Kate & "Ghost" - Jeremy Cowart Photography
Two years ago, singer-songwriter Kate Grom was torn between practicality and being her true self. She had graduated college after a transformative time finding her authentic musical voice, and was pursuing her dreams in New York. But in her soul there was a restlessness she couldn’t ignore—she had to break out of her comfort zone to fuel her vision.
To bravely face an uncertain future, the young artist went to France where she knew no one. Alone with a rented acoustic guitar, she faced her fears and embraced her musical gifts. Kate now comes forth with the aptly titled, Heroine, produced by two-time Grammy Award winning producer Stewart Lerman. It is a poetic and boldly vulnerable singer-songwriter album that conjures the elegance of the American countryside.
“That was a challenging time,” says the New York City-based artist, recalling her getaway. “I felt worn down. I thought, maybe spending time alone and away with the guitar would help me fall in love with music, and it did. That was the moment where I decided to define music in my life as my only career focus.”
Thankfully, this fateful time fortified her love of music and Kate’s belief in her talents. Her aesthetic encompasses Americana traditions such as folk, bluegrass, and country, as well as the reflective and literate traditions of contemporary and classic singer-songwriters. Her influences include Stevie Nicks, Loretta Lynn, Bob Dylan, America, Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, Simon & Garfunkel, and Gillian Welch, among others. Core to her music is a personal approach to lyric writing with broadly resonate messages, and a musicality that reflects the rural beauty of her time growing up on her parent’s farm in Frenchtown, New Jersey, a quaint artist town bordering the Delaware River.
Back on her parent’s farm, Kate spent a lot of time locked inside her own imagination, making up stories amidst bucolic surroundings. She explored music in performance and application through church choir, chamber choir, and women’s choir, and later studied formally at Belmont University in Nashville.
Kate’s artistic trajectory grew organically from a series of almost random epiphanies. A treasure of classic rock records hidden in the attic of her house became an object of intense fascination for the teenaged Kate. Her uncle—a ride or die Harley man who attended Woodstock—stoked the fire with his own eccentric lifestyle and knowledge of prime 1960s and 1970s rock n’ roll. On her own she explored rootsy artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Emmylou Harris, and the band America. And, later, while at Belmont, Kate soaked up the pure folk, country, and bluegrass wafting forth from the air of Music City.
The title of Kate’s nine-song album, Heroine, is inspired by the Nora Ephron quote “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” It reflects the empowerment and courageous introspection inherent in Kate’s lyrics. It also reflects Kate’s own path to becoming an independent woman.
Heroine is both rustic and refined, replete with lonesome pedal steel guitar, moony atmospherics, and back porch Americana. The songs simmer with slow burn dynamics, understated grooves, and soaring hooks. Throughout the album, Kate’s vocals exhibit a fragile power—they’re filled with longing, soaring emotionality, and a quaint soulful melancholy that’s both stirring and comforting.
The album’s leadoff single “The Storm” is intimately spare and emotionally immediate. Kate’s vocals have a spectral sorrowfulness. Here, it’s as if she’s beamed from the aftermath of painful breakup, and recounting the ill-fated tail. “That song is about being hopelessly in love with someone, but coming to your senses after a huge blowout and just being done,” she reveals. There is a weary beauty surrounding the album’s title track. The song’s sweet melancholy coats your soul like medicine for broken heart. Kate adds some playfulness to the album with the country ballad “Whiskey Eyes.” On this song, big brown beautiful eyes sweep a lover away because they remind her of whiskey.
Stewart Lerman, who has worked with Willie Nelson, Sharon Van Etten, Elvis Costello, Neko Case, Patti Smith, Antony and the Johnsons, produced Heroine at Hobo Sound. The musicians playing on the record are world-class players who have worked with such venerated artists Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, My Morning Jacket, Brandi Carlile, Lana Del Ray, and the Eagles, among others.
Up next, Kate will begin gigging to support her LP and to embrace this new era as an assured artist. “It’s been a very long journey to make this record,” reflects Kate. “There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve learned to be patient and to persevere. Now, I’m ready to run out of the gate with this album.”