Riveting Riffs Logo One Break Free with Katie Ferrara
Katie Ferrara Photo Three 2020

Katie Ferrara has been a friend of Riveting Riffs Magazine for more than a decade and it fair to say that we have watched her grow as a songwriter, her voice become richer and fuller as a singer and her musicianship as a guitarist has continued to compliment both well. During the course of relating this interview / conversation we are going to break with typical journalistic style and instead of referring to her by just her last name, we will often just call her Katie. You will want to pay close attention during the course of this conversation however, as she recounts an interesting story about her surname.

It had been more than three years since we last sat down to chat and this time the nature of our conversation focused on Katie Ferrara’s current album Break Free, her tours in Europe in recent years and whatever happened to that cute little dog from a previous music video, and finally where does she find all those cute guys that are now appearing in her videos.

Katie Ferrara Photo Two 2020Break Free is an album amply populated with love songs, but not the kind of mushy Pop songs that substitute hooks for substance, but rather missives that cause you to reflect on relationships you may have experienced in your own life. We wondered if perhaps we had forgotten love songs she had previously written.

“I did write some love songs before (she laughs lightly), but they weren’t romantic songs,” she replies.

That brings us to the song and video “Living in Black and White,” and she laughs a lot when we ask her where she keeps finding these great looking male actors.

“Yeah, Anthony is really good looking. He is a musician and he acts as well. He played guitar with me on a couple of gigs and I thought he is very charismatic, so I asked him if he wanted to be in a music video with me.

We shot the video at the Riverside Festival of Lights in December. Louie Gooey (That really is his name folks!) shot (the cinematographer) that one as well.

I wrote the song, before the New Year of 2018 and I was feeling a little sad, but happy at the same time. I was nostalgic and I felt like everything was moving quickly. I wanted to capture that feeling in a song. I had the melody first and then the chords. I then brought it to my friend Tom. He was playing guitar with me and we were jamming on it and then he said something about turning over a new leaf. I asked him what it meant to him and he said it meant the starting of something new. It inspired me and the lyrics came to me when I was driving. I sent him the lyrics afterwards and he said they were really awesome and totally fit the song. We started playing that out and I had him play on the record as well. I wanted to film the video before the new year at Christmastime, because that is the vibe of the song.

I played at the Festival of Lights on the Benjamin Franklin stage in 2016 and 2017 and when I played there I would think this is a great place to go for a stroll or to spend time with family or to shoot a video. Anthony and I went to the Mission Inn and we pretended it was our anniversary (she is laughing really hard). We filmed a scene of us eating dinner. People were really nice and they did not say to us you can’t film. Anthony was really into it. They let us go on the Ferris wheel too. It was on a Monday, so there were not a lot of people around.

I think the waiters believed it was our anniversary, but then Anthony said (she deepens her voice) we have been together for five years and we have five kids. I said we don’t have five kids!

We also wanted to film up on the balcony at the Mission Inn and they were only letting hotel guests go up. Anthony was being really cutesy (she changes her voice again) it is our anniversary and we don’t have a reservation here. We were just having dinner. The guard at the elevator said, okay nobody is looking, so I am going to let you guys up, but don’t tell anybody (more laughter),” she says.  

The song “Lost in Your Ocean Eyes,” and the accompanying video, which was filmed in Malibu, California is a pretty song that showcases Katie Ferrara’s vocals. It is also a song drawn from her life experiences.

She explains, “I wanted all of the songs to flow with each other. People want an authentic artist and not something that you formulated just to fit some kind of a trend that is going on. It was a tough (decision) to include the song. I am glad that I wrote it, before I decided to do the album, because then I could separate myself from it.”

Katie it says in the credits that the cinematographer for the “Lost in Your Ocean Eyes,” video is named Louie Gooey. Come on that cannot really be his name!

Bursting out laughing she says, “No it is not his last name, It is his production name.”

We joke for a few moments about how Louie Gooey is a cinematographer is a guy who will stick with you until you get what you want or how once you try Louie Gooey you will stick with him.  

Louie Gooey (I cannot believe we just wrote that) filmed the beach scenes at Malibu.

The other cinematographer was Josh Kirkwood who filmed the underwater scenes.

“I had a visual in my head and I wanted to (have it take place) underwater to show myself diving into something. Most people do not film in the ocean they film in pools. Josh had a friend who has a pool and he also had experience filming underwater. I hired him for those shots. It was a long journey getting that done. If I am making a video I need to be the director and I need to be the one who has that control over my music. There are a lot of producers out there who try to change the way that you look and they make you wear makeup or make you look a certain way. There are producers out there who do things that do not make you seem authentic and they do not respect the artist’s vision.

My idea for the video was to show what happens when you dive too quickly into a relationship. When you are collaborating on a project sometimes you want everything to work out the first time. Sometimes a song grows when you give it time to breathe. You have a good idea, but maybe you need to meet the right people to bring it to the next level. They (Josh Kirkwood and his partner) started that seed with their ideas, but to take it to the next level I needed to bring it to somebody else (Louie Gooey). Art doesn’t have to be finished when you say it is finished, there is always room to grow and there is always room to make it better.

I have ideas and I just need people to help me to execute those ideas. I hired somebody to do the video and then hired someone else to edit the video. Videos can change, you might film a scene and it doesn’t turn out the way that you would like it to be and so you have to change the storyline a bit to fit the footage. When you hire a different editor they have a different eye and I think that is really important. It is the same with mixing, when you track your music with one person you may want someone else to mix it, because they might have a different ear. It is important to have different people working with you,” says Katie.

Let us take a moment and talk about your vocals Katie, “I change the keys for a lot of my songs, because I feel that it brings out my voice in a different way. I was doing a lot of live gigs with a friend who has a lower voice than me and the range of the songs made me transfer into a lower register. I think that transferred into my songs. I just tried playing in a different key. I also keep my guitar a whole step down, so I can continue to write the same chord shapes that I have been using on guitar. I don’t have to worry about transposing anything. It brings out another aspect of my voice that you wouldn’t normally hear.”

With the song “Picking Apples,” Katie Ferrara takes us on a journey through her childhood memories and the home she grew up in. The word pictures are not stark, but more like a Monet, painted in pastel colors. Katie Ferrara Photo Four

“It is a song that was inspired by my childhood house. You reach a point when you say goodbye to the first home that you grew up in. I wanted to write about that. My mom was thinking about selling the house. As I walked through, I was thinking about all the memories in there. I wrote the song for my mom, because I wanted to share with her how I was feeling about the whole situation. It inspired the record, because after I wrote that song I wrote the rest of them. I am an adult, but I don’t think people mature until the reach the age of 28, 29 or 30. You look like a grownup person, but I think there are life experiences you go through that really help you to mature. That is what the album really is. It was the kickoff point and it is my spiritual journey. I had a lot of things that I wanted to share with people about growing up, maturing and finding real love.

I wrote the lyrics first for that song and usually I come up with the melody and the music first. I think it is easier to create that visual when you just focus on the lyrics. It is interesting the way that songs are created, because sometimes for me the lyrics and the music come at the same time. Sometimes it is just music. Other times I leave the door open for collaborations with people,” she says.

If we roll back the calendar, before live streaming of concerts and artists putting their music videos online the rule of thumb was that songs were usually kept below three minutes in length to fit the format of radio stations. With more people sourcing their music through artists’ websites or other legitimate websites that no longer seems to apply.

Katie Ferrara provides her perspective, as it relates to her music, “I think for an album it is nice to have longer songs. EPs are more about showcasing your best material and the same thing with a single, so I think you would want to keep them to three minutes. With an album a lot of people like to listen to a song for a while that tells a story and that links to other songs. It doesn’t have to be perfect and there will be songs that are super catchy. They stick out. Then there are going to be songs that later on you will listen to them again and you will fall in love with them. You don’t want to fall in love with every single song at first sight. It is like a relationship (she laughs) maybe it grows on you. They don’t always have to be a hit. They are for building the album.”

We talk about the interesting title of another song on this album, “When it Rains in L.A.,” and this writer reminds Katie Ferrara it does not rain in Los Angeles, or at least not often, to which she replies, “It doesn’t.”

“The song has a funky vibe to it. A lot of it is Paul Redel and his playing. He came up with the guitar parts. Originally, I was just playing that with my acoustic guitar, but then when I got into the studio with Patrick Joseph (producer and engineer) my guitar was conflicting a bit with Paul’s guitar, so we just decided to use his guitar. That changed the whole vibe of the song and I guess I wanted something that was a bit laid back,” she says.

The song “Skin,” had a long journey to making it on the Break Free album, “I started that song in 2010 and I managed to finish it in 2018. It took me eight years to write, because I wanted to get over the relationship that it was about. I needed that time to reflect on it.”

The song “Weightless,” is a fusion of Katie Ferrara’s music and who she is personally.

“That song is a co-write that I did with my friend June. I like when you say fusion. It has some of her influences and what she wanted to put into the song. “Weightless,” really captures the feeling that I had when I was at a festival in Switzerland. I felt like I could do anything (versus) in L.A. where everything is stressful and everyone is trying to make it. It is competitive (here) and I feel like the music industry can be toxic in some ways. When I was over there it was nice to be just me and not have to put on a show or anything. When I wrote the song with June, I think she understood the feeling that I had. That is where the lyrics came from.

Production wise I think it reflects who I am as an artist as well. It has a singer / songwriter vibe to it.

The video was shot outside of the city of Chur, Switzerland and the festival that I played at was in Chur. The other part of the video was shot in Braunschweig, Germany, where I played at another festival,” she says.  

This provided us with a nice segue into talking about Katie Ferrara’s European European tours in recent years and a funny story.

Katie Ferrara Photo Seven 2020“Ferrara is Italian. There is a city called Ferrara in Italy. I played at a festival there in 2016 and 2017. When I met people in their town they said your last name isn’t Ferrara (she starts laughing hardly being able to finish the sentence). You changed your name for the festival and I said no I am actually a Ferrara. I’m Italian,” she says.  

The last time Katie Ferrara toured Europe was in 2018. I have always been drawn to Europe, because I have dual citizenship with the U.K., and I lived in England for a couple of years (more than a decade ago). That is really when I got started in music. I met a producer when I was living in England and he started recording my songs.

I have always wanted to go back to England, but it was hard for me to stay there, because I kept getting fired from all of my jobs. I was always broke. When I came back here, I thought I am going to be a teacher, because music sucks and I am not making any money at that. I completely failed in my life (Well those days are behind you!). I came back here ten years ago and then after a couple of years I thought no I don’t want to be a fulltime teacher (note: Katie still teaches, but not fulltime).

That is how I got into busking, because I thought if I was going to get into music, I just needed to dive into it. That is the only way I was making money. When I was in England I worked at Starbucks in London and it sucked! I was barely being paid anything and I couldn’t pay my rent. I came back here, and I started playing. I made a hundred bucks in an hour playing on the street. I thought this is wayyyy better than Starbucks! (note: For those who do not know, rocker K.T. Tunstall started out by busking). People were buying the EP that I made and now I cringe when I listen to that EP from 2011. I sound so different and there is just something so different about what I wrote, but people picked up on it and they bought it.

I was looking for a place where I could (sing) and I didn’t care where, as long as I was singing. I was out there and enjoying myself and people were supporting me. I was not working like an animal for a corporation (she laughs out loud).

I miss being in England. You could walk down the street and there were people on the street and people on the tube. You could go to a pub and meet people that way. In L.A. you get on the freeway and you drive to some place and it is hot. People are separated here, but Europeans are really friendly. If you meet somebody in a pub they will invite you to their home.

I would like to go back to Europe again, especially to Germany where they are very supportive of artists. A lot of the bars like music (performed) in English. There is a big market for American music over there. I definitely want to go back and go to some different countries, like Spain or go to France. Now that you are asking me all of these questions I realize that a lot of my inspiration comes from over there. I think my heart wants to go over there,” she says.

We wondered if spending time in Europe changed Katie in any way.

She relates an interesting conversation with someone in the United States, “The videographer that I worked with on the “Weightless,” video said to me you have really evolved your personality in the last couple of years. At first, I was offended when he said that, evolved my personality? Wait a minute! What is that supposed to mean? I think he meant I had grown in the last couple of years and that was just his way of saying it. At first, I was taken aback and then I realized he was trying to give me a compliment.

Every time that I travel, I feel more open. I feel more forgiving of myself and I feel less judgmental. When you are in another country you are around so many different things. When you immerse yourself in (another culture) it changes your perspective about what you thought was normal in your own country. It doesn’t matter where I travel. It could (even be) to Florida or New York. Every time that I get on a plane it puts a new perspective on my career. It really puts things in a new (light), so I can see things clearly.

Not everybody has the chance to travel. Not everyone has that opportunity. When I am older I may not want that and there are other ways you can gain that perspective without ever leaving home. It is something I have to face now. We are in quarantine and we can’t go anywhere. Last year I didn’t go anywhere. When I am on tour or writing a record or traveling somewhere I am the kind of person who is able to adapt, and I like the challenge.”

It is fitting then that one of the songs on Break Free is titled “How We Learn to Love.”

“With that song I was reflecting upon relationships and how people find real love. We all learn from our parents and we all are trying to get over the scars that we have from our childhood. Sometimes the things we are attracted to are not always the healthiest for us. I really wanted to write a song about that journey and really the only thing that heals most people is time. I think you also have to be a big person in a lot of situations. You have to be aware of the things that you are attracted to and if you are attracted to them for the wrong reasons.

I think people connect with a lot of my songs, because they are going through similar things. What makes a good song is if you are in touch with your lyrics then other people are going to be in touch with them also,” she says.

For the record, we agree with that cinematographer, you have evolved a lot as a person and as an artist Katie Ferrara, in the years that we have known you and we mean that as a compliment! Give us a scoop here, is Ferrara really your last name or did you change it for that festival in Italy? (wink) We already know the answer to that question.

Check out Katie Ferrara’s current album Break Free and purchase it on her website.  You can also follow Katie on Twitter on her YouTube channel and you can check out her Facebook page.    Return to Our Front Page

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This interview by Joe Montague  published July 15th, 2020 is protected by copyright © and is the property of Riveting Riffs Magazine All Rights Reserved.  All photos are the the property of  Katie Ferrara unless otherwise noted and all  are protected by copyright © All Rights Reserved. This interview may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine.