The jazz-folk ballad Kate Bollinger on drunken love songs, No Doubt, and saying goodbye



Welcome to FREAKS ONLY Story of three songs, where we get to know some of our favorite artists over the course of three songs that hold special meaning to them. Each guest brings us something old, something new and something unique. And then we get to it.

Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Kate Bollinger has conquered the market for jazz-tinged folk songs with pensive lyrics that will have all your synapses spinning at three speeds. His latest project is “Look at it in the Light”, his first extended play on Ghostly International.

Bollinger’s well-established penchant for haunting ballads goes further on his third EP, emphasizing clarity and twists that belie the sweetness. The lyrics become heavier and the enriched production offers subtle flourishes throughout. Ultimately, “Look at it in the Light” feels like the centered arrival of a terrific artist and her immensely creative band.

Just ahead of the EP’s April 22 release, Bollinger joins us in reveling in Elyse Weinberg’s “drunken love song,” the immense good fortune of having older siblings to shape your musical tastes and how her new record became a “Virginia farewell project”.

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The following has been edited for length and clarity.

KCRW: For something old, you brought us a song by an artist named Elyse Weinberg. What can you tell us about this track?

Kate Bollinger: I found this complete album, “Greasepaint Smile”, during the tour I was doing with Faye Webster. She’s a late ’60s songwriter who was kind of in the scene with Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and all. But it didn’t really work out for her in the same way. She just released those two albums, then pretty much gave up music, moved to Oregon, and started working in insurance. And she changed her name to Cori Bishop, which I think is great because it’s a more rock ‘n’ roll name than her real name.

It’s such an amazing album, and it’s kind of semi-unknown. [Although] it was picked up and released in 2015 by Numero Group. Every song is so good, and every song is so different. But I really like “Nicodemus”. There’s this desperate thing, kind of like… a drunken love song that I really like. I love everything about it.

There’s a very subtle funky to the instrumentation of Alice Phoebe Lou’s work and yours. Where does this come from on your side?

Most of my band is a jazz band, and that had a lot of influence on my sound and my songwriting. I didn’t really listen to much jazz or funk growing up, but one of my older brothers loved jazz and always played it, so I feel like it definitely had an impact on me.

You and Lou also seem to have a lot of similar themes in your songs.

Yes, I think that’s why I like it so much. The whole album [“Glow”] just sort of like a journal entry or something. That’s kind of how I approach songwriting too, so I feel really close to a lot of the lyrics in his songs.

You talked about having older brothers, were they an influence on you to turn to new music?

My musical tastes are pretty much because of my two older brothers. I almost brought, like my old song, one of the songs from “Tragic Kingdom”, the album No Doubt. I have a very clear memory of getting the soundtrack to “Lizzie McGuire” from my mom for my birthday, and also getting “Tragic Kingdom” from my brother because I was obsessed with pop music. So they always tried to turn me into stuff they thought was cooler.

What can you tell us about “Who am I but someone?”

It’s hard to keep track of time because of the pandemic, but I think that was the first year. Two of my band mates [and] my producer John and I all shared this monthly storage space where we made a lot of music. I started writing this song alone on an electric guitar, then I brought it to them. We wrote this kind of change outro part together and then saved it to storage. It came together pretty quickly. It was really one of those songs that kind of escaped me.

Was he inspired by the pandemic?

Definitively. It’s a lot about being stuck during the pandemic and being confronted with my life. Knowing also that I need to change things in my life. I feel like I have to leave Virginia, but I’m also a bit in denial about what I need to change. That’s what it’s usually about. A lot of songs are about denial and change, fear of leaving home, and stuff like that.

Do you still feel this fear?

Yeah absolutely. But I’m going to leave Virginia. I feel like this EP was kind of a…Virginia farewell project.

Where will you go?

I want to try sublets in a few different cities. So I’m thinking of doing a few months in Los Angeles, maybe New York, maybe Nashville. I just want to shop around and see what I like.

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