Instrument: Guitar, vocals, singer-songwriter
Hometown: Hokitika, New Zealand, currently living in Christchurch
When we discussed who should represent Oceania in Global Rockstar United a lot of people immediately came up with Katie Thompson’s name. Katie won the national pre-selection in New Zealand last year and after a fierce battle in the finals landed in 6th place on Global Rockstar 2014. By then everybody had fallen in love with this amazing singer-songwriting talent and the happy aura she radiates — even online.
Katie Thompson’s star is most definitely on the rise. She has released two albums and a live EP, toured New Zealand extensively, was selected to open for Sir Elton John at his New Zealand show in November 2011 and was a finalist for Female Artist of the Year at the 2012 New Zealand CMAs. Her latest EP, Moving On, offers a glimpse at her outstanding live show, not unlike her previous album, Impossible, which was fan-funded and recorded in the UK with world-renowned producer Greg Haver.
She’s young but already a pillar of the singer-songwriter community in New Zealand. Katie is a master at navigating the new opportunities that the digital era offers to musicians. Her music services company, Quirky Music, specializes in artist development, social media management and crowdfunding campaign management for independent artists.
We met Katie at the airport, after a brutal 32-hour flight from the other end of the world. She emerged from arrivals on the hottest day of the century, completely jet lagged, saw us holding a poster with her name on it and she immediately… started laughing! There is this thing with Katie’s laugh, it’s incredibly contagious and once she starts you really must join in. Can you imagine how awesome it is for a group of strangers to meet for the first time and deliver big results within a few days?
When and why did you start making music?
At age 5 in the school choir! A couple of years later my dad, a drummer, bought a drum set for my brother at a garage sale. I loved to play it and discovered that, although I’m left handed and the drums were set for right handed, I have the rhythm inside! Later I started toying with my brother’s guitar and taught myself how to play.
In my hometown the only opportunity to sing in front of other people besides family was the local country music club. That’s why country music has such a big influence on me.
What was your first ever job?
Selling bullets in a hunting and fishing shop. It’s strange, now that I think of it, I hate sport and hunting! But the owner of the shop was a musician, we formed a band and I learnt a lot from it. I guess I made the best out of it anyway.
How did you earn your first money as a musician?
At age 14 I won 500 USD in a music competition. I was on cloud nine! On top of cash, part of the prize was the opportunity to sing at The Hokitika Wildfoods Festival in front of 25,000 people. That was a problem because I had to play for quite a long time and I didn’t have the repertoire, just the one Anika Moa cover that won me the contest. So I had to build up my repertoire quickly and that gave me the kick to continue.
Live or studio, what suits you best?
Live. I feel that playing in front of the audience is more intimate than alone in front of a microphone. A recording is forever and captures that one moment in time when performing live – anything can happen and it’s different every time.
Your favorite part of music production?
The lowest moment of your career
I had a legendary gig once, in front of just one paying person. Really, the whole audience consisted of one guy! However, this guy was there to enjoy his night so he danced and had a couple of drinks. You can’t expect to play to an arena if you haven’t played in a dingy old pub to one patron. It’s funny to think back on this night… now.
The highest moment of your career so far
Opening for Sir Elton John, 2011 in Dunedin, New Zealand. Hard to top that one… besides being flown to Vienna that is!
Your favorite outfit for a gig
I have this pair of black jeans that give me the perfect bum. A sparkling jacket on top and I’m all ready to go!
Your favorite music instrument besides yours
The drums of course!
The most musical natural sound
The noise of the forest. I love taking long walks in nature and hearing the native birds.
Which works are you most proud of?
Leave Your Hat On, the song that got me 6th place in Global Rockstar 2014. It is harder than my usual music and I love it!
What is the most important skill required, besides talent, to become a successful musician?
Ambition. You must really believe in yourself in order to stay focused. Never lose your drive.
What keeps you up at night?
Planning my music career.
The best concert you’ve seen in audience
Unfortunately not many international tours come to New Zealand. So far, Foo Fighters and The Rolling Stones have been my highlights and of course Elton John, although, technically speaking, I was not in the audience but in the corporate box!
The last single/EP/album you bought?
Jenny Mitchell, a singer/songwriter I mentor through artist development. I also exchange CDs with other artists when I play a gig with them. The latest would be The Eastern and The Warratahs.
Describe your music
Kiwi country! New Zealand is a special melting pot of genres and country music has a lot of flavors from folk, blues and rock. I’m very fond of our unique sound.