The Houston-born jazz singer, songwriter, and producer, Kat Edmonson, came onto the scene in 2009 with her debut album, Take to the Sky. In February 2020 she released her fifth studio album, Dreamers Do. It reached the #1 spot on Billboard’s Traditional Jazz chart, and the album debuted #1 at iTunes Jazz, #2 Most Added at Jazzweek, and was named Album of the Week by Deezer upon release.
Kat explains: "Dreamers Do, takes place in a single night, from bedtime till morning. It's about our concepts around dreaming - all of the wonderful things and the fearful things, the things that keep us awake in the middle of the night. It's also about the quiet power of merely having a dream. There are interludes between the songs indicating different points in this nocturnal journey, and if someone wants to listen to the entire record as an experience, it's available to them.”
Bleu Bop got the chance to ask Kat about her creative process in developing the album, how she was inspired by her favorite Disney Films, and what goes into creating a unique take on this iconic repertoire.
Kat is now on tour with stops in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and at Birdland in New York.
BLEU BOP: The events that take place in the album all take place over the course of one night. What decisions led you to creating your first concept album?
Kat Edmonson: There was a question that was following me around: Is there ever a point in our lives when it becomes too late to dream? A time when dreaming becomes impractical or irrelevant?
In seeking an answer to that question, I naturally began referring to the music of my childhood, much of it being Disney songs of the mid-20th century. I learned a lot about myself and, in doing so, I realized there was a story I wanted to tell about the experience of pursuing a dream. The story dictated which songs I ultimately chose to put on the album. What’s amazing to me is how rich and substantial these songs from the Disney repertoire are, the compositions, arrangements, the recordings, and the players. In fact, the same people that were writing and recording what we now know as the Great American Songbook were writing and recording for Disney at the time.
When I began to research the composers, I found that I had picked four Sammy Fain songs from different movies (Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Incredible Mr. Limpet: a Warner Bros. animated picture). He wrote “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me”, “That Old Feeling”, “I’ll Be Seeing You”, “Secret Love” - I realized that I'm a big fan of his.
What’s amazing to me is how rich and substantial these songs from the Disney repertoire are... the same people that were writing and recording what we now know as the Great American Songbook were writing and recording for Disney at the time.
BB: Doing covers is always a delicate balance of putting your own twist on beloved songs. You seem to do this with ease. How did you take such well known songs, from Disney no less, and make them your own?
KE: Thank you! First of all, I don't tend to compare myself to the people who’ve done it before me. Instead, I go in with the assumption that, because I’m an individual with my own point of view, and because I already love the song, then I have something unique to offer. Combine that with my motivation to also pay homage to the original, and I needn’t contrive anything artificial to make it new or better – it all just happens naturally.
BB: With Disney songs playing such a huge role on the album, I have to ask, what's your favorite Disney movie?
KE: I really can’t say just one, I love so many of them, but One Hundred and One Dalmatians comes to mind, and The Artistocats.
BB: You have two new original songs on the album, the ethereal “Too Late to Dream”, and the fun, yet scary, “Someone’s in the House”. How did these songs come about? What was the creative process behind them?
KE: Written in 2015, "Too Late to Dream" was written in earnest to find out if it was too late for me to dream in my own life. It set me on the path to making this record. I began writing "Someone’s in the House" in 2009 or so. I had the music written but I didn’t have the lyrics. I thought it was the perfect music to convey what happens when we wake in the middle of the night to a noise and we don’t know if it’s something we’ve dreamt or if someone’s in the house.
BB: The songs flow into each other perfectly, like moving in and out of different dreams. You even have interludes that connect some songs. What goes into choosing the order of the song list?
KE: I’ve never done this for any other record but I actually sequenced Dreamers Do before I recorded the songs! I even knew where the interludes would go. Typically, I record everything and then listen to all of the songs and see how each song fits together energetically.
BB: You are touring in various cities to support the album. How do you prepare for live performances? What can fans expect to see at your shows?
KE: To prepare for my show, I like to be as present as possible. I take a step back from everything mentally and realize how wild it is that I get to do what I do for a living. This usually puts me in a state of gratitude and, at that point, all of the self-imposed pressure and exterior challenges are diminished. It's that perspective that allows me to just go up on stage and PLAY! Audiences can expect to come and have a real night of story telling, laughing, and relaxing. My greatest hope is that people come out of our show recognizing their own creativity and inspiration.
Audiences can expect to come and have a real night of story telling, laughing, and relaxing. My greatest hope is that people come out of our show recognizing their own creativity and inspiration.
BB: What advice can you offer young singers and musicians who dare to dream of making their own album?
KE: Do it. All of the reasons why you can’t do it will always be there, so just do it. Also, don’t believe anyone who tells you, “it’s too hard." LIFE is hard, no matter what path you choose - so choose the one you want.
BB: Lastly, we always end by asking what is your favorite jazz album of all time?
KE: Like my favorite Disney movies, I don’t just have one but today, lets' go with, In the Wee Small Hours, Frank Sinatra.
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