[UPDATE: This story was originally published on November 16.]
"Here I am baby, I'm your one woman army." That verse from the first single off of Kate Earl's new album, Stronger, pretty much sums up the crooner's fierce force, but other lyrics reveal her softer, spiritual side. Let's see … since her last album in '09, the Angeleno by way of Alaska has become a mom, juggling rehearsals and recording between playdates, catnaps, and teaching her son the craft of music.
Thankfully, the exotically beautiful brunette (she's of Filipino, Welsh, and Dutch descent) found time in her hectic schedule to spend a sunny afternoon posing for pics and letting us pick her very imaginative brain. Even if you weren't a fan before, we suspect you're going to feel the urge to do some downloading very soon …
Photographed by Lani Trock
Tell us a little bit about the songwriting process behind Stronger.
"These songs came together through a short series of songwriting sessions with Brett Dennen in NYC and L.A. We sat down and connected a series of thoughts taken from this journey I've been on in music and motherhood over the past few years. One song in particular was 'One Woman Army.' I was describing how many roles are required to take on to be a woman, a musician, a mommy, and a friend. I said 'I feel like there has to be an army of me,' and Brett replied that there is."
Was this album different for you from the last two in terms of process?
"Yes, every album feels different. I'm in a different place, and I've changed in natural ways by the time I arrive at each one. I liked returning to the live tracking that I'd experienced once before at Ocean Way Studios back at the beginning of my career. This time it was at the Village in Santa Monica in the same studio where Fleetwood Mac, The Stones, The Beatles, Tom Petty, and Linda Ronstadt had made records. It was such a crazy feeling to sit and think that I was having my tea in the same booth Stevie Nicks sang from. I was surrounded by incredible musicans that I've known of for the longest time, just dizzy with gratitude. "
Who are you a "One Woman Army" for?
"It's for my son Hank, but I wrote it in a way that could be identified with as a friend, a mama, a sisterhood, or a woman behind the man."
This sampling was partially inspired by songs your older brothers listened to while you were younger in Alaska, right?
"My older brothers were from my dad's first marriage. They were children of the '70s and turned me on to songs like 'Gypsy.' But, I had my own little player in a fanny pack strapped to my bike — I did enough chores to buy my own Tommy Petty album so I played that, too. I loved that very young alaskan summer when I cruised around with the wind in my hair listening to 'American Girl.'"
On that note, what are your top three songs of all time?
"I could never really choose. But, at this moment in time I'll say 'Wonderful World,' 'Living For The City,' and 'Don't Think Twice.'"
You'll be touring in the next few weeks. What are your green room essentials and what do you never fail to pack in that suitcase?
"My green room essentials are a candle, chips, salsa, and chocolate. And, when it comes to my suitcase, I do that thing where any one item can be paired with anything else. So, I get nine outfits out of three pieces! This season I can't travel without warm and comfy pajamas, a cozy sweater, a big fat wooly scarf, my Gucci boots, and some Chuck Taylor sneakers."
If you could choose any mentor — whether it be a producer, musician, writer, anyone actually — whom would it be, and why?
"Stevie Wonder, I just love him. I named my son after him — his birth certificate reads 'Henry Wonder.' I actually got to meet Stevie and tell him about it. I'd also be interested in going back in time and mentoring with Nina Simone because she's a woman and did the gig with kid, too."
If you could collaborate with anyone right now, whom would it be and why?
"I would love to sing with the likes of Jimmy Page or Keith Richards. I have a real weakness for guitars, as you can hear on this record. Those guys are gods."
It's been three years since your last release, what have you been up to in betwixt albums?
"Ten months of being preggers, a year of breastfeeding, six months coming through a breakup, and six months since we started this record. But, I never ever stop making music."
Do you do anything in particular to care for your voice?
"I try to stay away from dairy, and gluten makes me sniffle. I barely drink alcohol, and I don't like to go to loud places because of the strain from yelling. Plus, I like to look into someones eyes when I talk to them. I want to hear all the tones of the voices of the company I keep."
You've mentioned touring with your $50 toy piano, have you upgraded at all since then in terms of instruments?
"I think you know a song is right when you can sing it acapella. Then, if you can just keep it stripped to a bass line that's wonderful, too. Voicings are easy to pick out on cheap gear because the notes have to work in order to play them — there's no faking a good tune. However, yes, I've upgraded to just being a front woman. I have stepped away from the instruments other than my pen and maybe one song during my sets. I now get to travel with other musicians which is amazing."
Your little man Hank seems to be musically inclined since there are instruments scattered about the flat. Are you teaching him both piano and guitar?
"Honestly, he could hum a scale with me at six months old! He's my little back-up singer when I rehearse at home. He also holds his mini guitar and jams with me. He has a natural sense of dance and rhythm, so we have our little dance parties every day. Plus, he knows I'm a singer. He says, 'no mommy singing,' and puts one little hand under my chin when he's ready for my attention. I try to balance my life by bringing him with me to shows, but sometimes he needs everyone to clear the room and just let me cuddle him for a minute. I think that was nice for me as a child growing up in a family business. My mom made sure that I knew I came first even though it was a demanding lifestyle."
How did having him change things for you spiritually or career-wise?
"I was inspired by the traditional natural birth from the island my mom came from. They 'sang' thier baby's down in the comfort of thier homes. I did it too. I learned relaxation techniques that enabled me to sleep through alot of labor. Once you see that you are capable of that kind of power of the mind and body, everything else is a cakewalk. It's been very grounding, motherhood."
How do you manage to do so much, and with such boundless energy?
"I often nap when he naps because if I'm grumpy, it ruins the entire day. I've learned to pace myself in a way that excludes judgment and comparing myself to other people. The dishes, the folding, it all gets done — just might not always happen the way I first thought."
How often do you get back to Alaska and what do you miss most about The Last Frontier?
"I go back roughly two times per year — I always make it for one major holiday and once every summer or fall. My mom and brother are still there. I miss the vastness of nature there — you constantly get a sense that you engulfed by it. It makes you feel very small and connected to the actual planet."
You moved to Cali for a guy, is he still around in your life, and do you ever thank him for getting you here?
"No, not really. I just sincerely hope he's happy."
Okay, so your pad is small but packs a charming punch. How long have you lived there, and how did you morph a studio into a two-bedroom?
"I chose a really smart layout to begin with. This vintage apartment already had charm with the crown moulding, glass doorknobs, and built-in storage. It had a walk-in closet with a French door and a dining area in the kitchen. All I really needed to add were tension rods and some floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains from IKEA. They're really affordable and functional as partitons that give you a sense of a wall. I made a sleeping chamber out of the dining nook, and Hank's toddler bed is perfect next to the built-in dresser. The living area is divided into sections that each serve a purpose — a lounge, yoga studio, home office, music studio, dining room, play room, and crafts and entertainment center."
You've said before that L.A. taught you that first impressions in appearance are actually important. What first impression would you want someone to conjure when first catching your style vibe?
"It depends on the day. Some days are saucier than others. Some days I don't come out of my caftan. Even though I wear combat boots, I can always be seen as a sensualist."
Where do you like to shop in L.A. or online?
"I wouldn't call what I do shopping, it's more like falling in love or being given a blessing."
You've nailed the au natural beauty look so well. Tell us your top products.
"I'm crazy about Stila's Stay All Day liquid lipstick
and the In The Know eye shadow palette
. In my bathroom you'll also find Dr. Hauschka
's skin care line, Kerastase
leave in conditioner, and the lilac and almond oil from Whole Foods for my body."
Your bangs are perfect. Who cuts them?
"Thank you! I really should thank Clint Mattoni actually."
What kind of insights has your healer, Bobby Klien, given you?
"To take care of myself so I can do everything else like the practical stuff. Then there are the metaphysical talks that seem to continue from lifetime to lifetime. I've had some incarnations already in this form — I'm a different person than I was five years ago. I'm still Kate, but it's a different form I've grown into. Bobby is good with time and the awareness of self — it's fascinating and necessary work in my opinion."
Bobby mentioned that you'd have to move in the next year, where would be your ideal place to set up camp?
"I see a private little house for my son and I that has a fireplace and sunny windows looking out into green trees, which we'll climb, of course!"
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
Never giving up."
What pieces of advice would you give your younger self?
"Relax, and just be yourself. You can say anything, they already like you! Just enjoy it, but don't forget to look around and take it all in. Oh, and sing your heart out."
How about to aspiring musicians who would kill to be in your spot?
"Find Bobby Klien!"