Interview: Katelyn Benton
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My grandmother was a professional concert pianist and some of my earliest memories are her and I sitting together at her Steinway. She was by far my biggest influence in pursuing music and why I still practice classical music to this day, even though professionally my music is contemporary/pop. I’d always thought if I never got into music I’d be pursuing some sort of therapy professional. In the last year I’ve gone back to school part-time for clinical hypnotherapy. The great thing about music is that you can (and sometimes have to) pursue other things! And truth be told, hypnotherapy and music have a LOT in common. Music is a form of hypnotherapy!
What do you like to do when you're not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I’m an avid runner. I began competing in marathons when I was in college, then began competing in ultra-marathon trail races up to 100 miles in length. I work out a lot of things when I’m running. Like singing, it requires focus on breathing which is very meditative and helps to unlock problem-solving and creativity. Many times I go out for a run and come back with a renewed perspective on things, or a creative idea to focus on.
How long has your band been around?
I began playing professionally when I was 12 years old. My first gig was a residency at my local Nordstroms where I’d play their grand piano every weekend during the holiday season. I started recording music around the same time, and started playing out at local music venues long before I could drive. My Mom even got me an affidavit to perform in 18+ venues, so I could join my mentors on stage.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m based out of Los Angeles today, but was born in Louisiana and spent a good portion of my childhood and adolescence in Colorado. The jazz and blues scene in New Orleans definitely informed some of my piano chops, and the mentors I had in Colorado helped me to establish myself at a young age. Today, in Los Angeles, I am constantly amazed and inspired by the countless bands and singer/songwriters trying to make their mark. There’s always something new to check out and it inspires me to keep evolving as an artist.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
There was a stint when I played at The Hotel Cafe here in Los Angeles regularly, and some of my favorite memories were made there. The scene at Hotel Cafe was always very welcoming, and it’s a room you go to specifically to enjoy music. Plus, they have a real piano, which means a lot to a pianist. One of my favorite shows of all time was at The Mint (also in Los Angeles) and I was having a CD release party. We had such a great turnout and the energy in that room was so positive! Another highlight was when I played at the House of Blues on Sunset. 2 young women sat in the front row and gave me their undivided attention for the whole set. After the performance, they came up to me and asked if they could give me a hug. That was 7.5 years ago and to this day they are some of my best friends. I think I block out most of my “worst show” memories, but I got to a venue once that said they had a keyboard for me to use, and it was like a TOY keyboard, teeny tiny with no pedal. I was mildly humiliated performing on that thing.
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you haven't already?
Again, I have to mention Hotel Cafe and The Mint here in Los Angeles. The rooms are a perfect size to hold a good amount of people but still feel intimate. Same with The Bitter End in New York. I loved playing there because of the history of the venue and because, again, they had a real piano! I’d love to play some festival circuits some day. I’ve never played a music festival but love to attend them as a music lover. Music festivals usually draw hardcore music lovers, so what better group to play for?
If you could play any show with any lineup who would be on the ticket?
Haim, Ben Folds, Me!
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
If you’re working with other musicians, you must treat a band like a business. Have clear goals and write out each person’s roles and responsibilities.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
A lot of people will want to take your music in their direction. Not all of them are right.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
My most recent single, “Burning Down”, is very close to my heart. While I like to write as universally as possible, this song was definitely inspired by own perspective as a kid and it’s really therapeutic to hear it in a finished product, that art can come from really hard life experiences. I’d say the same about my song “Crave.” I wrote it when I was in a terrible depression, and essentially wrote myself out of a dark headspace. Everytime I sing it, I feel hopeful.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
My song “Impossible Love” gets requested a lot, and I LOVE to play it. The piano, the vocals, the lyrics are all so emotive without being over the top.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
My creative process pretty much always starts at the piano. I’ll play around until I play something that makes me feel something, then I follow the song’s lead. I let it go wherever it feels natural, and the nature of the chords and rhythm usually inspires the lyrics, or at least the emotional quality of what the song will be about.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Usually that there is another “side” to a story. Whether it’s the light on the other side of the dark, or just a clever turn of words to create a new meaning, I like my songs to reveal a little bit of something unexpected.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
I fight with my inner-dialogue all the time ;)
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that's coming up?
Hopefully COVID continues to fade and I can resume performing ASAP! Other than that, I’ll continue to write and record, possibly even release some solo piano projects in the near future.