Katie Scullin on the cover of Maximum Ink for February 2017
photo by John Hart
What is a hurdle when you relate it to a music career? The definition indicates an obstacle or difficulty to overcome. If you ask Madison-based musician Katie Scullin, she now smiles and shares the stories of many unexpected hurdles during the process of writing and creating her first full album of original music.
Some hurdles would knock out a weaker person. It’s just the way it is. But Katie, who has won countless competitions and accolades including an Emerging Artist Award, the Triple-M Singer-Songwriter Competition, and numerous Madison Area Music Association Awards, refused to fall. Now the finish line is at hand as her new album drops on February 7, followed by an album release celebration on February 17th at Funk’s Pub, and a tour in support of it.
Katie took time to answer some questions about her music at a time when her career is also getting a big boost from those who believe she can take on any hurdle, and win.
Maximum Ink: Everyone has a different story about the way they discovered music. What’s yours?
Katie Scullin: I just remember sitting in the back of the car singing along to the radio while listening for the differences in every voice, and trying to match the tone and timbre with my own voice, even the guys. Experimenting with my voice just made me feel good. When my parents brought home an old used piano I was immediately drawn to it. I took some lessons in elementary school and used to write songs with my girlfriends. Then, I picked up guitar after high school, and it opened up a whole new avenue for me. It’s also when I started writing “real” songs.
MI: So music has always been a part of you, like an arm or leg?
KS: Yes, music and the arts. I studied graphic design right out of high school and really enjoyed it, but my drive revolved around composing music. I chose the path less lucrative, and less traveled, but felt very drawn to writing music. Almost like it chose me.
MI: Where are you from and what brought you to the Madison area?
KS: My hometown is Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, but I came to Madison right after I graduated. Madison has a lot to offer, and I still feel fortunate to have my art supported here, too.
MI: You’ve been part of a few groups in the region, but it seems you are now concentrating on playing solo or with your own band. Has it been a good move for you?
KS: Over the years, I definitely learned the hard way what works and what doesn’t when you are a songwriter and composer. Being in a band is like being in a relationship. If you aren’t all on the same page, it just doesn’t work. But, if you are, it can be amazing. My brother gave me some of the best advice about being in a band, “When it stops being fun, you’re doing something wrong.” I enjoy both my band and solo shows now because I have the freedom to work them into a realistic show and touring schedule.
MI: You have a new album of original music coming out in February. Have you found inspiration in creating your first, full-length CD?
KT: The inspiration for this album was building something out of nothing. It was about rising above what held me stagnant, and finding my way out of—what was at that time—a very, very difficult place. I felt an overwhelming drive to find my way out of what felt like my own brokenness, and to do it from the very core of who I am, musically and artistically. It was a search for purpose. I didn’t understand where my struggles were coming from or why they wouldn’t go away, yet I was determined to overcome it all in hopes of helping somebody else. Through the process of writing, I turned every experience, good and bad, into a learning experience. It’s like that saying: “Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, you have to go through it.” Of course, not all of the songs come from the hard places. This album is made up of all the pieces of me. My strengths, my weaknesses, the goofy and fun loving parts. It’s a little bit of everything.
It took me a very long time to complete this project but I kept telling myself there was no need to rush and stress myself out and things would eventually make sense. I was at least hopeful of that. As I kept going and gathering the pieces, I started to see the bigger picture and it’s been amazing to see what’s become of it.
MI: Time to celebrate! What are you planning to showcase your new music?
KT: A CD release show which will be the biggest show I’ve ever put together. It’s taken me a really long time to get to this point, so I can only hope people who come, love it. I have a terrific line-up of artists who will be performing with me, and most also contributed their own pieces to the album. Also, two amazing bands are playing in support at the event, Trap Saturn and Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts. Get to Funk’s Pub early. It will be quite a night!
MI: To support the new album’s completion, you ran one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns attempted by an area musician. But you had to hit your goal of $18,000, or you’d get nothing. How did this effort feel to you?
KT: I planned and planned and planned and planned for this Kickstarter. I was struggling to keep up and it bothered me that there are so many amazing people driven to make art, yet a lot of them are struggling the same way to pay the bills, while getting the work done. I wanted to make sure I was able to reciprocate in some way with all of the amazing people in my life, so when I asked for help, they were there and it has meant so much. I ended up doing it for them—my friends and fans that have been so supportive over the years, and I did it because I felt driven to make something beautiful. Artists don’t do what they love for the money, but I think it’s important that people who do enjoy the arts understand just what it really takes to put together a well polished project. It really isn’t easy, and the more knowledgeable people want to be a part of what is going into it, sort of like a peek behind the curtain.
I am still blown away by the support, and cried when I hit the $18,000 mark. I get choked up even thinking about it, but the pledges continued to go up and I by far surpassed my goal I felt butterflies and a warm glow when I could say, “Okay, you did make the right choice. You followed your gut and you pushed aside the self-defeating thoughts and doubts. Thank you God for this beautiful thing called intuition and faith. And thank you to all of those who believed in me.”
MI: Where do you go from here?
KS: I’m really happy about where I am right now. Music motivates me, and I’ve worked really hard to make it my career. I’m really proud of that. I’m currently studying visual communications to further my education in the arts. I’m sort of addicted to learning and I’ve made up my own “Arts and Entertainment” degree. I want to be able to do it all when it comes to my art and music.