As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 7
Kaia Kater is a songwriter, banjoist, and guitarist born of Afro-Caribbean descent from Québec. She has released three full-length albums, the latest of which is Grenades. She currently lives in Toronto and has been touring full-time throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe. She describes herself as a lover of all kinds of music including folk, hip-hop, R&B, jazz, indie, and reggae. Kater recently performed at APAP 2019 in New York where she took the time to fill us in on Grenades.
When writing your latest album Grenades, what was the inspiration behind the lyrics and music?
I’m biracial, and my dad is from Grenada. He left the island three years after the U.S. invasion of 1983 and came to Canada as a refugee (hence the double meaning of the title Grenades). I grew up knowing the story but never really asked him about it. So, a lot of the subject matter relates to my discussions with him amidst my own reckoning with my identity and heritage.
How does Grenades differ from your previous album Nine Pin?
Grenades is louder! Nine Pin had a lot of Appalachian influence; many quiet horns and trickling banjo. Grenades draws a little bit more from pop music and soul. It features electric guitar, lap steel, acoustic guitar, electric piano, drums, and more. Much of this credit is due to my amazing producer Erin Costelo who is an amazing artist herself. I would say I am most proud of the growth in songwriting between Nine Pin and Grenades; I think my songwriting has gotten better and more complex.
Originally from Montreal, you attended school in West Virginia and studied Appalachian music. Tell us a little about your background in music.
I grew up playing classical music on the cello but discovered the banjo was different. I have loved playing the banjo for a long time because I can write songs on it and truly express my thoughts. However, I rarely felt like I belonged in the genre. When I went to college in West Virginia, I met so many people my age who happened to love old-time music and bluegrass. I learned then that what no matter what your skin colour, you can love any music you want.
What’s in store for 2019?
Lots of running, touring, and emotional growth – and lots of ice cream.