Musician discusses influences, friends, Bob’s

This week, Arts continues the Open Mic series with Katie In ’13, a singer-songwriter. Katie has performed at numerous Open Mic nights, often in the company of Ethan Kenvarg ’12. Here, she describes how she began to study music, her experiences singing outside of Grinnell, performing in front of friends here and what she appreciates about Open Mic

Katie In Profile

Katie In, picture taken by Sophie Fajardo

So, what kind of music do you play?
I do some covers and some originals. My favorites to play are, like, Radiohead and I love to play jazz standards turned into acoustic coverss. I also like Nina Simone, Elliott Smith, Feist.

Do you play any instruments?
Guitar, and I play piano, that’s what I started on when I was younger, but yeah that’s it. I had a short stint with cello and violin, but that didn’t work out.

Wait, why didn’t it work out?
Um, because I was in like 4th grade.

Who introduced it to you?
My mom did, she was a music therapist, well she’s not anymore, but she was at the time. So I was always around music. Most of it was classical, and then Raffi…

That’s good stuff.
Yeah but she would teach piano lessons at our house so I’d always be around that. She taught me a little bit of piano, but I didn’t really start playing guitar till I was in high school.

Gotcha, so you started playing around then at cafés?
Yeah, at a café/sandwich shop called Potbelly’s, they hire local musicians to play music for a couple hours, they have a big loft where you climb a ladder and sit on a perch and kind of play down to people. Before that I played at a restaurant, but that was such a good gig to play in high school because it was such a short time commitment.

What did you like about performing?
It’s really different performing here than at restaurants, just because of the type of audiences. I think I kind of liked playing down to people, having people look up to me on the loft or look over at me, and I knew they recognized the song and were enjoying it and I knew it was kind of background noise but I liked catching their attention, that’s what I liked most. I guess playing here it’s a bit different as a performer, but I like that too, it’s fun, it’s cool when people get excited about a song.

It kind of sounds like you’re a little bit down on the Grinnell side of performing, like you enjoyed performing a little more back home?
It’s just different, I guess back home I was in my own world for two hours, sitting there, basically singing for myself, I mean it was for other people but I had the freedom to do what I wanted within those two hours. Here I kind of have to prepare a performance, prepare song a little more, I mean I like that just as much, it’s just a little more intimidating to have an audience that’s facing you and staring at you for the amount of time they’re singing. But I guess I’ve been playing so long and singing so long that doesn’t really scare me anymore. Its nice to see people happy about it or I don’t know, like they feel it in some way. I guess that’s kind of a clichéd answer…

Does the fact that essentially you’re playing in front of your friends freak you out a bit more than playing in front of strangers back home?
Yeah actually, it’s easier to play in front of strangers. I think a big part of it is that I’m a student here and I do play music but that’s not all that I am and that’s not all that people know me for and when I can have a really quick interaction with a stranger that’s a lot easier that playing to my friends, which is weird because, you know, I just had lunch with them earlier and talked to them about things. So it’s not as easy to put on the mask of the performer and say look at me, I’m doing this thing for you.

Have the audiences been pretty receptive to your music here? Positive, neutral?
Yeah it’s been pretty positive, people are really supportive, I play with Ethan Kenvarg [’12] a lot, and we opened for a show at Bob’s a couple weeks ago and we just had so many people come and I think my friends are really, really just the best. I don’t really like to advertise things that I do that much because I don’t want people to feel pressured to come but I think I tell them once and they’re excited about it and come and are happy. That’s really great and I really appreciate it. So I guess I do like playing for them when it means that to them.

Would you ever consider playing professionally after college?
Well I’m majoring in sociology, so not music, but I don’t know yet. I guess like I said it’s something I do, but I have a lot of other things I’m interested in, but if that’s where I end up…it’s a great job to have, I really enjoy the social aspect of it, being creative, the lack of restrictions on what I can do with a song, because I can kind of tweak it to be my own, that’s nice. So hopefully I can find something to do in my lifetime that’s as fun as that. I’m not really planning on making that my whole life, I like making it something I can escape to, just do for fun, I wouldn’t want it to be the thing I have to get away from.

Speaking of Open Mic Night, have you seen any artists you really liked?
Well I really like Jumi Bello [’13], I really love Jumi, she’s really talented, I like listening to her every time she performs. She does slam poetry. And a bunch of first-years are really talented. And they’re beautiful, too. Open Mic is a real bonding experience, cause the more people I get to know and see performing up there, I really appreciate what they do.

Compiled by Will Hurd