(Photo: Josh Kranich)
Nashville-based Katie Boeck’s life so far reads like a novel.
She did a grassroots tour of India, where she played farm weddings and even performed at a gala for the Indian Navy. She also won praise on Broadway, starring in the revival of the Tony Award-nominated play Spring Awakening.
Boeck (pronounced Bōke) crafts songs that are a refreshing blend of pop and folk, and she has a new album called Calico coming out in late April. Boeck’s songs (like her latest single “Bittersweet”) have the sophistication and sheen of artists like Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell and even Steely Dan.
Boeck’s music is an oasis from today’s gimmick-laden bedroom pop. She writes deeply engaging, soul-baring songs that could easily have been hits in the heyday of Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt. In short, she has remarkable talent that makes the TikTok poseurs look silly in comparison.
One of music reviewers’ most overused phrases is “Wow, you sound a lot like Joni Mitchell.” But “Over Again” truly does feel like a Joni song from her heyday. Is she a favorite of yours? What other artists (both current and all-time) are favorites of yours?
That’s truly such a compliment to me. It’s pretty remarkable how vast Joni’s influence has become. And the really special thing about her is how personal a connection so many people have to her music. She really exemplifies the idea of personal truths as the most universal. She is absolutely a fundamental part of my musical tapestry. In fact, during Covid I fulfilled a lifelong ambition of learning and performing all of Blue. It was incredibly helpful to me at a time when I was struggling to access my own creativity, to be able to lean into those songs and experience her cadences and emotions from the inside out. But by the end of that year-long deep study, I was really eager to find my own voice again.
I came away from that with the revelation that truth and vulnerability are the key things I wanted to emulate from Joni rather than her specific musical qualities, although I do recognize the similarities in our voices and melodic sensibilities. She is and will always be a mother-like figure to me in terms of influence. Aside from Joni, it’s really a lot of those ’70s Laurel Canyon figures and ’90s women like Paula Cole and Natalie Merchant that make up the majority of my artistic influences. I’m also a big Bruce Hornsby fan. Mandolin Rain is my all-time favorite song. Alison Krauss, Erykah Badu, and Seal are staples in my rotation as well.
How many Calico songs did you co-write with Dustin Ransom? How did you first meet?
Dustin and I met through mutual friends. We were both recently divorced and new to single parenting. So we were in a similar place emotionally when we started writing together. Everything on the record was co-written. He’s a marvelous musician and collaborator.
After the success of Spring Awakening, have you had offers to return to Broadway?
I’ve kept one foot in the theater world, doing a number of workshops and experimental projects. I loved my time on Broadway and if the right project came along that was in my wheelhouse and a story that I felt compelled to tell, I would absolutely return.
What prompted you to do a version of “Ave Maria” – and how did it wind up on the HBO series The Newsroom?
That opportunity came through a dear friend of mine, Leslie Odom, Jr., who you might know as the original Aaron Burr in Hamilton. His friend Anthony Hemingway was directing that episode of The Newsroom and reached out to Leslie to see if he had any recommendations for someone who could sing Ave Maria. Leslie gave him my name. Originally it was intended for a classical singer, but I put my own acoustic/folk spin on it, sent in a rough voice memo. Aaron Sorkin loved it and I got the opportunity to film the episode. Very fun day filming with Jeff Daniels, who jammed on my guitar between takes!