2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Photo of Kate Stevens // courtesy Meaghan Baxter Photography

Calgary Folk Fest 2021: Kate Stevens

By Rachneet Randhawa, August 11 2021—

Calgary-based and upcoming R&B and soul artist, Kate Stevens, recently performed at the 42nd Calgary Folk Music Festival Summer Serenades. This singer and songwriter has won numerous accolades, awards and nominations such as the RnB Artist of the Year and Solo Artist of the Year at the 2021 YYC Music Awards. 

At a young age, Stevens speaks true to her musical roots as a coming-of-age story. Her vocal style has been described as a playful balance of precision and abandon as her “ragged voice breaks into liting falsettos, whispery vibratos lure the ear into intimate, personal, soul spaces,” as described by Chantal Vitalis.

Stevens emerged as an artist during her high school years and released her debut album Handmade Rumours in 2017. She is most known for her single “Meant for Me.” She is also all about advocating for youth in the creative arts as the founder and artistic director of Youth Musicians Mile Alliance (YO MOMMA), which is an organization that focuses on connection, mentorship and performance opportunities for aspiring young musicians from ages 11–21. The Gauntlet sat down for an interview to learn more about this trailblazing artist.

Stevens was raised in a semi-musical household, listening to albums from powerful female voices from the ‘70s. 

“My mom couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but we always had music playing — when we were doing anything, there was always an album playing,” said Stevens. “It was always either Joni Mitchell or Carole King, or Carly Simon, like the really powerful female 70s songstresses, that kind of shaped me into where I am today. Then I kind of got into more R&B and blues and jazz when I started taking vocal lessons.” 

She mentioned that when she was 13-years-old, she found a ukulele at a garage sale, which became the catalyst for her early songwriting. She utilized poetry to write about her everyday experiences and hardships of being a teenager — everything from schoolgirl crushes to body shaming — and claims that “you write words that feel like home to you.” Alongside playing at talent competitions, she was also fortunate enough to have many great mentors and music teachers early on in her life. 

As for the abilities or personal qualities she believes contributed most to her success as a musician, Stevens said that having a solid support system is huge — including getting feedback from her supporters. 

“I want them to give it to me straight. If that run isn’t good, if that show wasn’t good, I want them to tell me. I think that’s important.” 

Stevens also mentioned that learning how to deal with failure is crucial early on. 

“In this industry, you’re going to get rejected a lot. I have been rejected a lot, so you kind of get used to it,” she said. “But you know, failure is just another part of the learning process — if you mess up really badly at a show, why did you do that? Learn from your mistakes, grow from your mistakes. For people wanting to get into music, do it. I mean, music is humans at their best, right?”

Stevens defines the genre of R&B music as being in constant flux.

“I think with R&B, it’s another one of those kinds of genres that everyone can experience and everyone can enjoy,” she said. “It’s really edible to your ear.” 

Although Calgary is not exactly touted for its R&B vibe, Stevens expressed how she finds the Candian music scene gives a platform to marginalized artists and genres.  

”We’re looking at radio shows really trying to branch out and showcase people of colour with the radio programming right now and really showcasing these endangered genres — it starts with the radio stations, it starts with the publishers, with the managers, with the festivals.

“I think that supporting these endangered genres — like jazz and hip hop and R&B — is important because that’s where the culture is, and the city breeds it. I think that’s important to find your local hub of music and support your local musicians. There’s a lot of us. We all know each other, so it’s important to find the people you love.” Stevens claimed.

As for the performance itself, Stevens mentioned that it was really important to showcase how she’s grown as an artist.

“I’ve wanted to play [the] Folk Fest since I was about 13,” she said. “So I wanted to showcase my best songs and my favourite songs that I’ve ever written and I hope the audience enjoyed it. I mean, the biggest thing for me is, when you’re on stage, you need to have that audience connection and that interaction with them.”

She hopes that her sound remains timeless for the fans. One thing she is grateful for is being able to perform live again and being on stage, which allows her to genuinely connect with those who admire her songs. 

“That’s what I live for — interacting with people and sharing that experience. I think experiences are really important. Something the folk fest has done so well is creating a safe place, a healthy place for other artists to shine.”

Photo of Kate Stevens // courtesy Kate Stevens Music

The latest single Stevens’ dropped titled “Love Me” was recorded during the COVID-19 quarantine with her bandmates and said that the song came together in a couple of hours. She described it as “kind of flirty” and said it was inspired by her current partner. 

Another one of her popular songs, “Right Choice,” was produced at OCL Studios with Josh Williams and Stevens and is one of her favourite singles that she’s released.  

Her debut album Handmade Rumours launched as she graduated high school and was produced by Michael Brad Fitzgerald, another Calgary-based Folk Festival legend. The 2021 Folk Fest was full-circle for Stevens, as she released her album at Festival Hall which is the Folk Festival’s event space. 

When asked about her writing and recording process, Stevens claimed it’s all about personal experiences. 

“Don’t try to write about something you’ve never experienced before, because it’s not going to be authentic to you,” she said. “So I think sitting down with yourself and just figuring out what you want to write about is important.” 

Although she doesn’t have a specific approach to songwriting she opts to play around and explore.  

“Baritone ukulele, it’s something I’ve always played. It just has a really nice, natural, organic, full sound to me. I start with the chords and then I’ll start scatting over top of it — I’ll start making weird melodies and weird syllables.”

Stevens also spoke about her battle with perfectionism.

“Perfect is great, done better,” she said. “And I think it’s something that a lot of creatives need to hear. If you’re waiting to release, but it’s not quite perfect, let it go, let it run its course. There’s always another time [to make it perfect]. We’re always creative, we’re always going to be creating.”

Stevens said that while recording the album, she tried her best to put forward the best version of her sound.

“I think it’s a lot about not settling — when you have a vision in your brain of how you want it to sound, and then if it doesn’t sound exactly like that, you’ll get upset,” she said. “I think that [getting the right sound] was the biggest thing with the album. We went back and we redid a lot of vocal takes — there was one run we did at least 60 times because I wanted to make sure that I’m putting out the best. I don’t want to just keep these [songs] in the trunk of my car. I want to put out something that I’m proud of.” 

Stevens said that singing live is one of the more challenging aspects of being a performer. She also revealed that letting go of her perfectionist tendencies was really important for the creation of this album. 

“Live singing is a lot different than studio singing. Studio time is money, so you have to get in and get out as soon as you can as quickly and cleanly as possible,” she said. “I’m a perfectionist and if something isn’t perfect, or exactly to my liking, I’ll want to redo it. I think it’s [valuable] to let go and be able to say ‘this is what I sound like right now.’ I think that’s really important to have as an artist — to see your growth.” 

Aside from being a budding new artist, Stevens spoke of her experiences as a woman in the Canadian Music industry, including learning how to stand up for herself and advocate for what she needs.  

“Starting up in this industry, I was really cautious of not pissing anybody off. That’s not who I am anymore. I would play shows where I couldn’t hear myself at the monitors because I wouldn’t want to say [anything] to the sound guys to make them mad at me,” Stevens said. “I think that an important thing, as someone with a platform right now, is that I’m really trying to make sure that younger female artists have the mentorship that I was super lucky to have.” 

Stevens is also all about supporting and giving back to youth voices in the community. When prompted on how youth, including students, can get more involved in the creative arts she claimed that it starts with the schools.

“Getting kids excited about music at a very young age is super important,” she said. “There are so many different ways that you can get involved with music in the community. It might even just start by picking up a guitar.” 

Kate Stevens soundtracks can be found on iTunes and Spotify. Show some love and support this local musical artist who chooses to challenge the status quo through her voice.  

Hiring | Staff | Advertising | Contact | PDF version | Archive | Volunteer | SU

The Gauntlet