Kaitlin Keegan

I was just so obsessed- I think that’s what it is about music, I’m just so obsessed

 

I met up with Kaitlin at Archie’s in Fitzroy. She was sitting next to a tote bag full of celery and other greens

‘I saw them and I just had to get them, they just looked too good to walk past’

 

So I’ve been listening to your music all week, and I really like what you’ve released!

Oh yeah, it’s been a while as well, but yeah I’m definitely proud of what I’ve done. It’s been over a year… I know I’ve changed a lot

Do you feel like it still represents the kind of music you want to keep releasing?

Oh for sure it does, it definitely does. It was just a long time ago- well not really, but in terms of what I’ve done since then

Yeah, musically or emotionally?

Both. I think just even moving states has been a really big thing for me. That and finishing uni- I think the year I released the EP I went straight on tour with a different band so it was like put out the EP and then put it on the back burner. I’ve done heaps since then!

Are you looking forward to the next Kaitlin release?

So yeah! In the next few weeks, I’m recording two singles which should be out before the end of the year

Oh great that’ll be fantastic

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So I want to go through a few of your songs, give you my impressions and see if you agree. It’s always interesting with songwriting how people interpret your songs and what they get out of them

Oh for sure

So Emma, which seems to be the one that has a little more traction than the other ones?

Which was such a shock for me actually!

Yeah! How did that end up happening?

I guess maybe a few months after I put it out- I put Emma and Alto on Unearthed. Out of those two songs they just really really liked Emma. I think it was kind of at the same time a few artists were doing a similar sort of thing. I think it was the authenticity of the story that people liked

Yeah it’s such a storytelling song- even the melody feels kind of like a kid explaining a story the way it goes up and down and up and down- that’s how I felt listening to it

Yeah well, it’s definitely from a kids perspective, it’s from a period of my life when I was probably around 5 or 6- really young. It’s kind of childish in a way

It’s very dreamy and bright, and then the lyrics are very not dreamy and bright

Yeah that’s what I wanted

Absolutely

It has a dark theme, so to have the music feel brighter was my goal

How did it feel to release a song that’s quite directional?

I was definitely a bit scared. I just thought ‘fuck it’ this is something I have to do, I have to get it out- for myself. My sister Emma loved it, I mean obviously I showed her before I did anything with it, it’s quite personal and her name’s in the title so I had to ask what she thought about me putting it out. She was cool with it so.. It was a risk I guess! But it paid off.

It really is a beautiful song, I thought it had Stella Donnelly and like Meg Mac vibes

Oo yeah

I was surprised, your vocal tone is very different to what I expected in Emma. It’s quite soulful which I thought was excellent. It spoke a lot of extra emotion into the story

It’s what it needed

Did it have many versions or did it feel like you had a direction when you started?

Yeah that’s how I wrote it, it didn’t change a whole heap. I had just come out of two years of music school at WAAPA

Love it

So that’s maybe why my voice sounded that way- I sung a lot of RnB and soul

That’s a great influence to have for music that’s quite acoustic. It’s a really nice flavour. A lot of your songs have quite washy beach-town guitars, so it’s an interesting combination of different sounds that blends really well. Do you feel like the music was shaped by what you like?

In high school and uni, I really wanted to make music that was more- like I was obsessed with Hiatus Kaiyote and neo-soul. I desperately wanted to be like that but I couldn’t write songs- it just didn’t come naturally. I could sing like that but I would always end up writing story narrative folk songs

I completely sympathise, completely.  

It just didn’t match so I thought I’d put it together! Just do what I do

I always try to remind myself- with a band like Hiatus Kaiyote- it’s a team effort. I’d love to do music like that but it does require a bit of a team around you. I think considering how you sing, the influence they have on your voice makes a lot of sense to me

That’s soo cool, I’m obsessed with their first record

Do you feel like that neo-soul vibe is the main influence for your voice?

Yeah vocally I’d say so, but that’s just kind of how I learned how to sing. I grew up with Motown- Stevie Wonder- old records. From a song writing perspective I’m definitely more drawn to story tellers.

Anyone in particular come to mind?

Umm when I was really I was really into Missy Higgins and the singles she had- she had a whole bunch of really huge singles. When I was in year 2 or 3 I absolutely loved her, so I think she’s quite an influence on me. I don’t know.. growing up- a lot of Jeff Buckley- well mostly that one album called Grace. Absolutely smashed that. On the way here I was listening to Katy Perry- not sure if she’s cancelled. That one record with Kissed a Girl- really cool

Banger. Hot n Cold too

Yeah just pop music in general. Love pop music- love Lady Gaga. Rihanna. Amy Winehouse

Do you feel like you’re more drawn to female writers and singers?

I think so… I’d say so. Definitely heaps of male singers and writers- just can’t think of any right now! I think the key in high school and Uni was that I just listened to so much music. Almost too much. I was like a sponge taking everything in

I think especially when you’re studying, it isn’t just about listening, it’s about really understanding so you can perform and replicate it. Especially at tertiary level. You don’t just listen to Hiatus Kaiyote, you learn it and it’s in you- when you come to sing and write other stuff- it’s what’s in your brain. I think I find for myself that the most music I’ve been influenced by are the songs I’ve had to learn and perform

Yeah, the stuff you have to really know and understand.

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Alto. Love the chords. I was listening in the car and the B section comes in and I was taken away

That song was truly developed by the band I had recording it. It became so much more than what it was. I think the drum groove just brought it to another level

Was it exciting to see your song develop like that?

Yes, it was so exciting!

I think collaborating- especially with musicians- it’s like they can hear things you never thought to hear

Exactly

I think it’s easy to get fatigued when writing because you the lyrics, melody, chords, sometimes there are creative elements that slip through the cracks which other people catch

Especially rhythmically. I can feel and hear rhythm, but I struggle to communicate it. Like ‘just play this and I’ll know what’s right!’. I know what I don’t like

So true. Is it about being an alto?

Well I am an alto

Yep me too

I floated between, but mostly an alto. I dunno I liked the word! I wrote it in year 12 and released it two years later. I guess it’s about a boy, I was just drawn to the word!

Wrote it in year 12, released it two years later, do you find it easy to reconnect with songs after they have been left along for a little bit?

Yeah, I find that I finally understand what they’re actually about. I don’t really sit down and write a song about a particular thing- I write and I understand what it is afterwards

I think sitting with music for a long time, even a couple months, even a year and it can become a different song

Yeah just giving it time to breathe and brew

Do you make many changes when you come back to a song after a while?

That’s something I struggle with. I like to write it in one sitting and then that’s it. I know a lot of people who take months and months and piece it together meticulously. I just don’t have the patience- sometimes I do it that way. Generally my favourite and best songs just kind of happen. I try not to think about it that much. 

I think when I come back to a half-written song, I just can’t put myself into that relevant headspace, or I find it difficult to remember how I felt. It feels more systematic- what did I feel when I wrote this two years ago

 I think Alto had a lot of Laura Marling vibes

That’s interesting actually! I was listening to a lot of Laura Marling around the time of writing it. I saw her when I was in year 10 or something, she was touring in churches and chapels. It was great seeing her in such beautiful settings

I really like the lyrics

 

If it’s not about us

And It’s not about trust

Then it’s all about lust 

Really to the point and simple

Yeah I like that line, it really sums it up

Out of the two songs Emma and Alto, which do you like more? What do you like differently about them each?

 I like Alto because it’s easy listening- I can just switch off. Listen and dance. Emma is more switched on listening- I don’t know how you could put it on and have it in the background

I don’t think you can- it kind of demands your attention but not in an oppressive way. It’s infectious

 Maybe for that reason I’d say Alto- I can listen to it with ease

You don’t have to emotionally prepare.

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How did you go with recording a song like Okay?

I just had so many verses for that song and I wouldn’t give any of them up so it became this really long song! I had to write a song for an assessment, and that was mine. It was one of the first songs that I wrote that was a little sadder. When it comes to the melody I try have the song come naturally, it’s just about me interpreting the melody from what I can hear under the chords. I try and not think about singing too much.

That’s probably a good thing, I think when you complicate it then the authenticity can get lost in it. I think the female voice is really diverse in music at the moment. I think the best thing you can do in a world that’s like that, is just be yourself as much as possible instead of taking on the tonality of someone else

Everyone can tell, even if you don’t mean to, you can always tell when someone has listened a lot to one person and taken on their style. I don’t want to sound too much to what I’m influenced by

 

So Hellesylt, did you go to Norway?

Yeah, I went in 2017? The summer of my first year of uni. Saved up heaps of money and went to Scandinavia

I love,

 

I look out from the balcony

Such beauty

Mysterious alchemy

 

It’s such a beautiful place. It’s funny- the word alchemy I didn’t actually know what it meant, but it had to go there even if it didn’t make sense

I totally agree like- well I hope this makes sense because I’m not changing it, it sounds too good to change it!

Do you feel pressure to be creative in a beautiful place like that?

I’ll definitely try- I don’t think I got any writing done while I was there- that wasn’t the point of it. I wrote Hellesylt when I got home, it’s all there in my brain and it can just take to come out

 

When did your music journey start for you?

I guess I started music seriously just before I graduated high school. I was maybe 17 or so, and my music teacher told me to call the promoter of a club for an open mic night and I was like ‘no way’- I didn’t even have a set list or anything.. but I did it! and that was my first gig

I got a residency and I started playing a lot more at Uni- I think I’ve always wanted to do what I’m doing now, I kind of manifested it for myself I guess! I was just so obsessed- I think that’s what it is about music, I’m just so obsessed

There are worse things to be obsessed with, so good choice

Do you feel like the songwriting started in high school?

Yeah, maybe 14/15. But I was so private and shy, I wouldn’t share anything. I started putting covers on YouTube and my friend would find them, and I started performing at assemblies. I was also really into Ed Sheeran so I probably started writing songs around about that time. My dad was also a massive influence on me- he bought me my first guitar. He wasn’t really a musician but he….

Was a music advocate?

Yeah

I feel like that can make all the difference between someone pursuing music or not- someone telling you it’s actually a possibility

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Do you find songwriting easy?

Umm most of the time, I forget that it’s my job though. I don’t sit down every day- I’m not disciplined about it, but for the most part, I find it easy. I’m not skeptical about it, I usually just sit down and write whatever and come back later. Even if It’s just one line out of a whole page.

Yeah if there’s quantity, hopefully, there is quality somewhere in there as well

 I don’t like to fuss too much- if I can, I’ll write a whole song start to finish, and if there are a few words that aren’t right then I’ll deal with that later. I don’t know how some writers sit there and obsess over one line

What do you think is the most important part of a song for you, or the part you fixate on most?

When I’m listening to other people’s music, the vocal delivery is my main focal point- I think because I’m a vocalist primarily. Even just after studying, it’s hard to not hear it. The vocal delivery and the melody are the most important. I think if the melody is right and not forced and authentic and groovy, then the words come with it!

When recording do you find that you’re practicing the vocal delivery a lot, or do you do a bunch of takes and see what works?

Yeah, I think that’s why I like to let the song breath for even a year or so, and playing it live too. You kind of let it evolve and allow it to change if it needs to. I think the energy of a live performance helps you do things you wouldn’t normally do.

What excites you about these next two releases?

The response and having as many people as I can listen to my music again. I just want everyone to hear it! I just love it- I love hearing peoples’ interpretations, if they like it, if they don’t

It’s exciting to see what sticks with people, I think that’s a real benefit of doing things live

When I put out Emma I got a fair few messages from parents and dads who had maybe been through a similar sort of thing- from the parents perspective. It was really special that people wanted to share that with me, it was so heart-warming having people relate.

That’s so special, especially if the perspective you wrote from is different from the perspective someone is listening from, but they can still see themselves in the story you created. I think in songwriting, not all stories allow people to put themselves in if they’re not you. Emma especially has characters and environments, and if it’s a situation you might sympathise with, then you know where you are in that world. I think it’s important as well when a song can be emotional, and not about love. It can really validate emotions for someone 

That’s one thing I was so scared about when I was putting that song out, like ‘how many people have been through this specific situation, how can it relate!’ a lot of messages I got from people were not specifically about what I’m singing about, but maybe it reminded them to talk to their sister more. It can be relatable on different levels for everyone.

Yeah and I think an important thing to remember is that there actually aren’t rules with what to do in music. It can feel like you need to stick to a formula to make it work, but if you stick to a formula then what you write might not actually represent you

 

What do you want to stand for as a musician and a writer?

I want to create a comfortable and safe listening space- a place where people might go to listen and feel heard and included. If people can relate to what I’ve written then that’s the main goal. The music isn’t for me, and when I put it out it’s not mine anymore. I want people to understand it, and I want to feel understood. I’m still figuring it out

It’s important to allow for the space of ‘still figuring it out’- its where we are always going to be

Always evolving

Here’s where you can find Kaitlin:
Spotify

Facebook

Instagram

Keep an eye out for her new tracks coming this year

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