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Posted March 30, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes
 
 

Kat Edmonson Offers a Little Night Music

Kat Edmonson
Kat Edmonson

Singer-songwriter Kat Edmonson’s latest album, Dreamers Do, combines mid-20th century Disney songs (from Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, Babes in Toyland) with familiar classics (“What A Wonderful World” as well as “All I Do is Dream of You” from Singin’ in the Rain) as it follows a theme about what happens to us when we dream. The album also features two new original songs — “Too Late to Dream” and “Someone’s in the House.”

Interludes between the songs indicate different points in the “nocturnal journey.” 

A few weeks ago, Edmonson spoke to us via phone from San Francisco.

How’d you initially come up with the concept for Dreamers Do?

I had a question in my mind that wouldn’t really leave me. It’s about if there is ever a point in our lives when it becomes too late to dream. Or does dreaming become irrelevant or impractical given one’s circumstances? In seeking an answer to that question, I referred back to the music from my childhood, which was mostly songs from Disney movies from the mid-20th century. My musical foundation has been the Great American Songbook and jazz. The same writers that wrote the Great American Songbook were writing the music for these Disney films. It all ties together historically. I began to listen to these songs and think of a narrative for the record. It’s all about our experiences dreaming and imagining our future . . . all of the wonderful things and all of the frightful things.

You grew up listening to many of these songs because your mom played them, right?

Yes. She actually sang and she sang with jazz bands in her twenties but never pursued it as a profession, so it was a natural step for me. 

Did you rearrange the tunes yourself?

It’s all inspiration. I wrote the arrangements and had the help of my co-producer, Aaron Thursten, who’s also the drummer in my band. He wrote the arrangement for “What a Wonderful World.” I get these grand ideas in my head and it’s a matter of following them.

What kind of band did you have?

There are 40 musicians on the record in total. I tour with a band of four excluding myself. There’s piano, bass, guitar and drums. They cover lots of parts. We had all kinds of musicians on the album. We had Chinese strings and West African harp and steel pan and orchestral harp and lots of strings. It really ran the gamut because I have these grand ideas. It pares down nicely in the show among the four musicians.

“A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” is such a great album opener. What made you decide to cover that tune?

I have always loved that song. It’s rather an instructional song. I was all of four years old the first time I heard it. It tells a person what happens if you have faith in your dreams. I took that as factual information as a kid. I wanted to start that as an innocent understanding of how your rainbow will come smiling through as the song says. 

The interludes are really beautiful. Talk about what inspired the decision to include them as part of the album?

There’s a lot of interstitial music. The record is an experiential one. You don’t have to listen from start to finish, but if you’re old-fashioned like me and inclined to do that sort of thing, you’ll see it’s really a journey that’s being offered. It takes place over the course of one sleepless night. It starts with an invitation to dream. All of the interludes help create the experience we have when we move from one dream to another and wake up and go back to sleep.

“When You Wish Upon a Star” features some great percussion. Talk about your approach on that tune. 

I really wanted to create a mood of mystery and adventure on that song. I wanted to convey what it is to embark on the pursuit of one’s dreams. It’s exhilaration and excitement and fright. No one really knows where they will wind up going when they sent out to follow their dreams. I had been enchanted with the kora, which is the West African harp. It sounds magical to me. It was the first opportunity I found to record with it. I thought that there needed to be some kind of earth drum to go with it. What’s when we decided to use the tabla.

Your two original tunes fit in perfectly. Talk about them. 

I had started writing “Someone’s in the House” maybe 12 years ago, but I didn’t have any lyrics. I knew I wanted to write it for the album. It’s about the experience we have in the middle of the night when we’ve heard a noise and we don’t know if it’s something that we dreamt or if someone is actually in the house and how the imagination can run wild with paranoia. “Too Late to Dream” I wrote as part of my fourth record at a time when I was experiencing a lot of doubt. When it came time to sequence that record, it seemed to weigh the album down in a way that the song didn’t deserve. The record was bouncier without “Too Late to Dream,” so I held the song back, and it became the focal point for this record. I’m so glad I found a home for it.

The house was built around that song, if you will. 

What you’d try to do with “What a Wonderful World?” It’s been covered so many times.

It has. I’ve also sung it at so many friends’ weddings. I’m very familiar with that song. I love the song. It’s one of my favorites. If you try to do a version of that song when you can easily compare yourself to Louis Armstrong you will feel immediately defeated. I felt like I had something to offer. It’s really how I feel about the world. My drummer arranged that entirely on his own. That was the one track I didn’t arrange myself. He tried to approach it in the style that he thought I would do it based on my previous recordings. He did such a great job. I love the song.

How do you follow this album up? Do you have any sense of where to go after this?

No. I don’t. I always have lots of ideas for albums. I’ll just open my little drawer and pull out an idea.  This was a very expensive record to make. Maybe the follow-up will be more stripped down. I always wanted to make a duo album with piano. Maybe this would be the time for that for both inspirational and economical reasons. I am just grateful that I continue to have the opportunity to continue to record.

PHOTO: Glynis S.A. Carpenter via Sacks and Co.


Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.