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Meet Kate Grahn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kate Grahn.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in LA with my mom who is a complete badass and raised me by herself. Whether it was in the house or in the car, there was always music playing when I was growing up. My mom would create tapes of my favorite songs and we would have dance parties to those tapes every night after dinner. I grew up listening to a lot of different kinds of music that consisted of Shania Twain to Britney Spears, Burt Bacharach, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and many showtunes. I used to sit in my car seat and belt out all of the words to Rent (which looking back is incredibly inappropriate for a young child to be singing).

When I went into junior high, I joined a rock band called “Traction” with three boys and was introduced to Rock and Roll. I sang lead vocals and played rhythm guitar to Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Heart, The Rolling Stones, and all the rock legends. I took part in “School of Rock” and “Join the Band,” which helped young kids in bands hone their craft and gave us the opportunity to play at iconic venues such as The Mint, The Roxy, and the Knitting Factory.

I stayed with this band throughout high school and started getting more serious with writing my own music. I was lucky enough to be at a school that had a great music program which allowed me to perform outside of my band and explore other avenues. When I was fifteen, I co-wrote a song called “Wrecking Ball” with writer and producer, David Kidd. Also, around that time, I collaborated with an artist named Will Jay to write the song “Loves Me Not.” This was the beginning of my love of songwriting.

I am now about to begin my last year at USC in the Thornton School of Music’s Pop program. I have learned so much in this program including, music theory, aural skills, arranging, songwriting, musicianship, production, and most importantly, the music industry. My most recent songs have taken a turn from my previous power ballads and have matured into an alternative/pop-rock sound. This past year two of my songs have been featured in “Pretty Little Liars”’ spin-off “The Perfectionists”. One of the songs is a recent release called “Over Again,” which I wrote with Adam Yaron and the other song that was featured is another recent release called “Satisfied.” Recently I have been playing at many venues, such as The Study, Hotel Cafe, and Madame Siam. I am extremely excited to continue my musical journey and I hope you all follow along with me.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No. It has not been a smooth road, but I believe that all the struggles that I have faced throughout my life have given me the inspiration and passion to write and perform music. When I was five years old, my biological father, a man I never knew by his choice, suddenly and inexplicably sued my mom for custody of me. Unfortunately, because of the laws of Family Court, I was immediately forced into a car with this stranger, banging on the windows and screaming for my mom while he drove away with me for court-ordered visitations. This was the beginning of a traumatic three-year battle, which resulted in the termination of his parental rights. During that time, I continued to find solace in music. While enduring this rocky time, my security blanket was replaced with a guitar. That guitar, my mom, my extended family of choice, and the gifted professionals I worked with all helped me process this three-year adversity. I used music to express my feelings and ultimately heal. This is the story that turned into my song “Wrecking Ball.” By writing that song, I had closure.

At eight-years-old, I began to show signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was diagnosed with the disorder and treated at UCLA. I spent five years in their extraordinary programs, learning to successfully manage unwanted thoughts, anxiety and a tic disorder that was exacerbated by stress. Once again, music played a crucial part in my therapy. Whenever I sang or played my guitar, my usual OCD symptoms lessened and my tics disappeared. Writing a song about my struggle during Family Court proved to be very cathartic, so I decided to take the same approach with this particular struggle. I co-wrote a song called “Untangling” about having OCD. There is an edginess to the song, which I think best interprets my feelings about my battle with the disorder. Mental health is a major theme in a lot of my songs. I have songs about the stigma of taking medication and the reality of self-harm. I hope to release those songs soon because they are so close to my heart.

Music has enabled me to be brave and resilient, as well as use my expression to heal. It has given me the strength to never give up no matter how hard life gets.

Tell us about your work – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am an LA-based artist and songwriter. As a fan of Bishop Briggs, Maggie Rogers, and Donna Missal, I would say that my genre is a mix of those talented artists. I don’t really like being put in a box. I understand that “branding” is a major part of the music industry and that can be hard for someone who loves doing and being so many different things. My brand is…me. I’m Kate. My friends like to say that I’m a feminist rockstar? In all seriousness, I believe that my authenticity shines when I am singing about my truth, my history, and the things that matter to me such as social justice and equality. I was always a confident kid who gravitated towards the stage, but as a somewhat shy child, it was always a shock for people to hear me belt. My voice is definitely something that makes me the most proud. I believe that I have an important role in telling my story and the stories of those who don’t have the opportunity to have a platform.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I think that getting two of my songs synced onto “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists” is one of my proudest moments so far. I also believe that getting into Thornton School of Music and the accomplishments I’ve had there has made me extremely proud. I got to sing Barbara Streisand’s “Evergreen” for the one and only Paul Williams, as well as perform “Rocky Steady” in a tribute for The Queen of Soul, “Aretha Franklin” arranged by my iconic professor, Patrice Rushen. I think that’s pretty cool.

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Image Credit:
Ellen Labbé
Sophie Gragg
Jensen McRae

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2 Comments

  1. Suzi Gantz

    August 29, 2019 at 03:05

    A great article about an amazing performer.

  2. Amy Baker Howell

    August 30, 2019 at 18:11

    I need to hear more about this upcoming artist!

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