Katie Cole got her start at just sixteen years old, launching her own successful solo career as a singer-songwriter. In 2015, she was invited to join Smashing Pumpkins on tour, first as their bassist, then as a keyboardist. She recently performed at the “For The Crew” livestream supporting members of the music industry. Presented by NoCap in collaboration with the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, the event took place on March 6 and featured performances by several musicians, including Cole’s Smashing Pumpkins bandmate Jeff Schroeder.
To learn more about and donate to Sweet Relief Musicians Fund :
About Sweet Relief Musicians Fund:
Sweet Relief Musicians Fund provides financial assistance to all types of career musicians and music industry workers who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability, or age-related problems. In other words, Healing Musicians in Need. We all have received so much out of music, it’s time to give a little back!
Find Sweet Relief online: WEBSITE
We understand you were added to the lineup of the “For the Crew” benefit streaming event. Can you tell us about it?
I play a lot of online shows, whether on Stage It, Instagram, or more recently pre-filming for conferences like Folk Alliance and SXSW. I think audiences are getting used to the format too. For this show, it was a great lineup with Kevin Rudolf, Tommy Marz, and my friend Jeff Schroeder from The Smashing Pumpkins (that I also play in). Each musician put together their own set of music. I played three originals and one cover. It’s nice to keep some songs familiar as everybody brought in their own fanbase to watch this one event.
How did you become involved in this project?
Jeff asked me if I wanted to join the existing show lineup and explained the concept to me of raising funds for Road Crew in conjunction with the charity Sweet Relief. Soon after that phone call, I was chatting to the show organizer Tommy Marz. He knew who I was through The Smashing Pumpkins and that I did the vocal arrangements on their most recent offering Cyr. Tommy said that he wanted to diversify the lineup and add a female so, I was quick to say, “yes.” It’s been nice getting to know everyone too.
The pandemic has affected so many music industry workers and musicians. Can you talk about how COVID-19 affected you as an artist?
2020 had a lot of artists and touring musicians shell-shocked. It really was a traumatic year. I live in Nashville, and in early March of 2020, we were hit with an enormous tornado that wiped out areas of the city and literally missed my house by a couple of blocks. Everyone had heard that COVID was spreading in February, but this double-blow really did a number on Nashville. The last in-venue show I played was on March 13 of 2020, then I sat back and waited to see what I should do. I watched everyone scatter to Facebook and Instagram Live with unplanned and, in my opinion, unprofessional shows, and decided I wouldn’t do that. My fans have been good to me and deserve “real” shows. So, I pivoted to the platform Stage It to perform what would end up being monthly themed concerts (still ongoing). Touring is a HUGE part of my career, but there’s always a way to connect with people, so online concerts filled that void. I also went into creator mode and have been writing and recording a ton. What started as a tragedy has somewhat become a blessing. I still managed to release a few singles in 2020, along with some professional music videos too. I was able to play virtually on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon with The Smashing Pumpkins and have played several other online festivals and social take-overs too. It ended up being almost like a normal working year for me.
Why do you think it’s especially important to raise funds for the road crew?
Like many creative people, we have the ability to pivot or adapt. I couldn’t tour, so I moved to online shows, session work, and songwriting. Road crew do not usually have that luxury. Often, they will move from tour to tour throughout a whole year. This is a highly specialized field that requires skills only suited to this one part within the music industry. With touring agents, bands, and the like in standby mode, road crew are unable to work at all. Thankfully, Sweet Relief exists for moments like these. Normally, they would be able to allocate funds to those road crew without, perhaps, medical coverage, etc. but 2020 presented a whole other set of problems for road crew. I was so excited to be able to pay it forward.
Can you offer advice to other artists who may be struggling due to the pandemic?
Honestly, I was scrambling at first myself. And still today, I’m uncertain what the future holds for my industry. I do know that making smart moves, investing in layered skills, and learning to adapt are your best bet. I have always done BGV sessions remotely when needed, so that has continued. But I have learned better skills with graphics, video creation, editing, and more. These things help my career so I can better promote myself without spending money. So many creative people are in the same boat, so why not think about trading services? If you are creative, you have to think creatively. This often means doing what other people won’t or can’t. My guitar sponsor Yamaha has brought me into so many great things for online sessions, conferences, and more because they know I can tackle filming, editing, and more. Having more skills at your disposal makes you an asset.
Do you have any other projects on the horizon? What can we expect to see from Katie Cole in the coming year?
Absolutely. I released a brand new single on March 5th, called “I’m Gonna Love You” produced by Howard Willing. I coupled this with a cool visualizer that dropped on the same day. I’m really excited about this song as it’s full production—horn section and my friends Chris and Stef from the band Ida Mae are both singing on this with me too. I have returned to doing weekly YouTube sessions, and I have also been working on new music for this year. Always working on something new. Can’t wait to share new music with you soon! Thanks for chatting!!
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