Katie Oates knows how to sing. She’s been singing for as long as she can remember. But finding her own voice, that’s another story.
The daughter of a preacher, she belted hymns from her crib as a toddler to wake up her parents. But her childhood peers soon taught her it wasn’t “cool” to sing loudly or express her emotions freely, so for many years she sang only when alone.
“I think it’s a common adolescent experience, unfortunately,” Katie laments. “We let people/society/institutions bully us out of being who we really are in all of our strangeness. We give up what makes us unique, so we can fit in.” Even after she began singing in public again in high school and for many years afterward, Katie sang what someone else told her to sing. “Don’t get me wrong. I had many great experiences in the choirs, musical theatre and singing groups that I auditioned for and joined. I sang arias with orchestras, solos with gospel choirs, and leads in musical theatre. Those were enjoyable, valuable experiences, but if I am being completely honest, I have to admit I played it safe. Having someone else’s permission to sing helped me deal with my self-doubt. But constantly seeking approval and permission from others slowly suffocated me over time. I grew increasingly frustrated and unhappy and didn’t know why.”
In the past few years Katie has begun to claim her own voice. In 2012 she recorded and produced a cd of classical and folk songs (Going Over Home). And in 2016 and 2017 Katie released cds of her own original music: a 5-song EP, Something True, and, most recently, a fully produced cd of 12 original songs, Play Me. These are songs excavated from Katie’s own heart: composed and sung fully by her. “I am finally speaking in my own voice—with all the rewards and risks that can involve.”
Drawing inspiration from a wide variety of genres and eras, Katie’s songs resonate with the yearning for connection: the magic of childhood, celebrating old friends and life itself. Her songs invite us to discover our best selves and create deeper, more humane relationships with others.
One can hear echoes of the lyricism of early 20th century lyricists and composers in Katie’s music as well as the sass and soulfulness of current jazz, blues, Americana and folk artists. Her 2017 cd (Play Me) showcases the talents of several accomplished pianists: the delicate restraint of classical pianist Chad Lawson, the NY jazz club sound of Free Planet Radio, and the raucous blues piano of Bob Malone.
Legendary folk singer and activist Si Kahn says:
Katie Oates doesn’t just wear her heart on her sleeve, but in her music. Few people I know have made as remarkable a transition from trained singer of classical opera to passionate performer of her own original songs, which she does with elegant grace and energetic poise. Katie's music inspires, entertains, troubles and lifts us, makes us laugh and breaks our hearts. She’s as good a person as she is an artist: intelligent and humane, sincere and real to the core. Listen, listen, listen.
Katie hopes listeners will be entertained by the songs and want to share them with others, but she also hopes the songs will encourage listeners to find their own unique voice as well. “We tend to reduce people—even our understanding of the world around us—to simple caricatures. It makes things easier in the day-to-day, but I think doing that flattens our experience of life. We lose the complexity of the people and things we think we understand, and we fail to see all the connections we have with people and ideas that are seemingly foreign. I think we crave the connection we get from hearing the funny, odd, poignant, limitless diversity of other people’s stories. Music distills those connections into five minutes of emotionally-packed sound and language. None of us connect with all music genres or all varieties of people, but I think we make the world a better place when we attempt to discover the best in ourselves and dare to share our own unique perspectives authentically with others. That’s my journey. I hope you’ll join me.”