Mesmerizing narratives and a charismatic command of the stage are essential facets in the vivid artistry of singer-songwriter Kate Brown. Envisioning lyrics and music, touring, acting and now raising a new kind of family—all of these touchstones crystallize into compelling country-rock songs and shape shifting performances. And whether the audience is rapt and attentive or well oiled and rowdy, Kate charms them with self-deprecating monologues, sheer intensity and her audacious authenticity.
A small town girl from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, she grew up with supportive parents that she characterizes as “Old hippies in an upstanding Midwest Catholic way -- really accepting and free.” Her mom had played in a folk duo back in the day, and while rummaging in the attic, Kate uncovered her dusty 12-string guitar and a six-string that belonged to her great-grandmother. After what she recalls as a well-received living room performance of “Annie’s Song” by John Denver, Kate had discovered her calling. Buying her own guitar on layaway from a store in nearby Burlington, she was on her way. Eventually dropping out of college, she performed in coffeehouses, peddled homemade CD’s and slept in truck stops as she traversed the country as a singer-songwriter.
For much of her creative life Kate balanced music and acting. “I felt like I had to choose. I didn’t have time to do both,” she remembers. Music won out. “At the end of my life, I want to look back on a body of work to say ‘I did this,’ as opposed to struggling and going to auditions.”
Kate’s song “Bring Me Down Dixie,” shines a spotlight on a saloon singer who despite the tribulations will not abandon life in the spotlight, no matter how meager. While this is certainly not Kate’s story, she inhabits this character with grit and grace. “Acting and songs are connected by the thread of storytelling,” says Kate. “Songs are not just a bunch of nice words and a hooky chorus.”
It was at a 10-week intensive course at The School at Steppenwolf in Chicago that she met fellow actor and drummer Tony Sancho, the musical partner who forms a fundamental bond in her endeavors. Their onstage connection is intuitive as Kate observes. “We really trust each other. We’re both performers first and musicians second. He’s a great sideman, very funny, without having to take center stage -- he just rolls along.”
From Iowa, Illinois and Maryland to Washington, Oregon and California, Kate has lived in a variety of locales. She now resides in the Golden State city of South Pasadena with her wife and their two young children. “It is so interesting to be part of a queer family. It gives me a deeper motivation to tell my story – our story -- and to be a positive force in a changing world,” she says.
Challenging, expressive and committed -- with prairie-nurtured poetics, new family values and a formidable cast of vivid characters, the songs of Kate Brown open windows both outward and inward. In a musical form built on an expression that is both deeply traditional and always evolving, Kate is a formidable voice.
- Folk & Singer-Songwriter