In the 1966 Czech film Daisies, one character says, “You’re so earthly and yet so heavenly! You don’t belong in this century.” This movie, jam-packed with playful decadence, is a favorite of Charlottesville, VA singer-songwriter Kate Bollinger; having recently completed a degree in filmmaking as well, she plans to draw on the the film as inspiration for her first music video. The quote from Daisies apt, too: Bollinger balances down-to-earth songs with an angelic voice.
Her new EP A Word Becomes a Sound boasts echoes of bossa nova and French pop; and there’s a timelessness about the young singer’s music, which Bollinger says is purposeful. “I’m very wary of following a trend too much because I’m afraid it won’t last;” she admits. “Some of my favorite artists don’t follow trends, so their music has lasted. One of my favorites is Feist, and I feel like her music is the same way. It seems timeless.”
Bollinger has already done a decent amount of trekking through time via her music. Growing up, she told her mother (a musician and music therapist) that she either wanted to be a singer or a writer. “There was always music playing. She made children’s music when I was little, so she’d have a group of kids over to sing in her ensemble, and I was in those,” Bollinger recalls. As she matured, so did audio technology, and by age 16 she was recording in Garage Band and posting her sounds on Soundcloud and bandcamp. Now she has better equipment, a producer, and the use of Frooty Loops software.
Perhaps the greatest development, though, is the singer-songwriter’s own. “Back then I wasn’t waiting as long. When I’d write a song, I’d put it up on Soundcloud right away while I was still writing it,” Bollinger says. “I would release it and then keep messing with it – I’d have another verse that I wanted to add but I’d already released it. Now I have a little more patience and I have a producer. Everything’s just a little more polished now.” Bollinger’s journey is audible over the course of her releases. On earlier songs like “Winter 2011” and “Car Song,” her voice is drowned out by her guitar, which is more choppily played than in her recent work. As the release dates progress, so does the music.
“The main theme that I’m constantly writing about is growing up and shifting dynamics in my life,” Bollinger remembers. Perhaps her evolution as a musician is a reflection of that theme. “Releasing the I Don’t Wanna Lose EP felt like a debut even though it wasn’t. It’d felt like I’d grown a lot, and the songs would really stand the test of time,” she says. Around the time of that 2019 release, Bollinger was still in college, and therefore immersed in her own coming of age stories, but the EP acquired some good buzz. Her songs had been placed on Spotify’s New Music Friday, POLLEN, and All New Indie playlists. I Don’t Wanna Lose stood out for the way the music’s sweetness yields a greater depth.
On A Word Becomes A Sound, the singer-songwriter reworks some of her older songs while featuring new ones. All the songs center on her usual bedroom indie folk, but there are nuances like the electronic beats on “Grey Skies.” The title track could be an Astrid Gilberto outtake. She loves all the songs, but, on the day we spoke, thought of one in particular: “‘A Couple Things’ is special because it’s the oldest and I still like it as much as I did when I wrote it. That doesn’t always happen,” she explains. Other songs like “Queen of Nobody” were written during quarantine and assembled by her producer, since Bollinger couldn’t be with her bandmates.
Aside from that, she’s enjoyed having down time despite the circumstances. “I do like touring but this is a good break – I was going to say it’s a good time to live and write, but right now it’s even hard to live. I’ve always enjoyed having time to write and work on new ideas. I’m working toward a full album. I’ve been listening to a lot more music than I would have, had lockdown not happened,” Bollinger says, adding that she recently listened to the entire Beatles discography from start to finish.
“By the end, I felt like I was writing in their style. I really loved their early work,” she says. But Kate Bollinger has learned a thing or two about blending chill guitar arrangements and pleasing melodies all on her own, writing songs about growing up designed to stand the test of time.
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