In this interview feature, we speak with Katie Garibaldi about influences, her newest project, digitized music and more.
Full Q&A along with links and a stream of her video Delightful can be found below.
Where are you from and what style of music do you create? (In your own words, not necessarily in marketing terms or by popular genre classifications.)
I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area, where I’m still based. My style of music is delicate Americana. Americana is such a wide genre umbrella that covers aspects of folk, country, and storytelling music. I would say I fit under there, but there’s an ethereal characteristic to my songs. My new EP, Rooted Clarity, is described as orchestral Americana because of the prominent string arrangements accompanying my playing.
What led you down this path of music and what motivates you to stay the course?
When I think about when I first fell in love with music, it goes back to as young as I can remember. I was always humming melodies and making up songs without even thinking about it. I would just walk around humming everywhere! I think this partially had to do with my parents playing music for me and my brother since we were babies. They always had on The Beatles or Huey Lewis or The Beach Boys, very melodic artists. So that definitely sunk into me from a young age. But I think of music as a very spiritual thing as well. I know that God placed my love for it inside my heart and it’s always been there. I would close my eyes when I was really young and hear string arrangements and music playing. It was always rooted inside. Things took a big turn for me when I learned how to play the guitar at around 11 years old. I immediately took to the instrument and it seemed to be the right key in unlocking the songs I had inside me. All the sudden I was giving lyrics and structure to the melodies that I created. So the guitar really brought out the songwriter in me, instead of me just wanting to be a singer. I started performing my music in high school and it was a very organic thing for me, despite being naturally shy. Not too long after I started performing, I attended a music business conference that was all about how to manage yourself as an independent artist. I think that was the first time that I saw myself as an artist and also realized I could learn the business side of things to make this an actual career. I’ve been doing it ever since, and I stay the course even when it’s hard because it all comes back to the love of music. I can’t not do it. It’s inside of me and a gift that I could never turn my back on for too long. It’s the only real thing that I’ve seen connect people on such a special level that I think it’s more important and powerful than maybe a lot of people give it credit for. Imagine the world without music. Where would the magic be?
Who or what are your biggest influences when it comes to your creativity?
My creativity is a combination of life and also what’s spiritually going on, so something occurring on the outside could light the fire to pick up my guitar, but it’s the internal muse that takes it from there. I always say God is my co-writer because songs tend to “come out of nowhere.” Or people say, “How did you write that song?” And it’s like, “Well, it just happened. I don’t know.” So I don’t think I’m alone in that process. I feel like more of a vessel during the creative activity. Every song or album is a like polaroid picture of what I might be going through at the time, or an emotion that I’m feeling, and then I’ll write a story around it to capture that moment, much like taking a picture. My husband is a never-ending source of love songs for me. I also feel the most creative when I get back from a tour and have experienced new places and met new people.
How is your new release different than previous ones? Did you set out to accomplish anything specific?
My new release, Rooted Clarity, is definitely different than my previous albums in two ways. One, it’s different sonically speaking because it features a new combination of instruments. There is very little percussion, and the percussion that’s there is a bit non-traditional like tambourine, as opposed to my last release, Follow Your Heart, where I had songs that included the full drum set. I had a little bit of experience with working with string players, on violin and cello, on Follow Your Heart, but only for a couple of songs. It was such an amazing experience and I really loved the sound of strings with my voice so for the new EP I worked with string players on every song. We arranged the parts together and it was one of the best times I’ve ever had in a studio. The strings on Rooted Clarity really give an orchestral sound to folky songs that I think make for a very interesting listening experience and bring out the lyrics in the songs. I also added organ on this record, which I’ve never worked with before, and produced my vocals in a way that really stand out, more than they have in the past. These were all very conscious decisions and goals that I specifically set out for when making this record. I knew how I wanted it to sound and wasn’t going to be passive about it because the songs are very important to me and the more experience I have with making records, the closer I get to the sounds that I want to translate from the inside of me to the outside world. The second way this release is different are the actual songs. In the past I think my albums were largely focused on love songs, especially Follow Your Heart, because I was engaged and newly married during the writing process of those songs. But Rooted Clarity has a theme of faith, self-discovery, and has more introspective song topics. I didn’t necessarily set out to write these kinds of songs for the record. It came together naturally because I wrote them during a very reflective time. When I noticed the underlying themes in the songs, having faith deep down and a struggle with courage to believe in my authentic self, it became clear that these specific songs were meant to be in a collection together.
Do you face any challenges as an indie musician in a digital age? On the flip side, how has technology helped you (if it has)?
The biggest challenge as an indie musician is being able to make a sustainable living off of my music alone. I think this issue all comes down to the value that we as a community place on music. If we don’t value it, we won’t pay for a $10 ticket to go support live music, or even go for free and buy the artist’s CD for $5, but we will spend our money elsewhere or things we value more. Once the value of music shifts, that challenge will become easier to overcome as an artist and songwriter. I started my music career at a young age and I’ve been doing this professionally for half of my life so I’ve definitely seen a lot of changes in technology, and it’s certainly helped me manage my career. I used to have to know HTML code and hire someone to make a lot of changes on my website. Now, I can add updates to my website instantly any time I want. There’s more freedom and control in managing my online activity, including the existence of social media. YouTube and social networks allow me to share my music to a wider audience in more areas than I was able to do before as well.
How do you feel about streaming services? Any romantic attachments to the physical formats: vinyl, 8-track, cassettes, CDs?
Streaming services are great in theory, but the reality is songwriters aren’t getting paid fairly for their work. On-demand streaming services are definitely growing as music listeners continue to use these services and prefer them to physical album sales, which have declined dramatically in the past couple years. So for a songwriter, taking a stance against streaming seems like going against your own future because that’s what the world is embracing. However, something has got to give. The fact remains that streams are worth less than radio spins and royalties for songwriters are not fair. I’m doing what I can to learn more about initiatives like the Fair Pay, Fair Play Act and become more involved in The Recording Academy and ASCAP (performance rights organization), both of which I’m a member of, in their efforts to bring these issues to light to streaming companies and in Congress. As far as romantic attachments to physical formats of music, I’m definitely an album girl. I know how much work goes into the artwork and creation of an album and I appreciate the sequence of an album’s tracklist. As an artist, I take these things into consideration when making an album so that the listener can be taken on a journey with the songs. I grew up buying physical tapes and CDs in the record stores and it was always like opening up a new present when tearing off the shrink wrap of a CD and seeing the pictures and reading the liner notes. It made me feel closer to the artist, like I got a glimpse into their life. You certainly don’t get the same feeling when you download a single off iTunes, which I do as well. I’m not against it, it’s just a whole actual experience when you hold the physical product. I’ve also released my very first record on vinyl with Rooted Clarity, which I did on 10” HIFI clear lathe cut because I wanted it to be different and special (clear for Clarity!) It’s been so awesome to hear the songs played on a record player and have the records as a souvenir of the album to share with people at my shows.
Where can we follow you online and hear more music?
My website is www.katiegaribaldi.com, which has all my links and is constantly updated with news. Feel free to connect with me on social media at www.facebook.com/katiegaribaldimusic, www.twitter.com/katiegaribaldi, www.youtube.com/katiegaribaldi, www.instagram.com/katiegaribaldi. You can also find my music on iTunes, Amazon, in stores, and on my Bandcamp store page, where you can buy the limited edition 10” vinyl of Rooted Clarity, t-shirts, and more merch at www.katiegaribaldi.bandcamp.com.
Anything else before we sign off?
I recently released a new music video for my song “Delightful” from Rooted Clarity. I’m really excited about it and also so happy with the response I’ve gotten so far. The video has currently reached over 15 thousand views! This song is very close to my heart and I think the glue that holds the album together. It’s about owning your happiness and choosing to shine your light and recognize the light that is in others. I think it’s an empowering song and the video puts a really unexpected and nice visual to the message. We filmed the video in Nashville, where I recorded the EP, and I had such a blast making it. I worked with an awesome team. The scenes take place at local small business around Nashville and the director, Anna Haas, picked the most stunning places for great visuals. You can watch the “Delightful” official music video at https://youtu.be/oyFltnjPoSA.