Interview & Photos by Yising Kao
Based in Los Angeles, Kate Grahn is an independent singer/songwriter who fuses the genres of Pop, Rock, and Indie-Alternative, inspired by artists such as Bishop Briggs and Stevie Nicks. Grahn released her debut EP Ragdoll in March, incorporating her personal life experiences and feminist power into six tracks that each tell a unique story. As a USC Thornton graduate, Grahn has formed an old-fashioned, soulful, and edgy style, writing about important issues and aiming to inspire others.
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Listen to 'Ragdoll' here!: https://lnk.to/kategrahnragdoll
The Ragdoll EP expresses themes of dealing with your mental health and OCD, as well as celebrating female empowerment. Was it difficult for you to be vulnerable and share these personal songs? What do you hope your listeners will take from this EP?
Being vulnerable about my mental health and my emotions is not incredibly difficult for me. Going through clinical trials and therapy for my OCD at such a young age gave me a lot of practice. I learned how to articulate my feelings when I was only 8 years old so turning them into songs wasn’t very hard. That being said, it’s still a bit scary to have everyone know the ins and outs of your brain. Songs that were made for me to cope with my own emotions are being put out into the world and while that is nerve wracking, I will have no regrets if these songs help even one person going through similar experiences.
Your “Untangling” music video, directed by Anthony Anchelowitz, was shot in the desert at a plane crash site with incredible props and locations. How was your experience planning out the concept of the video and filming it?
Coming up with the concept of the music video was the easy part because having dealt with OCD for so many years, I knew exactly what the visual representation could look like. While the concept primarily stayed the same, the execution went through several different adaptations. I had such amazing creatives working with me for months leading up to the video to ensure that it would be exactly how we imagined it. Even before we got our DP, Joe DeSantis on board, Lily Samuels- Shragg, Anthony Anchelowitz, Derek Cano and I spent many hours over the span of about three months on zoom discussing every detail that pertained to this music video. It was really important for me to make sure that there was a reason behind every shot.
Your music has an alternative rock style with very powerful lyrics. Was there a specific moment in your life where you knew you wanted to take this musical direction or did it take a while to find your style?
I grew up singing musical theater but in seventh grade I joined a rock band with three other boys at my school and they introduced me to rock music. We performed all over LA covering rock legends such as Led Zeppelin, Heart, Pat Benatar, and Green Day. Having a musical theater background gave me an edge when it came to belting rock songs because believe it or not, the vocal technique is very similar. I love listening to pop music just as much as I love performing musical theater and rock music so once I combined my love of all three I came up with the melting pot that is my sound.
I admire how emotionally raw your lyrics in “Greyhound” are – Can you explain the symbolization of the greyhound in the song?
I wrote Greyhound with one of my good friends, Enzo Iannello for a recording project at school. He had just read Dante Inferno and was telling me how the symbol of the “Greyhound” was one of salvation and that people would call out to this dog to save them from their demons. Having dealt with my own demons I was of course intrigued by that metaphor and within an hour we had our song.
What’s your songwriting process like? Do you also collaborate with other songwriters?
I write whenever I feel like I can’t keep the thoughts inside my head. When I write on my own it usually pours out of me because if I don’t write about it I’ll continue to obsess over it. There are certain songs that need to be written alone but I absolutely LOVE co-writing. Whenever I co-write with my friends we always end up writing a song I never thought I was capable of writing before. I love having an extra brain in the mix coming up with ideas I never would have imagined. I think people’s egos get in the way when it comes to writing sometimes...we don’t need to do everything on our own. I love working on my own but I also love working with other talented people. I love creating music I didn’t know I had in me.
Since you’ve graduated from USC’s Popular Music program, what are some things you’ve learned from the program or college in general that have helped you grow as an artist?
Most of my songwriting came from my experiences at college. Experiences such as anxiety, crushes, jealousy, revenge, loss, and navigating the unknown. Several of the songs on the EP were written for projects that were assigned by teachers in the program. I learned so much from every songwriting class I took. In my final songwriting class with professor Sean Holt, I had to write a song every week which at first was very daunting to me considering I was a full time student with plenty of other assignments. After about a couple weeks I realized I couldn’t go a week without writing. He provided us with prompts that made each week interesting and challenged me as a songwriter. I also developed my skills as a performer during my time at USC. Every chance I got to be on stage (whether it was for a class or a gig outside of school) allowed me to practice my stage presence and be more vulnerable with the audience.
What message would you like to tell your listeners?
I would tell my listeners that it’s worth it to be unapologetically yourself. I would also tell them to stand up for any injustices they see in their community or in the world.
Rapid Fire Questions
Favorite hobby other than music?
Which song are you most excited to perform live?
What’s a song you wish you wrote?
Keep Lying- Donna Missal