“I remember my mother buying a record, then sitting down next to the stereo with the liner notes in hand, and listening to the whole thing from start to finish, while marking her favourite tracks with a pen”, muses Australian borne, Nashville-based Singer-Songwriter and instrumentalist Katie Cole. Reading liner notes isn’t the only thing Cole got from her mother. “My mum was essentially raising my sister and I on her own. She worked a lot of part time jobs to make ends meet, but she never complained, she just did what needed to be done to make sure we were all taken care of”, she says. This lesson in sheer determination and persistence has been a motto of Cole’s throughout her journey from a working class neighbourhood in Melbourne, to her current spot as keys player for the Smashing Pumpkins upcoming stadium tour, which begins July 12th. “I’ve always said, ‘You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it started’”, she laughs. Cole’s grounded confidence an years of hard work, shine on her new solo EP Things That Break, Part 1.
Cole’s story is a unique one and involves some great luck and a whole lot of fearlessness. As a kid, she loved to sing, and in her teenage years she taught herself piano and then guitar, studying everything from 80’s pop to Beethoven. Around age 16 she started gigging, playing mostly covers gigs at bars and pubs across Australia. As a band leader, her personnel options were limited, so she often found herself responsible for all of the parts; teaching bass lines, making charts, and explaining harmony vocals, while relying completely on her ear for guidance. She was always obsessed with records, and would study every person involved in a recording, from the musicians, to the engineers, and especially the producers. “I actually put a list of my dream producers on my website - it was just a pipe dream, you know, it said ‘by the way if anyone knows so-and-so, I’d really like to work with them”.
As luck would have it, one of her top 3 dream producers, Howard Willing (Ok Go, Sheryl Crow, Glen Campbell) actually found the site, listened to her music, and invited her to come out to Los Angeles. “It’s something that doesn’t happen, but it happened to me!” she muses. Cole’s first ever trip to Los Angeles, paid for out of her own pocket, was the beginning of her American music career. After a meeting with Willing, her plan was formed. After months of work back in Australia, and a lot of money saved, she secured a Visa to live in the United States, and with a production deal signed, she picked up everything she knew and moved to Los Angeles. With Willing, she created her first double EP, Lost Inside a Moment / Melodiem and then a full length LP, Lay it All Down, which included the song “Penelope”, featuring Kris Kristofferson. Both recordings gained some traction and radio play, especially in the United Kingdom, and led to high profile opening spots for Glen Campbell and the Smashing Pumpkins, a gig that would turn into years of touring work when Billy Corgan asked her to join the band on bass and vocals then later, on keys.
Despite these seemingly dreamy opportunities, it hasn’t been an easy road for Cole. “My mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and then Breast Cancer. She won her battle with cancer, but just recently it seems to have resurfaced in a potential really scary way. I learned so much of who I am as a human from my mum, and being away from her right now has been awful,” she says. “I know she’s happy that I’m over here pursuing a dream. I can’t be in two places at once, but I would drop anything in a heartbeat to be where I need to be for her.”
Cole’s newest offering, Things That Break, Part 1. Features rootsy instrumentation, weaving Americana moodiness with Cole’s own brand of soaring melodies. Cole is joined on the recording by acclaimed session musicians Fred Eltringham (drums), Tim Pierce (guitar), Jimmie Lee Sloas (bass) and Tim Lauer (keys). The resulting music is both personal and profound, akin to the storytelling of Patty Griffin or Lucinda WIlliams. In the Gospel-inspired song “Graceland”, she writes “It’s a long road I’m on to get me here / when all the lights have gone out but the stars / so I’ll follow them, wherever they lead me dear / far away, far away from your heart”. Her emotive vocals ring clearly throughout the EP, from the heartfelt, acoustic “Time On My Hands” right through to the Lou Reed/ Nico-infused “All My Winters”.
Despite the challenges that she has come up against, Cole has never fallen into the trap of making music solely for the purpose of commercial success. “I really have had to give up a lot to get where I am”, she says. “I just want to make music that makes me excited and proud, and if i’m being truthful in it that will make me really happy. If I’m not doing that, with everything I’ve sacrificed, what would be the point?”.
“Time On My Hands” premiered on American Songwriter, regarding the song as “a spare acoustic ballad that showcases Cole’s vulnerable vocal.” It is the first single off her new solo EP, releasing September 28th. For current tour dates with The Smashing Pumpkins, visit her website...