote just with playing drums on my kitchen table and singing over it).
My writing process is right now, inspiration or deadline-driven. Deadline-driven is really based on my songwriting groups – one of which you and I are lucky enough to share! I force myself to write something new for them just to keep my chops up.
Inspiration strikes for me at random, often when I’m driving. Or just from sitting down at the piano or electric piano, and improvising. If something sticks, I hit record and track it quickly before it leaves. I’ve made too many mistakes in hearing a hook, line or melody in my head in the middle of the night and convincing myself I’ll remember it. I rarely do… the muse will have come and gone. Lately I’m collaborating with Nick Phillips on material for the band – he’s got more jazz chops than anyone I’ve written with. It’s like a musical theory explosion next to my bare bones songs. I love it. I’m also collaborating with songs for my next Alphabet Rockers record with beat boxer Tommy Shepherd. He’s been my costar in the show for two years and we have an absolute blast riffing off each other at shows. I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out!

Q: Gazing into a crystal ball-where will Kaitlin McGaw be in 6 months? What do you have in store for audiences & listeners?
Six months can seriously fly by without even looking up – right? In six months I’m looking forward to recording with my band and releasing my second Alphabet Rockers CD. This fall is going to be focused on preparing the songs and playing around the Bay Area, along with producing a video for Alphabet Rockers that we hope to see on TV next spring. And next summer I’m planning to go to the U.K. for a solo tour. Ambitious, I know – but it will be a blast. I love it.

Kaitlin McGaw performs Friday,
October 15th, 2010 The Uptown 9 p.m. 1928 Telegraph Oakland California 9460 Price: $7with Lindy LaFontaine, Anna Ash, & Whitney Nichole


Kaitlin said...

Love you Deborah! Thanks for taking the time to interview me :)... Kaitlin

Bird in the Tree said...

Of course KM! xo