By Poppy Tohill
As a teenager working in the music industry myself, it's always exciting getting to talk to a fellow teen doing so well in the industry, and with proof from the likes ofKathryn Dean, it seems teenagers really are ruling a big part of the music scene right now both nationally and internationally.
Born and raised in San Diego, now based in Los Angeles, at only 19 years of age with an EP and now album released, I recently had the pleasure of catching up with singer-songwriter and pop-star Kathryn Dean, to talk all things music and the release of her debut album Hit The Lights which was released on April 28.
"You know being the age I am, adults don't have to feel weird about liking my music because I'm not a 'Disney star.' Being on the younger end though, it is the 18-24 year olds that are my buying market. Those are the people that are the really big fans, so it's nice to connect with them musically and from a songwriting perspective, it's a great ratio from both sides of the spectrum," Dean explained.
"I have an older brother and being the little sister that I am, I love annoying him to every extent I possibly can, so from about three years of age I used to make up songs and sing them in the backseat of the car as a way of annoying him," Dean replied, when asked how she got into singing and songwriting.
"I had a pretty rocking set though I'm not going to lie!" she continued, laughing. "By the age of seven I'd had a few vocal lessons and then I started writing my own songs about three years, ago. I teamed up with my manager in January last year and then started performing with my band in May, so it's really been a long time coming," she confessed.
"I got all of the musical talent of the family in general," Dean admits. "None of them play instruments or are musicians whatsoever. My Dad can't even clap on rhythm which is just so funny to me, because he's always at least one second off," she laughed again. "Although I will say I've got these younger cousins coming through now and I think one of them definitely has a shot at stealing my thunder here. Which I'm excited about, but I may be in trouble having a little bit of a competition on my hands. She's dangerous!" Dean chuckled.
"Moving away from home is a big step," Dean admits, talking of her recent move to Los Angeles. "Practically my entire Dad's side of the family is located in San Diego, so that's definitely been interesting not having them around and getting to see them all the time. But, I'm really lucky that my parents, older brother and entire family are super supportive of my music."
"I was actually unbelievably proud to learn that apparently my older brother who I'm really close with, has figured out a way to use my music and the fact that I'm a singer, to pick up girls," Dean laughed. "It's the greatest thing ever and I completely died with laughter when I found out. That's definitely one of my personal accomplishments. It's the little things that make me proud," she laughed again. "So, yeah. I definitely have a crazy family, but they're the greatest."
"The main thing is definitely the traffic which is just ridiculous here in LA!" Dean enthusiastically responded, when asked about the biggest differences between San Diego and Los Angeles. "I call it Narnia, because we don't really have many neighbours," she continued, talking about her current home in LA, "But we're on this little street which doesn't really have an entrance just a street sign, and one of my neighbours rescues all of these different animals. Last time I checked she had about 14 horses and 10 dogs. She's pretty much a temporary animal foster house, so she's had everything from Alpaca's to Wild Fowl. What's funny is we're not even on or near a farm. Like I don't understand where she puts them all!" Dean laughed.
Returning back to talking about the music, Kathryn went on to tell me about the time she first realised she wanted to pursue music as a career.
"I think I've always definitely kind of wanted to go down the music path," she truthfully replied. "I think a lot of kids want to be a vet, a ballerina or whatever else when they're younger, but I've always definitely wanted to be a musician. Back in the day I'd always watch American Idol and see how the contestants would progress throughout the years. Then by the time I turned 16 which is when you can really try out for most of these shows, I started songwriting and when I was looking through the paperwork for these shows it stated that,'anything I write or perform on the show is now owned by them,' and as a songwriter my songs are basically my children and I'm very protective of them, so I thought nope, I'm not going to do that!"
"So there was this music website database type thingthat would put up a post about what they're looking for from an artist, such a as a certain type of song and any of the members on this service can upload their recorded song," Dean went on to explain. "Then the people from the company will listen through everything and chose five or so songs to send onto the music supervisors of the show. So I started doing that and I remember the first year I got involved there was this conference which was really cool. They did all these workshops and considering I was just starting out I thought, okay, I'm going to put myself out there for everything. Because you don't really have much to lose when you're around these people that have the power to make a difference in your career. So I did that and it went really well!" Dean exclaimed.
"I met some incredible people through the workshops. One of them was Matt Malley who was the bassist forCounting Crows for a long time. Another person I feel like I really learnt so much from was Murray Richmanwho was the steel guitar player for Bruce Springsteen for a very long time. He's also an amazing producer and he actually produced my song 'Told You So,' which is the first official single from the album, that also got on this Brazilian show MALHACAO," Dean concluded.
"After that I got picked up by publishing company 'Heavy Hitters Music,' where I then also met my manager, Dave and the rest is history! I think after starting to work with him, being a musician went from this dream that I'd always had to actually potentially becoming a reality," Dean admits.
"Number one for everything, especially vocally and also just branding wise in general would be Adele," Kathyrn responded when asked who she considers her greatest musical inspirations to be. "I call the members of my team the 'Kathryn Dean Dream Team' or 'KDDT,' and we often have fights over who discovered Adele first. I am super adamant that I discovered her first though and I did. It's a thing, you heard it here first!" she laughed.
"When I was 13 I covered one of Adele's Songs, 'Hometown Boy' from her album '18' and then when the '21' album came out I remember listening to it with my mum and picking out which songs were going to be hits," Dean reminisced.
"I also really love how she's got this raw voice and came into pop music with just that. Especially during the time bubblegum pop was everywhere and most artists were using so much autotune you couldn't actually tell if they were a person or a robot. I've watched tons of videos of Adele live and it's no secret, you can tell she's the real deal. She came into an industry at the time where looks were equally as important as the sound and she just showed up not caring what she looked like it. She's got this incredible voice, killer songs and she just made it happen and I think that's what girls should be looking up to," Dean remarked.
"My manager has this quote which is my absolute favourite. He says, "The music industry is full of a bunch of pop tarts trying to out slut each other," Dean laughed. "So that's why Adele has definitely always been a huge influence, because she just came in and truly showed everyone what music is really about."
Retaining an obviously busy schedule over this past year, Kathryn went on to tell us about the struggles of juggling school work and her quickly growing music career. "Poorly is my answer!" she laughed. "I'm at this point where I am too busy to fully dedicate myself to studying. I'm learning a lot in school, but at the end of the day, being a musician is always going to be my first love. Music is a version of therapy for me, songwriting is very cathartic and it's something that's always going to make me happy no matter what. But then again, you can't really take on an industry if you don't know anything about it, which is why I'm still studying," she explained.
Moving on to talk about Hit The Lights, Dean's debut record, she informed us that releasing an album has been something she's wanted to do for a long time now.
"My EP definitely captured different sides of my personality, so it's been nice to explore different aspects further," Dean commented when asked about the progression from her EP to her album. "On the EP you have the more sentimental side such as 'A Letter To You' which I wrote for a really good friend of mine, whose father passed away. It was one of those things where I almost wrote it on his behalf, because they both knew they loved each other, but they didn't always get along and I never really wanted him to feel that kind of regret."
"Then you have 'For Us We'd Do Anything' which is definitely more romantic. Then, 'I'll Show You Crazy,' shows you the more rebellious side of me, because I'm definitely a little crazy," Dean laughed.
"So yeah, the EP shows those various sides of me and this album is a continuation of that with just five more songs," she explained. "I'm currently working on a new video with the amazing director, Paul Boyd, for the next single, 'Be My Sin,' which I'm very excited for!". (It's just been released, check out below!).
"I really got to explore various harmonies on this record which I loved. One that was really fun was Fight. (with a period at the end actually because its more of a command)" Dean added. "I actually wrote it as a response to let people know, I know it's going to be difficult, I'm prepared for this and the answer is yes. I'm going to make this happen because I'm going to fight for it," Dean explained. "I don't often turn from a fight either. So yes, I know it's hard but I guess, I like it rough!"
"Tired Eyes, Tired Lies,' is definitely more of a ballad about the times when you're broken and keep pushing people away. It's about one of those relationships where it's like, 'hey! don't say that I walked away. I put everything into this and you're just pushing me away.' Especially with a lot of movies and books these days which I think give us the idea that you can push your loved ones away because true love will always come back for you. But I think, even if you love someone, you can't just push them away whenever something goes wrong, because eventually they're going to stay away and I think that song is kind of a lesson in that."
"Then the newest song on the record, which I wrote in about late January, reflects how punny I think I am," Dean chuckled. "So you know how R&B is Rhythm and Blues?" she asked. "Well my song is called 'Rhythm & Booze," Dean continued, laughing again. "I've recently noticed in music that there's not always a lot of drums, so the drums in this one from my amazing drummer Edward Honsetti are just incredible. It's such a full sound you can feel it. I like to say that song is definitely kind of a throw back to my grunge phase, but really I realised it wasn't a phase, it's just low key who I am right now!"
"City of Angels' is my favourite," Dean revealed. "I mean I love all of them, but in terms of best reflecting my writing and vocal abilities, it's the one I'm most proud of lyrically," she confessed. "I wrote it about drug addiction, "the devil in my veins, i'm in the city of angels," she continued, quoting some lyrics from the track. "I think addiction can relay to anything, not just drugs, because you can truly get sucked in to almost anything," Dean expressed.
"The one place where you're literally being judged and everyone's watching you, is the one place I don't feel that way," Dean honestly revealed when asked about performing live. "I feel free and think the stage is where I can truly be myself," she continued. "I think everyone has insecurities of some sort, but for me, performing on stage is the one place I can kind of leave any insecurities behind me and just really feel like myself."
"So far I've played at the Molo and Genghis Cohen Residencies in Los Angeles. I've played a couple of shows at the House of Blues in both LA and one in San Diego, and then in San Diego I've also played at the Belly Up and a newer venue Big Rock which I had a lot of fun at. I think I'll definitely keep playing shows in LA when I can, but the next thing I'm going to be doing is going on a radio tour," Dean happily announced.
"I actually just got picked up by this amazing new radio promoter, Howard Rosen, so I'll be visiting a few radio stations to promote the album and perform a stripped down version of the new single, 'Be My Sin."
"Following that though, I think they'll definitely be some more touring as it gets into summer. I'm very excited to see where everything takes me though! Having my song on the Brazilian show, I actually developed a really big and amazing fan base over there, so I definitely want to go out there and see them," Dean proclaimed. "VH1 India also picked up some of my music and I'd definitely be interested in going there. So yeah, touring internationally is definitely the plan for some point. I mean where's the fun in being an aspiring rockstar if you don't get to travel the world, right!?" she laughed.
"I actually have!" Dean excitedly replied when asked if she'd ever been to New Zealand.
"My parents took me when I was in fourth grade," she added. "I know I'm not supposed to say we went to Auckland, because apparently according to people in the other places in New Zealand, Auckland isn't the real NZ!" she laughed. "But I liked it! You guys seriously have the best bakeries there! Like France has all those delicious different sorts of croissants and patisseries or whatever, but so do you guys! Everything is so good I just don't understand. You need more credit for that to be honest!" she continued, chuckling.
"Then we went to Christchurch, Queenstown and Rotorua which was interesting because it smells like sulphur! Rotorua was very pretty though and we also went zorbing which was really fun! We went jet boating in Queenstown too which was a really cool experience. I loved it there and my parents actually went back recently and they're convinced they're going to move there, so don't take them from me please!" she laughed.
"But I would absolutely love to come and perform in New Zealand some day!" she happily added, bringing the interview to an end.
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and be sure to check out and purchase your copy of 'Hit The Lights' on iTunes now!