Article by: Casey Stohrer | Photos courtesy of Kate Tucker & Brad Trent | Posted: 04/25/2012
Kate Tucker has come a long, long way, and her newest EP proves it. Ghost of Something New (Red Valise Recordings) is a map of all the places she's been and people she's met in her travels. Her rhythmic, stripped down fingerpicking style is the anchor to many of her songs. Her backing band, Sons of Sweden, fills in the empty spaces with simple, floating melodies that give her songs a unique energy, recalling groups like Mazzy Star, Cat Power, and Cowboy Junkies. Described by some as Gothic American rock, her music is simultaneously representative of Kate herself--a confident, focused girl who chooses to wander. While she may not be sure of herself all of the time, she knows that her varied paths will lead her to more good stories.
Kate moved to Nashville about a year ago, and like many other Nashville transplants, she learned quickly that the Nashville way of doing things mostly meant that you need a lot of money and a lot of friends. While many people might think that this sort of professionalism is relegated only to the new pop-country artists and Broadway cover bands, it does pertain to artists at an independent level as well.
“It's working in my favor,” Kate says. “I'm an independent artist; I don't have any financial backing besides what I can make off of my own music. Because of that, I wasn't in a position, nor did I really want to do the 'hired gun' thing. But then I found that this is the way this town works, so I held auditions for the first time ever. I told myself that I'm just gonna do it, but I'm gonna be really clear... like I made a little Google doc that had all the stuff I was looking for, and it had the things I could offer and things that I couldn't, financially. I was amazed at the response. I had to conduct several nights of auditions. I couldn't believe it.”
Through Facebook and a few musicians she already knew in Nashville, Kate cobbled together her band. Judging from their first performance together--their album release show, which was held at The Basement on Monday night--Kate selected a group of strong players that complemented her music without blowing it out of proportion. Each member contributed tasteful parts that were interesting without being distracting, and they had the confidence and liveliness of a band that's been playing together for years.
Although things are going more smoothly now, Kate's road to Nashville was a bumpy one. “I have a hard time staying in one place for very long,” Kate explains. “I'm not really sure why, because I really identify with this sense of home [Akron, Ohio]. But most of my adult life I've spent in the Northwest [in Seattle], which is hugely influential in my writing. But it was circumstantial things that got me out of [there]. Once I left, I didn't really know where to go; I had no sense of purpose when it came to going home. I wanted to go back to Seattle--I wanted to maintain it [because] I had so many good relationships there. I wrote most of my songs there and I like to record with people out there. But also, for other reasons, I kind of needed to get out of there.”
Seattle was only the beginning of the journey for Tucker, however. “[After Seattle] I went to New York and got a place in Brooklyn. New York is so fun to go and play, but it's a really hard town to be a functioning artist in because it's very expensive. But there is a huge vitality and energy there--there's nowhere else like it. That was cool, but it was hard to catch my breath.”
And catch her breath she did, taking the time to explore her other options rather than spinning her wheels. “I was just kind of living here and there, and I didn't really know where I should be. I'd never been to Nashville, ever, and a year ago was the first time I came here to visit. I packed up my car in Brooklyn, and drove to Nashville to visit some friends. They said I could keep my car in their garage while I traveled around. So I went to Seattle and recorded my EP and stayed out there for a couple months, then decided to come back to Nashville because my car was here and I didn't know what else to do. So I didn't leave.”
In true troubadour style, Kate’s travels are well-represented on her new EP. “It was recorded over a long period of time in different places. My past projects I've been a lot more calculated about--you know--when I'm going in, who I'll be working with. With this EP I wasn't even quite sure we were making it. We were recording some of my newer songs and we weren't sure what they were for. There was a track on there that was intended to be on the next Sons of Sweden record but it just never came out. I decided that I really liked that song and the sound, so we took it and added some things to it and remixed it in Brooklyn. So in a sense [the EP] reflects a lot of what happened in my real life. It was fun because I was way more laid back about it and took my time. We definitely did our best. [The songs] sound the way they sound on purpose. But it was cool because I didn't realize what was gonna end up happening and where it would go.”
Like Kate's road to Nashville, Ghost of Something New is paved with rambling, bluesy guitar lines that sound lonesome on their own, but sometimes – with a little help from her friends – they are transformed into hopeful, melodic songs that have the road-worn sensibilities of a girl who definitely knows where she's going.
Catch Kate opening for Karen Elson on April 25th at 6pm, at Imogene + Willie in their next Supper + Song series show.
Kate Tucker - "Live at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC"