Video Feature & Web-Exclusive Interview

Katie Boeck

Video:  “Making Some Room



Katie Boeck has careened through several musical careers in the past decade. Shortly after graduating from UCLA with a degree in Musical Theater, Boeck formed a band and began playing open mic nights on Sunset Boulevard and LA’s West Side. This led to a surreal gig as the lead singer of an all-female group that spent several months touring across India—playing for Bollywood stars and weddings—an Eat, Pray, Love-esque experience that inspired her first EP, Speaking of You.

Boeck’s acting career took her to New York City with the cast of Deaf West Theater Company’s production of Duncan Sheik’s musical, Spring Awakening, sharing the starring role of Wendla with deaf actress Sandra Mae Frank, for whom she voiced, sang and played guitar—garnering television features on Late Night With Seth Meyers, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, and culminating in a Tony Nomination for Best Revival of a Musical and a performance at the 2016 Tony Awards. She was featured performing her acoustic rendition of “Ave Maria” in the final season of HBO’s critically acclaimed television show The Newsroom.

Boeck’s emotive vocal can be subtle and yet it has the ability to soar over the tuneful melodies she creates, as her songs dance with joyful expression that is unapologetically honest. She is known to audiences in LA, Nashville and NYC, where she’s become a regular with Broadway Sings and Élan Artists and in 2018 made her Carnegie Hall debut. Her song “What Are We Waiting For” was covered by Tony-winner Leslie Odom Jr. and performed at Lincoln Center.

We talked with Katie Boeck about her creative process, the opportunity of singing on Broadway and on television, her journey across India finding peace and freedom amidst the cacophony, the experiences over the past few years that have helped shape her music and the importance of family and being authentic.

Katie Boeck

KATIE BOECK Interview with 
M Music & Musicians 
magazine publisher, Merlin David

How did the idea for “Making Some Room” come to you?
I was in a writing session with my friend Cheyenne Medders (also the producer) and he started playing this moody little riff on a nylon string guitar and the word ‘daylight’ just came out. It evolved into this metaphor about light filling a canyon, which to me represented the low point of life I was in at the time. I knew my marriage was unhealthy and needed to end but that meant I would need to confront my own issues with codependency in relationships, breaking a major pattern in my family. The whole thing started to take on this premonitory tone of a Phoenix rising from the ashes, the old self dying so the new could emerge. That’s what “Making Some Room” means in the context of the song.

Who originally inspired you to write songs?
My dad was a songwriter. I remember seeing his notebooks and pens alongside his old acoustic guitar, with pages of ideas and lyrics. He was always in pursuit of his dream. When I started writing around age 12, I would play him my songs and he would offer me critiques and tips. It sort of became the main way we bonded. He passed away in 2015. It was a really challenging time for me, grieving his passing. But the memories I have continue to inspire me on my own journey as an artist, writer and mother.

What songwriting tip would you like to offer?
The main thing is just showing up to the page in a consistent way. There’s so much beauty in a blank page—the possibilities are endless. There’s no feeling like creating something from nothing. I’ve recently been doing a lot of Object Writing, which is a tool Pat Pattison uses to make lyrics more sense-based and descriptive. I got into his book Writing Better Lyrics. I tend to use a lot of metaphorical language in my writing. It’s helpful to ground my writing with sensory words and paint a picture in my verses, so I can really let my big ideas shine in the chorus.

Katie Boeck

Tell us about a time when something unique inspired you to write a song.
I lived in Mumbai for six months when I was 23. It was the main inspiration for my first EP Speaking of You. I remember being there during Diwali which is the festival of lights. There were so many fireworks exploding across the city over the course of several days and the entire sky was covered in smoke. That experience, on top of the intense noise of honking horns that would start first thing every morning, was the inspiration for a song I wrote called “All I Need.” I remember feeling so much peace and freedom amidst the cacophony. I wrote a verse that went, “Engines roar and fireworks fill the skyline, I’m going crazy cuz I can’t hear, looking in your eyes nothing else matters, cuz you make all the noise just disappear.” I have a journal from my entire experience there. Who knows? Maybe it’ll turn into something later on.

What instruments/equipment can you not live without?
I’m really old school. I like a yellow legal pad, a SharpWriter mechanical pencil by Paper Mate, and my Martin guitar, which I play exclusively with Elixir Nanoweb strings. I like to write in alternate tunings, so I’m a big fan of Peterson Strobe Tuners because they’re super accurate.

How do you record your ideas?
I recently built my home studio—I’m using Pro Tools, a Scarlett interface, and my King Bee cardioid solid state condenser microphone. I absolutely rely on Waves’ Chris Lord-Alge vocal and guitar plugins to create the vibe I want when I’m recording ideas—they’re amazing. I’m always experimenting. I wanted the autonomy and freedom to explore my own musicality. So, I invested in Pro Tools. I’ve been teaching myself and taking some online tutorials to figure out that whole world. I’m enjoying it. It’s been a fun journey. It’s great for traveling too. I wanted something that I could take with me.

Katie Boeck

Any accessories?

I write with capos. I write in alternate tunings. The Kyser capos are great. I love them. They are really solid. I like how they feel—pulling them on and off, especially when I’m moving through my set—I don’t have stop to wind up one of those other capos. I can easily attach it to the end of my guitar. Even my Dad had one of the old ones, when he used to play. Through the years, I’ve bought a lot of Kyser capos. I’m a huge fan.

Which Top 5 Musicians inspired you to become a musician?
My parents were divorced but music was a big part of both my households. With my Dad, it was a ton of traditional country, 90s country radio and classic rock. I loved bands like Diamond Rio and Ricochet with those incredible harmonies. He imparted an appreciation for the tradition of storytelling through song—artists like Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams and Glen Campbell. With my mom, it was more folk and alternative: 60s and 70s folk like Crosby Stills & Nash, Peter, Paul & Mary, a lot of 90s alternative like Hootie and the Blowfish and all those amazing female singer-songwriters from the 90s. I also had real admiration for R&B and the vocal stylings of singers like Brandy and Mariah and the popular music production of the time. I’ll never forget hearing “Kiss from a Rose” for the first time on the radio—it swept me away and I was transported. I’m really an amalgamation of a ton of influences—it’s reflected in my music.

Top 5 favorite albums?
Blue (1971) – Joni Mitchell
I’ve Got That Old Feeling (1990) – Alison Krauss
Rumours (1977) – Fleetwood Mac
Tigerlily (1995) – Natalie Merchant
Heavier Things (2003) – John Mayer

Katie Boeck

Tell us a “pinch me” moment when you thought “Wow, this is really happening to me!
I was on set with Jeff Daniels while filming my “Ave Maria” sequence on The Newsroom. He jammed on my guitar between takes. It was hilarious and so much fun. Performing at the 2016 70th Annual Tony Awards and singing my song “What Are We Waiting For” at Carnegie Hall with a full orchestra was pretty mind blowing. Opening night of Spring Awakening on Broadway was electric. I opened the show with the song “Mama Who Bore Me” and getting to take that first breath and pluck those first notes inside a gorgeous Broadway theater is something I’ll always cherish.

Tell us about your television experience.
I’m good friends with Leslie Odom Jr. and his wife Nicolette Robinson—I went to college with her. Since that time, he’s gone on to become a Tony-winning lead actor as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. Anthony Hemingway was the director of that episode of The Newsroom. He reached out to my friend Leslie who said, “I’m going to give you one name and she’s going to send you her version.” Within an hour, I figured out how to transcribe “Ave Marie” on the guitar. I heard a Joan Baez version and put it in my key and sent a voice memo to Anthony. Aaron Sorkin said he loved it. I had the job. I went to composer Jeff Beal’s home studio, which was surreal. He tracked a huge orchestra behind it. We shot it in two days. I was supposed to be a student from Juilliard. I actually didn’t hear the final version until it aired, when I was in Florida. I had no idea my two-minute version was edited into a six-minute montage with dialogue in between. It turned out beautiful. I immediately got tons of requests for that song but I didn’t have rights to that version. So, I did a home recording on a TASCAM console, put it on SoundCloud and now it has like 350,000 plays. People from all over the world still message me to tell me they love that version. I got tons of inquiries to sing at weddings. I was a fan of the show before I was on it. I’m proud to be a part of that series—it was a beautiful piece of television.

Katie Boeck

What did you learn about yourself after you recorded the EP Speaking of You?
It was the first time I fully executed a creative vision on my own. I launched a small Kickstarter but quickly learned a lot of hard lessons about how much it really costs to make a record. How easily someone else’s opinion or influence can make you question or doubt yourself. I constantly had to reestablish trust in myself without a lot of external validation. I got in my own way a lot and struggled with my confidence. I now love what the album represents—this very specific time in my early 20s. But I’ve grown so much as a person and artist since then. There’ve been some major life moments of loss and change, birth and rebirth. I finally feel like I can speak from experience with a certain authority about my life and stand firm in my artistry, knowing who I am—not always needing to be so defined by genre or style. Everything I say and do is an expression of me and my personal experience. The pressure to appeal to everyone is gone and I’m totally okay with not being everyone’s cup of tea. It’s impossible to please everyone and still be authentic.

Best advice you’d like to give your teenage self?
Always strive to remain connected to the joy it brings you to create. It’s tempting to get lost in the desire to create art that is easily consumable, palatable or marketable. But I think we can trust audiences to connect with art that is made from a place of real joy and personal catharsis. The “why” for artists doesn’t have to be about anything more than because it feels good. That’s how we change the world—being unapologetically honest and joyful in our expression and giving others permission to do the same.

Where can new fans get more info and stay updated?
@katieboeck—Instagram and Twitter

Katie Boeck


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