by Dave Boehler
for The Beacon
Kat Hil’s debut extended play record (EP) was released on Friday, one day after playing her first headline show in Nashville.
“I can’t imagine working a job that doesn’t involve music,” the Sheboygan native said.
Hil, who graduated from North in 2014 and lives in Nashville, named her EP ‘whatshername’ and it can be found on iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify, and YouTube.
She describes her music as indie folk rock – “like if Norah Jones and Janis Joplin got together” – and it reflects on life’s lessons, growing pains, and figuring out how to navigate through the unknown.
Hil says she wrote a lot of the songs about figuring out who she is, where she’s going, and how to find happiness in the small moments.
She also hopes for anyone who listens to her music that they also know that people are always growing from rotten things of the past and it’s never too late to find the light when days are dark.
“I love performing live for people but in the studio, it’s a grind,” Hil said. “It’s hours and hours of singing the same thing over and over, playing the same guitar part, having other artists come in, paying the studio, paying a drummer, all this stuff.”
Hil already knew she loved music in kindergarten, when she sang the National Anthem at a talent show. She wore a sparkly shirt and her mother did her hair.
“I sung, and it was the best feeling in the world,” Hil said.
Hil was 9 years old when she participated in the Sheboygan Theater Company. She’s been involved with Theater for Young Audiences and was in show choir in high school.
Hil attended Berklee College in Boston, which she says is the No. 1 contemporary music school in the world.
After three years, however, she realized she wanted to pursue being a songwriter.
“I think I learned at Berklee what I wanted to do,” Hil said. “And I was going through some stuff in my life, and college was not for me. And I wanted to pursue music. So I felt like I could do it.”
Hil moved to Elkhart Lake and worked at Pankratz Arts Exchange. After three years, Nashville was calling her name.
“I realized that if I really wanted to follow my dreams and invest all of my money and my time into writing songs, and making people listen, I wanted to move to Music City where the songwriting community is so beautiful,” Hil said. “It was something I’d thought about, but I knew I needed to make the jump. I did it.”
Hil arrived in Tennessee in 2019, and spent her first year writing songs about things that meant something to her and her family while still figuring out what she wanted to say as an artist.
“I think people, when they listen to music, really listen to how it makes you feel and the words,” Hil said. “And so it’s scary to put yourself out there for people to listen to on the radio. Or you go to a concert and you know a song. Everyone knows Journey. You want people to remember it and have it mean something to them.”
But then COVID-19 hit and stopped live music.
“Which was a really big bummer,” Hil said. “But you find ways to play little shows here and there.”
Less than three weeks ago, Hil returned home and did shows at Rumors Roadhouse and Siebkens Resort in front of family and friends.
“I think it was beautiful to see all these people that I did theatre with when I was a kid or like my daycare teacher came, old neighbors that I had when I lived in my childhood home,” she said. “When you have fans and people that believe in your stuff, it’s really cool.”
Hil, who will return to Rumors for a show on July 29 (she’s also in town to teach a kids camp), has played a few gigs in downtown Nashville. But she mostly sticks to independent venues around the city.
Hil will be in Los Angeles in the end of August, and also wants to tour on the east coast.
And she’s already started writing songs for her next record.
“The goal is to play shows at venues, have people who love your music, come stand in front of you and sing along,” Hil said. “That’s what I want. I would love – I don’t think I ever want to do stadium tours, that’s too many people for me.
“But I would love to play rooms that are filled with people and just sing. I think that’s the dream.
“Some people go to college, get married, stay in their hometown, work a 9-5, provide for their family. Like people don’t go after dreams. I can’t never imagine not even trying. …
“It might be a big flop. But who knows? At least I can say I tried.”