Tag Archives: country pop

Review/Interview With Katie Belle Akin

by Randy Wayne Belt (aka: Barley Station)
Previously Published as the Artist Spotlight in Starlight Music Chronicles

There’s no question that Katie Belle is someone with passionate songwriting vision. She knows how to bring the song right home and make you feel what she is feeling as if you were there listening in her own backyard in the U.S. state of Georgia. The song “Georgia Moon”, will potently make you drift off and make time stand still as you feel you are watching the world disappear just as in the lyrics: “All time stands still when your with me here – I’ll watch the world disappear – with you – under a Georgia Moon.” That part of the song will be stuck in your head forever, as well as the powerful lyric: “and the stars align when our hearts collide – in the clouds feels so right – with you – under a Georgia Moon.”

(To Hear it and buy it on iTunes click Here) and/or (To Hear the full version of Georgia Moon on YouTube Click Here)

The song will draw you in by its pure passionate believability. It is, in fact, about a direct experience, in the form of a much hoped for date/romance that ended up not coming to pass. But we’ll find out more about that in the interview. When you hear it, there will be no question that the artists truest emotions went into the writing and production of the song. “Georgia Moon” gives you a down home country feel as well, and stays relatively acoustical until the chorus… then a pulsing bass drum kicks in driving the song home.

Then the snare drum works its way in on the downbeat further driving the song home around the two minute mark. And shortly thereafter, a violin solo ( or fiddle solo, as we call it here in the country) smoothly rolls its way in – it a perfect fit, adding an extra romantic mood to the song in almost serenade fashion and providing the song with the perfect bridge.

Katie Belle

The dynamics of this song make it, what I call, “a stayer”. It is something you could listen to again and again, and the more you listen, the more you like it and the more you feel it.

It is something that if it had the opportunity to go onto charts like Billboard’s Top 100, would find a nice comfortable place and just stay there inching it’s way up until it’s peak and then staying there a long time in that area.

Showing a musical maturity well beyond her years, it is clear that Katie Belle Akin will be around in the music industry for some time to come.

All she needs to do is never give up. If I could personally pass the country music torch of Taylor Swift to a new recipient, based on integrity, humility, likeablity, and pure talent, it goes to Katie Belle Akin.

Her consistency in good songwriting is verified by her other songs, particularly for me, her single, “Fallin For You” which is a very powerful melodic piece, and shows her flexibility in songwriting and vocal delivery. (Click here to listen to “Fallin For You” on YouTube)

Katie now holds the title of Miss US Nation Teen Georgia, and many kudos to her for using this as an opportunity to bring awareness to an important social issue, and one which is a topic that needs to be discussed more. Now, I normally don’t like to pull much from other interviews, but I feel this is a very important message, and before I go into my own interview with her, I am going to quote from Katie’s interview at the beginning of August on A.V.A. Live Radio where she talks about her participation in the Teen Nation Tour (TNT).

Katie writes: “Teen Tour…I have traveled and co-headlined with the Teen Nation Tour ( TNT) this is an anti-bully message tour which travels through out the US to mainly Middle schools and High Schools. I performed with this tour for 16 weeks between late 2012 to late 2014. I have been bullied in school , it started in kindergarten and continued on and off while I was in both private and public school. I suffered from depression and even contemplated suicide.

“I don’t try to hide these things because I feel it is important for others in similar situations to know its possible to overcome these hardships. Teen Nation Tour is a platform for sharing with teens and performing music , it was an incredible experience in many many ways. I have made some wonderful fans through this and am very grateful for having the opportunity.” (To Hear Katie on AVA Live Radio Click Here)

As you might guess, Katie is a very busy young lady and balances a very intense schedule, so catching up with her isn’t always easy, but I managed to catch up with her recently and I suppose since I’m on the topic of tours here, I guess I’ll start my first question in relation to touring!

_______________

Interview

Randy: If you could tour with any other artist or group, what would your top 5 picks be?

Katie: Keith Urban, Sam Hunt, Hunter Hayes, Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown

Randy: Fantastic choices! And what artists/bands were you exposed to growing up and how did that impact the music you have been making and will make?

Katie: My parents are always listening to music; classic rock, jazz and pop rock and country. Music is associated with “setting a mood”, “feel good moments”, “memory making”… when I am songwriting I visualize the reaction my listeners may have, will it make them happy, will it evoke a memory…. This is the type of impact I strive for with my music.

Randy: Do you come from a musical family then? Anyone else involved in music in any way? I always ask this, if you don’t mind.

Katie: My family is artistic but not necessarily completely oriented toward music. My Aunt and Great Uncle are both artists, my mother has a very strong alto voice, my grandma and her grandfather were concert pianist… I am the first to be a singer/songwriter/performer..

Randy: That all counts. Is there a moment for you where you just KNEW you wanted to do music for a living? Tell me about that moment.

Katie: I have been enthralled with performing since I was in elementary school. I took dance from age 3 up through the 6th grade. In middle school I had to make my first major decisions on what to persue… it was either dance or my music. I had known in my heart for a few years music was a passion for me. I had my first songwriting session when I was 12 and literally fell in love with songwriting and the entire process of bringing a song alive through performance and recording.

Randy: Your song “Fallin For You” is one of my personal favorites – I am such a melody driven person. I love a great melody! When you look back on that song, how do you feel about it now?

Katie: “Fallin For You” was a venture in pulling in some R&B influences and producing it with a country influenced sound. I love this song and have it in my set list for most of my performances. My music originates from real life events and you know…. When a cute boy walks by…. What pops in your head??

Randy: I know what its like to hear your own song a million times and get sick of it, but after a break from it, it can give a refreshing view on it once again. Do you still like that song? Have you gone back and heard it again with a fresh perspective?

Katie: I still love this song, and if time allows it is always my set list!! As far as a fresh perspective, girls are always checkin’ out boys and it’s fun to have a song that speaks to those feelings you get when you are around someone you think is cute, sweet and makes your heart race.

Randy: What projects are you working on right now? I’ve heard rumors of a new EP possibly?

Katie: Since the release of my last EP “ Next Thing in Tennessee” in spring of 2014, I have been writing new music. I released “Georgia Moon” in April of 2015 as a single and this song has done real well. Plans for 2015/16 do include an EP or maybe a full album. Myself and my main co-writer in Nashville are still focused on composing additional songs for consideration for these projects. Also, I am always looking at TOP 40 hits to do re-mixes on and release as singles to give my fans fresh material. My team and I are working on a webisode series to incorporate the cover song LIVE sessions and song requests.. looking forward to getting that under way.

Randy: That sounds fascinating and engaging for sure! So, what song – out of the ones you already released/written, means the most to you? And why?

Card 1

Katie:  The song that means the most to me at this point in time is “Georgia Moon”. I wrote this about a summer romance that really never came to be. I had met a really nice guy at spring break in Florida. He is a Georgia boy but lived about 1 ½ hours from me. We talked and planned our first date, we were going to go fishing in the evening and stay out till the stars came out… well as the summer wore on I realized this was just not going to happen because our phones got farther and farther apart and he stopped calling me. The date never happened and that was the inspiration behind writing Georgia Moon.

Randy: That song is has such a romantic vibe to it, so I kind of wondered if that one would be the one that meant a lot when you wrote it. Are you planning any collaborations or duets?

Katie: I would love to do some collaborations/duets. I have been approached by several different male artists but the timing just haven’t worked out. Also, I am kind of picky about song choices and styles and branding awareness…so just haven’t met the right peoples to collab with

Randy: Yeah, people need to be aware of what style(s) that would work best. That’s great forethought! Now tell me, what has been the defining achievement of your musical career so far?

Katie: Every year I can reflect and choose something that in hindsight reveals itself as an achievement in my 4 ½- 5 years I have been dedicated to developing my music. This year I would say I am doing more shows where I am being compensated than “exposure” shows which generally offer no compensation. That has been great, but a bigger achievement has been the success of “Georgia Moon”. The song has received several nominations in a couple different awards shows as Song of The Year, Modern Country Song of The Year, and for me: Songwriter of The Year.

Randy: I saw and that’s great! So happy for you! As a recording artist myself, I always have to ask this question: What is the writing process like for you? What do you come up with first? Does it vary? Chords, a melodic progression, lyrics, etc.?

Katie: The writing process is not a “scheduled” thing, I always am writing down one liners, adjectives, chord ideas etc…. every day or sometimes just once a week. I rely on all these notes to get things flowing when in my “official” songwriting sessions which I mainly do in Nashville.

Randy: And when you write, do you write on guitar or piano? Or what? How does it work for you?

Katie: I am not a huge guitar player, I prefer keyboards so I work out my chords there first. I typically record to my phone to preserve the idea or my ipad.

Randy: Yeah the phone recorder comes in handy for sure. So speaking of phones and ipads, what’s in rotation on your own ipad… what music are you listening to right now? (like in the past few weeks or so)

Katie: I listen to everything! Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lorde, T Swift, J Cole, Beyonce, Keith Urban, Classic Rock, Lana de Ray… the list goes on… if I hear a song I like I BUY IT!!

Randy: What do you consider the best album’s (as a whole) in the past 10 years?

Katie: I am a singles person: meaning I mainly purchase singles off of albums, so a few of my top favorites are: Zac Brown, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Eric Church, Dierks Bently, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood , Kayce Musgraves, Taylor Swift, Lorde, One Direction, Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Christina Aguilar, One Republic, ColdPlay, Ed Sheeran…

Randy: Well, I guess I’m an old school album guy but those are good choices and so varied. If you could play at any venue you wanted at least once in the entire world, where would it be?

Katie: My own hometown, a sold out show at Phillips Arena, and all my solid fans getting the best seats and box seats.

Randy: What words of advice or inspiration would you like to give to anyone who may have a dream to be a recording artist, or be a singer, or dancer, or really anything that is a dream to them?

Katie: If you get the bug-sting young like I did, get involved in musical theater, acting, dance and musical instrument, go to your local songwriter nites and sit in and absorb everything you can. Start songwriting….don’t be shy, get out there and around others who have gone before you. This is a long term thing if you want a career in the music industry…everyday do something… for adults who have that yearning to jump in I would think a lot of the same things apply.

Randy: Tell me about your best and/or worst most memorable live performance

Katie: My best performance: I traveled with Teen Nation Tour in 2012/13/14. I remember one Friday afternoon we were in Evansville Indiana and their first football game of the season was that night so the students were ready to be out of school for the day. I gave my talk about “self-worth” and started in on my original INVINCIBLE ( this song has a really good beat and the lyrics are empowering ) the students picked up on the beat and were clapping and stomping their feet , We all started dancing …my second song was 22 by T Swift and that just took them over the top,,,it was magical to have 2500+ students dancing, clapping, screaming etc…. My worst performance: there really isn’t one, I am a very positive person, “worst” is not in my vocabulary…. I try to learn from all my experiences… and love my audience whether its 5 people or hundreds of people.

Randy: That’s such a great attitude! The top 5 most important things in life to you are?

Katie: God , Family, Education ( including music ), Friends and Health ( I need to stay physically fit with my schedule )

Randy: Do you have any upcoming shows or events you’d like to tell about?

Katie: I am excited about 3 upcoming Red Carpet/Awards Shows: Women in RadioAtlanta, The Josie Radio Show Awards, Nashville and The International Music and Theater Awards, Atlanta. I am nominated along with my single “Georgia Moon” in multiple categories, several local shows are booked and my complete show schedule can be found on my Reverb Nation page.

Randy: What are you most appreciative of for all your successes thus far?

Katie: I am so appreciative of the help and support from my parents and I would not be in this stage of my music if it wasn’t for them. I hold in high honor their love and guidance along with the wisdom and love I receive from my relationship and prayer with God.

Card 2

___________________

Back Poster

georgiamoon cover

Katie’s Social Links:

Website: www.katiebelleakin.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/katiebelleakin

Facebook: www.facebook.com/katiebelleakin

Twitter: www.twitter.com/katiebelleakin

You Tube: www.youtube.com/katiebelleakin

Reverbnation: https://www.reverbnation.com/musician/katiebelleakin

Advertisements

New Single Released: “I’ve Got News”

The new single by Barley station is now out titled: “I’ve Got News”
Those who have heard it have been saying it is one of our best yet.

IVE GOT NEWS COVER1000pix

This new song is the second single released this summer and is a blend of mid western
rock, a little  country and unforgettable guitar riffs.

Get it right from the website at http://barleystation.net

Or for the Apple enthusiasts, on iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ive-got-news/id1023309536?i=1023309728

Expect a new album to be out before the year ends as well!

The Story of Door Henge

The Story of Door Henge

by Randy Wayne Belt / also published in American Pride Magazine May 5, 2015

backpossible4It’s a peculiar story of how trash becomes treasure. A story of how album art was made from the changing landscape of an American city.

How often have you driven by somewhere where you lived and were, or at least, were very familiar with, only to find it completely changed beyond recognition years later?  You say to yourself, “It looks so different!” Or perhaps, “I wish I would have known that would be torn down so I could have gotten pictures!”

It isn’t anything spectacular or mind blowing like the Eiffel Tower or the St. Louis Arch you’re thinking of, just a piece of your childhood memories perhaps. Or maybe simply a scene you drove by and it is all changed.  You marvel at how one place can look so different years later.  Oh, to have gotten that last picture!

For many locals in a section of St. Charles, MO right near Lindenwood University, and close to the old Lewis and Clark trail of which we all learned in history, there was a permanent change of scenery that may have them wishing for a piece of that history.  When land owned by the University was sold to allow the building of a supermarket, the result was the destruction of the old homes that rested in their aged place there on that historic land.  The homes people lived in are gone and in their place – a grocery store. But in between those two – came art! Door-hinge-Missori

(a never before seen picture from behind the doors where you can see the surrounding historic homes that were not demolished)

Though the images of history before the homes were destroyed are not available to me, a fascinating artistic scene lived a brief life, speaking its message of desolation, of loss, and of art itself or perhaps a symbol of a doorway to what is new, depending on your artistic perspective.  For what must have been a personal disaster for those who lived in the homes that were tore down, something strangely beautiful showing that from what was old to what is new, sometimes there’s that little in-between that doesn’t last very long but gives a glimpse of art, a gleam of glory, in its own fascinating way.

This interim scene between demolition and construction, was captured and is memorialized in the form of music album art.  I don’t know who took it upon themselves to create the artistic scene that they did with the broken pieces of homes, and memories of the lives of some, but there it was – in it’s own artistic showcase – Doorhenge!Door-hinge-Missori-photo

(this is the original picture that became the artwork for the cover of the album ‘Damaged Goods’ by Barley Station)

And the story goes something like this:

As the homes were being demolished, someone took the pieces and used them to make an artistic statement.  Or maybe they were just being silly or trying to be funny, who knows? But the final result ended up being art no matter how you look at it.  And that art became forever memorialized as the artwork for the entire album package of an album known as Damaged Goods  by Barley Station, a band on its own Independent Label – Barleyfields Records, with one member who lived a mere two blocks from the scene of what is known amongst us insiders now as “Doorhenge”.

For a band whose sound is often defined as earthy, organic, and rustic beneath it but with a view towards tomorrow, this became the perfect album art.  The symbolism of doors that lead to the future and open to the past were perfect.  If you hear the music, you’ll understand why this artistic concept worked so well for the album.  The scene brings to life the albums concept of the lyrics, “We are all damaged goods, uh huh”.

As the album begins, you hear the sounds of broken glass, junk, and other imperfections. And then the album takes many twists and turns.

—————————————–

We wanted an album cover that reflected the theme of the album, naturally, being this is a semi-concept album.  So we spent a couple of weeks working out a really nice album cover collage of various pieces of damaged goods – old things, rusty stuff, pieces of junk and so on. Brian Kious, one of the two vocalists/and guitarist of the double fronted band, put together most of it, sent it to Randy Wayne Belt (the other of the two vocalists/ and its bassist) for final edit, who shared it with then drummer Nil De Silva for his approval. We all liked it a lot. Door-hinge-Missori-photo-3

A lot of work went into it! But then… on one partly cloudy day, Brian was driving past his old neighborhood in St. Charles, MO where he grew up only to discover it was being torn down and utterly leveled to the ground to make room for a huge strip mall, or some type of shopping center, or grocery chain store.

What was once his old neighborhood was reduced to piles of rubble and all the homes were torn down. There were piles of debris, tractors, bulldozers, and torn up trees. He came upon one area where someone had arranged the doors, presumably from the houses that once stood there, into a Stonehenge like display.

Always one to have an eye for art and things that seem to scream ART by their very existence, he snapped a picture of it with his ipod and sent it to Randy suggesting it might be a good idea for the back cover of the album that we had just finished recording.

Randy agreed it was good. Really good! In fact, so good it should be the cover. Now after spending so long working on what was going to be the cover, it takes a good bit of humility to accept the fact that you’ve just taken a snapshot of something that you didn’t even work that hard to get and it just surpassed all the hard work you put into what you thought was going to be the album cover for a really great album.

(I’m sure all of you artists out there know what I mean) Just that stroke of pure chance at the right moment and you have exactly what you were looking for. After a flurry of texting back and forth, we all knew, that this was going to be the album cover. It just demanded to be. We don’t know who set up the doors, but whoever it was just gave us a fantastic album cover!

Now the picture Brian took wasn’t going to work because the resolution and quality was not high enough to convert into artwork without ruining the shot. And, someone was tearing down the doors!! We had very little time to act.   With a high resolution digital camera, we needed to go back… fast!

Here’s the REST of the story – in Randy’s words:

“The sun had to be right in the sky and we needed a day without rain to cause problems. On a day shortly thereafter, I decided it was THE DAY to get the shot. Being a photographer as a hobby (and used to have my own black and white darkroom) I decided the day was right and announced to my family, “we’re going on a little trip today to see “DOORHENGE”. I didn’t use my Chevy Chase voice and we certainly don’t resemble the Griswolds, but it was almost as exciting as traveling to the UK to see the real Stone Henge! This was better than going to the art museum, or the structure park it seemed.

Door-hinge-Missori-photo-4

(the original picture that serves as an inside booklet page with the CDs artwork)

“When we got there it was the most surreal scene. We were really in awe. And when a little kid is in awe of it, it’s really special. It was a strange awesomeness because it was accompanied by a certain sadness for the neighborhood that disappeared and for the people who lost their homes (to whom we dedicated the album).

But in the midst of it all, someone had created this work of art made of doors.  Someone took what was a tragedy for someone else no doubt, and turned it into something that will be the cover of something else that we hope will bring smiles and happiness.  I didn’t even recognized the place anymore. If not for the street signs I wouldn’t have known where I was.  It was strange. This was Brian’s old street!”

Randy continues, “I got picture after picture, angle after angle of this fascinating array of art. Then we drove by one last time and said goodbye to “Doorhenge”.  We knew we wouldn’t see it again.  I asked myself ‘Did they really have to tear it down’? ‘Couldn’t they keep it as a monument even in a small little area in honor of the old neighborhood?’

It sometimes puzzles me the coldness and heartlessness of the way business is done. I’m just only glad that this work of art, this memorial of what was a lot of people’s homes or dorm rooms, or place of residence, will be memorialized in time by our Album cover, the name is perfect:  ‘Damaged Goods’. damagedgoodscover1000pix

Several days later, Brian called me, and said ‘it’s gone!!!’ So, indeed, we captured the photo in the nick of time!”

That’s the story behind the album cover. The songs contained within and the pictures in the artwork all have a story to tell!  In an imperfect world, “we are all damaged goods, uh huh”.

bow2bs2 (1024x806)

(a crop from the artwork inside the CD booklet – the two singers/songwriters and front persons for the band, Brian (left) and Randy (right))

Story and Photos by Randy Wayne Belt  @randywaynebelt

Barley Station:

 
Digital at iTunes: