Sifting back through my memories and glorious adventures, I can recall many "almost" victories.
I was 15 years old and credited in the top 4 vying for the Nashville Song Search. A 1 in 4 chance of an all expense trip to Nashville, I didn't win.
Toyota Star Maker in 2006, I was fresh out of school and believed that once I won Star Maker I was going to be launched as the "next big thing" into the Country Music Industry. In my mind, I had already won it. I remember crumbling to the bathroom tiles hid away from sorry and sympathetic eyes sobbing until I fell asleep on the cold, ceramic floor and my partner come to scoop me up and tuck me into bed.
I've had Management, Record Labels and Publishers dance around me singing my praise "Katrina's let's put a Question mark over a deal between us and see what comes". Much like my dating life their enthusiasm disappeared and we became distant strangers.
After ten years, I can honestly say it's all happened the way it was meant to. I needed to be humbled, I needed to be broken, I needed to stop fiercely fighting to be heard, and just listen. I needed to learn the lesson of trusting that I am always in the right place at the right time. An absolute example of this to be true is Nashville.
By week six an Australian buddy introduced me to a welcoming flaming red haired women in midtown who hosted the Wednesday night Freakshow. Songwriters would get up and play three originals. My first performance I was last on the show, and there was only a handful of people left in the room but after that night, I made four new songwriting connections. I continued to go down midtown to watch the show. I found the people that went there so warm and friendly. They all possessed a quirky "out of place" quality like most misunderstood creative beings do, to me I felt like I was finally home. I met so many beautiful people at the Freakshow, Miranda Lambert would drop in now and then playing a little private show to no more than 50 of us beside Waylon Payne, who played Jerry Lee Lewis in Walk The Line.
I was songwriting my butt off. Always searching for new ideas, catch, phrases or anything that would strike a chord with me. I remember driving my housemates car home, and I got a "message". "I need to write a duet." I sat down in so many co-writing sessions trying to push the song in the direction of a duet, nothing worked, and it all turned out a mess. Duets are hard to cut in Nashville; I have no idea why but I know I needed to write one.
I made my way to a Publishing House to meet with a stranger recommended to by a friend. A middle age Jack Gyllenhaal look-alike waited to greet me in the dimly lit office. Goran is a dentist with an unexplainable ability to make a melody dance as he plays chords he doesn't the name of. He brought along his friend, who wore a clean white visor hat with wisps of salt and pepper hair springing out the sides like wings. I come to learn that Joe has had success as a writer in Nashville for two decades. With a Kenny Rogers cut like a cherry on top.
We started working on a song, throwing ideas around the room; it felt like any ordinary writing session. We were working on a song titled "Too Young For Dying". Inspired by a childhood friend who was tragically killed in a car accident only hours after a phone call to his Mother telling her he'd been posted to Iraq. They spoke about the danger and Travis's cheeky and reassuring spirit said: "I'm too young to die". Travis was only 19.
I don't even know why this line come out, but as we were working, I said: "I Only Drink When I'm Broken" (A line that I had in my ideas stash reflecting back on my time drinking red wine in the dark to numb my state of depression). Time stopped. We knew we needed to write that song.
As we put "Too Young For Dying" aside, Joe was snowballing ideas, "let's make a one-sided conversation, you know when a guy comes up to you at a bar?". We were on spit rapid fire, the three of us wrote the first verse in maybe 10 minutes.
"No this seats not taken.
It's Vodka straight on ice.
Sure I'll have another, I'll be here a while.
Yeah, I'm from around here, but I grew up in Atlanta.
If you really want to know what brought me here tonight, I'll tell ya".
By the time, we completed a killer Chorus I was already thinking "This is a hit". Goran hesitated and fidgeted about in his seat "I don't normally do this, but should we" he paused looking worried, scratching his head, in fear of humiliation and searching for the words "should we write this as a duet?" It was like watching the magic happen; I knew this was the song I was asked to write.
That evening I got home and played the work tape on repeat. I sent it to one of my closest musical girlfriends Molly McClymont, and she called me right away... "Kat, this is a hit".
"When I'm Broken" become a song I performed everywhere. I remember after the first chorus at the Freakshow one night a songwriter that I admired but was too afraid to ask if he would work with me gasped and said "wow" as I was playing. He then suggested the soonest time we could arrange a co-write.
My network had grown, so much to the point that I could walk into Losers Bar in Midtown all by myself and know everyone there. I wasn't needy or seeking ways to "advance my career", to be honest strangely I never talked about music or my ambitions with any of my friends (except for my Nashville bestie Emily, who is equally ambitious working her way up in Publishing). Most of the time I was just hanging out, had fun drinking my water and made genuine to the bone friendships. I started meeting industry folk from other circles and soon felt like I had real friends. I had become a part of the Nashville community.
I remember one evening an Agent was holding a showcase. My girlfriends Emily and Taylor messaged me they were going. I had already received an invite. By the time I arrived the girls were sitting on bar stools so intimidated to walk up to the VIP area because they didn't know anyone. I scanned the room and instantly saw half a dozen people I knew well and led the way. That evening was one of my best nights in Nashville.
It was three weeks before I had to leave the States. I remember I was laying on my bed trying to settle my analytical mind from going through lyric ideas so I could enjoy a day off from writing and re-energize. My phone lit up like a Christmas tree; Marty Morgans bright southern voice sparkled with enthusiasm. "Kat, you'll never guess, is your diary available?". "I hope you don't mind, but I've organised some publishing meetings for you, when are you free?"
Looking at my full schedule, I wasn't free. I was booked to the brim, making every last second count before I left Nashville, but I somehow managed to fit in the handful of meetings he kindly organized.
Then he says "Oh yeah, 14th of October could you please make sometime around 6:30 pm, we have our own headline show at the Bluebird Cafe".
"The Bluebird Cafe?" I said in my faint voice of disbelief and just like that; I was booked to play one of the most prestigious songwriting venues in the world.
To be continued...