If you’re one of the millions of people around the world who watched this past season of The Voice, you already know the name Kat Robichaud – the Raleigh native who rocked and crowd-surfed her way into last season’s Top 10 – quite well. But there is so much more to Kat than her wild journey on a TV show. I recently had the chance to pose her some questions as we discussed her upcoming Kickstarter-funded album – which reached its initial $20,000 goal in under three days – what all she took from her experience on the show, Doctor Who, broadway musicals, and much more.
MEB: It’s been a few months now since your time on The Voice yet you’re keeping as busy as ever. Has it been strange at all transitioning from the constant craziness of television back to, not “normal”, but life back in North Carolina?
Kat: It’s been very strange. I was involved with The Voice for about a year. Things move very quickly and you’re constantly in motion. When the show was over and I came back home, things seemed to be moving at a snail crawl, but in fact they were moving at a perfectly normal pace. It just seemed that way because The Voice was crazy. Monday you perform your song live, Tuesday you find out if you’re staying while performing more songs, and IF you’re staying, you pick your next song Tuesday night and immediately start filming reality for it. It was exhausting but I absolutely loved it.
Going back to your time with The Design, Young America [Readers can stream/buy the album here] showcased plenty of the bigger, raspier elements of your voice, but you also showed some beautifully soft and intimate sides such as in “You Don’t Have to Be Alone Anymore” and “I’m Going Home”. Will there still be room for those softer moments on the “BAMF theatrical rock explosion” you’re unleashing into the world?
Yes, and actually, even though this is very much a rock album, it’s going to be my kind of rock with theater and glam elements. Most of the songs will be full volume and full energy, but there is one song that I’m working on that’s slow and heart-breaking and beautiful. I don’t have a title for it yet. Titles can be tricky. But it’s about the ups and downs of being a musician, a performer. It seems to be everyone’s favorite right now, and I absolutely love playing it. It breathes. The Voice also helped me to find my softer singing side, which I think is a great balance with my crazy rasp. The great thing is, I’m not having to compromise at all on this album. Although I love “YDHTBAA”, it had an alt-country vibe, and that’s not what I’m about.
Previous songs you’ve written have been lyrically inspired by everything from love and heartbreak to The Hunger Games to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. What kinds of things are inspiring your songwriting this time around?
Love and heartbreak and Doctor Who. Haha. I love pop culture so much. Whenever I find a new show or movie or book to love, I latch on. I think that’s different than music. With music, it’s completely normal to listen to a song or an album over and over again until it starts skipping or the file corrupts. It’s not really normal to watch a Doctor Who ten times. But I think it makes sense for me to love that show. Doctor Who is all about heartbreak and longing and sacrifice. There’s a reason it’s been on TV for 50 years.
But a lot has happened since I put the last album out. My band broke up. My dad passed away. I went on The Voice and (surprise to me) made it pretty damn far. And I know what it’s like for the first time to be completely on my own as a musician. The decisions I make are completely up to me. It’s scary but it’s right. Everything I’ve done has led up to this album. And I’m extremely lucky to be in the position that I am in now, to be surrounded by incredibly talented and kind people.
You are one of the most entertaining live performers I’ve seen anywhere, let alone on television. How much do you think your years of performing experience with The Design contributed to your success on the show?
Well, thank you! I grew up watching one musical after another. I was a very imaginative and completely entranced little girl. I guess I still am. I always wanted to be a performer and I love theater. But I also really love rock and roll. I love Marilyn Manson and the kind of show that he does. I love Amanda Palmer and the way she bangs the hell out of her piano and puts her entire body and being into her performance. A lot of people have asked me why I haven’t tried for Broadway. I need the sweat and the grit. I need the shouting and the slamming and the chaos of it all. I need to be able to jump into the crowd and mix it up.
With The Design, I had the ability to explore what worked and what didn’t, in a fairly sterile environment, funny enough. We had our original music, but we made our living as a cover band. We played a lot of weddings. So I was as raw and as out-there as I could be when I could be, but I also learned the business side of the music industry. It’s very important to be easy to work with. It’s important to show up to a gig on time, to be cooperative with the club, to not break their equipment. I saw what happened to good bands who didn’t seem to understand that. I remember once I sprayed a bunch of silly string into the audience, and it was awesome and fun and people loved it. But the bartender had to sweep it up at the end of the night, and I had to apologize profusely. So I would totally do it again, but I would first check with the owners and say, “Hey, I will clean this up later.” The worst thing you can do is burn a bridge and not be invited back to a venue.
I also learned it’s never a good idea to jump into a crowd of drunk girls because they freeze like deer in headlights and they WILL drop you.
You became the first artist in The Voice history to be saved by the voters (including this fan) via the “Instant Save” route. Can you take us through those few minutes, what you were feeling while waiting on stage to when Carson Daly announced the result? Did you get any sleep at all that night?
It’s funny, because everyone expects you to be so excited and proud to be the first instant save. I was there because I was in the bottom three. Haha. So it’s hard to say if it was an honor or not, other than the fact that I can’t believe people DID come together and they DID save me. I will never get over that feeling of having my name called. That was wonderful, and I’m so grateful. And then I got back to the hotel and saw that [award-winning author] Neil Gaiman had been involved in the twitter save, and then nope, I couldn’t sleep after that.
I remember expecting to be in the bottom three because I never really felt like I was the most popular. Haha. But that’s my life. I choose to be different. I take the weird and harder path. Oh well. That’s the way it goes. No sour grapes here.
I turned to my mom and my husband in the audience and said, “I’m going home.” I thought for sure that Jonny [Gray] would be safe. Ladies love that guy. So when Carson called my name, my legs gave out and I was in shock. It was an incredible moment. Being saved like that actually led me to create my kickstarter. I saw what amazing things people could do in five minutes if they were called to stick up for something/someone they believed in. I never thought in a million years we’d be able to reach our kickstarter goal [$20,000] in three days, but we did! Amazing! The campaign ends on March 5th, and we’re on our way to our 3rd goal [$40,000]! I’m crossing my fingers that it will happen. It will certainly help to make a bigger and better album.
What’s the #1 thing you learned from your journey on The Voice that you’ll take through the rest of your music career?
DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO TROLLS ON THE INTERNET. Haha. Seriously. It takes zero courage and zero character to sit behind a computer and put people down. I tried not to take it personally, but I did and it shook me a little. Even the most popular contestants on the show had haters.
Be yourself. Never let someone bring you down. Don’t cater to people who don’t like you anyway. Find the people that are like you, and need you to be YOU, and make music for them. You can’t please everyone. And be proud of what you do. That’s all you need.
Moving on to your new album, we’ve seen the amazing packages – a concert/costume party and your own Doctor Who screenprints being just a couple of goodies – that you’ve made available for Kickstarter backers. From a musical standpoint, what would reaching $40,000 allow you to do on the album that perhaps wasn’t possible with $20,000?
Having a bigger budget means a bigger, more fuller-sounding album. It means having the ability to hire better musicians. It means having the flexibility to not rush the album and to really explore and create something unique and new. And being able to do things like afford a string quartet and trumpet players will really enrich the album and help us achieve that theatrical rock sound.
Another reason I would love to reach the 40k goal is because I want to put that concert on! So many people have asked when I’ll be able to tour in their area. Touring is hard. It’s going to happen, but this is such a great way to reach out to everyone all at once, because we’re going to stream it live on Youtube. Amanda Palmer did it with her Grand Theft Orchestra tour, and I was thrilled because I couldn’t be in New York and I loved having the chance to see her perform with her new band, even if it was in my bedroom. Actually, it was kinda awesome to watch it in my pajamas. Sure, it’s not the full concert effect, but it was still fun.
In what must be a dream come true, you’ve become friends with one of your idols, Amanda Palmer, who is a huge supporter of your music. Any chance of her doing some guest vocals or piano on the record?
I would absolutely love that.
When do you hope to release the album and does it have a title yet?
There is a tentative title but I don’t want to reveal that yet. We’re hoping to release the album in the fall of 2014.
Being such a theatrical performer, is there anything special or unique that you’d like to incorporate into your future live shows? Perhaps stage dancers or even a whole Broadway-type production?
I would love to have all of that. I’ve had theatrical elements to my shows before with zero budget. I would go out and buy a ton of balloons and fill the stage with them. I would hide paint underneath my monitor and then in the middle of the song start smearing paint and glitter all over my face. I have a glowing red heart that I would hold and sing a slow song with that being the only light. I’ve always dressed theatrically. I would come on stage wearing one outfit and then take that outfit off during a song to reveal another outfit underneath. Basically anything that I could do without my other band members having to put forth any effort. Haha. They weren’t really into the theatrics, but I tried. I tried a little choreography with them. They weren’t into it.
It’s all about being creative. I’ve already started planning in my head decorations for the 40k show. I really want to reach that goal.
You’ve just gotten the call confirming that the Kat Robichaud Dream Tour is going to happen. Which three artists/bands would you choose to take on the road with you and why?
It’s borderline stalking now, but I would love to have Amanda Palmer, although it would be the other way around. I would be on her tour. The Darkness would be fantastic. It’s honestly hard to pick a third. Amanda, because I love her and I love her music. The Darkness, because I think we match in energy and enough in style of music for it to work. There are a lot of fantastic bands out right now that I really love like Fun. and Florence + the Machine. Lady Gaga is killer. I adore Delta Rae, but it wouldn’t be the right fit.
In the past, you’ve talked about how you never really fit in in high school or college and only found your place later in life, thanks to rock n’ roll. Now that you’ve seen so many of your dreams come true – and with so much more to come – what advice do you have for people reading this who may be feeling the same way that you once did?
Middle school and high school and college are all temporary periods of your life. You’re stuck in a box with a bunch of other miserable people that feel just like you, but neither one of you knows that because you’re too shy and scared to approach the other one. Don’t worry about popularity. Popularity is stupid. Popularity gets you in trouble with the cops for drinking underage and it gets you grounded. Make friends with people who have the same interests as you, not because they’re cool. Being cool is stupid. Love what you love and don’t hide it. And if someone is bullying you, get help. Don’t deal with that on your own. Get advice. Reach out. And remember, it’s temporary and someday you’re going to be away from all of that and it will be awesome.
I cared so much about being popular in high school. I also really loved Marilyn Manson. So I wore Abercrombie & Fitch and showed up to school with my stupid Bojangles ice tea like everyone else, and quietly clutched my Manson albums to my heart where no one could see. Stupid. I would have been much happier finding other people that liked what I liked and we could go and listen to “Dope Hat” on repeat for hours. I wouldn’t have dressed like a goth, though. That wasn’t my style and Marilyn Manson was the only band I liked in that genre. I probably would have worn everything in the Delia’s catalogue, though. I had this shiny sky blue ski coat with a white faux fur trim from there. It was hideous, but I felt like a rock star in it. I saw that same damn coat at a thrift store a while ago and I almost bought it. Almost.
So many fans are wondering that I have to ask: Where did you get the Kat hat?
H&M. Best decision I have ever made.
And finally, any last words for all the Katpack members across the world who are sharing your journey?
You guys are my heroes and champions. Thank you for allowing me to be myself. I love you.
If you want to help fund Kat’s new album, you can make a donation over at her official Kickstarter page. There you can also see the incredible packages that backers can receive and hear some of her previous music. Check out the intro video to her Kickstarter below.