Kate Voegele

There Isn't A Shortcut

Kate Voegele

The Myspace phenomenon that brought "social networking" into the mainstream also revolutionized the music industry. Fans could not only interact with each other, but get closer to their favorite musicians, hear their music and interact with them in a way that was never before possible.

Now Myspace is using the power of its fanatically loyal and musically-conscious user community to do something very pre-Myspace, start a record label.

The first artist signed to Myspace Records, which now also includes Mickey Avalon and Sherwood, is Cleveland native, Kate Voegele, who released her full-length debut, "Don't Look Away," for the label in May.

Voegele, a 19-year-old college sophomore, has been building her reputation as a stellar pop singer/songwriter since she was still in high school. Chorus and Verse first interviewed her in 2004 when she was getting ready to make her first appearance at SXSW. Since then, she's performed at two Farm Aids, CMJ and dozens of shows and tours with the likes of Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp and the Wreckers.

Her demos led to a series of showcases and major label interest, which led to her finally signing with Myspace Records in the later part of 2006. Moving forward, she laid down the 12 tracks on "Don't Look Away" with an impressive collection of talented musicians and a world's worth of potential, not to mention some great songs. Now touring to promote the album, Voegele is showing a maturity not just in her music, but also in her approach to the business and what it takes to be successful and make it into a long-term career.

And, oh, did we mention that she met Tom? Yes, that Tom, the guy who seems to be everyone's friend on Myspace, even the spammers. He's also president of Myspace Records, and that's where we started our interview with this fast-rising and increasingly accomplished performer.

First things first. It is true that you actually met Tom of Myspace? You mean there's really a Tom who has 187,882,088 friends? Do you feel special knowing that you're one of the few people who has Tom listed as a friend and you actually know the guy?

(Laughs.) Yes! It's totally crazy. He really does exist. I got signed because he personally sent me a message on Myspace which I didn't believe was real at first at all. He's a really cool normal guy, though. Last time I was in LA, we went shopping for a photo shoot and went to Johnny Rockets. (Laughs.) So the rumors are true, Tom really is an actual guy!

Ok, so it turns out that Tom Anderson is the real-life president of the new Myspace Records label. How did you first become aware of Myspace Records and with the major label interest building around your music, why did you feel they were the best option for promoting and developing your career?

I didn't even know about the label until I got that message from Tom asking if I was signed. I went in to showcase for them and learned all about their ideas for the label and realized how innovative it all was. I think the marketing platform that they have to practically 200 million people for free is unbelievable, and the fact that they're an indie means they're small and artist friendly and I got to have a lot of creative freedom, which was really important to me.

You've been quoted as saying that "the people at Myspace are taking an approach that's really different." Now that you've been a part of Myspace Records for a little while, what are some of differences that you've noticed and are there qualities Myspace Records has that you feel the major labels should pay attention to?

Absolutely. Rather than spending an insane amount of money at the outset and throwing an artist out to the public before anyone knows who they are, Myspace works on artist development and building a solid fan base first. I think that, so often, major labels concentrate on having a 'gimmick' and an exaggerated image for their artists before they even develop the artist's sense of who they want to be and, as a result, they spend crazy amounts of money advertising and promoting an artist who either comes off as fake or is so unfamiliar that nobody pays attention. I think the best fan bases are the ones that are built one fan at a time or one small show - however disappointing the turnout - at a time. There isn't a shortcut, at least not one that makes somebody a career artist with longevity.

You've managed to build a very successful career while going through high school, and now in your sophomore year at college. Has there been temptation to forego education to pursue music full-time and what had made you work to complete your education first? What degree are your working towards and do you feel that you'll have a greater chance for long-term success when you do complete your degree and move into music full-time?

It has definitely been hard to maintain life as a student on top of trying to pursue a career as a musician. I wanted to finish high school because I really enjoyed it, and there wasn't a deal on the table that made sense or some giant tour that was out there at the time that was worth me dropping out and hitting the road or heading for LA. Once I got to college, I was still able to balance it until I signed a deal and went to make a record this past year. Now that I've released the record and I know this is what I want to do full time, I'll be taking some time off from school and classes this next year. I really want to give 100% and pour everything into this record rather than trying to handle a school schedule on top of it. I think the fact that I finished high school and attended college for two years definitely made a big difference for the better for me. I needed to be a 'normal kid' and make friends and live the high school and college experience. I drew so much inspiration from it, and now it makes it exciting and easier than ever to leave and concentrate wholly on my career.

The twelve tracks off your Myspace Records debut, "Don't Look Away," were laid down in just three days in a North Hollywood studio. Were you very prepared when you went into the studio, or did everything just come together once you got there? Were most of the tracks done in a few takes or did you just keep doing them over and over again until you had what you were looking for?

I was definitely prepared going in, and I knew what I wanted to get out of the sessions, but a lot of the creative work also happened in those few days. Working with incredibly talented musicians was helpful too, because within a few takes they were coming up with parts and arrangement ideas that sounded exactly how I had envisioned them. Some of the tracks took a bunch of takes to get right, but others were laid down in less than three. Sometimes when I record a song in a few takes, it makes it that much more meaningful, because it's more of a real flow of emotion than a track that you spend days refining and editing.

Do you enjoy the recording process and being in the studio? Do you get involved with post-production and selecting which tracks you want to use, or are you OK with leaving those decisions to engineers and your producer?

I absolutely love being in the studio. The recording process is so much fun and it's so cool to see tracks that had previously just been ideas and acoustic roughs turn into the fully-produced songs you imagined when you first wrote them. And I definitely stay involved in post-production. The great thing about this record was that we mixed and edited it in stages and even after I left LA, Marshall would send me edits and I would send back comments, which he would take into consideration, make changes, and then send new edits. It's such a fun process. I love working together to find exactly the right combination and dynamic for each song.

You also have an impressive selection of musicians working with you on this recording. With so much experience in the studio with you, did the songs evolve as other musicians contributed, or did you tend to dictate everyone's part and how it should be played? Did any songs end up going in a completely different musical direction than you anticipated?

Both. I think there were certain songs and parts that I had a very clear idea in my head of what I wanted to hear, and they executed it beautifully. But there were other parts I was unsure about, and they had some amazing ideas that really added to the color of the record. One song, "It's Only Life," was originally really upbeat and when I played it for Marshall he started doing this piano part that was slower and more mellow; and together we kind of molded it into a completely different feel. Now it's a really powerful ballad that I think is one of the highlights of the record, and it was really cool to see it evolve like that.

One of your songs was featured on the season finale of CBS' "The Ghost Whisperer." Is it a different experience hearing your music used as a soundtrack, as opposed to on the radio or iPod? How have you promoted your music for television use in the past and would you like to see additional placement of your songs on TV and film?

It's definitely different because the music is there to add to the storyline or essence of the scene rather than just to exist on its own. But, it's really cool to see it in that way because it shows me that my music can not only be enjoyed in itself as its own entity, but also can be used to add to other forms of entertainment media. I would love to see more licensing opportunities come about for TV and film. I think it's an amazing way to get your music out there and I plan to promote my music for those purposes, simply by taking every opportunity I can get and by licensing it for anything that seems to be fitting.

You're going to be on a crazy touring schedule for the next several months, working across the East Coast, through the Midwest, California and Florida. How do you usually travel and what are some of your favorite ways to pass the time between gigs? Is there any place you're heading to in the next several weeks that you're especially looking forward to?

We usually travel in a van from place to place which is a lot of fun but totally crazy sometimes! We once drove from Buffalo, NY to New Orleans. (Laughs.) But, it's so much fun and we have a really great time. I love finding new fun things to do to pass the time, like vintage shops and cool places to eat. That's the best part about it. I love to travel and explore new places I've never been. In the car, we listen to a ton of new music and bring out the guitars every now and then to write and just mess around. I especially can't wait for a couple gigs we have coming up out west in California and in San Francisco. I've never been before and I feel like that's a crime as an artistic person. (Laughs.) Being on the road is definitely something I'm excited about doing more of!

What's next for you after this round of touring is complete? What are your career goals over the next few years while you finish school and how far would you like to see your music go over the next decade?

After this tour, I think my plans are to just try to get back on the road as much as possible! It's the best way to make fans and to really connect with people who love your music by talking to them after the show, and I think I'm going to try to do as much of it as possible until I start working on the next record. As far as the next decade, I definitely want to concentrate on music 100 percent and just make a successful living as a recording artist, songwriter and touring musician. Obviously, I hope to build a really solid fan base in as many major locations as possible, and I definitely want to do some touring and record releases overseas and internationally. More than anything, I just want to inspire people and give people something they like to listen to and feel like they can relate to. If I can make a living doing that, then I will be more than satisfied!

[ Website: www.katevoegele.com ]

Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing. www.imprtech.com