RR LogoMelbourne, Australia's Katie Cole Can't Wait and America Loves Her

Katie Cole copyright Priscilla Witte

Lay It All Down is the new album from Australian singer-songwriter-musician Katie Cole, who has made Los Angeles her home for the past three and one-half years. With Howard Willing (Smashing Pumpkins, Kris Kristofferson, Glen Campbell) at the helm as the producer and with an outstanding cast of musicians that includes drummer Aaron Sterling (John Mayer, Natasha Bendingfield), electric guitarist Time Pierce (Faith Hill, Alanis, Jason Mraz), pianist Roger Manning Jr. (Jellyfish), Gary Clark and Lenka’s keyboardist and pianist Zac Rae, and bassist Sean Hurley (John Mayer, Vertical Horizon), this is Katie Cole’s best album to date. Victor Indrizzo drummer for Sheryl Crow and guitarist Lyle Workman also appear on the recording. Katie Cole played the acoustic guitar parts and she played some electric guitar on the song “Crash Landing.” Oh and did we happen to mention that Kris Kristofferson stopped by to lend his vocals to the mid-tempo ballad “Penelope,” that chronicles the life of a performing artist. “Hearts Don’t Bend,” an outstanding light Rock tune whose chorus “Didn’t anybody tell you  / It’s more than I could take  / Didn’t anybody mention / Hearts Don’t bend, they break,” clearly defines the theme and the romantic “We Started A Fire,” are other stellar songs featured on this album.

Katie Cole says, “On the recording I have some incredible “A” list musicians that my producer managed to reach out to. That is one of the perks of having somebody that is really in the business.  It’s not just getting great players, it’s getting the right players for the right songs and that can make a huge difference as far as how a song translates. Sometimes when I am sent a list of musicians that my producer (Howard Willing) is thinking about hiring, I end up Google stalking people (she laughs) and I find out all of the credits and things that people have appeared on and it is so overwhelming. They are just incredible musicians and it is such an amazing thing to put the right player on the right song, because they really make a song come to life. You may have an outline of what you want them to play, but it is their interpretation, their creativity and their experience that they put into something and really make it come to life. I get really excited about that.

It is just an interesting thing to get to see those types of professionals get to work in the studio. In the first or second take, ‘we’ve got it. That’s it.’ It takes months to write these songs and then it is one or two takes in the studio and then it’s ‘that is the take,’ because it was so good. It’s really incredible. It’s envy and jealousy and excitement all at the same time. It’s just wow!”

Our conversation shifts slightly to producer Howard Willing.

“Howard Willing produced my last couple of EPs. We have such a good flow in the studio and there is nobody else I would want to work with. It’s not all organic music, but for the most part it’s pretty organic songs and organic instruments.  There isn’t a whole lot of technical programming that went into the songs and there wasn’t any making up drum loops and things like that. It is having the right songs and the right players and just putting it all down. Howard has been involved in so many projects and those records have become the staple part of music today or music of the last couple of decades and that experience comes forward into this recording.

Howard has a mix space in the Valley, but we recorded in major studios. The majority of the record was recorded between East West Studios in Hollywood and Sunset Sound in Hollywood. We did a couple of sessions at (another studio). Knowledge plays such a big role in the recording process.  You can have all the great recordings that you want, but it’s about knowing how to capture the sound of something in particular and that is why it is incredible to have a professional on board.”

On her album Lay It All Down, Katie Cole unveiled the incredible love song “I Can’t Wait,” and the companion music video.

“The music videos are such a different thing and to try and place the visual with the audio and explain a story. The director for “I Can’t Wait,” is Kurt Nishimura. There were a couple of indie bands that he did videos for and I thought they were super creative.  I liked the use of color and tone for “I Can’t Wait,” because we wanted to put together a showcase type of video for people who may not have seen or heard any of my work. It is a starting point to say, hi, I’m Katie Cole, this is what I look like and here’s a song. I chose Kurt and we got together and we talked storyboards and the things that go on behind the scenes before you ever get (in front of) the camera. You start thinking about the way things are going to look.  We ended up shooting when it was so incredibly hot. We shot it over a couple of days in a valley northwest of Los Angeles and it was like 105 degrees. It is such a sunny, breezy song and it was like, ‘don’t sweat yet. Wait until cut and then it is okay to perspire a little bit on your forehead.’ (she laughs) To be sunny and breezy in front of the cameras for numerous hours (in that heat)…  I don’t want to ruin the amazing magic that happens. There is a scene when I am walking down a dusty trail. The camera person had an umbrella, because the camera kept overheating. I am walking in the sun and at every cut I would just run into the shade for a second.  I am a very white girl. I am not the stereotype Australian. I’m white and I don’t really swim that much and I don’t wrestle crocodiles. I know it ruins the magic. It was such a happy, sunny showcase type of result and we are all really happy with the result,” she recalls. Photo copyright Theo Hand

In a music video it is important that the people on screen connect to the lyrics, so how we asked, did Katie Cole manage this?  

“That is a really interesting question.  I suppose for the “I Can’t Wait,” video and I will talk about the other video in a second too. For the “I Can’t Wait,” video I felt I was acting more in a  giggly, shy manner, because I was making sure that moment of anticipation or excitement for being with somebody or seeing somebody or admitting to a feeling that you have that you really want to be with somebody (was portrayed).  That was constantly in my facial expression and in my eyes when I was singing the entire video. It is difficult to maintain that when you are doing the same takeoff or the same take of the same take. A lot of people know that is how music videos are made, but it is making sure that you capture that magic and then it can be edited together, so that it all fits. That same feeling has to be present in every single scene or it won’t look organic and it won’t look natural to the viewer.  All you want to do is to connect with the viewer.

Another thing is a lot of people get terrified of being on camera whether it’s video or just photography and just being photographed, because it is baring yourself in front of the camera and showing somebody who you are. You have to be open and honest and you are literally staring down the barrel of the camera sharing this moment with everyone.  You have to be honest and you have to commit to it.  I suppose for me it was very difficult and challenging to maintain that excitement throughout the entire thing, whereas with “We Started A Fire,” the director that I chose for that was Justin Coloma. I had seen his work with a bunch of different alternative bands. I loved his use of editing and color and I thought it was incredible. We had a couple of meetings and I was like yes let’s do this immediately (she laughs lightly). There was a lot more pre-production involved with that with choosing the scene and I said I wanted to express more with my band in the shots, because I thought it was really important to showcase who I am with the band. It is a different personality than a single female in front of the camera, which for the majority of the “I Can’t Wait,” video it is just me and then at the very end of the video it’s the band. I wanted to make sure the band is very present.  That one is a little sexier in the way that it comes across, because the song (talks) about knowing what you have with somebody, not wanting to burn it up, not wanting to let go of it quickly and just taking your time with it. The excitement and adrenaline that goes behind that is completely different to being shy and not wanting to tell somebody how you feel. It’s like a similar story with a completely different energy. “We Started A Fire,” came across as a much more mature, sexy Katie Cole as opposed to a little bit cute, country Katie Cole (in “I Can’t Wait”).  

I think it is very easy to pick a different storyline and to run a completely different video storyline over an audio track just for the sake of getting people’s attention. I think I am established with myself and with my hardcore fans, but for the majority of people, either one of those videos could be the first videos that they have seen of me.  I was treating both of those as similar showcases in nature. It shows different elements of my personality with each costume change, but it still maintains the same theme. It is an unusual thing to put together videos, because you are trying to do it for an audience, but you are targeting and also trying to maintain the audience that you already have,” she says.  

Let’s talk about some of the other songs on this album.

“I wrote “Hearts Don’t Bend,” on one of my Nashville trips. You spend a couple of weeks just writing in rooms with lots and lots and lots of people and of course I ended up writing that by myself (she laughs). You can plan all that you want for when you think that a song is going to come out and I have written some amazing songs with some co-writers and I have been like oh, they’re okay and then there are some songs that just fall out like that song.  I was okay, let’s just run with it and finish it. The song title came to me first, like a lot of songs off of this record. The titles played a big role in terms of where I was going to go with the songs. You can start writing a song organically from start to finish or sometimes you can start with a song title and a concept and the rest of it just unravels. That was one of those songs.  “Hearts don’t bend, they break,” is a little cliché in Nashville. It stuck in my head and like a lot of things for me it was something…I don’t even know where I heard it. I mishear a lot of what people say. People will say something and I will think, did they just say that and then I will keep it in my head.  I will write it down or I will take my iPhone out and write it in my little notes section. It just becomes something. Songs just have a life of their own and if they are meant to come out, they just make their way out. 

That is one of my favorite songs to play live. I think it is one of those songs that I don’t know if it would do well on the radio, but it has an absolute life of its own.  I end a lot of my shows with it. It is not fast in tempo, but it has energy of its own. I made sure I put in a lot of influences like Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac. I like that old school American Rock feel and I wanted to make sure that was alive and well in this record.  I wanted to make a record that sounded like you could put it on in twenty years and it would still sound great. People question me about what my thing is and I (say) this is who I am. The reason it doesn’t sound like anybody else is because it is me.  Once you get to understand that it will stay with you.”

As for the song “Penelope,” Cole says, “That song was written, almost like a challenge. My producer sat down with me at one point and he said to me, I just want you to write a song like The Band,” and we both dissolve in laughter at that daunting task, “He said, I just want you to write a song like that. We always were talking about songs by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Fleetwood Mac and The Band of course. The epic, timeless sounding songs and records and they just last forever without any date or stamp. I sat down and I thought, okay, this is going to be one hell of a task. I think it was when I first got to America that I wrote this song, but I never knew that I was going to cut it. I was thinking of all of those stories from artists like Kris Kristofferson and Glen Campbell and you think about the rough lives these people have had. They probably lived in this place and that place and they have done this job and that job. I started to think about the American dream and I am very imaginative, because I have to be that way. That’s my job as a songwriter. It is not to tell my story, it is to tell your story. My emotion is in it and it is my emotional experience. I write songs for the listener so they can live their story through it.  That song was written out of thinking about those types of artists and people and their journeys. I started writing some lyrics and I started looking at the American map, because I didn’t know where any of these places are. I started building this map and this story. This person went here and then they lived here. It was a bit elaborate I suppose. It was a challenge and I take these challenges very seriously. Like when someone asks for a song pitch and someone is looking for this song for this artist and you sit down by yourself or with a group of people and you picture it that day and if it works it works. This song was written in basically a day. I started to write the lyrics the day before. I played it for my producer and he was like OH! (she laughs) He kind of sat up. He was very, very impressed.  The reason he wanted to work with me in the first place is he was just as impressed with me as a songwriter, as he is with me as an artist. He said this is a great song and I held onto it for another year or year and one-half. I ended up cutting the song myself and as luck had it Kris Kristofferson ended up on the song, so again planning for luck is a good thing. Photo three by Priscilla Witte copyright

I would just imagine that these people would have these immense stories and I have now since that point heard some stories about Kris Kristofferson flying helicopters and landing helicopters in Johnny Cash’s backyard. I have heard all of these crazy stories from these artists and (imagined) their elaborate lives and who knew that I would end up working with these people.

I ended up doing a session for Carlene Carter, who is June Carter’s daughter and Carlene is an incredible artist and she has had an immense career for the last few decades. I ended up doing a session for her doing backing vocals and she was just casually talking about her friend Kris Kristofferson and (mentioning) these other names and there is just nothing to them.  You have to just take a moment and, oh! For me it is like I am just a girl from Australia and now I am here doing this with these people and they are talking about these people.  You can’t let this overwhelm you and all in all they are incredible artists and they are just people, but you can’t help but think of the art they have created and the legacy they have created and that is the immense weight that comes with those artists.”

Katie Cole reflects upon the past three and one-half years that she has been in the United States. “There have been a lot of surprises. You can’t plan this career, well you can, but you would be very foolish to do so (she laughs). I am sure there are a lot of other artists who can corroborate that story.  You have to plan for the element of surprise and luck.  No matter what you do with your regular plans, plan all you want and carry it out, tour and build your repertoire, connect with as many artists as possible and with as many publishers and labels and people in the industry as possible, but there are some things that literally luck plays a role when you leap forward or something happens when your career pops off and you are projected forward or propelled forward. There is nothing that you can do to plan that. You have to recognize it and that will lead you to the next thing and the next thing and that plan you had then has to be changed.  Whether you like it or not you have to embrace a transient type of mentality, because you can be as controlling as you want and it just does not work in this business.

I guess it was a year ago now when I realized you have to take that element of luck and plan for that. I know that sounds crazy. I do know how that sounds. The little things like being at festivals that I never planned to be at and I ended up there and that goes for Sundance (Film Festival), SXSW, I have played Sundance twice now and I was at SXSW last year. I didn’t plan for either of them, but I always wanted to do them and again it was just luck, chance and certain things just popped up at the last minute. When you make connections at these things they propel you forward to the next thing.”

Cole goes on to make the point that the days of making a record and then going on a lengthy tour to in support of it, does not work well for the majority of independent artists, because most independent artists do not have those kinds of marketing dollars at their disposal, at least not on a national level.

“With my record again, luck played a role when my producer pulled in Kris Kristofferson to sing on one of my songs. Who plans for that? I always wanted somebody of a huge stature to sing that song and who might be the lead vocal in that song and I thought that’s never going to happen, so I recorded the song myself. Chance has it my producer is engineering for that Kris Kristofferson record with Don Was’ producer. He put it out there to Don who then asked Kris and it came about and he recorded the vocals for it.

I had a lot of delays with releasing this record and again these are the things that you can’t plan for. We mixed it, mastered it and I did a little promotion to radio and then my producer wanted to have another go at it. I signed a very small record deal with a very small record label here in Los Angeles and that didn’t work out for either one of us. There was no animosity there, it just wasn’t a good fit and for the most part I lost six months out of my career. Just after “I Can’t Wait,” nothing happened from their side of things. I am always conscious when I sign anything, because to me you get to sign something once. I lost a lot of time after the “I Can’t Wait,” video and I was okay, my momentum is now gone from this single. There is no point in putting a record out for vanity’s sake.  I now had to think about what I was going to do to re-launch this. I was speaking to my producer about this and he said why don’t I remix the record and I think I can make this sound a lot better than I did before.  I can’t explain it, it was already an amazing record and I said look I trust you with this and why don’t you take one song and work on it and let’s see what the difference is by comparing these two songs, the old version with the new version. He did it and I went Oh My God. I gave him a little bit of time to go and do that.  I now felt rejuvenated to go and push this again.”

Katie Cole then decided to use “We Started A Fire,” as her lead single from the album and it received a great reception in the U.K. during the fall of 2013 and garnered some good press. Music fans have fallen in love with the music of Katie Cole and those of us who are lucky enough to know her personally have also fallen in love with Katie Cole the person. Australia if you have more like her back home, please send them to America.

You can listen to some of Katie Cole's music here.  You can also visit Katie Cole's website.  You can follow Katie Cole on her official facebook fan page.     Return to our Front Page

All text protected by copyright and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine © All Rights Reserved.  Photos are courtesy of Katie Cole and they are protected by copyright ©, All Rights Reserved

Top and bottom photos by Priscilla Witte protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved, Middle photo by Theo Hand protected by copyright ©

This interview, published May 22, 2014 by Joe Montague is protected by copyright © and may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved