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Meet Kat McDowell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kat McDowell.

Hi Kat, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
My parents are from New Zealand and Japan so I spent much of my youth in both countries. I knew I wanted to sing and write songs since I was seven so I spent many hours as a child, just absorbing music, writing songs and playing in different bands. When I was 20, I ended up signing to Sony Music and Avex in Japan and spent three years signed to a Major Label. It was an amazing journey, I had a Vinyl record go to No. 1 on the Vinyl Charts there and sell out in two days, I got to work with amazing producers, musicians and perform for thousands of people. Eventually, I parted ways with the label and decided to start over as an independent artist. I had full creative control over my music and have since released four albums, 3 Eps and am now releasing Singles once every few months and tour more now than I ever did when I was with the label.

I moved to LA in 2013 and would still go back to tour Japan once or twice a year but have been focused on working with producers and songwriters here in LA. I love that this city is full of dreamers and have met so many wonderful people here and made lifelong friends and collaborators! The Pandemic has definitely shifted things for me and even though all my tours and shows got canceled, I found amazing opportunities to connect with people online through zoom and twitch. I teach music online and I also do Zoom Origami and Kintsugi workshops for colleges, parties and corporate events. I also stream on Twitch three times a week on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and it’s been an amazing interactive experience where people in the chat can throw virtual snowballs at me while I sing for them.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I think even though I come across as being very carefree, I can be very anxious and learned some hard lessons over the years of being an artist. I let anxiety and imposter syndrome get the best of me at times, and especially when I was with the label I got constantly sick and stuck in an unhealthy cycle of self-sabotage. As I’ve gotten older, it’s definitely gotten easier to be more self-accepting and to make sure that I only allow people I really trust to really speak into my life instead of just listening to everyone. It’s taken me years to truly feel comfortable in my own voice and I guess I am still on that journey, like most of us. We never really get there. Some of the hardest things to happen was being in Japan during the 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami. Seeing that kind of devastation and loss and being in the middle of all of this uncertainty with many parts of Tokyo being on fire, mis-information about the Nuclear powerplant spreading like wildfire, and then what truly changed me was when I visited the Tsunami sticken areas to play music at the Refugee camps for the many thousands of people who lost their homes and friends and family. I saw cars flipped on top of graveyards. Ships stranded on dry land, and the land stripped on everything except foundations. These are things I’ll never forget. In a way the whole experience of 3.11, the hope and restoration that I saw in the aftermath, of how tragedy could bring people together that has given me hope in this pandemic, which is also destroying so many people’s lives. The year that almost broke me also made me and a lot of other people stronger, so no matter how crazy things got in 2020, I think I believed and still believed that we will come through this stronger.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am an Ocean Pop Singer songwriter, Origami Teacher, Kintsugi Artist and Twitch Streamer. Most of my life has revolved around music and the writing of music, but I have also loved crafts and would make my own merch like paper crane earrings or art on tiny canvases. It was actually the timely release of my song “1000 Paper Cranes” at the beginning on lockdown in 2020 that lead to many of the things I do now. The song was written about my Japanese Grandmother the day after she passed away and it was her who passed down the love of music and crafts to me. To celebrate the release, I did a virtual paper crane making party where I taught everybody how to fold paper cranes and it sparked the idea of starting online Origami workshops during lockdown. I now get requests every week to do origami workshops for company events, colleges and zoom parties and have started making online origami tutorials on my youtube channel (with my music in the background doubling as a music videos.)

I have also been training in the craft of Kintsugi (which is an ancient Japanese art form of mending ceramics using gold or metallics to make something new and even more valuable). I have been streaming my Kintsugi sessions on Twitch and have officially become a Kintsugi workshop facilitator with the Kintsugi Academa so I will be starting workshops online but can not wait for in person workshops once things open up. This art form is incredibly healing to the soul and I can not wait to be able to share this with more people especially after such a soul shattering year. Funnily enough, my latest song is called “Scars (Kintsugi)” which I got to write with the same incredible songwriters for “1000 Papaer cranes” Nitanee Paris and Kazumi Shimokawa. There seems to be an overlap with my music and art all blending into one these days.

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
It feels like my whole life has been nothing but risks, but every time I risked or took a leap of faith, it always leads to something amazing. Signing with a label in Japan felt like a big risk, so did choosing to part ways with the label and going independent. Leaving my music career I built behind in Japan and moving to LA to start over has felt like one of the biggest risks I took but I have never regretted it! I believe your hands always have to be open in order to receive. Every year I pray and ask God to give me a word to guide me for the year. Last year’s word was “Let go” and I had NO IDEA how much those two words would help me get through last year and keep me flexible at every surprise that came my way. This year’s word is “Simple” which is HARD for me because my life feels anything but simple right now. I guess in a way, letting this word “Simple” guide me this year feels like a risk.

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Image Credits
Daigo Otobe (Leon’s Roar Photography, Sylvia Wakana, Eric Micotto, Ari Keita

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