Katrina Cain, a former contestant on NBC’s The Voice, has embraced her identity as ‘melancholy pop.’ This self-described genre fits Cain’s sound as it marries her gritty folk voice along with her storytelling with the creative electronic beats that enhances the listening experience. The music she produces paints a wide expanse of musical landscapes in your mind as you are immersed into the world of her storytelling, not just the emotion of it, but the full breadth of it.
Recently she has released two new tracks that have genuinely impressed me. The first is a track titled ‘Forgive Me in the Morning,’ which captured my imagination and my musical intellect. This song is about letting go of your pride in order to rectify a relationship in conflict. Cain’s vocals are emotional and vulnerable with an underlying uncomfortable synth sound that comes in waves, building a sense of anxiety and calm that is both balanced yet depending on the moment can take you one direction or the next. Many of us have felt conflicted or in battle with ourselves about doing the right thing or doing the prideful thing. This song captures that tension wonderfully. ‘Forgive Me in the Morning’ is an intelligently produced track that conveys the same story vocally, lyrically, and musically. The other track was released this week (April 17th), ‘How Did We Get Here?’ is a more pop minded song with wonderful beats that match the feeling of being fed up with being stuck which can be interpreted in many ways. Everyone needs a good defiant song to get them out of a rut, this track, definitely plays that part.
I got the opportunity to send some questions to Katrina Cain this is what she had to say:
Question: What are the musical influences that have shaped who you are as an artist?
Katrina Cain: Growing up, I listened to a lot of folk and classic rock, like Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, and Led Zeppelin. But as I started trying to write music, I became really enthralled with Tori Amos. As a composer, I feel like Tori Amos is my biggest influence. I tend to write mostly on piano and I love interesting, minor melodies and repeating licks. What I really heavily listen to now is more pop and lo-fi type music, so bands like Little Dragon and Sylvan Esso are in heavy rotation for me. I feel like all of these have influenced my overall sound a lot.
Question: How has your time on The Voice helped prepare you for this new and exciting phase of your musical career?
Katrina Cain: Being on The Voice was such an incredible, unique experience- there’s nothing else like it. A few of the things you learn doing a show like that are: how to be professional at all times, that there are 100 others just like you working harder than you, and it reminded me what real performance pressure is like. You get to meet so many people and learn from everyone, and learn the things you lack. It showed me how to take the business side of things a little more seriously, rather than just sing and hope everything works out.
Question: What is your creative process when crafting a song?
Katrina Cain: Usually, I start with a chord progression or a specific lick that I like. From there, I create a chordal bed for the lyrics to lay over top of, even if I know it will be edited slightly and produced later on. I usually have to write the melody and lyrics at the exact same time. So, as a melodic idea comes out, I sing whatever lyrics feel right in those rhythms. Sometimes this helps inform what the song is about, but other times, I already have a concept in mind and I’m searching for the words and melody that will be the most impactful for that topic.
I feel that these two ideas, the melody and the lyrics, are forever intertwined with one another and you can’t take a set of words away from the melody it was meant to have. Even though later on others might cover the song with their own arrangement, there’s going to be a reason the original melody and rhythms feel so right to that lyric.
Question: Your song ‘Forgive Me in The Morning’ does something that most songs have a hard time doing. It has this balance between being uncomfortable and comforting, vulnerable and strength, as well as sadness and hope. Was that intentional in the creative process of the song? How does it fit into the overall story you wanted to tell?
Katrina Cain: Thank you so much for saying that! This is a song that I really found along the way- I didn’t have any plans to write it in the first place, and while writing it, I didn’t have any plans to change it or edit it to be any certain way. I was up early one morning during a difficult few months, and the song came pouring out. For some reason, it felt “right” to play the verses in an odd metered time signature, and switch back to a typical 4/4 during the choruses. That’s how I wrote it at first, and when I tried to straighten it out and play it all in one time signature, it just sounded wrong. In this song, the uncomfortable is what’s right.
I think this fits really well into the overall intention of the song. It’s the idea that you don’t have to win every argument or get your way after every fight, and that feels really uncomfortable. But maybe this time, just yelling at each other doesn’t solve it. Conflicts aren’t always solved by one person’s position being the “right” answer. Sometimes, both paths are correct simultaneously, and it can be hard to realize that what’s best for you and what’s best for your partner are two different things right now. I’m a person who usually tries to win my side of the argument and get what I want, and this story is about me backing down. Maybe this time, it’s my turn to sacrifice in order to preserve the relationship. Pride makes that really difficult, asking for forgiveness doesn’t feel good, but sticking by each other and going back to how things were can sometimes start to heal you, at the very least so you can try again in the morning with a clear head.
Question: How do you think that working with your spouse on ‘Forgive Me in the Morning’ impacted the creation of this song that captures such complex emotions?
Katrina Cain: It’s always a little weird to say, “hey I wrote this song in which we’re both the bad guy and I say really dramatic things about us. Want to collaborate on this?” But ultimately, you have to be able to talk about things openly in order to have a good marriage- and a good working relationship with any creative partner.
The song would not have been the same without Andrew’s input! The creation of it was in itself a lot like the song. I had very strong opinions about how this song should go- I wanted it simple, just organ and vocoder. He had some cool ideas for drums and production that I wasn’t sure of. Letting go and putting the creative direction of this precious song I had written into his hands was the best thing I could have done. Ultimately, it ended up sounding better than I could even imagine.
Question: Tell us about your upcoming single, “How Did We Get Here”?
Katrina Cain: “How Did We Get Here?” is totally different than any song I’ve released before! All of my other music is a sad, borderline singer-songwriter soundtrack to cry to, but this one…is honestly just a pop song! Andrew and I wrote this together, from start to finish, he co-wrote the melody and lyrics on this one. It kind of sounds like a breakup song, but it was actually born out of my frustration with being labeled as something I’m not, and pushed into boxes that I don’t feel I belong in as an artist. I was really sick of the industry telling me that I’m something other than who I am, and we felt that breakup lyrics actually really fit with the idea of breaking free from those ridiculous assumptions and expectations. So even though this sounds like a song about “the end” of something, I hope it makes people happy. I hope it makes listeners feel confident, strong, maybe a bit defiant. Honestly, isn’t it fun to just walk away from what doesn’t serve you, and run towards who you really are?
Katrina Cain’s new tracks ‘How Did We Get Here?’ and ‘Forgive Me in the Morning’ along with some other songs by her are available to stream and download. If you want to stay in touch with Katrina Cain or want to learn more you can go to www.katrinacain.com