Hey guys, long time no post. Here's a little something for you, my interview with Tokyo-born Japanese/Kiwi surf-rock/acoustic/pop singer-songwriter Kat McDowell, gambatte!
Kat McDowell (born January 7, 1984 in Tokyo, Japan) is a Japanese/New Zealander singer-songwriter, who debuted in 2007 on Binyl Records, a division of one of Japan's biggest companies, Avex. This young musician has developed quite a unique sound not often heard in Japan, and she's still going strong. While in New Zealand on a personal trip last month, she took some time to answer my questions. Enjoy!
How long have you been doing music professionally for?
I guess I have been getting “paid” doing music for over three years now. But I feel like I’ve been doing it a lot longer than that.
What style of music do you generally play, and which musicians/genres provide inspiration for your sound?
I’ve been playing rock and acoustic rock over the last few years. Songs inspired by life in Tokyo and the various Oceans I have been fortunate enough to experience.
In August last year you released your first full-length album “Echoes over the ocean”. How was the experience of creating the concept for the album, and were there any difficulties during the writing process?
Yeah. It was definitely tricky because the songs were recorded bit by bit over two years so it was hard to have a “total” sound and choosing songs for the album was really difficult. There are songs I have recorded that have never been released which is a shame because I poured my heart and soul in to those..Hopefully one day!
Since your debut in Japan you’ve gone through quite a transition from starting out as a session musician to finally making your mark as a one-of-a-kind musician when you were offered the contract with Binyl Records in 2007, the same label that houses Monkey Majik, another crossover success. How has the experience been like? Have more opportunities opened up for you now that you’ve become more noticed in Japan? How did your Japanese fanbase react at first when you first came to Japan to sing professionally?
Yeah some amazing doors have opened in the last few years. One of the fun things have been singing with Daishi Dance on his album. He’s a really popular house DJ here and it’s been fun singing on the electronic tracks. I guess I’m still a unique type of artist here. People don’t always know how to place me but I really do appreciate the loyalty of the fans who have stuck through with me because I have gone through quite a few transitions in discovering my ‘sound’ over the last few years.
Is there any specific times in your life or anything that is around you on a daily basis that gives you the inspiration and energy needed to write music?
People!! Definitely! The different conversations, watching people on the street.. Things like books, movies, my own experiences, natures.. I get bored easily so it’s been hard having to write, e-mails, edit YouTube videos and sleep all in my bedroom.. Especially because my room is tiny!! I try to get away occasionally. Step back from my life and try to get some perspective again.
How did your love for music come about?
I don’t really know.. but maybe from my Japanese grandma who really loves to sing. I’ve been listening to music and singing as long as I can remember. I would listen to the radio a lot and make up my own melodies over the songs.
Can fans expect new material from you anytime soon?
I hope so!! I am working on a vision for the next project now. I’m traveling a bit. Going to Hawaii, the States and Nicaragua and I am currently* in New Zealand having rest with my family here. I know the experiences I have and the people I will meet will inspire many new songs so I am very excited!! Hopefully in 2011 I will release my next album!
(* - she was in NZ last month)
In September 2008, you released a single called “S.O.S. ~ Same Old Song” featuring one of Japan’s biggest hip-hop personalities, VERBAL from m-flo. How did that collaboration come together and how was it working with VERBAL?
Verbal is so inspiring! He totally deserves the name.. he is a genius with words! He is so humble too. He wrote the words to S.O.S for me after talking with him about the kind of song I was wanting to write and he was brilliant!
Is there ANY musician that you would like to do a collaboration with
in the future?
There are MANY!! One of the people I would LOVE to write a song with is Jon Foreman from Switchfoot!
Are you doing any projects and/or campaigning for anything right now aside from your music career?
Well.. I am going to Nicaragua with my friend Braddigan. Braddigan has a concert every year in a dump in Managua. It is home to 1500 beautiful people, over half are children. I am passionate about Human Rights Issues, but there’s only so much you can read on books or watch in movies. I think I need to step outside my world for a bit and see how someone else lives their life. I guess you could say this trip is more personal than anything else. One of my favourites verses from the bible is Matthew 16:25 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it". So I guess my next project is to lose myself for a while.
I imagine you have a lot of music tastes; what do you normally play on your iPod and/or when you’re at home?
Lately my favourites have been Mute Math and Switchfoot.
Who is your closest musician friend, and how did you two meet?
Sayulee is my room mate, best friend and she is also a musician. We met in New Zealand, her dad was my Japanese teacher at high school but I met her after graduating high school. A friend introduced us because we were both half Japanese and for some reason we hit it off quickly!
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not super busy?
Surfing, going for walks, cooking or watching a movie.
Is there anything you’d like to improve on as a musician?
Yeah.. being a way better musician!!!!
To the critical question now. You have been involved in music for some time now, and music tastes and styles are changing quickly in this day and age. Where do you see music in Japan going in the future, in the sense of changing tastes, and will this allow you continued creativity down the road?
I don’t know where the general trend will go..But I guess just speaking for myself.. I want to be true to myself..as best as I can be!
Do you have any final words for the readers?
Yes~! Thanks for reading!! And more than anything I hope to meet you at a show some time. There is nothing like a live performance in the day and age of computers and mp3s. It makes the live shows that much more real. And it’s ALWAYS a pleasure to see you face to face and hear your stories! Come say hi!
Thank you to Kat for the interview. Until next time, gambarre masu!