Monrovia Renaissance: What would you say is the inspiration behind your music?Katie Gray: Chewing gum. When I chew gum, I pay a lot of attention to the rhythm of my chewing and that inspires a song’s beat. You’d think I’d be joking, but I’m not! From there I think up the notes and I think up the lyrics, and it sorta plays out like that.
MR: What would you say is the feeling behind your music?
KG: Groovy is one way to describe it. Soft. Slimy at times.
MR: If your music was an animal, what would it be?
KG: A pterodactyl because pterodactyls were very talented but very unrecognized among the other dinosaurs.
MR: How have your parents played a role in your career as a musician?
KG: When I was little and I’d just come out of the womb, I shot out, they just started exposing us all to the music they listened to when they were younger. I remember – [a man drives by on a motorcycle blasting hardcore rap music] – music like that, pretty much. That was so coincidental!
MR: Did you pay that guy off?
KG: This was definitely planned out to make myself look better for the interview. See, that guy thought I was funny too. See, he’s laughing at me. Anyway, where was I?
MR: You shot out of the womb –
KG: Okay, I shot out of the womb and my parents, from a very young age, exposed me to the music they listened to when they were younger like Simon & Garfunkel – you know, old folk rock – The Beatles, Bob Dylan. I remember I used to set up these concerts for my family any time we were having a family friend party. I must have been like four or five and I sang the song “Your Song” by Elton John. One of my mom’s friends, after, was like, “What planet are you from? How do you know Elton John?” And I didn’t get it, so I just said, “I know what a planet is!” Later on I realized what he was saying, and I realized that I was very fortunate to have had my parents expose me to this music because we all grew to love it and we all grew closer because of it. We all still go to my brother’s room and have sing-alongs and stuff.
MR: So music is a kind of connection for your family.
KG: Yeah, I feel like it’s a part of our family. Sort of goes with the name, I guess.
MR: So would you say that in performing and doing concerts that you’re trying to make that kind of connection with other people?
KG: Yeah, definitely. We try to pick songs that we feel people will feel a really personal connection to. We played this little show at our church in the spring and we played “Brown Eyed Girl” and we dedicated it to all the girls in our family because they all have brown eyes. My aunt said that made her and all our girl family members cry. Just little things like that bring people together.
MR: So do you do mostly cover songs?
KG: I love doing covers, but I am working on a song right now. Actually my brother and one of our friends are helping me write it. It probably won’t be done till the fall because we’re all really busy, but I’m hoping I can put up that one too.
MR: What’s it about? Or do you want to talk about it?
KG: Oh, yeah! It’s very, kind of country, and the lyrics are very conversational. It’s about a person, a female, and a male, and what’s going on between them. And it’s cool because I mention my friend Rose, for example, in one of the lines – it’s sort of bad, but – the line is, “even germophobe Rose would wanna touch you.” Not in a sexual way! Rose doesn’t like to touch anything, but the person I’m talking about is just, you know, even germophobes want to touch that person.
MR: Of course. Does this song have a lot of references to your friends in it?
KG: Yes, a lot. A lot of past events and a lot of other people in my life, I kind of allude to them.
MR: So it’s a very personal song.
KG: It is, but at the same time, I don’t know, I try to make it comical and witty, sort of light and fluffy.
MR: I was actually talking to my friend Michel Fourant about how most songs on the radio are so general and so detached from the writer’s personal experience that no one can really relate to them. How do you feel about songs currently on the radio?
KG: I definitely respect all of the music that’s on the radio, but it doesn’t have much meaning to me other than, “this Bruno Mars song is fun to dance to.” It kinda does all sound the same and I honestly think that songwriters in the industry are just running out of things to sing about. I feel like the world has flip-flopped, things that were considered traditional then are considered unconventional now. What’s considered normal now is what was considered not normal back then. I know, I’m getting into politics. You can edit that out. Why did I start talking about this? What I meant to say is, back then everyone had morals, in like the forties and fifties. It was such a core thing, and you were considered the oddball if you didn’t have them. Now it’s the opposite, now if you have morals you’re considered the oddball and if you don’t you’re normal. This doesn’t have to do with music, so I don’t know why –
MR: Well it has to do with music in the sense that most songs on the radio today promote this party all the time, no responsibility –
KG: And back then, with the technology they had, you had to actually be talented to be playing. I guess back then they actually valued real talent and real, special people, whereas now it’s just all about money, you know?
MR: You have a couple of videos online of you playing piano and singing, are you planning on doing more of those or focusing on just recording songs?
KG: I want to try to get together this little jam session, or more like a little performance where my friends can play stuff for each other that we’ve been working on, because I really only have one friend and my brother who – we’re really lucky to be able to do music stuff together, but I just wanna get a new group involved in music. I also do want to make more videos and post them online. I’m actually working on a John Lennon song that I’m gonna post up soon. I’m stuck between two: “Oh Yoko!” and “Oh! Darling”. That was not intentional, that they’re almost the same title. To me, “Oh! Darling” has more of a jazz feeling to it, and “Oh Yoko!” is kinda… folky?
MR: Going back to the personal aspect of your music, was there a person you had in mind when picking the songs for your videos?
KG: Which one? I have a lot that you guys have never seen; I keep ‘em under my bed. I’ve only done three that I’ve posted on Facebook, but the first one I did [Best Coast’s “When I’m With You”] was for my friend. I meant it in a friendship way but it really is a love song. The second one I did was the song “Hallelujah,” and I can’t really relate to it personally. There could be so many meanings to it, I don’t fully understand it. I just purely thought it was a beautiful song. The last one I did was a Paul Anka song and I just did that one for fun.
MR: Have you been to any concerts around here in Monrovia?
KG: I’ve been to a couple, but I think the best place for me to listen to music is in my brother’s room when he brings his friends over and they just start jamming. I’ll be in my room and say, “I know this song!” And when I come and listen to their music, I think they’re the best musicians around here I’ve ever heard. It’s fun to have it at my house too because I can pee as much as I want, get something out of the fridge, take a nap, and then come in and listen to them. It’s awesome.
MR: What would you say is the state of music in Monrovia as a whole?
KG: I feel like when I want to jam with people they’re just not accessible. I had a conversation with [noted Monrovia High School teacher and philosopher] Mr. Gubbins that most people don’t want to take risks and pick up some sort of art, you know? I think more people need to be in the arts and they need to find their passion. I feel there would be a lot more musicians in Monrovia if people would do that. There’s not really a music scene.
MR: There’s definitely not a network for musicians.
KG: Well I know about a few, but most of the musicians I know in Monrovia are my brother’s friends and they’re all flying away from the nest. There’s just not a community of musicians.
MR: Are there any questions you’d like to ask yourself?
KG: And then answer them? Okay, um… It’s weird because I already know the answers, you know? Okay, so you were talking about contemporary music, the whole KIIS FM scene, and there are some artists I do admire on a personal level, not just a shallow one. Those are: Adele, who actually has a song on KIIS FM; she actually has really good music. Amy Winehouse. KROQ plays some good bands sometimes. I do think that there is still some hope in the music industry, it’s not all evil.
MR: Do you think that growing technology is going to have a negative effect on music?
KG: Maybe to older people since they’ve seen what it used to be and how it is now, they might be disappointed. For example, the other day Katy Perry was on Saturday Night Live and my dad had been dozing off but woke up when she was performing, and he actually thought it was Tina Fey doing a Katy Perry impersonation. He thought that was why she was singing so badly, but it was really her. Most younger kids who are into that scene don’t really realize how good the music industry used to be and how much substance it used to have. I don’t think they’ll notice anything different. I think they’ll like more Black Eyed Peas songs.
MR: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
KG: Men’s Wearhouse: you’re gonna like the way you look.
Look out for more Table Salt concerts this summer and recordings from Katie Gray this fall.