Interview

Singer/Songwriter Kat Hamilton Talks About Her Musical Journey and Songwriting Process

Meet Kat Hamilton, the versatile west-coast singer, songwriter, and performer. With a chameleon-like career trajectory, she’s dabbled in pop-punk, emo, R&B, hip-hop, pop, and country. After leaving Manic Pixi in 2017, she embraced her vulnerable approach to indie rock with a touch of Americana, drawing inspiration from legends like Bruce Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac. Her debut album, “Recovery Songs” (2020), earned critical acclaim for tackling themes of sobriety and mental illness. Recently, she’s part of the indie-rock duo, Guyville, and lent her voice to a national Expedia commercial.

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Can you tell us about your musical journey and how you transitioned from being the front woman of Manic Pixi to pursuing your own vulnerable approach to Indie Rock with a touch of Americana?
Oh goodness, I think my experience in pop-punk really helped me understand what I wanted to take with me when that experience was over. I loved bands like Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance, Paramore, Motion City Soundtrack etc.. and I really loved performing in the genre. But there was always a lot of Country music in me that I wasn’t really tapping into because the band kept me so busy. I took my time and reflected deeply before starting the next chapter of my artistry and it kind of felt like painting. I was having conversations with myself like “Okay, pop-punk are these colors and I know exactly how to use them and what they make me feel, but what about other colors? Why am I so zeroed in on one palette?” The americana and country influences were so fun to play with because there was a freshness to them. Now that “I wish this was a love story” is out, I’m excited to discover what other colors or mediums I can explore in the future. You’ve explored various genres in your career, from pop-punk to R&B, hip-hop, pop, and country. How have these diverse influences shaped your musical style and artistic vision?

Drawing inspiration from artists like Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, and City and Colour, how do you incorporate these influences into your own music while maintaining your unique sound?
I never focus on genre in writing or arranging. I ignore it till the song is done and then I figure out what the song wants. I strongly believe that the song asks for what it needs and it’s my job to listen and not try to force the song into what I think people will like or what’s cool. My influences will come out no matter what so why try and control it? Making art is the outward expression of what you take in. You do the human thing and have experiences in the world and art regurgitates it. If I just trust the process, then the music will sound like me no matter what.

Your single “Bees” was featured on Fox’s family dramedy, Almost Family. How did this opportunity come about, and how has it impacted your career?
I have a friend who worked on the song with me and worked with the music supervision company. We sent a few songs over and the song was right for what they needed! That’s something I adore about licensing because it’s not about how good I am or how much people like me. It’s about whether it fits the brief for the piece of media. That really lit a fire in me for leaning into licensing and commercial work. 

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Your upcoming EP “I Wish This Was a Love Story” is highly anticipated. Can you give us a sneak peek into the themes and stories behind the songs on the EP?
It’ll be out by the time this interview drops! When I was choosing which songs would go on the E.P, I really wanted it to focus on the same story but different angles. That’s something I’m learning from life in general. There’s always multiple truths happening at the same time. I want to become the kind of person that can hold all of them without needing one of them to be false to feel validated. Not sure if i’m quite there yet but I’m trying! I named the E.P “I wish this was a love story” because love stories are beautiful and poetic, but it’s usually what we choose the truth to be. We look back and cherry pick moments and say to ourselves “that was such a romantic time in my life!” or “this person broke my heart and i’m the hurt one now”. But aging is so complex and humans contain multitudes. I wanted to honor that with these songs.

What is your songwriting process like? Do you have any rituals or techniques that you follow when crafting your music?
I feel like I might have answered this in the second question so I’m sorry if I’m being repetitive. My big thing is that I let the songs come to me and I don’t try to force it. I know lots of writers in LA that try to write songs every single day to improve their craft, but that’s not me. I’m gonna let the songs come out when they want and take in as many experiences as I can in the meantime. Usually if I am really present in the studio or a co-write, stories come out. But I don’t push my art unless someone pays me to and that’s never my most authentic self. 

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As a performer, you have multiple SXSW performances under your belt. What has been your most memorable experience at the festival, and how has it contributed to your growth as an artist?
While I’m proud of those times in my life and have awesome memories, I haven’t been since before Covid! I think the people I met there have had unexpected impacts on my life. I met one of my best friends, Ali Coyle, at SXSW. She’s been a huge positive in my life and in my music. She’s so inspiring and it’s proof that you should always take those extra moments with people even if your running around like a chicken with its head cut off. LOL. How do you connect with your audience through your live performances? What do you hope they take away from your shows?I feel like with every year that passes, I refine my show more. I really like the structure i’m doing now where I have my backing band for a few songs, then a mini solo set and then bring the band back. I toured for 9 weeks last summer mostly just me and a guitar. It helped me feel so empowered as an artist. I noticed that being just me helps me connect on a deeper human level. It took me a while to be comfortable with being on my own again after being in a band for so many years. I hope people feel like they know me better. I hope they feel safe and protected with me. I want them to feel a part of it and not just my audience.

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Being based in Los Angeles, a city known for its vibrant music scene, how has the environment influenced your creativity and career?
I really love LA and it’s helped me grow nice and tall. The artists here focus a lot on diversifying their interests. Their musicians, but also engineers, writers, actors, directors, promoters, advocates, and designers. In this city, I’ve explored so many different sides of me. I’m not just a singer-songwriter. I’ve learned about production and engineering. I book a songwriter night and have been a promoter for local showcases. I’ve reconnected with my literature side and I’m working on a poetry book that will hopefully drop this year. I pay my rent with music teaching, commercial singing and music licensing opportunities. My life is incredibly full in this city.

Looking ahead, what are your future goals and aspirations as a singer, songwriter, and performer? Are there any collaborations or projects that you’re excited about?
So many things! Right now I’m focused on music videos and content. I just finished filming one this past weekend! My producer and I are talking about putting out an album of some of the music we’ve been making soon. I’m also working on my poetry book. By the end of the year, I hope to have released four music videos, an album with my producer, my book, a holiday E.P and hopefully something with my duo Guyville! PHEW! That’s a lot. Thank you for interviewing me!

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