Katrina Parker may be a young woman, but as an artist, her journey is already reminiscent of the iconic, winding country roads that are embedded in her childhood memories, with lots of twists and turns behind which she’s been greeted by both success and disappointment, ultimately leading to a deeper sense of self-discovery and better music.
With her last album, Stars, she went back to her country roots, seeking to reignite her love for music and the creative process that was temporarily put out after she became a semi-finalist on Season 2 of The Voice and her calling somehow slipped into a routine and an obligation, fraught with fear and looming expectations.
We sat down to talk to her about what Stars and going back to the fundamentals actually entails in reality, the lessons she learned on The Voice, how music commercialization creeps into the creative process, country music, and more.
You’ve mentioned that you made your last record “from a place of intense fear, pressured not to squander my post-Voice opportunity and lost myself in the process.” How is Stars different? How did you go back to your roots, to what you love, to that place of authenticity? What was that process like?
The process involved just stopping everything I was doing and taking a long, hard look at WHY I was doing it. After “The Voice,” I took the leap to make music full-time and said yes to every opportunity. I did corporate and private gigs, live performances, studio work, crowdfunded an album I wasn’t truly ready to make and checked off all the post-reality-singing competition boxes like red carpets and TV appearances. I should have been on top of the world, but I was miserable. The busier I was “doing” things and maximizing my opportunity, the further away I felt from my original goal and the more confused I became about who I was and where I was going.
So at a certain point, I just stopped. Everything. I packed up my keyboard and rediscovered the joy of a regular routine. I did a lot of thinking, remembering, and daydreaming, and took some time to try and remember why I started doing music in the first place, to reconnect to that pure joy I used to feel singing and creating music (when no one was looking). And I started writing again. And singing. And writing some more. And this time I was doing it simply for the love of doing it – not for any type of deadline or end result, not for an album, not for anyone else – but just because I was trying to reconnect to that spark. And I did.
Throughout this process, I kept revisiting this memory of myself as a kid playing on a swingset at my aunt’s house in the middle of the country. It was Fall, and there was this valley below with woods all around that produced the most delicious reverb. And I would just swing and swing and sing my heart out for hours. And that feeling is something I’ve been trying to recreate every time I get on a stage or sit down to write a song now. It’s a feeling of total freedom and also total connection at the same time.
Are fear and pressure the worst things for an artist to deal with? Can they be harnessed in the creative process sometimes, or that’s unlikely? Are balance and flow the real answer for you?
Everyone is different. I think some people thrive on pressure, and I can’t speak to their experience. But for me? I find that intense fear or pressure is not helpful for my creative process. A healthy amount of perfectionism is ok. I never want to be delusional about what I do, so it’s good to temper my enthusiasm with a need to improve and be better. But overall I’m at my best when I’m vulnerable and living and creating in the moment, coming from a place of love instead of fear or worry. If I feel a deadline or unrealistic expectation looming over me (especially when it comes to writing – performance is a different beast), it informs what I’m doing and not in a positive way.
Making this album felt so natural. It was like swimming with the tide instead of against the tide. Yes, it was difficult and challenging, but it always felt like we were headed in the right direction.
In hindsight, given that you’ve described your previous record as a “failed album,” was the experience of being on The Voice a positive one? What did you learn overall?
I realize now calling it a failed album was a bit harsh on my part. The issue with that album wasn’t the quality of the music or the production value or the monetary success (or lack thereof). The issue what that I made something I wasn’t fully invested in as an artist, and I consider that a personal failure. It was my first post-“The Voice” release. I didn’t know what kind of record I wanted to make and was terrified it wouldn’t be accessible to everyone who had voted for me and supported me on the show. And I think you can hear that confusion and indecision in the music. In trying to make a record for everyone, I made a record for no one. And while I’m proud of all the work everyone put into it (including the fantastic musicians and producers) and grateful to everyone who crowdfunded it, I understand why people didn’t connect to it. Because I wasn’t connected to it.
Being on “The Voice” was complicated. It was really hard to try and make something beautiful and special amid all these reality tv artifices. The environment was more conducive to creating compelling TV than great performances (in my humble opinion). That being said, it was also life-changing and taught me a lot about myself. I was an underdog from the start. Everyone assumed I would be going home and was as surprised as I was when I kept hanging on week after week. And I could feel that lack of belief in me from everyone – the contestants, producers, some fans of the show, even my own coach at certain points. So I had to really dig in and find a core strength and belief in myself I didn’t know I had, despite being surrounded by non-believers 24-7. And that’s HARD. But I did it. And as much as I feel like those weren’t my very best performances, I’m still proud of my time on the show.
What would you say is the overarching theme and feel of your last album, Stars? Is it hope, romance, something else? Who is that album for?
I’m not sure who this album is for yet – I’d like to think it still has time to find its people, and I’d like to think I’ll be surprised by who those people are.
For me, it was a return to innocence and hope, a personal rediscovery of why I fell in love with music in the first place. It touches on love, loss, resilience, starry nights in the desert, family, friendship, and romance. It’s a warm hug and chicken soup, a love letter for lovers and dreamers and anyone who wants to believe in a little bit of magic. Bonus points if like your music with a side of sparkling Americana and Folk-Pop. 🙂
What does country music mean for you, what epitomizes this genre in your eyes and ears? Who are your influences?
When I think of Country music, I think of classic Country artists like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton (always and forever!), Conway Twitty, and George Jones. It’s really honest, expansive music that draws a map of the human heart in a way that’s easily understood and accessible. There’s a steely backbone but also a certain fragility to my favorite Country songs – a sense of resilience that I find really compelling.
Country music also reminds me of my childhood in North Carolina – the long afternoons, green grass, and winding country roads that seem to go on forever. It’ll be always tied to that part of my life, and it feels good to honor that in some small way.
How is country and pop music changing, is it crossing paths with other genres more? How do you think it will evolve in the future?
I don’t listen to a lot of current Country music, so I’m probably not the best person to speak on this. But I will share my .00002 cents. It’s a pretty male-dominated industry, and I think there are a lot of mediocre men that all look and sound the same making very similar music right now. And I’m not a huge fan of it. But I also see a lot of women innovating and changing the face of country music for the better – Kacey Musgraves, The Highwomen, Yola, Miranda Lambert, etc. What they’re doing is exciting and feels more like the country music I grew up knowing and loving, and they give me a lot of hope for the future of that industry.
How about your future plans? What does the future hold for you, as far as you can tell?
Next up I plan to keep promoting this record to the best of my ability and get these songs to as many ears as possible. We’re planning more lyric videos, a behind-the-song series, some live acoustic videos, and a college radio campaign for this album in the new year. I’m also doing some early dreaming about my next release (which will be very different from this release but very fun in its own way) and a few one-off singles.
Beyond that, I don’t have a five-year plan. My ultimate goal is to just keep making music as long as I can. I’ve learned not to be bound to a particular outcome but to do what I love and hope it lands for someone, anyone. If it ever stops bringing me joy (God willing) I’ll adopt six more dogs and move to the country.