Kat McLevey Transcends “Musical Wonder-Kid” Status with Her Debut LP, Evergrown
THE OVERCAST / BY CHAD PELLEY ON SEPTEMBER 1, 2015
For years now, St. John’s has been calling award-winning teenage musician Kat McLevey “one to watch,” as in, “be excited for her big debut.” Well, on August 28th, she released that full length album, Evergrown, and for fans of the singer-songwriter genre, it’s one to buy.
In fact, if there’s one thing to take away from this album, it’s that she’s no longer one to watch, but one to catch up with. It’s time to stop calling her a musical wonder-kid, or promising young songwriter, because the new story is this: Kat McLevey is writing in the singer-songwriter genre as well as any of her townie contemporaries.
Songs like “Tell Me Once,” “So Far Behind,””Old Shoreline,” and “Not Today, Not Tomorrow,” are evidence she’s lived up to her promise, and eclipsed it, with a sophisticated, spare, highly controlled and moody sound that leaves a mark on its listeners.
Evergrown is a fitting title for the album – Kat’s all grown up here, in a musical sense. But that’s not where the album’s title comes from.
“The whole album is about growing up and how every action and experience we have influences what we are tomorrow. In a way the songs have become my witnesses for the past few years that I have been transitioning to adult life. They have managed to capture the quiet thoughts that I’m not always acutely aware I am having; that is, reservations and unease about this completely commonplace period of havoc in a young adult’s life.”
It’s sounding like not rushing the release of her big LP debut will have paid off. On Evergrown, she’s sounding more comfortable and assured, or more “at home” than her 2014 EP, Drifter.
In other words, she’s giving us the Kat McLevey we’ve fallen for: strong acoustic songs, given mood and texture by perfect musical accompaniment from minimal band arrangements that shine when they should, but never overwhelm the core acoustic bed of each track.
“We set up studio in my late Grandma’s house,” says McLevey, of recording the new album, “and I think that had a big influence on the creative process and overall sound of the record. It’s a space that means a lot to me, one that we could call our own, with no rush or pressure.”
Her backing band on the album is impressive in itself, and these musicians are to be commended for understanding and accentuating these songs — Aaron Collis & Emilia Bartellas kill it on mandolin and violin respectively (no surprise there).
Jack Etchegary plays drums, Charlie Graham bass, and Ian Foster guitars, keys, and vocals. Maria Peddle, Mari Lannon, and Daniel Walker also provide backing vocals.
Speaking of vocals, they’re another thing that really stand out on the album: McLevey’s vocals cross many daring ranges on the album, and never ever sound anything but solid and affecting.
And Ian Foster deserves a pat on the back for a tremendous job in producing the crisp, clear sound on the album. He pulled some interesting tricks to make sure the vocals were at the forefront of every song.
“We decided to focus on creating harmony in texture and atmosphere that would serve all the songs,” says Foster. “There are a number of background vocals and guitars run through pedals and other effects that add subtle nuance across the record.”