"In the way that music provides a soundtrack for our lives, the messaging in songs impacts the way we think and perceive the world. Music can be a safe place to explore ideas. As songwriters, I hope that we can broach challenging topics. I also hope that we will have critical listeners."
Kate Weekes: Better Days Ahead
For her fourth solo album Better Days Ahead (2023), Quebec-based singer, songwriter, guitarist and nascent banjo player Kate Weekes dove deep into “the liminal space created by lockdowns and cancelled plans” to unearth a stirring, picturesque collection of 10 original songs ranging from Appalachian-influenced murder-suicide ballads to anthemic folk-pop to whimsical instrumental waltzes, all buoyed by an eclectic assortment of instruments including (but not limited to) fiddle, flugelhorn, frame drum and fretless bass. Composing mainly in the Gatineau Hills of Quebec before collaborating with James Stephens at Stove Studios in Chelsea, Quebec — where the pair also cut 2019’s critically acclaimed Taken by Surprise — Weekes found that “the boreal forest and Canadian Shield were beautiful places to pass a challenging period.
(Photo: Kate Weekes; James Stephens; Brian Sanderson; and Rob Graves)
Alongside long-time producer and multi-instrumentalist James Stephens, Weekes guides listeners on vivid sonic journeys inspired by nature but nurtured by imagination. Kate performs alongside James Stephens (fiddle, mandolin), Brian Sanderson (sousaphone, horns) and Rob Graves (percussion). Given that Weekes’ songwriting has typically been inspired by her travels, which have seen her dog mushing-for-hire in Norway, touring China with a swing band, and canoeing far-north Canadian rivers as a wilderness guide, Better Days Ahead required an entirely new way of writing, using internal cues to map a moment in time.
How has the Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
My parents are roots musicians. I grew up in a house that valued music as a way of building community. I continue to approach music as something that is accessible to everyone, and I appreciate musical interactions that remove stardom and fame from the equation.
How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?
My sound continues to evolve. I’ve been inspired as a songwriter to tell stories of my travels and try to make some sense of the world. I push myself musically so that I’m always learning and growing. I tend to refer to myself as a contemporary folk musician. Folk is a broad genre.
What moment changed your music life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
The pandemic changed my music life by allowing time to focus on my practice and expand my musical interests. I learned to play banjo and fiddle and took private guitar instruction. I can feel my perspective shifting away from being a guitar player and toward being a musician in the broader sense.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I would have enjoyed living through a period where the popular music of the day was swing music or symphonic. There is so much fantastic music being created these days. I hope we can find ways to support and encourage it’s creation, perhaps by pushing ourselves to listen outside our comfort zone and prioritizing arts in the schools.
"My sound continues to evolve. I’ve been inspired as a songwriter to tell stories of my travels and try to make some sense of the world. I push myself musically so that I’m always learning and growing. I tend to refer to myself as a contemporary folk musician. Folk is a broad genre." (Singer, songwriter, guitarist and nascent banjo player Kate Weekes and multi-instrumentalist James Stephens / Photo by Imran Babur)
What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?
In the way that music provides a soundtrack for our lives, the messaging in songs impacts the way we think and perceive the world. Music can be a safe place to explore ideas. As songwriters, I hope that we can broach challenging topics. I also hope that we will have critical listeners.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
Art is subjective and limitless.
What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?
This is a male dominated industry. I think things are shifting with the next generation coming up, and less tolerance for sexism, abuse, and discrimination. Women should be loved for the music they make without being objectified. I would like to see more female producers, sound engineers, guitar players and rhythm sections. The fact that we still comment on a band being ‘all female’ suggests that this isn’t yet normalized. We need to encourage each other and be role models for each other.
John Coltrane said "My music is the spiritual expression of what I am...". How do you understand the spirit, music, and the meaning of life?
That’s a big question! I continue to search, to seek to understand. I feel lucky that I have the arts as a means to explore and express myself.
(Kate Weekes / Photo by Imran Babur)
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