Vermont Vibes: Kat Wright and The Indomitable Soul Band

Kat Wright & the Indomitable Soul Band
Kat Wright is the lead singer for her big, bluesy, soul band Kat Wright & the Indomitable Soul Band. With a lineup of great New England musicians her music features bass, drums, percussion, guitar, organ, trumpet, trombone and alto sax.
NextUp: Where did it all start?
I actually was living here in Burlington for about six months and my friend Shane Hardiman, who plays keys for my band, and I wanted to start another band and there was a Thursday night spot opening up at Radio Bean. It was a coveted spot because people already knew to come down, dance and have fun Thursday nights. When that spot opened up, we were like OK let’s take this spot. Shane is a jazz musician and he’s been playing here every week for about eight years. He and I started talking and I was like, I want to start a soul band. He really helped me put together the people who are in the band. We had to do it really fast because we didn’t want it to fizzle out with people who would think, ‘Oh no more jazz. We won’t make this our regular stop on Thursday nights.’ We quickly learned a bunch of songs and we originally started off as exclusively playing covers and we did that for seven or eight months. Then the original songs started to creep out. They have been steadily coming out of the group since we started which was about two and a half years ago. It all started here at the Radio Bean and really because this place has such a reputation for being an awesome, intimate and comfortable place to play live music. I don’t think the band could have been born anywhere else.
NextUp: In a place like Vermont, with such diverse music offerings, how do you set yourself apart?
Kat Wright: No one was really playing this type of music on a regular basis in Burlington. There’s a lot of rock n’ roll bands and indie bands, but no one was really doing anything like us and it caught on.
NextUp: How would you describe your sound? What were your major influences?
Kat Wright: Maybe the first thing you notice is the vocals and I have a big, strong voice. It’s definitely reminiscent of classic soul sound - catchy melodies and big horn lines. It’s definitely soul, but what’s cool about the band is that a lot of the different players come from different backgrounds. My drummer, Dan Ryan, is a jazz trained drummer and Shane who plays keys has been playing jazz for 20 years. My bass player, Josh, played in a rock band before he joined me. The horn players play all different kinds of music. My guitar player Bob is a great jazz rock player. It’s soul music really infused with a lot of different elements Soul music does have a lot of dynamic. I think it’s everything from Aretha Franklin to Stevie Wonder to what everyone would think of to more obscure stuff too.
NextUp: Do you have any particularly memorable shows or jam sessions?
Kat Wright: We had a really great performance at the Friendly Gathering in Vermont. It’s a little festival, but they really just did it right. We played on the main stage right before Rubblebucket and it was probably one of our best shows to date. We’ve had a couple opportunities to play on big stages. There is such a big difference. It sounds different. It feels different. There is different energy from the crowd. We were just really excited to play on a big stage. There was an hour in between when the band before us ended and we went on stage, so the crowd left and went to the other stage. We are still getting the word out about our band and we were like ‘hopefully people will come back when we start.’ Sure enough we started and even between the first song and the third song it went from 50 people to several hundred people. It was great and everyone was feeling ... I wish I could think of another word other than friendly, but that’s what it was.
NextUp: Do you have any pre-show traditions or habits?
Kat Wright: For me, I really need some quiet time before and I need to warm up my voice really well. I drink an enormous amount of water and tea always. I get zen about it I guess because I try to be in a really good space when I go on stage. It can be hard sometimes when you find yourself up there. You have to be prepared. If you aren’t ready for people to be listening to you and looking at you, then you can really find yourself squirming and not wanting to be on stage.
NextUp: What would you suggest to teens interested in making careers out of music or the arts as well? What should be their next steps after high school?
Kat Wright: I didn’t study music. I never took singing lessons. No one ever really encouraged me to do this. When I think back to when I was a little kid, I remember being 6, 7, 8 years old and if you asked me what I wanted to be, I always knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to be a singer. I think I said that for a while and then as I grew up and was in middle school, high school and even college I let the world tell me I couldn’t do that. People don’t even consider that as being something you can do because so few people can actually do something like that successfully or make it. I really did go through many, many years where I totally put it out of my head, and it wasn’t until my early 20’s after I graduated college that I really started wracking my brain for what would make me really happy. I looked around at my peers who just graduated college and everyone wanted to get out of where they were. They were looking for adventure or love or whatever was going to make them feel like they were living the life they wanted to live. I was determined to not get locked into anything that would make me feel that way. I reconnected with myself and asked what would make me really, really happy and it was singing. I really can’t say enough that it’s so important to follow your heart especially when you’re young and going into college or finished high school. You have the rest of your life to worry about money and everything. Once those years are gone, they’re gone. It sounds silly, and I’m not a professional singer. I don’t have any training. I didn’t go to music school. I don’t play a musical instrument. I just want to be a singer. You have to take baby steps. We started playing, singing and traveling around. All of a sudden I’m living here with a really successful band in the state. I remember when I was a kid, I had my little kid tape recorder with the cassette in it and I was in my room, with the door closed by myself practicing singing Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. I would sing the songs and listen back to them and then I would delete them and just sing over and over until I got it right. Looking back, it was just like well obviously that’s what I loved, what I was super passionate about and for whatever reason what made me really happy. It’s just really important to try to notice those things about yourself.
NextUp: What’s next? Do you have any big plans for this year?
Kat Wright: We are really excited because we are just about to put out our first recording. I think it’s going to be our ticket into really awesome opportunities. Seven Days does reader polls and this year, my band was voted Best Unsung Band in Vermont and I was voted Best Up and Coming Performer. It’s really cool. Nobody told anybody. We didn’t campaign for the votes. People could have said anybody and people said us, so we are excited for the album to come out because it will give us exposure and lead to really great things.