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Interview with Jazz Singer/Songwriter Kat Reinhert

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Kat Reinhert, as she prepares to release her album Spark on August 21. Ms. Reinhert is a composer, singer/songwriter, music educator and clinician who uses her diverse musical background to weave together a jazz improvisational quality with thoughtful, poetic lyrics emblematic of the folk or contemporary singer/songwriter tradition. Spark, written by Ms. Reinhert, David Cook, and Perry Smith, is a collection of 12 original songs dealing with themes like love, shame, and fear of success. You can listen to a beautiful sample from the album here.

MM: Who are your musical influences?

KR: (in no particular order) Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Harry Connick Jr, Joni Mitchell, Carol King, David Crosby (and CSN), Cassandra Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, Tracy Chapman.

MM: Spark has some wonderful instrumentation. Which instruments do you play?

KR: I’m most comfortable at the piano, followed by guitar, then bass and drums and I’m learning how to play the cajon.

MM: I noticed in your videos that you covered musical theatre but made it into more of a jazz/singer-songwriter cover. Do you have a background in musical theatre?

KR: I’m guessing you’re referring to Surrey with the Fringe on Top? That’s been a long time jazz standard and a huge favorite of mine to sing in general, even before I deconstructed it.

I grew up watching a lot of classic music theatre – Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, Hello, Dolly, The Slipper and the Rose, as well as a lot of Disney musicals…but I never formally studied it as a discipline.

MM: Are the lyrics in Spark personal?

KR: Most definitely. This is by far the most vulnerable album I have ever made, and it feels really good to have this work out in the world. I hope other people can be inspired and find courage and strength in these songs to help them find their joy.

MM: Is the song “PaperBag” in Spark at all a nod to Katy Perry’s “Firework”?

KR: I was definitely inspired by the song – it totally got me thinking – what would it be like to be a plastic bag – but then I got on the whole paper bag and all the colors and everything just took off – paperbag to me is more of a hiding place – that when you put it over your head, you really can’t see – and no one can see you…there have been many times where I haven’t felt ‘seen’ in my life.

MM: Do you have any other albums out? If so, are they similar in style?

KR: I do. I have one that you can’t find anywhere unless you visit me that I made almost 20 years ago – very different. I also have another album of originals I released in 2008, similar, but not as sophisticated. I would say you could ‘see Spark coming down the pipeline’ but it’s not quite there. I also am releasing an album of covers that I recorded in 2010 but never put out – similar in style to Spark, but no original songs – it has everything from Mary Poppins to the Foo Fighters.

MM: What advice do you give to your students trying to “make it” in the pop/commercial music industry?

KR: That’s such a tricky question. What is ‘making it?’ How much money you have? How many fans you have? If you feel you are trying your best every single day to put something out into the world you are proud of? It’s different for everyone, but I definitely lean on the side of a more holistic, you’re successful if you think you are mentality. Mostly, that whatever they feel is successful is success. They define the terms of their success – not the other way around. I try to encourage them to do what they love and what feels good for them – because then they’ll always succeed. And no one can ever take that away.

MM: What do you think “making it” means?

KR: For me it’s this: “I will dare greatly to create a life that is filled with love, gratitude, and music, so that I can help people find their voices with the gifts I share.” This doesn’t mean I won’t fail or won’t succeed at various goals along my journey– it simply means that whether I succeed or fail, I can come back to this and keep creating. Since 1999, I have never worked outside of music – I lived and supported myself solely with music making or teaching or related avenues in NYC for almost 20 years. Continuing to do this – well, that’s making it for me.

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