"To me, the Blues is a living thing. It has the ability to soothe souls, ignite relationships, break and mend hearts… The Blues is vintage and timeless all in one."
Kat Riggins: Eclectic Things Of Blues
Kat Riggins was born Katriva Tabitha Riggins in Miami, Florida on February 7, 1980. She grew up in a household where there was always background music. Because of the wide range of genres in her parents’ collection, Kat developed a love for all types of music from gospel and soul to country and rock and everything in between. However, even then, she was drawn to the smokey gritty sounds of artists like Bessie Smith, Sam Cooke, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Denise LaSalle, Etta James, Ray Charles, Koko Taylor, Janis Joplin and the list goes on. She grew up singing in local programs, church events, and family gatherings with her sister and cousins. At age 23 Kat landed a gig singing jazz and blues standards in a small lounge in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida with the accompaniment of only a piano player. Since then she has performed in clubs and Lounges all over South Florida and New Orleans. In 2011 Kat set out on an Asian and Middle Eastern tour with a top 40 cover band. She has performed for packed houses in Saigon, Bangkok, Beijing, Seoul, Abu Dhabi, Curacao, Belgium and Holland thus far, all the while finding ways to inject a bit of her bluesy swagger into the show.
Kat's own musical style is a blend of the blues with hip hop, pop, rock and even country music. "It's all related anyway", she exclaims. Her goal is to introduce blues music to a mainstream audience by re introducing it to the world as Blues Fusion. She is inspired by young artists such as Janelle Monae, Karreim Riggins, SyncOpera and ZZ Ward who share in her passion to revive music from the vinyl days. With her own band, Blues Revival, she travels the world with the intent to "wake up the blues one song at a time"! Kat recorded her first EP "Seoul Music" independently, produced by Kameron Pearson and Terrell King while on tour in Seoul, South Korea. It is a compilation of blues covers and original songs she wrote dating as far back as 2008. Her blues- fusion album, "Lily Rose" was recorded independently in Miami, Florida with the help of producer James "Boowie" Murphy. It includes favorites from Seoul Music along with some new entries to her song journal. Kat's previous album, aptly named after her band "Blues Revival" (2016) was a clever mashup of gospel-blues, blues-rock, funky blues, contemporary and traditional blues, with BLUES being the operative word! With this and albums to come, Kat Riggins's focus is to be a part of this musical revolution that aims to awaken the masses and introduce them to the sincerity behind blues music. Music is her passion and her purpose! Kat Riggins’ third studio recording is the new album titled "In The Boys' Club" (2018). All songs are written and produced by Riggins at the 42nd Street Studios in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
How has the Blues, Jazz and Gospel music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
All music has had some kind of influence on my views of the world and my journeys. The Blues, Jazz and Gospel in particular have had significant influence in that I can identify more with the world through music. I can communicate with, contribute to, and pray for the world all through song. In my journeys this music has been a form of therapy, helping me to hold on to some sense of sanity in the chaos of our current state of being.
What do you learn about yourself from the Soul & Gospel music and Afro-American culture & heritage?
I learn that I was BORN with many stories to tell and that there is a rhythm in my spirit that is hereditary... genetic. My heritage and culture and its music are full of examples of strength, perseverance and faith in spite of circumstance. This has taught me that I can handle, and that I am meant for more than even I know!
"As an artist, I know that I'll constantly have to prove my worth to stay relevant. Folks aren't always gonna value the art. They won't all get me. The ones that do, make the struggle worth it. It's the ones who are helped or healed by the art that fuel me."
How do you describe Kat Riggins sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?
I think the word eclectic would probably best describe my songbooks. They are filled with mostly journal entries and fragments of thoughts and dreams that I write down just to get them out of my head. Sometimes those ramblings become songs! Then there are those pages that were songs from conception! My sound on the other hand is bold and purposeful. Some would say it’s bigger that I am. Hahaha! I’m a small woman blessed with a big voice so that I can be a blessing to someone else. I live everyday trying to put this big, raspy voice to good use. That’s my philosophy.
What were the reasons that you started the Blues and Soul researches? Where does your creative drive come from?
I started the band after being introduced to my musicians by my agent. We entered a local competition and while we didn't place, we caught the attention of many booking agents in the audience that night and ended up with a few gigs! At first, I called the band, "Blues Train" after a song that was written by my bass player. I later changed our name to "BLUES REVIVAL" as a declaration of our mission statement. We aim to keep the blues (an endangered species) alive and thriving in a musical world which it helped to create. My drive comes from my love for this music and its future. I need to see it survive and grow.
How do you describe "In The Boys' Club" songbook and sound? Are there any memories from album's sessions?
Uh oh fellas. There’s a girl in the boys’ club” … A fitting line for not only the title track of this album, but for the project as a whole. Much like Kat’s “Blues Revival” album, “In the Boys Club” is a collage of all things blues... From traditional blues tracks like “Cheat Or Lose” or “Kitty Won’t Scratch” to the hard driving blues-rock sounds of “Fistful O’ Water” and Johnnie Walker, Kat Riggins encompasses everything she loves about this ever flowering genre. This release is meant to be a bold representation of the female presence in this “man’s world”. All twelve songs were penned by Kat and arranged together by Kat and her band to highlight a woman’s strength, humility, resilience, ambition, passion and compassion... This is not just for the blues lover. This is for all those who love music!
We were lucky enough to capture tons of raw footage of the production process! We got footage of the composition process, the rehearsal phase, even the album photo shoot! I look forward to reminiscing on all of this in a few years!
"I believe that Blues, Jazz, Gospel and Soul are connected by feeling. They were all born from each other out of a necessity for communication and expression. We chase away our hard luck and trouble with the raw, real, matter of fact-ness of the Blues."
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I have had MANY acquaintances that have resulted in important experiences, but if I have to choose just a few, I’d say Georges Elchakieh of El-Live Productions provided me with my first opportunity to travel the world and sing for a living full time. That experience gave me a taste of what I knew my life should be! It confirmed for me that sharing my voice with the WORLD is what I’m meant to do. Then I’d say Joe Fodera of the Otis Cadillac Band and Jim Nestor of Bluzpik Media Group who showed me around the blues scene in South Florida which pretty much started my whole strictly BLUES career. Also, I’d say Jan Lagendijk and Gregory Elias. These are two guys from The Netherlands who reside in Curacao and have pretty much spearheaded the efforts to bring live blues and jazz to the island! I call them my fairy godfathers. Hahaha. They put together my first tour in Europe where I got to sing the music I adore… BLUES!!! This experience introduced me to a brand new audience! The best advice anyone ever gave me without a doubt… my daddy told me when I was thirteen years old that I needn’t try to sound like the popular singers of the day. Those women already had that covered. I should be ok with sounding like myself. My own voice was just as special…. Thanks daddy!
Are there any memories from studio session, festivals and shows which you’d like to share with us?
Oh my!!! We’ve had so many good times! One of my favorite moments was after a show in The Netherlands. We were staying in this converted nunnery which is now a cool hotel. After the show as musicians usually are, we were still all wound up. So we went to the tavern in the hotel (which was closed at this hour). The manager was very nice and allowed us to have a few drinks after hours. It just so happened that the extraordinary John Primer had played the same gig and he and his band were staying in the same hotel. He and his band joined us in the bar and a jam ensued! Next thing you know we break out in full gospel mode right there in the bar!!! It was a night I won’t soon forget!
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
A lot has changed when it comes to music. I think I mostly miss lyrical content and FEELING. I miss the days when folks actually put real thought in to what they wanted to say through song. They cared about moving folks with those words, that melody and that groove. There are a few artists who still care. Hopefully that number will grow and more and more artists will put out songs with meat on the bones. My fear is that this won’t happen and we’ll end up musically starving to death.
"All music has had some kind of influence on my views of the world and my journeys. The Blues, Jazz and Gospel in particular have had significant influence in that I can identify more with the world through music."
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
This probably isn’t what you meant, but my mind immediately went to the ones that left the musical world too soon. From “the 27 Club” to Billie to Minnie Riperton to Phyllis Hyman to Michael, Whitney, Prince and so on… If they were able to live out their lives in full and continue to contribute to music, I believe that we might be in a different musical reality today!
What are the lines that connect the Blues with Jazz, Soul and continue to Gospel? What does the blues mean to you?
I believe that Blues, Jazz, Gospel and Soul are connected by feeling. They were all born from each other out of a necessity for communication and expression. We chase away our hard luck and trouble with the raw, real, matter of fact-ness of the Blues. We celebrate our individuality with the untamed wild ride of Jazz. We fall in love to the velvety sultriness of Soul. We share our joy through the jumpin’ foot stompin’ good time of Gospel. To me, the Blues is a living thing. It has the ability to soothe souls, ignite relationships, break and mend hearts… The Blues is vintage and timeless all in one. The Blues is my voice when I’m mourning, when I’m angry, when I’m in love and celebrating life. It is my PASSION!
What is the impact of Blues and Jazz music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?
The other day I saw a music special featuring a young gifted artist named Andra Day. In response to the tense state of American society at the moment, she revamped Nina Simone’s Missisippi G’ Damn. I have noticed this as a regular occurrence. Young pop/indie/r&b/hip-hop artists will remake or sample a Jazz or Blues standard in order to express their feelings as it pertains to the state of the world. In my opinion this is an effective way to make younger generations aware of their responsibility when it comes to the roles they play in society.
"I think the word eclectic would probably best describe my songbooks. They are filled with mostly journal entries and fragments of thoughts and dreams that I write down just to get them out of my head. Sometimes those ramblings become songs!" (Photo by Leo Gabriels, 2015)
What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in Blues?
To be a female artist in a “Man’s World” means that I have to work harder to be taken seriously. As a female Blues singer and band leader I have to be willing to haul as much gear as the guys (not that MY band would allow that, as the gentlemen they are) then get on stage and sweat twice as much. I must be able to tolerate the male musician shenanigans and keep up with the antics. I have to not be easily offended while at the same time making it clear that I am to be respected as not only a woman, but as a human being.
I believe that the status of women in Blues is what we make it. Women in this particular genre of music have a different sort of image attached to us. The matriarchs like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Koko, Etta etc. have set the bar at tough and strong no nonsense. It’s up to us to keep it there and continue to raise it! I LIVE when I see young umber talents like Shemekia Copeland, Beth Hart, Samantha Fish and so many more stompin’ with the big boys! I pray to one day be among that list of powerhouses in Blues that is not just seen as a female blues singer, but as a BLUES artist PERIOD.
What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from your travels around the world (Asia & Europe)?
The travelling is one of my favorite parts of the job! I always meet the most wonderful people and I have these incredible experiences that I can always treasure. The funniest things happen on the road. I always say that there should be a reality show that follows the gigging/travelling live band musician. BRAVO would have a plethora of shenanigans to keep the viewing public hooked! I remember a time in Seoul when we were at the end of the tour and my drummer made a pact with himself and bet the other guys in the band that he'd be the first one to finally see "Kitty" drunk. Lol. Long story short, he lost that bet. Johnnie Walker and I ended up pouring him into a taxi at the end of the night. I guess that goes back to the whole "A Girl In the Boys" Club" premise!
The most touching moments for me are always when I know that the audience and I are in sync and they FEEL me. I've experienced a few times in Holland where I can hear a pin drop while I'm singing, followed by a standing eruption of joy and appreciation at the end of the song. Then afterwards in the lobby, I am enveloped in a crowd of people (some teary eyed) showing me the goosebumps they got from my performance. THAT touches me because it's what I pray for. My standing prayer is that God blesses me to be a blessing and to move people to feel exactly what they need to feel at that moment.
"I learn that I was BORN with many stories to tell and that there is a rhythm in my spirit that is hereditary... genetic. My heritage and culture and its music are full of examples of strength, perseverance and faith in spite of circumstance. This has taught me that I can handle, and that I am meant for more than even I know!"
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in the music and circuits?
Some of the most important lessons that I've learned in this business are the simplest!
"This life ain't for the faint of heart!" It takes real work, hard work and a strong will to keep this up. If this is not something that you absolutely love, then it probably should be nothing more than a hobby for you. If, however, you are like me and you pretty much need it to live... allow nothing to impede your progress.
As an artist, I know that I'll constantly have to prove my worth to stay relevant. Folks aren't always gonna value the art. They won't all get me. The ones that do, make the struggle worth it. It's the ones who are helped or healed by the art that fuel me. My aim is to sing for people's joy, love, peace, strength, hope, courage and whatever else will give them any sense of God. The lesson is to keep my priorities straight AND to know my OWN worth!
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?
OoohWee! So many choices so little TIME! Hahaha. I think I’d like to go back to the 50’s on a good day at Chess Records and hang out and JAM with Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Lil Walter, Etta James, and all of the incredible talent that roamed the halls. That sounds like a good time to me! I KNOW that experience would dramatically impact my career and my life as a whole!
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