The new album from young African-Canadian roots phenom Kaia Kater couldn’t come at a better time. As a new generation takes the reins, American roots music is needed more than ever to remind us of the troubled pathways of our own history. Born of African-Caribbean descent in Québec, Kaia Kater grew up between two worlds: one her family’s deep ties to Canadian folk music in her Toronto home; the other the years she spent learning and studying Appalachian music in West Virginia. Her acclaimed debut album Sorrow Bound (May 2015) touched on this divide, but her new album, Nine Pin (May 2016), delves even further, and casts an unflinching eye at the realities faced by people of colour in North America every day.
Can you tell us about yourself? Where you're from and what you've been up to over the past few years?
I am a Canadian banjo player, singer and lyricist. I’m currently based in Toronto, but I’ve been in Elkins West Virginia for the last four years studying old-time music and dance. I received my Bachelor’s degree in May.
How would you describe your music?
It’s a mix of Blues, Jazz and Americana. I sing about modern times and landscapes. Some of the instrumentation on the record includes: trumpet, flugelhorn, electric guitar, bowed bass, etc.
Can you tell us a little bit about your influences?
I’m influenced by a lot all the time, and it’s constantly changing - I feel this is the luxury of living in our day and age - music is so accessible. For this ‘Nine Pin’ record I consciously took influences from my producer, Chris Bartos, an excellent musician in his own right. I also was influenced by the songs of Lauryn Hill, John Hartford and Gillian Welch, as well as the poetry of W.B. Yeats. His one poem, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, inspired much of this album.
What are you currently promoting?
My new album ‘Nine Pin’! It’s released in the UK on September 2nd and I’m happy to get it out there for people to hear.I poured my heart and soul into this work, and pushed myself to be a better songwriter and artist.
Have you got a particular song you've done that you're particularly proud of, one that might define you?
I am proud of my song ‘Nine Pin’ ,which was the first song I wrote off the album. I read ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, which is about a man who looks back on his life. At the point that I wrote it I was so confused about who I was and who I wanted to be. The song helped me ease into the birthing pains of those emotions and then, eventually, create an album surrounding them.
What are you currently listening to?
I am currently listening to Bryson Tiller’s ‘trapsoul’ and David Rawlings’ ‘Nashville Obsolete’.
And your favourite album of all time, the one you couldn't do without?
Gillian Welch’s ‘The Harrow and the Harvest’.
What are your hopes for your future career?
To be successful enough to travel well and comfortably, to buy a piece of land somewhere quiet and write.
If money were no object what would be your dream project?
To get all my favourite musicians together for a block party, Dave Chappelle style.
What's the best thing about being a musician?
No two days of work are the same. Monotony is foreign.
And the worst?
Travel delays, no health insurance, being tired and away from your family.
Finally, have you anything you'd like to say to the readers of Americana UK?
I’m so excited to get to know the UK more; I had two shows in England and I met some of the kindest most wonderful people. If I’m in town for a show, please come say hi! And thanks for reading this article all the way to the bottom!
- Artist Website http://www.kaiakater.com/