Kat Edmonson is a singer and songwriter. She left Austin for New York in 2012 in search of the bright lights and big city she grew up watching in the movies. She'll be in Austin Saturday April 6 to play for a second time at the Paramount Theater. Her debut album, Take to the Sky, self funded and consisting solely of covers, was published in 2009. Her second album, Way Down Low, consisting mostly of original work, came out in 2012, and was funded by a Kickstarter campaign. Way Down Low received warm critical reception from the New York Times and NPR, and it reached #1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and #1 on the iTunes singer-songwriter & jazz charts. She has several songs in the Tina Fey and Paul Rudd film, Admissions.
It seems like I can't go anywhere these days without hearing your name. I opened my New York Times the other day, and there you were with young bands in Ray Bans falling all over you. I even overheard two twenty-somethings at my East Village diner waxing on as if they really knew you. "Yeah, she, like, had to, like, find herself. So she went to Austin to work on music." The other girl nodded knowingly and sort of whispered, "of course."
I felt a prick of jealousy and surprise upon learning that you've become the Mecca for any self-searching artist. I suppose all along I thought I was different. I'm embarrassed to tell you that in that moment I realized I wasn't your only one.
My mind began reeling with memories. Suddenly, I found myself transported back to your hot terrain. I came to you as a young woman yearning for excitement, eager to be seduced by your weird ways. I was attracted to your friendly vibe, the ease of living, the vital spirit I could find everywhere in your borders. You gave me all of that and so much more.
Do you remember when I wasn't yet singing? I was a cocktail waitress at Cool River up north. I made friends with the cover band Calico Kings, and a couple of times the lead singer invited me on stage to sing "I Will Survive". Remember how I'd abandon my customers for at least six minutes to belt it out on stage? You and I both knew I was dying to sing in front of an audience.
Your rhythm got inside of me and needed a place to perform. Do you recall that short stint at the Old Alligator Grill on South Congress? I went to their open mic night, and the manager on duty gave me a Friday residency. I thought I'd made it until I learned the same manager gave the same residency to another band. He expected us to fight over who would play. I don't think that manager was from Austin.
After that crazy escapade I went to the Elephant Room jazz jam. Sitting in at the jam I met one of your most beautiful musicians, the trumpeter Ephraim Owens. Right away he was kind and generous. He told me I could call him if I ever needed anything.
It seems like just yesterday that I met Davíd Garza at the Ivory Cat Tavern on 6 th. He heard me sing, and invited me to come sit in on his Monday night residency at the Cactus Café. Don't you love your Cactus Café? I was immediately head- over-heels. The venue was sublime and the crazy scene Davíd curated was intoxicating!
Being with you opened my eyes to people delightful and extraordinary. Decked out in glitter sunglasses, a Hawaiian shirt, and black and white Oxfords, the wonderful guitar player Slim Richey stopped me and asked if I were in a band. When I told him no, he asked if I wanted to be in one. So, just like that, Slim, his wife Meaux Jeaux, and I started Kat's Meow. We played anywhere we could get a crowd, and sometimes we played just for a good meal. But that's the way you do things isn't it?
It wasn't bad playing for meals. In fact, I used to love the pasta pomodoro that came at the end of the night at Romeo's on Barton Springs. I sat on a bar stool by that baby grand in the corner of the room and sang standards. Kevin Lovejoy invited me to join him there for his Monday and Wednesday night gigs. I was just gigging to play gigs, and I loved it. There was no thought to the future, to finding myself.
Nothing stays the same (like I need to tell YOU that!) Mike Mordecai gave me a residency at the Elephant Room. Crazy, late-night, four hour gigs where I'd do anything, as far as stand on my head, to keep everyone's attention. Can you still see how we had them lined up around the block waiting to get in? And only a $5 admission! It was in the sultry cave of the Elephant Room that you gave me the confidence to dream bigger. What about One World Theater, the Paramount, maybe even ACL Live?!
You supported me all the way. You even called me your own and gave me the Key to the City! I was just a girl when I came to live with you. You accepted me and encouraged me to grow. I found myself in Austin without even knowing I was looking for me.
Austin, I hesitated to write you and drum up all of these bittersweet memories but after hearing those women talk about you as if they really knew you, I realized that I've never truly thanked you for all you gave to me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I realize I'm not your only one -- you are not more mine than other girl's. The torch I carry though, that, will always be mine.
I'm gonna be in town next Saturday for a show. If you're free, I'd love for you to be there...for old time's sake.