by Teri Barr
She’s already won many of the awards most area musicians only dream of earning. But Katie Scullin is now in the process of giving her career a re-boot. She’s a solo-artist, leaving two bands, including the popular Star Persons, and she’s a mom. Scullin is using these life-events to write fresh music, and performing some of the pieces of what will be a new album, at many of her upcoming shows, including (what’s sure to be a raucous) half-time of the Madison Rollin’ Dolls Roller Derby this Saturday, March 21st. She’ll also be performing the National Anthem to kick off the 6 p.m. event, and is helping support the tradition of partnering local musicians with the derby– for a great night of rock, and roll.
Scullin is also redefining her dreams, and recently took time to tell me why her love of music is so deep, and how fear can be a driving factor for success:
Teri: What’s your musical background?
Katie: Music has been part of my life as long as I can remember. Growing up, rule number one on cleaning days, we had to crank the tunes! We listened to Sophie B Hawkins, Carly Simon, and Joan Osbourne. We would also dress up in ridiculous costumes, and sing harmony parts to Disney songs like “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” My parents eventually brought home an old piano someone was trying to get rid of because they felt it was haunted. So, my siblings and I inspired each other to start making music, and to keep at it.
Teri: How would you describe your music, both as a solo artist, and with your band?
Katie: I’ve been developing my music since I started my first “real” band with my brother in 2008. I had no idea what I was doing, I just felt an overwhelming desire to write songs and perform. My background and influences are broad– from being classically trained in choir, to performing musicals in school, then learning classic rock, pop. electronic, jazz, and world music on guitar and piano. I’ve finally begun to really hone in on what my sound is, and since most nights I’m performing three hour solo sets, I think I touch on all of it. As of late though, the band and I have started to call the genre of the new EP we’re working on, “rock-tronic.”
Teri: What keeps you in the Madison area? Are you originally from here?
Katie: I grew up in Fort Atkinson, and after graduating I moved to Madison to study graphic design. I thought it would be the most realistic career choice, but quickly learned I couldn’t ignore the music buzzing in my head. The first band I was in just sort of fell into place, and we started to book shows around Madison. I started to meet all of the amazing talented musicians in this area, and it quickly became home; the place I wanted to call home.
Teri: And you’re a mom now? How do you balance the role with trying to make music?
Katie: Yeah, it is true. I have a lot going on, especially as the mom of the most charismatic, energetic, and fun-loving 3 1/2 year old boy (I’m not biased or anything)!? Right now I stay at home with him, and try to fit my career in-between naps and bed time, which means staying up into the wee hours to accomplish anything most days. So, whether it’s booking, rehearsals, writing, learning new material, recording, contracts, merchandising, long phone therapy sessions with my accomplices, and shall I go on?? I wouldn’t change it for the world though. Busy hands make happy hearts, and my family is extremely supportive of it all.
Teri: But how do you keep up your passion to make it all happen?
Katie: I always have my hands in a lot of different projects which I think helps keep the spirit alive, and the creative energy flowing. I’m intrigued by all things art, whether it be photography, cinematography, poetry, mixed media, dance, theater. I wish I could do it all and God knows I try. I’m constantly inspired by the beauty of life, and the artistic expressions of others; it drives me to do more. It’s a little like the Nina Simone quote, “It is an artists duty to reflect the times in which we live.”
Teri: What are you most proud of accomplishing?
Katie: It took a lot for me to muster up courage to try the Triple-M singer-songwriter competition last year. It was one of the most terrifying and humbling experiences I’ve had in the music world, to date. I was in a rut with writing, along with the struggles of balancing life with work, so I forced myself to take on the commitment and that leap of faith. I’m so glad I did it. I’m extremely thankful to all of my loved ones who encouraged me, and had my back throughout the process. I was a nervous wreck!
(Read more about her Triple-M win, here: http://localsoundsmagazine.com/2014/05/20/and-the-winner-is-part-one/ )
Teri: And after winning the Triple-M experience, and earning the chance to play at some big shows including Summerfest, what would you say to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Katie: Life is too short to be afraid of what other people think. You will never please everyone, nor should you ever put that kind of pressure on yourself. Whatever your passion is, live it with all that you have in you. Do it all. You will regret it if you don’t at least try.
Teri: Are you happy with your life right now?
Katie: The music business is a big old learning curve. Things are changing so fast and so frequently, and it can sometimes be personally trying to keep up with it all. But that’s what keeps it fun, and interesting. Artists no longer need a record contract to make music a career. They just need good planning, and dedication. There’s no real rule book in this business anymore and to me, that makes it very liberating.
Teri: Anything you’d still like to accomplish?
Katie: Well, I am working on an album with my band right now. We’ve been experimenting with new sounds, and have really been taking a lot of time to get it the way we want it. I’m very excited for that! My next personal musical goal is to really push the edge a little more, and to just roll with it. Nothing is perfect. I’m learning to record, and will probably be putting out a lot more self-produced music, whether it’s totally refined or just quick thoughts. I’d rather get it out there for people to hear than hide it in the lock box of my own mind.
Teri: Let’s lighten these questions up, ok? Tell me something people don’t know about you?
Katie: My best friend from grade school and I used to pretend we were aliens from outer space with the names Bug and Wolf. We would write a weekly newspaper called “Alien News.” It was about our travels on Earth, but from the perspective of our alien clan back home. We also made home videos about the most random stuff ever, some of which is too embarrassing to share. Talk about having fun in a paper bag. I miss you, Wolf.
Connecting with Kaite Scullin: