I’ve always loved singing and inventing songs from a young age, but it was when I first played the guitar (at 11 years old) that I feel like I really became a songwriter. The guitar unlocked all the songs percolating inside me, and it’s been my magical muse ever since. I call my genre Americana, but I’m a little bit country, a little bit folky, sometimes pop-y, and sometimes I’m called a Christian artist (which I don’t mind) because I write about faith. In a nutshell, I just try to stay true to who I am, which can shift since I’m always morphing into new versions of myself. Since I change, my music does too, but it’s always me. My latest album release is an original Christmas album called Home Sweet Christmas, which are holiday and faith-themed songs I wrote. Even though it’s heavily holiday based, a lot of the songs are applicable to play year-round, and I’m currently promoting my music videos from that album, “Unhappy Holiday,” “Star in the East,” “Safe and Warm (Lullaby for Jesus),” and “Wonderful Mother Mary” at independent film festivals internationally. My next screening is for “Unhappy Holiday” at the Toronto Short Film Festival in March. It’s extremely exciting for me to express my creativity in the form of visual media, so I love making music videos and telling the stories in my songs through film. You can watch my videos at katiegaribaldi.com and youtube.com/katiegaribaldi.
Throughout your music, what message do you want to relay through your songs?
I’ve always felt a strong inclination to include a sense of hope in my writing. It’s more of a subconscious thing because I think creativity is connected to the same portal as spirituality. So even if I write a sad song about heartbreak, I’ll re-read my lyrics and see that an underlying sense of hope is weaved into the message. I want my music to feel like the sun is always peeking out from behind the clouds. This is an important part of my self-expression because we all go through dark times, and faith isn’t always in the forefront or even obviously detectable, but I know in my heart that it doesn’t completely abandon me. It’s hiding somewhere in there, and because music can be such a healing universal experience, I hope that message shines through my songs to whoever listens. When I share my songs with people, it’s almost like I’m depicting what the universe communicates to me when I get inspired to sit down to write in the first place: look, we all go through the same things, and sometimes we’re a mashup of emotions — happy, sad, mad, excited, confused, deep. You’re not alone. Just hold on.
I read in 2019 where you set up a small home studio to record some of your own demos. Tell us about your set up and how it’s working out for you.
I’ve been writing for so many years, but I always was somewhat intimidated by the idea of learning audio software. I was just so used to using the good old pen and paper to write, and I only ever documented myself playing a song via my phone Voice Memos. This is how I shared my songs with musicians before going into the studio. I sent them the recording on my phone. Over the past couple of years, I realized just how much I was holding myself back in effectively communicating my production ideas. As a producer, I’m very visually expressive from a songwriter perspective. So in the studio, I’d say things like, “Imagine you’re a cowboy wandering around in the desert, and your uneasiness is making you miss a home that you can’t quite find. Play the bass like that.” Depending on the musician, they would either get me right away, or it would be an understandable struggle to accomplish the vibe I was envisioning from their performance. Last year I thought, I really need a better way of communicating the ideas I hear in my head. I can’t just expect other people to know what’s going on in there! I am using a very minimal basic setup with PreSonus Studio One software and their AudioBox USB 96, which is a two-input little audio interface but does the job for me to record my vocals and guitar and allows me to play around with effects and harmony ideas. I also recently received the Fishman TriplePlay, which is a MIDI pickup and allows you to achieve just about any instrument’s sound all directly from your fingertips on the guitar. I’m planning on setting it up this month to experiment with some sounds on my demos before going into the studio. I’m still very much a beginner in recording demos, but I’ve been having a blast learning how to do it and documenting my ideas in a much more effective way. It’s definitely been an empowering experience to free myself from the limits I felt stuck in.
What guitar gear are you currently using and why?
My main guitar baby is my 2014 Breedlove C25/SMYE Custom. It has a Sitka spruce top, Myrtlewood back and sides, and an LR Baggs Anthem Tru-Voice pickup. I have a few other guitars, but they never were quite able to fulfill my dream tone or fit my body/hands as well and comfortably as my Breedlove does. So I just use it all the time. I’m a G7th Capo lover and have used their capos for many years. They’re so easy to pop on and off, and I never have to worry about tuning issues. I’ve recently been using their new Performance 3 Capo, which features Adaptive Radius Technology (ART) that applies even pressure across all the strings, so I don’t get any buzzing. I’m also a Fishman artist and have been a fan of their Loudbox Artist combo amp, Aura Spectrum DI pedal, and clip-on tuners for years at countless gigs. I always feel assured when I have my Fishman gear with me for live gigs because it provides crystal clear sound that allows the natural tone of my guitar to shine through, and supports my vocals in hovering over any room noise in a warm and gently powerful way. I use Pig Hog cables and Reunion Blues gig bags, which have both given me confidence on the road for sturdy and reliable execution. I like Stringjoy Natural Bronze Phosphor acoustic guitar strings in Medium gauge (13-56) because they’re comfortable and gorgeous-sounding. I don’t use picks.
When it comes to guitar tone, what sound do you prefer?
My ideal acoustic guitar tone is a rich balance of bass and treble, with a particular focus on the low end. Having the Myrtlewood back and sides on my Breedlove really helped me accomplish this longtime tone goal for me. I think the key really is in the wood combinations of a guitar, and the additional gear elements you use can highlight that natural tone (when choosing the right rig). I can’t stand when a guitar sounds so bright that it’s thin and irritating. I resonate with more of a strong low-end presence that doesn’t compromise the high spectrum either. For me, the sweet spot is articulate and luminous low-end, with some higher frequencies sprinkled gently on top.
What’s in store for 2020?
I’m definitely excited to record my new album this year. It’s been a long time coming, as far as the writing process goes. I’ve really taken my time to let the inspiration for this album marinate and give my creativity space to tell me when I was ready to record, and not force anything sooner, even though I’ve been anxious to get something new out. These new songs are all about a spiritual awakening—letting go of outdated beliefs and embracing the exhilarating unknown. It’s about honoring the present moment, and I explore concepts of self-sabotage, spiritual discovery, and breaking free from self-inflicted chains. I’m currently doing a little bit more home-demo experimenting, but now I see studio time is getting nearer, and I can’t wait to share these new songs soon. Otherwise, I’m in pre-production for a new music video right now, which I’ll be filming in the next month or so. So that will most likely be released in the summertime. It’s going to be different than anything I’ve done before. I can’t wait!