Kate Grahn can friggin’ sing.
That’s the first thing you pick up on when hearing her perform. Her voice is amazing. Textured. Angelic. Just really fantastic.
Kate Grahn can also write.
That’s the second thing you pick up on when hearing her perform. Her lyrics are original. And inventive. Just really fantastic.
Kate Grahn is Quaz royalty.
That’s, um, something only I would probably know, until right now. Back one year ago her mother, the actress Nancy Lee Grahn, came here to talk soap operas and acting and politics. She ranks as one of my all-time favorites in the series, and as I followed her social media feed I became more and more impressed by Kate, her daughter and a recording artist/student at USC’s Thornton School of Music.
So, because I love using this space to introduce readers to people they need to know of, I welcome Kate to the Quaz. One can follow her on Twitter here and on Instagram here. Just remember, when she’s selling out Madison Square Garden, where you first heard her name …
JEFF PEARLMAN: So you’re the daughter of a soap opera star. I’ve never typed that sentence before. What’s it like being the daughter of a soap opera star? What I mean is— how has that, specifically, manifested itself?
KATE GRAHN: I have literally been on the set of General Hospital since I was in the womb, where they had to hide me behind a potted plant or a giant briefcase! I grew up there and it is documented on the growth chart on the wall in the make up room. General Hospital helped raise me, or at least pay for me, and it turns out I cost a lot, lol. I’ve got nothing but gratitude for my home away from home, and having Disney/ABC own General Hospital didn’t hurt either. Mickey and Minnie have been like second parents to me. So yeah, having a soap star mom definitely has its benefits & some amazing memories too. I remember ding dong ditching Maurice Benard’s dressing room and the time that Jason Thompson took me and my friends to see the Justin Bieber documentary because we were obviously Beliebers (Jason included). The only bad memories I have are the times when I accidentally caught a glimpse of a love scene my mom was shooting on set (cue vomit).
J.P: So back in February you released your debut single, “Someday Baby.” And I’m wondering, in 2019, what that means. Back in the day, you’d drop an album, a single would come off the album, etc…etc. But what is it nowadays? And what do you hope comes from it?
K.G.: I released “Someday Baby” because I had spent about two and a half years of college only focusing on school work and my grades, and while that is still very important to me, I wanted to let people know why I was here. It felt great to release a song. The good news is I now have the ability to share my music and not have to wait for a label to decide its fate. The bad news is streaming has made it so musicians can’t make any money off their music. At least not much unless you’re already a known commodity. This is quite a dilemma now for indie artists. The hope is to get your music out there and gain a substantial following. It is all a numbers game…that seems to be the way to get noticed these day.
The reason that I dropped these two singles now is because they will be in the upcoming Pretty Little Liars spinoff (shameless self promo). I thought that it was a good idea to have them available to the public so that if people heard the song on the show and liked it, they could check it out.
J.P: So you attend the USC Thornton School of Music. And, as random as this is, I’m wondering how you felt/feel about the recent scandal involving USC, with certain students having their parents buy entrance. And what has been the reaction among peers?
K.G.: When I heard about the scandal, I was pissed for obvious reasons. They took spots away from kids who worked their asses off to be students at the university. It was a stupid thing for these parents to do. To unpack this even further, this notion that there are only a few prestigious schools worth attending is toxic. I’ve seen how parents and kids buy into the absurdity of this and lose all objectivity. I think these parents fell into that trap. I’m lucky that my mom never cared what college I attended. She just wanted me to be happy and told me all along that I would find the perfect school for me, and I did. The fact that it was USC, which is considered a prestigious school is irrelevant. The pop program was the best fit for me and that is all that matters.
J.P: Along this lines, why are you there? What I mean is, it seems like the path to musical success often travels through dive bars, shit clubs, etc—just playing all around the country, hoping people dig it. Am I old-fashioned in that regard? What can USC give you?
K.G.: That’s a really good question. It just depends on the person and the path that works for them. There are many famous artists out there who did not go to college and I think that is great for them! Hell, my mom didn’t go to a typical university. Instead she went to the Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC and look how great that worked out for her. I also know students and friends who went to USC for a couple of years and then realized that the curriculum wasn’t right for them and they decided to leave the program and pursue music on their own. For me, I believe I just needed time to hone my craft and learn from amazing professors. By going to college for music, I have added so much to my musical vocabulary and skills. Studying theory, arranging, and performance for instance, has given me the tools to become the musician I am today. I still have so much to learn and I am excited for the future. I wasn’t musically and mentally ready to try and be an artist in the real world when I was 18.
J.P: Considering you’re a 21-year-old singer/songwriter who aspires to have a career in the field, your social media game is, well, a bit thin. It seems like your mom has steered you onto Twitter. You’ve only posted 149 times on Instagram. So…why? And how important do you view social media in regards to building a career?
K.G.: Anytime I hear the word “branding” or “social-media presence,” it makes me cringe a bit, mostly because I love to play and write so many different kinds of songs that it’s hard to have a “brand.” I think my brand is just me. Kate. About the social media presence…I wish that the music scene didn’t rely so heavily on social media and how many followers you have, or if you are verified. I feel like you have to already be famous in order to be “discovered” which is obviously not always the case, but it certainly is a lot of the time. I definitely use Instagram (especially Instagram stories) more than I use Twitter (my mom uses it to quell her rage at Trump & chumps more than promote herself.) I try to integrate posts about my life while simultaneously posting about my music. I try to do this without overdoing it or being inauthentic. I realize that social media is part of the deal if I want to be an artist and I may just need some coaching! Oh and anyone who is reading this article please follow me @kate_grahn on twitter and instagram. See I’m learning.
J.P: What was the first song you remember falling in love with? And why? What did it for you?
K.G.: Well, my mom played musicals in the car ever since I was born. “I’m Flying” from Peter Pan was a car seat favorite. Apparently I was so moved when Mary Martin sang the part ‘Think lovely thoughts and up you go’ that I’d throw my arms up in air with so much exhilaration, I’d practically throw myself out of the seat. But “Defying Gravity” (Like most young girls I was Wicked addicted) was the first one I belted out at a party when I was 5 to dozens of adults, and I was hooked.
Grace Potter became my biggest influence later on. I learned the most watching her perform. I sang her song “Paris” with my band “Traction.” We were quite the sensation at 13.
J.P: Your mom is super political on social media. Do you want to follow that path? Does it make you nervous? Can a person in your shoes—on the rise, young—be outspoken and also not worry about alienating potential listeners?
K.G.: Great question. My mom truly appreciates ALL of her fans, but she also believes she has a soapbox for a reason, which is to give voice to those who don’t have her platform, help spread news that she feels needs spreading, or just air her views, which are not pleasurable to all General Hospital viewers. She’s lost 1000’s of followers (mostly in red states) that find her offensive and she understands that. When I first got into politics and was registering to vote for the first time, I had to take a minute to educate myself on important issues. I do share my mom’s political views and I am as pissed as she is about the condition of our country and the health of the planet. Although I do use social media to advocate and speak out about my political views, my outlet will be my music. My outrage will be in my songs. My message will be in my lyrics. But my silence is not an option.
J.P: Greatest moment of your musical career? Lowest?
K.G.: Off the top of my head, the greatest so far was singing my original song “Greyhound” (in production) with my brilliant Thornton School badass band backing me up, and feeling fully connected to the music and the moment. I honestly don’t have a worst memory. Singing just makes me happy.
J.P: I’m 47, and I’m pessimistic about the future of this country. Climate change, Trump, etc, etc. You’re young and coming up. How do you feel?
K.G.: I feel alarmed. This administration is a f’in dumpster fire and it is my generation that’s going to suffer the consequences of this mess if we don’t get our shit together and vote this country back into sanity. Not voting is not an option. I marched in every Women’s March and I see a lot of fight in the people who protest, in the students of the Young Democrats Club at USC, in students majoring in climate change, and specifically the Parkland Students fighting against the NRA. What they are doing matters and we must pay attention to them and follow their lead. It’s understandable and easy for us to be pessimistic, but that is not an option now either. We fight or die. Yep, I think it’s that critical, but I also have hope that my generation will be there this time around. It truly is on us. We literally have the ability to change the world.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH KATE GRAHN:
• I asked your mom this, so I’ll ask you, too—I feel like your last name is begging for an M to replace the N. How often have you faced that misspelling in your life?: It’s not necessarily the misspelling that happens a lot as it is the mispronunciation. “AHN” is like “lawn” not “Pan!!!”
• Three things we need to know about your first pet: She was afraid of her own shadow, she slept under my moms bed and we referred to it as her “condo”, and she was my best friend for 15 and a half years.
• Rank in order (favorite to least): Los Angeles Times, doing grocery shopping, Chad Pennington, Affordable Care Act, “Good Will Hunting,” the Electric Slide, Bruno Mars, Wyoming: Affordable Care Act, Bruno Mars, Electric Slide, LA Times, Doing Grocery Shopping, (I’ve never seen “Good Will Hunting” I know, I am terrible), Chad Pennington (I don’t know who he is either, again many apologies), Wyoming
• Three memories from your first day on campus at USC.: Being terrified but also excited, feeling embarrassed for missing my mom already, loving my professors and the rest of the students
• Five songs you absolutely love: This is a mix of all time favorites and current favorites: “The Chain,” Fleetwood Mac. “Paris,” Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. “Overnight,” Maggie Rogers, “Love It If We Made It,” The 1975, and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” Sting (I prefer his version with the symphony over The Police version), and “Black Dog,” Led Zeppelin (because I couldn’t decide).
• Tell us a joke, please: What is Beethoven’s favorite fruit? “Ba-na-na-naaaaaa”
• Without Googling, name every Pearl Jam song you know: I know “Even Flow” because of Guitar Hero lol
• If you could rename Twitter, what would you call it?: Trump Narcissism Portal
• The next president of the United States will be …: Not Trump.