I found Katrina Parker while meandering through MySpace one kismet day six years ago. I had a visceral response to her music and wondered why she hadn't "made it." I remained a loyal fan, and six years later she is now in the top 24 of NBC's mega hit show The Voice. My question has been answered. Her style and voice are being compared all over the Internet to Adele, and this here gay loves him some Adele, but I loved Katrina before I ever heard of Adele. I recently talked to Katrina about that, and about her coach, Adam Levine, who's been a big advocate of gay rights, as well as about her experience on The Voice, and more.
OK, let's get down to the nitty gritty and just get this out of the way: girl, Adam Levine is hot. How do you keep your composure around him?!
[Laughs.] He's very well-groomed, and yes, he smells very good, but I'm a professional! I can't see him that way, and I keep my composure. He looks as good, if not better than, a cover of a magazine, and is an even better person, but he's my coach, you know what I'm sayin'?
You're saying he's a brother from another mother?
Yes! That's it!
I can't tell you what I'm envisioning now. One more question about Adam and I'll reluctantly get off him. He's been a strong voice on gay rights and is a vocal advocate of legalizing gay marriage. [Levine recently boycotted his favorite L.A. restaurant for their monetary support of Proposition 8, and his brother is openly gay.] It must be comforting and nerve-wracking to have a coach who's so honest and forthright with his opinion?
I feel like he's a very strong guy with a strong moral fiber, and his beliefs are very passionate. I never feel like this is someone who waffles. I don't think I'd want another coach. I respect what he believes, and I couldn't have asked for anyone better to guide me in this competition. Nothing is just a throwaway for the camera, and knowing that about him just makes me love him even more.
I love him even more, too, and not just for his body. Off of my obsession with Adam and onto my obsession with you! I had a very visceral response to your music from the beginning, and I feel like fans are finally feeling the same way. What do think it is that makes us respond that way?
"Visceral" is a great word. I feel like I have a very visceral emotional connection to my music when I'm singing something I really believe in. It's hard to explain. When you get up there, something just connects. Something greater than you is happening when you're up there. It's almost like you're a little possessed. It shocks me when my fans have that response.
Well, I'm not shocked, and speaking of possessed, you seemed possessed when you sang "Bleeding Love" in the battle round, and I could feel you, but how do you connect to the material when it's obviously the show's choice?
I think that's where the challenge of this show comes in: it is really taking something you're given and putting your stamp on it. That's part of being an artist, though: not just doing what's easy and comes naturally to you, but stretching. I had a good friend that said to me, "Anyone can be a rhinestone, but a diamond requires a lot of pressure."
Oh, I love that! I love anything that sparkles. I'll take real over rhinestone any day. You're certainly the real thing to me and to a lot of new fans, but they're comparing you to Adele. It's like matching diamond earrings! How do you feel being compared to Adele?
Oh, God, I couldn't be more flattered. She's so popular right now, for good reason, and she's incredible, and I'd like to think, even though we're not carbon copies of each other, when I hear her singing, I hear the emotional connection to the music she's singing so much so that she can bring people to tears, and I would like to think that some part of me is like that. I hope. I hope that's what people are seeing. I mean our image is similar. We're both drawn to a retro vintage style and look, but for me it's about her passion and her emotional investment. Every performance I see, it's like it's her last. That's what I aspire to, and when people identify me to her, that's beautiful, and you could not give me a better compliment.
I agree, and about your style: I love the look! Who do you see designing for you when you're a big star?
Oh, I'm drawing a blank. Any suggestions?
Oh, I've got a million, but specifically Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford, but if that happens, please negotiate a matching suit for me.
OK, I am totally visualizing this right now.
Just leave it to the gays, girl. We will have you looking stunning toe up! I love visualizing, and I am all about manifesting dreams, so how do you envision your album when you win?
Ha! We just had a conversation about what kind of music we see ourselves making. What comes to mind for me is indie pop in the vain of Sara Bareilles. Obviously the Adele comparison has been made, and I'm flattered by it, and I think I'm always going to have a certain amount of soul to my voice regardless of what I think. But what I love to write, and what I identify most with, is independent pop music. You know I feel like it's pop for grownups, and I feel like both of those ladies have very successful careers, and they're doing what they love and doing it on their own terms.
It feels as though with the onslaught and power of social media in addition to these vocal competition shows, fans have a bigger say as to what they want to see and hear, as opposed to record executives. How do you feel about that?
I think it's fantastic. I think a lot of the industry tends to play it safe, and they make assumptions, and I mean oftentimes they're very correct and they know what they're doing. But to give people the opportunity to see or hear something they wouldn't expect and the opportunity to connect with that is exciting for me. The level of exposure and variety from singer to singer and look to look is so different. I think it's really exciting for me to have the opportunity to see what people really think, to see, can people really connect to you? The potential is so huge and so exciting.
You know what I find interesting with singers like you is that the gay audience seems to embrace you in mass quantities. Why do you think that is? Why do you think singers like Lady Gaga and Adele and Madonna have such large gay audiences, and what makes us connect to you?
I don't know. I can't assume why they connect that way, but for me why do I connect to them? I think because they're accepting and embracing and loving and that's beautiful. I hope they connect to me the same way.
Obviously, you can't really generalize it, but I found it interesting when I came out and my gay friends had similar experiences with music. My icon growing up was Madonna, and for me it was an escape from the daily bullying to go home and throw on her music. I see kids do the same with Lady Gaga today. Do you feel like kids find answers through your music?
I would like to think they do. You know, after everything I've been through and all the reasons I've had to kind of give up, I want to find answers in everything I'm doing. I find answers every time I get on stage. I don't know, I always find out I'm capable of more than I thought I was, and I always find out that when you do something you really love, it changes you for the better. So I'd like to think that they can hear that and connect to that.
What do you think helped you get through your struggles to persevere?
You have to have an almost delusional focus, where you just drown out every bit of the hate. You drown out every bit of the negativity, and you just focus on the now. You focus on your dreams and your aspirations. You focus on everything that makes you feel accepted and loved. I know it's been said a thousand times, but it will get better. You think it won't. You think this is it, but everything has an ending and another beginning. You just have to literally say, "This is who I am. I'm comfortable in myself, and everything else is just noise."
* * * * *
Katrina performs live Monday April 9 at 8 p.m. EDT on NBC. Learn more about her on her website, katrinaparker.com, and follow her on Twitter @katrinapmusic or on Facebook at facebook.com/katrinaparkerthevoice.