I don't generally write about my own life. In fact, I usually prefer to remain on the outside; but when I was talking to Kat recently I realized that not only are both of our histories very similar but both are largely unknown to the people we see each week. So, with that in mind, here's a look at two kindred spirits... two people who turned a love for music into something more.
Unlike many people in the business, neither of us had much luck being a musician. Kat says she took piano lessons as a kid, but only for a little while. Meanwhile, I picked up a little piano, little guitar, and took bass lessons only to have to quit due to injuries to my hand. I kept on writing music, but that's as far as I'd get. I did manage to perform on stage several times in front of hundreds of people (as part of an acting career few in the area knew I had), but I prefer to be out of the spotlight. Regardless, we both discovered a love for the arts and for simply being around musicians.
"In some magical way most musicians are drawn to me, just as much as I am drawn to them," explained Kat. "I have always had that certain connection and still do."
For Kat, the connection began as a college student in California when she would go to every No Nukes concert and somehow find a way to get backstage and hang out with the musicians on the bill. She soon found herself having a knack for getting into situations that normal music fans could only dream about.
"One favorite memory of mine was back in the ‘80s," recalled Kat. "I was attending a gig for The Romantics at Whiskey-A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. I remember getting in with an expensive bottle of champagne up my sleeve and pushing up front to the stage and sharing the bottle with the band. That's me!"
As for me, I spent my high school years hanging out at the Asbury Park Rock ‘N Roll Museum (a great little place that was located in the old Palace Amusement Building) and sneaking into The Stone Pony. My friend and I had a key that would actually open the door to the Pony by the back bar. We learned how to judge when the bouncer was in front of the door and when he wasn't due by watching the shadow and got pretty good at quickly firing open the door, doing a spin-a-rama and heading to the bar as if we had been there all night long. We saw countless shows that way, but my big break actually came from working in a restaurant owned by Debbie Harry's family. Debbie, of course, is also known as Blondie and her restaurant used to get lots of musicians in town for Arts Center shows. One day a waitress heard me playing John Eddie's music in the kitchen and said I should meet her husband who's a soundman in the area. That meeting led to jobs at the WNEW shows on the boardwalk in Asbury Park where I worked alongside and met artists like Joan Jett, Robert Cray, Southside Johnny, and Pat Dinizio.
Backstage is a place that really does separate the pretenders from those who belong there. I've seen many people wilt because they were too starstruck, but it never phased me and it never phased Kat. It just seemed natural to us.
When I was in high school, I imagined I'd be working at Rolling Stone or Spin magazine someday. After college I went a different route, but eventually returned to writing about music. Kat eventually returned to music as well. In fact, her business (Tunes2ya.com) is celebrating its 6th year anniversary this month. She basically provides a one-stop shop for musicians including booking, press, publicity, public relations, promotion, tour support, representation, networking artists with other artists, and overall assistance to help her clients reach the goals they set for themselves.
Kat's not a fan of soliciting business. She generally won't approach artists, but will hand out her business card to someone once in a while. Whether or not they choose to call her back is up to them, she doesn't get involved in the hard sell. What impresses me the most is how she refuses to sell out or sell herself short -- she needs to believe in the artist before she'll take them on as a client.
"I have to be a fan of the music first and foremost," said Kat. "If the mouthwash makes me gag, I cannot promote it truthfully and with integrity. If an artist reaches out to me and I am not connecting with their sound/vibe/performance, then I will refer them to someone that I feel should be able to do a better job. I am approachable and will share my contacts if I feel I am being respected."
That idea of respect is something else I have in common with Kat. I wish I could learn a thing or two from her, while she refuses to let people burn her I have been burned so many times by the industry that I still have ashes on my skin. I've always lived my life by what I call the "Catcher In The Rye" mantra of "don't be a phony." Unfortunately, the music business -- even outside of the big city -- is full of phonies. People have attacked me, blacklisted me, and ridiculed me for having the guts to say what I know they wish they could say. I never asked to be a martyr and wish I wasn't alone, but somebody's got to point out what's really going on rather than gloss it over for the corporate media paying their paychecks. I went deep into debt running my own magazine after a merger went sour and I continue to spend hundreds of dollars a year to do what I do, but I believe it's worth it. The artists that Kat and I run into -- some we can truly call friends -- are worth the time and the energy and the money we put into it. We're not asking for much back, just a little respect.
"Let's face it, no one ever gets involved in music for the money. When I first started out my mom called me every other day to ask me if I was making any money yet? I told her the only question she could ask me was "am I still enjoying what I'm doing?" Because whether I make money or not, I am in this for the passion and challenge of achieving artists' goals -- goals that I know we can work as a team together to accomplish," said Kat.
Kat will work out yearly or quarterly fees based on the services an artist requests and through a payment plan that fits their budget. She currently has booked artists in dozens of rooms throughout the country but says some of her favorites include The Rockwood Music Hall and Stage and The Bitter End in NYC; World Cafe Live and Tin Angel in Philadelphia; Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Lestat's in San Diego and The Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles, California; The Basement and 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville; John & Peter's in New Hope; and Grounds For Sculpture, Triumph Brewery, and KatManDu in New Jersey.
One of the things I love about Kat is her taste in music. Some of my favorite Jersey artists are people Kat works with. The list includes artists like Frank Thewes, Arlan Feiles, Mike Montrey, Scott Rednor, Joe Whyte, the Jo Henley Band, Roger Salloom, and Sean Cox. She also works with female artists like Christine Martucci, Lisa Bianco, Liz Longley and Sarah Zimmerman, Sandy Zio, Patty Blee, and Laura McGhee. Along with working with local artists she has also worked with artists known throughout the world such as Yarn, Girls, Guns and Glory, Geoff Achison, Roger Salloom, and the Late Robert Hazard.
In addition to booking shows, Kat has also been deeply involved with several benefit causes like Jam For Life (jamforlife.com) and www.TorchysTroubadors.org, which she created to help those suffering from Lyme Disease. She's also set up tributes to the late Robert Hazard in Cape May and Nashville and coordinated the New York Song Writers Circle at Grounds For Sculpture last August and has another show planned for June 17, 2011.
Some things you may not know about Kat: she has three children (a daughter 28 and sons 23 and 13); has been married for 17 years to a man she's known for over 40 years; she used to surf all over California and Mexico; and received the Distinguished Lifetime Citizen Award in Mexico in 1986!
"If I ever had to do it over again, I would have taken that scholarship to Pratt or Parson's and pursued my passion for art; instead, I moved to California, surfed, and studied marketing and PR!" Kat said.
As for myself, if I had to do it over again I probably would have gone straight to writing after college. I made the mistake of listening to people who said you couldn't make a living as a writer. It may not be a very profitable living, but, at least, you're able to look yourself in the mirror each day knowing that you're doing what you love.
I guess both of us enjoy doing what we do because we know that far too many people simply give up on their dreams. We all face pressure to make a living, pressure from our parents, and the general idea growing up means shedding your dreams. In the theatre world Kat would be called an "Angel" because people like her actually help dreams come true.
We could use more angels like Kat...