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Interview With Singer-Songwriter Kat Orlando

Your music is a unique blend of R&B, funk, jazz, and rock. How do you manage to seamlessly incorporate these diverse genres into your sound, and what challenges have you faced in doing so? Kat: Well, thanks for inviting me back! The actual art of writing a good song is a challenge to me most times. Once in a while, it just comes together. The fact that it comes out a blend just happens. I think I can attribute that to my musical roots and inclinations. I feel like I am these genres. If I grew up in the South, for instance, my music would probably sound different than what it is now.

Press photo for R&B/jazz/funk artist Kat Orlando.

You mentioned being inspired by female vocalists and girl groups from the '60s Motown era. How do you infuse elements from that era into your modern music while maintaining a fresh and contemporary sound? Kat: Motown songs were very melodic, I’m constantly trying to incorporate melody in a new and imaginative way. Vocal harmony in background vocals, for instance, add so much punch. Those early songs, to me, were built like that. Being a vocalist, I’m going to use this where I can. As far as maintaining a fresh contemporary sound, that takes a bit more thought process, trying to sound relevant yet original in the production. This is where I look to my producer. Your EP "There I Said It" focuses on social issues and how we treat one another. Can you delve into how music, particularly your chosen genres, serves as a powerful tool for addressing such topics and influencing change? Kat: I think you can look to artists we idolize to see how it influences people. Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, John Lennon …and many others who wrote socially relevant songs changed people's minds about war and injustice. A whole movement started back in the sixties around it. One can only hope to have that effect with their music. "St. So and So" seems to be a passionate response to current world events. Could you elaborate on the song's creation process and how you channel your emotions into your music? Kat: That song’s lyrics were a re-write to tracks I had a totally different approach on. When I re-did the tracks, the melody and lyrics changed as well. Maybe I had just turned off the TV in frustration or maybe it was floating around in my brain already. I try to write in a non-literal fashion so I can express what I need to, without alienating listeners. I’m taking the safe route here. Ironically, in the song, I speak about speaking up in a direct way, no matter who you insult or alienate. I speak about fact that few will stand up to a certain threatening public figure that forces his way into power. I’m angry in this song. I’m also hopeful that someone would come along and save our democracy. Your desire to collaborate with Stevie Wonder is fascinating. How do you envision that collaboration, and what aspects of his musical style do you think would complement your own? Kat: Complement my own? Heck, it would elevate it to the max, if that became a reality. Then I again, I might be so overwhelmed I’m in a room with an all-time music idol. Envision….I actually dreamt about it on occasion. I think one time we were sitting around a swimming pool and he was playing percussion. In another dream, we were in the studio. I suppose it would be like any other collaboration from the standpoint of just trading ideas, back and forth and see what materializes. Side note: I did have an opportunity to talk to him, but I froze up in a crowd up next to him. Kind of like a crowd sandwich and all I could say is “I play music because of you” as h was swept into another room with Berry Gordy, Smokey Robison and whoever else was crowding around him.

Among the tracks on your EP, "Some People," "St. So and So," and "Player," could you share a bit about the creative process behind each one? Did any of them present unique challenges during their development? Kat: "Some People”…. this groove started out as an approach that, to me, had a very Pointer Sisters feel (like “I’m so Excited”). If I had finished it like that, it may have sounded dated. Gayle, my producer, had me re-think my approach on this. Lyrically, I was writing about people that throw their weight around, bully and blame others for their actions. (Sound familiar?) "St. So and So" To add to my process (see above) on this one, I must say that putting the sax tracks on this one was beyond what I envisioned. I came out exactly as I wanted it. Well, I would have played longer but I’ll save that for the live performance. “Player" The groove on this started out like a Rick James or Bootsy thing. Gayle helped give a modern yet retro disco-ish feel. Lyrically, I harkened to my days of being on the road with a certain band, where some band members would brag how they traveled and “had women” in several towns. This could apply to any rock star type who is arrogant to think that many women would give in to their advances eventually. So this is my take from the bandmate, friend point of view. I know what I know, don’t try that with me and don’t ask me to cover your tracks while you mess around. "Logical Song" by Supertramp seems to hold a special place for you. What about the song's sax solo and thought-provoking lyrics resonates with you as a musician and performer? I have several songs that to me have the best rock sax solos: "Logical Song”, “Candy” by Cameo, “Urgent” by Foreigner, to name few. It just rips through the song. Lyrically, I’m not sure where they were coming from in the message, but to me “what would you say Now we're calling you a radical, a liberal, …..” share my sentiments on what’s happening now. You expressed a wish to perform in Paris. What about the city's atmosphere or audience draws you, and how do you think your music would connect with an international crowd? Kat: Well, I’ve never been to Paris but I’m trying to get there to visit. I see my musician friends going to Europe and performing. To me, it seems American musicians and music are appreciated much more than in the US. I’d like to experience that, in the right touring situation. With the remainder of the year ahead, what can fans expect from your upcoming performances and shows? Any surprises or themes you're planning to incorporate? Kat: I’m working on trying to find the right venue to bring my music and have my full band perform. These places are difficult to find, where I can properly pay my band. Ideally, finding sponsors would help. Like anything else, I probably have to just DO IT! As far as surprises, adding another horn and backup vocal would top it off nicely. Really a whole horn section and 2 backup vocals, and percussion, would be even better. In the digital age, where streaming dominates the music industry, you emphasized the importance of supporting indie artists through purchases. Could you share your perspective on the relationship between artists and their fans, and how these interactions influence your artistic journey? Kat: Right now, my audience seems to be afraid of QR codes and the technical aspect of finding new music. There’s a whole segment that is missing what’s out there and accepting whatever mainstream radio, TV is shoving down their throat. The whole format needs to change and get back to a physical mode of listening. Something one can hold in their hand and not what’s floating around in cyberspace. (I know, I’m dreaming…) What form that is, I don’t know. Until then, the compensation for a song must be totally rethought. Tracking online airplay and compensating properly is not working for the songwriter. Add in AI and the art of songwriting and songs in general could become extinct. Just like climate change, the time for action is now. I wish I had the answer to it.

As a parting message, could you offer aspiring musicians and listeners some insight into how you've navigated your career, balanced different musical influences, and remained true to your artistic vision? Kat: I’d say do the work. If you want to play, learn your instrument, scales, arpeggios, and intervals. It’s on YouTube now. Listen to the older players. Study it. Go to school or find an instructor if you need to. If you sing, learn breathing techniques so you don’t wreck your vocal chords and you can get the most out of your voice. There’s no shortcut through TV talent shows. If you think someone “got there” overnight, think again. I know many that took less time than me! Also, success is how you perceive it. I make a living doing this, I’m happy doing it, so that is success. Just because someone says you’re talented doesn’t mean you’re there. Just because someone says you can’t do something, doesn’t mean you should stop trying.


Check out more from Kat Orlando: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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