Tour Diaries: Kate Stephenson
Kate Stephenson’s Mercury Lounge show gave us a taste of what's to come, including some stand-up material in between songs.
Kate Stephenson recently opened for Roe Kapara at their New York show, quickly winning over the hearts of audience members with a very charming set. She opened with her tried-and-true "Godocracy," and followed it up with many a “mental breakdown” songs, blending a perfect amount of humor between some of the most vulnerable, beautiful, unreleased songs you’ve ever heard.
Kate is a singer-songwriter from Illinois who has been writing music her whole life but began releasing her own music in 2017. Since her first single "Makeshift Temporary," she has released two albums, an EP, and a multitude of singles. Her first song to “hit the Tok” was "Exless" in 2019, which has now racked up over 5 million Spotify streams. She can barely see through her left eye and recently became a barista and bartender after moving back to Illinois with her dog Olive (who is just like her mother).
We talked with Kate about her new single "Hotel Hallway."
A lot of your music is based on actual events in your life, so what is the story behind "Hotel Hallway?"
KS: It was written while I was on tour with Addison Grace and Sydney Rose. I had a mental breakdown in a hotel hallway and I was trying to be super quiet. I had this voice memo for months with the tune of the song, me humming the chorus. The next day I grabbed my guitar and it just worked! I had just found out like 30 minutes before my set the night before that my first boyfriend had likely cheated on me and it was also a really hard time because the person that I wrote the song about was at his highest point thus far in his career. It’s really hard to describe the feeling of someone who hurt you getting praised by millions of people. And I kinda feel like I know how Taylor Swift feels low-key. Like I just want her to give me a hug and tell me it's all gonna be okay. But that’s kinda where the song came from; where I was reflecting on my pain but also feeling really angry. I felt like I had nobody but he had everybody and that’s where "Hotel Hallway" comes from.
So was writing this song, in a way, healing for you?
KS: In a way, it was a way for me to reach my catharsis.
How long did it take you to finish it?
KS: I mean it took me about 20 minutes to write the song but, with all of my really vulnerable songs, I find it a lot harder to produce them because I need to do them justice and I’m not a professional producer. So, I had it produced my way for a long time and I didn’t know if I was doing it justice or not. I didn’t want to overproduce it but I didn’t want to underproduce it to where it sounds bad. I realized after a while, with it sitting in my drafts, that there is no better way to put a raw song out into the world than in a very raw way. I just took the demo that I had, I got it mixed by my sister and did the mastering and that’s what people are gonna hear.
Do you think with a song like this it also has to be the right time mentally for you to release it?
KS: Yeah. I think because it all happened such a long time ago, but clearly, I was still having breakdowns in hotels, I didn’t want to release the song while it was still something that was weighing on me. When I release music it's in the hopes that people relate to it but not in the hopes that they necessarily feel the way I felt when I wrote it. Like I don’t want someone to listen to it and think “oh my god my life is the worst and it's over” I want people to think “oh! you know what if she got through it, I can get through it too.” I think I just wanted to wait until I was able to listen to it and share it and talk about it in a really cohesive, settled way (like fizzy water set out for a while, let the bubbles settle). Writing songs for me takes so much emotional energy that it feels even more taxing than any of my service jobs, it does definitely take a lot of time to complete.
Anything else we can expect from you soon?
KS: I am going to California to co-produce my album, finally, with a nice fella who helped produce Sick Of It. I’ve had this album written for years, but as I said, it's so close to my heart, and it's so vulnerable that I haven’t been able to do right by it. It can’t all be released as raw because some of it is upbeat rock or pop, like "Godocracy", and so It can’t be as raw, but I still want it to sound good but still have that homemade sound because all my music that is out (on all platforms) was recorded by me, mixed by me, mastered by me. I like keeping that essence of my music, I think it produces a feeling of being approachable and relatable and people are really able to feel where I’m coming from because of that. So I want to keep that, but also make it sound good.
You Gotta Listen: Don't Go, Sick of It, Exless
See more photos of Kate Stephenson's NYC show below by Claudia Rader
Make sure to follow MUD on Instagram for the best concert photography.