I'm really lucky in my job because I get to meet really fun people. Perhaps that's the thing about yoga. It attracts all sorts and you can rest assured most of those people are on a mission to question. Katie Schecter is no exception. I knew I liked her more than just a little when she told me she had just started reading a book by Kerouac whose pages I had begun to revisit that very morning. Kismet. Wati herself was quietly stunned by Katie's presence when she met her at Earth Yoga recently. My artistic twin sis who has styled elegant models and worked with creatives from all over the globe coined it perfectly: "Bare makeup-less face, wet, scruffy uncombed hair, yet here she was, radiant and smiling. Warm, effusive, low-key. You'd never guess she was this amazing musician."
Katie has this zest for life mixed with an enviable calm way beyond her 26 years. Intrigued to discuss some of her favorite things, I got the distinct feeling that she's saying "Bring it on life! But don't hurry me- I'm going to take my sweet time to enjoy you." As lead singer of the band The Henry Millers, she is a busy bee, not just recording the band's second album, (tentatively called "Posies"), but also working on a solo career with an LP for release soon.
This native New Yorker loves yoga because she feels the physical and mental benefits: "Practicing helps me stay calm and healthy and also helps with my music, my singing, my confidence." She jokes that Hale and Hearty is her favorite restaurant: "But if I'm going to be honest, it really is my favorite food spot. I love their soups and chopped salads. I am also big into bagels. Russ & Daughters and Murrays are the best in New York."
This girl does not have work ethic issues. Sanford and Sven's Furniture & Antiques in Williamsburg is a favorite haunt for more than a few reasons. It has the best finds, is so inexpensive, and it's like walking into a treasure chest. Katie's band practices in the back room of the store so she gets a glimpse of all the recently acquired odds and ends whenever they have rehearsal. Most recently she found a vintage Disney lunch box that she had to have.
Which brings us to her raison d'etre. Here are some of her A's to some of my Q's about creativity, composing, and cultivating the practice habit.
Yanti : How often do you practice? I was reading an article recently about successful business people who happen also to be excellent musicians. The premise was that if you have mastered an instrument and if you recognize the importance of regular repetition being the key to mastery, then you can master anything. Do you agree?
Katie: I practice every single day, even if it's only for a short time because I love playing music and I love sounding good. I definitely practice more rigorously closer to a performance, either alone or with my band. My practice ritual is not the coolest, but I am going to be honest with you about it... I sit on my couch, pick up my guitar and turn on the TV.... to the E! channel!.... I am happiest if the Kardashians are on, but anything mindless on that network does the trick. The background noise is similar to crowd chatter at a live show which is good to get used to. I like to play a lot of the same songs that I've played for years... Most being my own songs, but "Goodnight Irene" by Lead Belly, "Crazy" by Patsy Cline, and "Dead Flowers" by the Rolling Stones are just a few of the many tunes I play regularly.
If you want to be good at anything it takes repetition. The brain is a muscle and it must be exercised. My childhood was spent listening to my Dad practice the piano for hours on end. Usually the same pieces, over and over. So I guess somewhere down the line that work ethic must've crept into my psyche. Like my Dad, I play the same songs over and over, and notice objectively that I sound better the more I sing them. How could I not want to be repetitious??
Yanti: What about when you're composing? I read a great interview Elizabeth Gilbert did with Tom Waits where they spoke of managing the creative urges. Tom Waits is the embodiment of the tormented angst-ridden contemporary artist trying to dominate these uncontrollable creative impulses. Gilbert tells the story so well. One day he was driving down the freeway in LA and things changed for him. He's speeding along, and all of a sudden, he hears this fragment of melody that comes into his head as inspiration often comes, elusive and tantalizing, and he wants it, it's gorgeous, but he has no way to get it. He doesn't have a piece of paper, let alone a pencil, and he doesn't have a tape recorder. He starts to feel all that old anxiety rising in him like "I'm going to lose this thing, and then I'm going to be haunted by this song forever. I'm not good enough and I can't do it." But then, instead of panicking, he just stops. He decides to stop the tortured mental process and he does something completely unexpected. He looks up at the sky and he says "Excuse me can't you see I'm driving? Do I look like I can write down a song right now? If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise go bother somebody else today. Go bother Leonard Cohen".
Katie: I love that story about Tom Waits... It definitely reminds me of myself. My latest obsession is the Voice Note device on cell phones. You can record something on the go, even if you don't have a pen or your instrument with you. So much better than losing a gem! There have been times I have recorded a voice note late at night and then forgotten about it. And let me tell you, finding it later on is a fantastic feeling! Did you know that Keith Richards recorded the lick to "Satisfaction" and then passed out and forgot about it until he heard the recording.... Can you imagine if that song did not exist?! Technology has saved me from a lot of Tom Waits moments.
In terms of writing, songs come to you. They appear in your mind. You hear them in your head. They are fleeting and also eternal if you can catch them. You know you are having a good idea because your heart starts to race, and a sad day instantly becomes a happy one. It can be as small as a melody, or a great phrase, a few chords that sound nice together and poof! a few hours later it's a cohesive song. I have kept journals for the last 10 or so years which are a complete reflection of my compositions and song-writing process. I love Moleskins. There is no one way to write a song. Some have taken me 15 minutes, others 15 months to be completed. It is important to me to constantly document my thoughts, feelings, and inspirations because they often serve as references when completing lyrics.
Yanti: What's one way you center yourself for the creative process?
Katie: Buddhist Offerings 365 Days by Danielle and Olivier Follmi sits on my dresser. My best friend's mom gifted it to me and I like to read a proverb from it each morning. It's a nice way to set the tone for your day and keep your mind focused in this crazy town.
Yanti: In knowing you Katie there's a wonderful patience about you. And I love how you sum things up quickly. Like when I was telling you how I'm having a fun but challenging time interviewing people for the blog. Why do you think some older people take a long time looking for and formulating answers to questions, compared to your generation?
Katie: I think it's important to recognize we're talking a whole different paradigm - I'm from an age of nutshelling, hashtagging and sound-bytes. I can give you the skinny on pretty much any topic I have a passing or in-depth interest in. I’m used to texting in an abbreviated language. We shorten concepts and actual words all the time. I'm not necessarily more intelligent than older people, I just get to the point quicker. I'm an artist so I am into self-expression and I have an opinion. You find yourself wanting to express yourself quickly and coherently. Whether that's through emails or tweeting or lyrics. If you weren’t brought up with posting and tweeting I can see why you might take longer to tell your story.
Yanti: Out of the mouths of babes. Thanks Katie and good luck with everything. Love you! (We hug).
Katie: Rad Yanti
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