Getting To Know Blues Artist Katie Kuffel
Katie Kuffel is a tongue-in-cheek, Seattle-based musician smashing the piano in a manner that's not quite blues, not quite folk, and not quite like anything you've heard before. With songwriting that is both innovative and thoughtful, she explores community, feminism, and her personal experiences as an advocate against sexism and violence, with a contemporary sound that supports turbulent, poetic lyrics.
Katie Kuffel recently released a new single titled "Arete" and it's a total gem. We got the chance to talk to Katie about the song, her writing style and more! Check it out below!
Hi Katie! Care to introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m an independent musician and artist, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and currently living and working in Seattle.
Can you give us a brief history of your musical career?
As far as my musical history goes, I started writing music at a pretty young age, but started pursuing it fully after a personal event that caused me to quit school, and move back home to Seattle. Since then I’ve been grinding in the local scene here (which is a very supportive community. Exactly the environment I needed to hone my craft and make lasting connections and friendships that have pushed me further than I could ever go on my own)
I’ve released a few works (Albums, EPs), and have started touring across the country (I’m in the middle of one now in fact!). I may be unusual in terms of goals, and musical ambition, but all I want is to continue creating art that comes from a genuine place, and connect with musicians and listeners, and create shared space, love, and understanding through that. Paying my bills completely with music would also be nice, haha.
Do you write your own music? Can you tell us a bit about your writing style?
I do write my own music. I’d describe my style as lyrically-driven, with a lot of influence from poetry, and literary devices. I love rhythm and words, and since collaborating with my current trio (Jon Robinson on Bass, Jordan Wiegert on Drums), we’ve together arrived in place that is this kind of soulful, bluesy, pop-jazz miasma. I’ll usually bring a half-formed piece (Or a whole sheet of lyrics who knows) and we’ll play it out and find some stuff that works. We do a lot of workshopping and editing in our live shows, until we feel a song has become polished. I still write a lot of “singer-songwritery” tunes, but when we perform live, there’s a lot of other influences and energies coming to play, and I just hope my music resonates with people.
We really love your new song "Arete"! Can you tell us a bit about it? Where did the inspiration behind the song come from?
Arete. Ah yes, this is kind of a heavy track for me. When you drive across Washington state, you go over the mountain pass to get back to Seattle, and there’s this ethereal moment when driving in the dark that you can see the vague shapes and outlines of these craggy mountains, dotted by highway headlights. It’s a mood I really wanted to replicate. It’s introspective, it’s dark, it’s sometimes a little dramatic.
The song though is about boundaries. It’s something I struggle a lot with having and maintaining, especially with people I love and care for. It’s about loving someone (a friend, lover, family member, whoever), and seeing them in a self-destructive spiral, and coming to terms with how much you, as an individual, can and should help them. There’s this mourning process when you realize you can’t ‘fix’ someone, and that they have to want to be better. You have to observe them where they’re at, not look at them as how you wish they would be, and be honest with yourself about your own pain, and maybe that means distancing yourself from them, at least for now.
I think I’ve been that person for other people, I think it’s a universal side-effect of caring about someone that isn’t able to have a healthy relationship for whatever reason at that moment. Mental health is a huge theme in a lot of my music, and this song is no exception.
Who are you biggest musical influences that have helped shape your career in the music industry? Why?
This question is tough. There’s tons of musicians I really enjoy, tons of projects I’m sure I’m influenced by, and the list only gets longer as time goes on. I think, for my career specifically though, the musicians who matter are the ones you play with, and the ones you see live. For me that’s where I get my inspiration. That’s where I see how far I can go, and what makes me want to continue on this crazy, somewhat masochistic music journey. There’s so much amazing music here in my local scene, too, so not just larger bands and acts, but the amazing shit that is in my own backyard (I don’t want to pick favorites in my hometown, because the list is so long, but I urge people to explore their local scene)
What are three things you’d love your fans to know about you?
It will always be surreal to me that I have fans. I hope they know I’m human, and that I’m humbled they want to experience what I have to offer. I want to connect with them, and I want to make sure my music and my art is accessible for them, and that I’m still working for them, and I just want to do right by them. Three side tid-bits, though: I can’t drive for medical reasons, I really love video games, and Sea Salt and Vinegar chips are the be all end all of snack foods.
Any upcoming shows?
I’m about to go on my west coast tour! Seattle, Portland, all the way down to San Diego! Dates/info can be found on my site https://www.katiekuffel.com/tour
For someone who hasn’t seen you live yet, how would you describe your performance?
My dream is that everyone who listens to my music can see me live. The energy, the room, the songs all feel alive in a way that I can’t always express on recorded tracks. I want you to move, I want you to feel, and I want us to share space together. Two shows are never the same, and I think that it’s because the audience has as much say in the vibe and the pace of the performance as the musicians do. Performing is one of the few times I feel completely present, and undistracted from life, and I want to share that experience with everyone who cares to listen.
What’s next for you?
I don’t know what’s next for me. I tend to keep my head down, keep making the music and doing the work, and that has always lead me to experiences I couldn’t have dreamed of. New songs are already taking form, and it’s just a matter of time until they come out into the world.
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