“The greatest songwriters are seldom songwriters alone. Some are creative polymaths while others synthesize elements from an array of forms into a wider songwriting vision. Kathy Muir is more than a songwriter.” Jason Hillenberg, Music Emissions
Soulful balladeer Kathy Muir conjures enlightened songs that paint vivid landscapes of her journey as she transforms elements of pop, folk, jazz and the blues into brand-new sounds. Her warm, playful voice glides through lyrics that unfold like the words of an inviting diary and are joined by ethereal guitar melodies and rhythms of an orchestra of other instruments that help tell the story of her well-traveled life. Muir’s fine-tuned skills as a songwriter and a photographer as well as her willingness to share personal perspectives and bold emotions enrich her intimate, multidisciplinary approach to her art. And she honors creative innovators and her own folk heroes, including naturalist John Muir, painter Pablo Picasso, expansive pop and rock songwriters like Queen and Tangerine Dream and R&B goddesses Aretha Franklin and Robert Flack who have all shaped her style. Muir’s frequent collaborations with artists across media have allowed her to continuously evolve her work while extending the boundaries of singer/songwriter material into unexpected realms. Her new single, “Second Life” explores metamorphosis and change and celebrates her love of sweeping, dramatic ballads.
Muir has always been fascinated by the possibilities presented by humanity’s creative canvas and has dedicated herself to unearthing the rich spaces where visual art, music and poetry meet. Raised in Edinburgh’s south side, Muir felt spellbound by the catchy folk hymns sung on Sundays at her local church as a young girl. When her mother became a choir singer, she aspired to join this folk group herself and began to practice her vocal technique while learning to accompany herself using a friend’s old acoustic guitar. Her adventures as a professional singer began once she secured a position in the group six months later.
Muir’s roots in spiritual songs stuck with her as she voyaged beyond Scotland, to France and ultimately Stamford, CT, where she now resides. Along the way, she has found her own inner voice as a songwriter and an organic approach that is inspired as much by her personal experiences as it is by her own boundless energy and pure imagination; the melodies flow through her, and she ties them together with delicate threads of chords and lyrics. She has also spent years studying photography, a discipline that has helped deepen her love of telling short stories. She frequently uses her own photographs to highlight new dimensions of her music.
A prolific and fastidious creator, Muir has released many musical and multi-media projects during her career, many of which were collaborations with other artists. One project of note was "Sweet and Easy", a song inspired by her love of John Muir and the pictorial style of The Seattle Camera Club (1924-1929). She included their work in an accompanying music video and took some of the lyrics directly from John Muir’s own writing. She also helped author David Martin create a gallery to exclusively house some of the SCC photographs. Muir also worked with high school photography students on her song “Keep on Walking” about the issue of homelessness in Miami; the video for the song featured arresting photographs they had taken of the homeless population in Miami. Muir’s single “Seattle Mornin" explored the evolution of relationships and offered up lyrics inspired by Pablo Picasso’s sense of surrealism and abstraction. The video was crafted in partnership with painter Paul Larson and filmmaker Markus Innocenti. One of Muir’s most recent project for her single “Like Warriors” was a community video made using photographs from the 1960s and 1970s provided by her neighbors in Edinburgh.
Muir continues to reinvent herself with her new release, “Second Life” and the song's accompanying video, which presents the work of a British pencil/sketch artist. She recently released a music video for “Troubled Town,” which tells the story of her life in Connecticut as well as her life in Edinburgh. Muir is also working on a personal project about the restoration of her father’s guitar. She is writing a song that she will play for the first time on it and filming footage of the luthier as he repairs it.
What Are Your Goals In The Music Industry?
Ultimately my goal is to raise awareness of my work to an end audience who enjoys it, whether that take place on a stage or a TV screen. I enjoy the freedom of writing in the style I want to and of producing my albums. That's the joy of an independent musician. Although I enjoy the songwriting process a great deal, I'm still really happy to perform live and to get a real-time sense from the audience as to which songs they respond to. It's like going to the theatre: it may be the same play every night but an actor plays it differently each time and the audience is seeing it for the first time. This is a one-off experience. No 'press-rewind'. That is why live performing is still so important.
What inspires you to make music?
A painter doesn’t paint because he expects to exhibit his work or to gain financial reward. He paints because he needs to express his creativity. That's how I feel about my music. So, my principal inspiration is borne out who I am and how I use these creative tools to express what I see and feel. At the next level it would be moments, people or events that trigger lyrics. The final form of inspiration is the melody itself. A melody will come to me and based on the tone and feel of the melody and the chords, I write lyrics to fuse with the melody.
Tell us about this project?
This song is a tale of two places I love: New York/Connecticut and my home town of Edinburgh, Scotland. I still miss the rolling hills of Scotland and the cheeky and direct accent that Scots brandish. It goes with the humor :-). Last summer I was taking a morning train into New York and as we crossed a bridge and saw some of these small towns so picture perfect, it made me think back to the apartment block I was raised in back in Edinburgh and how times were tough. That's at the root of the song. I developed the storyline further: Troubled Town could be a place, like we see in the music video, or a state of mind.
I wanted to re-enact part of that initial songwriting experience by creating a music video. Although a long shot, I hoped to visually recreate one of the lines in the song 'Just strands of light that we cup in our hands, drink slowly and give thanks'. I'm so proud that we managed to capture visually the essence of the song.
Edinburgh was too far away in which to film but we got New York and some parts of Connecticut, both to help reflect the storyline of the song. The scenes from the rooftop were shot in the blue hour, which means we only had a short time to get natural light on this late dusk evening in winter.
Who were your musical inspirations growing up?
Most early memories were of my Mum playing Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, The Stylistics and all that cool 70's soul music. My brother got me into more rock like Led Zep, Paul Weller, early Robert Plant, and I discovered Queen, big time. I'm not sure artists actually inspire you, rather that they influence you deep down and that that influence resurfaces and mixes with your own creative expression to create a kind of hybrid. Music I listen to today continues to inspire me in this very way: the tones of Joshua James, the arrangements of Sebastian Plano or Ben Stanbridge; the amazing talents of George Ogilvie or Ed Wells to name a few.
Are You Working On Any New Projects?
Yes, although I released my third album in September, we're three quarters of the way through the 4th album 'Double Take' for Summer 2017. However, I’ve been writing other songs that I really wanted to record. So, Pocketful of Sand, Try Coming Round, Morning Song, You Never Knew Me, and Perfect Day, are all songs either completed or close to completion in the studio that will not be on the fourth album. I’d like Try Coming Round and You Never Knew Me to be part of an EP containing three (or four) songs that feel indie, stripped-down, high in reverb, and atmospheric. I’ve recently finished a home demo for another song called River Running that would be a great addition to this concept EP. We actually were in the downtown studio yesterday to complete it and I should hear the final edited version tomorrow. The final plan is to shoot three performance videos on 2 February of these songs.
I've also upgraded my show gear and am excited about adding a bit of variety to my one man shows with some cool effects on guitar for some of my songs.
How long have you been creating music?
Many many years but only started going into a recording studio in 2013 when I moved over to the States. That is also the same time I started performing live. As I alluded to earlier, I have always been writing and have always loved writing, I just never told anyone about it. Until now :).
Do you want to say anything to your fans?
For those who know me and my music, thank you for your emails, text messages and generally brilliant support even though you're in other parts of the world. To non fans, I hope you have a listen to some of my work and that you'll find something you enjoy. If so, I'd love to hear from you.
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