Hippo Manchester
September 15, 2005

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                                                                                                              Bruce Bressack photo

Q & A: Kate Klim, Singer/songwriter and Pianist

by Bruce Bressack

She was 23rd on the list, it was already late and there were still several performers ahead of her at the Tupelo open mike.

Kate Klim was tired and the thought of getting up early the next day for work weighed heavily. It would have been easy for her to say, “Bag it, it’s not a paying gig. I’ll come back some other time” but the artist and performer in her won out and she waited her turn.

Finally, her name was called and this wisp of a young woman sauntered onto the stage. What happened next will surely become part of Tupelo legend.

Klim started to play and sing and the jaws of every musician in the room simultaneously dropped. If you happened to be walking, you stopped and turned to the stage. If you were talking, the last words spoken froze in the air.

That’s how good singer/songwriter Klim is. Just 23, and a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Klim makes music and lyrics that are sophisticated and mature beyond her years. Her song “Heaven Help Me,” from her first CD, led off the 2003 “Best of Boston” singer-songwriter compilation CD, accompanied by such notable up-and-comers as Jake Armerding, Meg Hutchinson and Rachel McCartney.

Tupelo Music Hall, at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, will host an album fundraiser concert for Klim. Every cent raised at the show will go to Klim to help fund her new CD. Scott Hayward, Tupelo owner, believes in Klim’s talent so much that he has offered a challenge for this show — If you don’t like the music, he will refund your money. Tickets are $12.50.

What inspired you to become a songwriter & performer?

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m the middle of five children or if I was just born this way, but I’ve always been a performer. My mom has told me that there was a phase when I was four when I didn’t speak, I just sang everything (from “hi mom” to “when’s dinner”) So I don’t really feel like I ever decided to “become” a performer. For a long time I wanted to be an actress, but then the little songs I had been writing all my life started growing into big songs, and I just knew I had to go with it. I sang a song I wrote for a big audience for the first time when I was 15. I knew right then and didn’t look back that this would be my life’s work.

Where did you get your musical training, and how long have you been playing professionally?

They wheeled a piano from my neighbor’s basement down the street and into our house when I was five. By third grade I was taking lessons and took them until the beginning of junior high. After that I played by ear. I came to Boston to go to Berklee College of Music in 2000 and studied voice — although my piano chops got a makeover, too. I remember my first real “gig” was freshman year. I got all my friends to come out and I was terrified to be playing for a whole 45 minutes. Now I can play for two hours comfortably.

How would you describe your musical style, and who are your favorite performers?

My general answer to that is “piano-folk-pop.” I think the fact that I play piano rather than guitar has a huge influence on the sound. My favorite artists are people like Jonatha Brooke, Lori McKenna, Paul Simon and Carole King. And lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Randy Newman. I’ll be playing one of his songs at Tupelo.

What do you hope that people will “take away” from your music and your live shows, and could you talk a bit about the genesis of your songs ‘Heaven Help Me’, ‘Jacob’, and ‘Happy’ from your first CD Heaven Help Me?

Well, when I personally go to live shows, my favorite songs are the ones that seem like they were written for me, and somehow express exactly what I’m feeling at that moment. I have a number of songs about heartbreak and about family, so I hope that sometimes I can give people that feeling. “Heaven Help Me” was the first song I wrote when I came to college. It will always have a special place in my heart. I sang it again and again until my neighbors knew it. “Jacob” was written soon after, about my best friend Laura, my older brother and his best friend. We were all inseparable and I had lost touch with Brad (my brother’s friend). It’s funny though, because now we’re back in touch, and he loves that there’s a song about him. “Happy” was a song I wrote in one sitting. Since I was in my early phases of Berklee, the whole song was based around this chord that I couldn’t identify but liked the sound of. Sometimes I still walk down the street in my old neighborhood where I wrote the chorus. I love moments like that.

I understand you’re planning to record a new CD. What do you hope to accomplish with this CD, and what song are you most excited about recording?

I’m so excited about recording all of them. Right now, I’m especially excited about the song “Blue Sky Love.” I think it’s the best song I’ve written. It was also very important for me to write. It’s very much about healing. My goal for this CD is to capture these songs, which are so important to me, in all their glory. It takes a number of professionals to figure out exactly what that is, so I look forward to that. I feel like in the four years since my last CD, my music has grown up significantly. I want people to hear what it is I’m doing now.

Where do you want this musical journey to take you?

I just hope that it keeps gaining momentum, like it is now. Every month it’s getting better. I hope that fairly soon it can be my sole occupation. I love playing my music for new people, so I hope my audience grows (and grows and grows). Specifically, there’s just a feeling I can only get when I’m playing, and I hope my musical journey is just one of me finding that feeling all over the globe.

For more information about Kate Klim, visit her website - www.kateklim.com