INTERVIEW: Indie Pop Artist kate the dreamer Reflects On Lost Child-Like Wonder in Debut EP. Talks Childhood Memories, Balancing Art & Content & MORE.
Growing up Katie Donnelly – A.K.A. kate the dreamer – lived two musical lifes that might’ve given Hannah Montana a run for her money. While playing clarinet, guitar and piano she discovered she could perform without having to talk, but in 7th grade she found her true passion of songwriting. However those original songs and poems were kept secret from the world until the very end of her high school career. It wasn’t until years later after countless days at a dreary 9-5, playing in (and leaving) several bands in combination with various faded relationships that she eventually took the leap in her artist career. The move from her small hometown in Conneticut to Los Angeles allowed Katie to truly find her sound and thus kate the dreamer was born. Since beginning the project in 2020, she’s written with the likes of Kevin Garrett, FRENSHIP and OSTON, received placement in Hulu’s 2021 ‘Made For Her’ campaign, scored her first major label credits via 300 Entertainment on LGBT+ artist JORDY‘s “Till It Hurts” and “Trevor” and now in 2022 she releases her debut EP, where’d all my wild things go?
An introspective and relatable look at growing up and growing out of our childhood, the 7 song project explores the bliss, ignorance and imagination that adults lose as their youth wanes. Catchy and with lyrics that have veteran songwriter status, kate the dreamer has perfected the indie-pop sound in her first full release. She talks with Austin of All Access all about the “where’d all my wild things go?”, what makes her feel young again, how she balances the necessary evil of social media and more in this latest interview. Check out the full piece below and get to know your new favorite artist:
ALL ACCESS [Austin]: Let’s start from the beginning, what was it about music that you were so drawn to growing up that you knew you’d want to make a career out of it?
KATE THE DREAMER: Growing up, I had many different interests like most kids do, and because I was an only child I was lucky enough to try most things. I fell in love with music throughout grade school because at the time, I was really shy, but it allowed me to perform without talking. I played clarinet all throughout high school, picked up guitar a little bit, fell in love with the piano, and started songwriting when I was in 7th-8th grade. I would sit up in my room for hours with my notebook filled with poetry and try to turn them into songs – the only issue was that I didn’t want anyone to hear me. I would yell at my mom for trying to listen in, and I wouldn’t sing in front of people. It wasn’t until I was in my last month of my senior year in high school that I finally started showing people my original music. It was in college that I really started stepping into my confidence and performing. I knew that if this was something I have loved for this long, there has to be a way to make a career out of it.
AA: Congrats on the release of your debut EP, where’d all my wild things go? You describe it as “speaking on those moments when we” lost our sense of wonder / kid-like “blissful ignorance” which is something all adults go through. Do you remember when you realized you lost that blissful ignorance? What do you do to think and/or feel young?
KTD: This whole EP came together in such an interesting way. Growing through my twenties, I always felt like each year felt like 10. I have learned so much every year that has helped shape and mold who I am now. I don’t know why I thought when I hit 28 I would somehow magically have it all figured out, when in reality I feel like I have started a whole new life for myself that I’m still figuring out. This EP really moves through all the emotions I have felt over the past 8 years, and has allowed me to release those emotions since putting out the songs.
I can’t fully pinpoint when I lost that sense of “blissful ignorance” – it feels like my childhood sense of wonder comes and goes sometimes. I find that when I’m with certain people, I can tap into that childlike version of myself and that feels really special.
Driving with the top down on the PCH blasting my favorite pop-punk albums from 2007, hiking through mountains in Southern California, making dinner with my friends while playing board games, dancing to “Up on the Roof” with my mom around the kitchen, watching really bad reality TV with my roommate while eating pasta in bed, running around Santa Monica with my best friend, and eating Shake Shake at 3am – all of these little things help me feel closer to that little girl who didn’t care about what people thought of her, what she wore, who she knew, or what she ate. Those memories are my prized possessions in this world because they remind me of who I was, who I am, and who I’m becoming.
AA: Although this is your debut EP, you’ve been making music for many years now including having been in several bands. How did you approach this solo project differently than when you made music in a band? What’s been the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself in the process?
KTD: Being in bands throughout my musical career is something I would never take back. It helped give me the confidence I have today to start my own solo project. I was always so concerned with having people around to back me up and tell me I was doing a good job. I still have amazing people around me helping this project come to life, but it gets to be my own vision. It has given me the confidence to step into this project as kate the dreamer and not be afraid to be myself. This project felt much different because I really had control over what sounds I wanted, what the whole vision of the project was, and what the story is. I didn’t have to get approvals from everyone else – I could just tell my story and create my own vision. I’ve learned that I am capable of doing things myself. I was always scared to branch out on my own because I didn’t think I was a strong enough artist to create my own project, and was always shy about marketing myself – so this was a challenge within itself. What I’ve learned along the way is you don’t have to try so hard when you’re making music that feels like an extension of you. I thought out this whole project, but not in a way that didn’t feel true to who I am, more so just fitting the pieces together of my story.
AA: Looking back on your life what would you say is your favorite (if applicable):
KTD: Childhood book: I used to LOVE Shel Silversteen’s poetry books like Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up – I used to check that book out of my grade school library almost every week.
Childhood memory: Warm sunny days down by the beach with my mom. There’s a small town beach by where I grew up that’s a 20 minute drive away, but my mom and I would spend all day there picking out shells and enjoying the beach most weekends in the summer. It was always so peaceful there and still remains one of my favorite places to visit when I’m home.
Place To Visit As A Kid: Ireland! Most of my dad’s side of the family is from over there, and my grandma grew up on this beautiful farm in a small town in northern Ireland. I remember feeling like this place was magical when I was a kid. I was able to visit back in 2019, and realized it is still one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. The energy, the mountains – I don’t know what it is but I always feel safe there.
Childhood Toy/Game: I used to make up a lot of games as a kid (had to as an only child haha) but my friend Alex and I would always make up little worlds in her front yard where one tree would be ‘Las Vegas’ or ‘New York City’ – it was always fun to use our imaginations because it all felt so real then.
Childhood Meal/Food: Chicken nuggets with rigatoni was my JAM growing up – and was the sole reason I was also chunky.
Childhood Dream: For a while as a kid I wanted to be a vet because I was such (and still am) an animal lover. But after volunteering at a hospital, consistently getting C’s in school, and realizing that blood makes me queasy, that one didn’t quite pan out.
AA: Which of the songs on the EP was most personal to release? What’s the story behind it?
KTD: All of these songs have felt very personal at one point or another, but “My Whole Life” has truly been the hardest one to put out into the world. It is such a personal story to me and how I have learned to love growing up. I think it will always be a hard subject to talk about, but it has laid the foundation for how I perceive love and the way that I project that out into the world. It has allowed me to be softer with the world around me since no one really knows what is going on behind closed doors.
AA: As an artist that grew up with social media being such a prominent part of their life, how do you view social media or having to “be a content creator” in conjunction with being an artist (i.e. necessary evil, great promotion tool, etc). If you could go back to the days of trying to make it as an artist before social media/digital would you?
KTD: This question has come up a lot lately, which I love because it means people are talking about it. As someone who has worked in social media for the greater part of my 20’s, I do have positive things to say about it along with negative ones. The positive for me comes with being a small artist that has opened the door for fans from all over the world and has made a place for people to connect who normally wouldn’t be able to. For that part of social media, I am grateful.
The negative side of social media is the constant feeling of comparison, wondering why something didn’t get as many likes, having to constantly worry about creating content or if you’re doing enough. I understand marketing as a whole is very important, but the constant need to post content is tiring and not always manageable with the rest of life. I don’t love being on my phone 24/7, but it feels like between work and music that is all I do. I think there is a happy medium that is missing right now. Artists are either blowing up on TikTok or still trying to figure out the Instagram algorithm. If there was a platform that allowed for a more human experience, I would 100% be here for it. I try as hard as I can to prioritize what I think is most important, starting with making the best possible music that I can. I love brainstorming how to market those ideas in visual form, but I don’t stick to any rules or regulations when it comes to my social channels. I do get frustrated sometimes watching the artists around me blow up on TikTok and wonder what I might be doing wrong – but I’m also starting to realize it might not be where my audience is, and that’s okay.
AA: In your career and personal life, what would “making it” look like to you?
KTD: This question has taken on a lot of different meanings for me – I think ‘making it’ for me doesn’t really have a number associated with it. It’s more a feeling. I moved out to LA to pursue music and for me that means being able to create music every week – which is what I get to do now. Setting higher goals and expectations for myself is getting my career to a place where I can financially support myself off of music and truly step into being an artist/songwriter. I have some goals set for myself as far as collaborations, writing sessions, and artist goals. I would love to play at music festivals, tour around the world, and be able to get to a place where I can spend half my time on the west coast, and half my time on the east coast.
AA: Speaking of music festivals, if you could headline any music festival or event, which would it be and why?
KTD: This one is hard because believe it or not, I haven’t been to too many music festivals. However, I think if I had to choose one, it would be Boston Calling. I went when I was in college and would see all of my favorite artists play in one of my favorite cities. I absolutely love Boston in the summertime and still have a lot of family and friends on the East Coast, so I’d love to play a show where they could all come!
AA: If you could only listen to (5) artists for the rest of your life, who would they be?
KTD: Maggie Rogers, Coldplay, JORDY, OSTON, and Holly Humberstone.
AA: Now that you’ve got the EP released, what else can fans expect in 2022?
KTD: It’s hard to say exactly what is coming up since there are a few things in the works, but there will 100% be more music this year. I’m planning on releasing another single in the spring and there are a few collaborations in the works as well that I am really excited about.
From not even being able to even tell people she wrote music in high school to releasing her debut EP, we’re excited to see how far come kate the dreamer has come. A huge congrats on the EP and shout-out to you kate for hanging for this latest All Access interview. Keep updated with even more new music releases and kate’s story by following along with the links below: