Former Chugiak resident is a pop star in the Lower 48 but unknown in Alaska
By Seth Boyer
The most famous Alaska musician no one in Alaska has heard of is burgeoning pop star Kate Earl.
She grew up a Chugiak but performed at a only a few open mikes in Anchorage before relocating to Los Angeles in 2000 so she could pursue her craft in earnest.
The move paid off. Earl released her second album in early November and has been touring alongside Maroon 5. That’s right, the Grammy-award winning, millions of albums sold-worldwide, Maroon 5.
“They asked me to tour on my first record but I was too scared,” Earl said. “I was intimidated by crowds of 10,000 people a night. Honestly the stage fright was crippling.”
When their opener dropped out this fall, Earl got another call.
“This time I couldn’t say no,” Earl said. “I’d never been to Louisville before. I was on the fancy tour bus watching satellite TV, checking e-mail on the computer and making smoothies and organic salads. It was wonderful.”
Earl’s debut album, “Fate Is the Hunter,” captured the beginnings of her song writing style with minimalist sound — think Joni Mitchell with soul. Her latest, a self-titled debut on Universal Republic Records, bumps the production values up significantly.
“My first record written on intuition,” Earl said. “With this one, I wanted to understand the mechanics of pop, but the messages are still very me.”
Signing with a big label like Universal Republic is a smart move for someone aspiring for radio play. It has certainly done a few favors for Jack Johnson, Mason Jennings and Mika, to name a few. Big labels sometimes present a different set of problems for new artists, but Earl seemed largely unfazed.
“At first I felt there was some intrusion,” Earl said. “Then I realized how I’m so privileged to have this opportunity and I just embraced it.”
Growing up in the North Birchwood area had an impact on her song writing and style. Her time in church leading worship and listening to classic gospel is reflected clearly on her new record.
“I love it when a song comes on the radio and everyone knows the words,” Earl said. “It’s the greatest sensation to completely fall into a moment in time, to be swept up, taken under the spell of a lyric, a rhyme, a melody. I tried to write an album like that.”
After “Melody,” the first single off the self-titled album, became an iTunes Free Single of the Week in August, Earl’s popularity spiked, affording her a wealth of social networking connections and giving the new record — now ranked in the top 100 pop album downloads on Amazon — a much higher profile. Earl has been quick to embrace the new communications aspects of the music industry.
“Now fans can watch the process and watch me grow,” Earl said. “I have so much support that I wouldn’t know was there otherwise. When I was having a hard time, a friend sent out a message to a bunch of my fans and I got 1,500 messages of encouragement on MySpace. Can you imagine getting that message of ‘keep your chin up’ from 1,500 people?”
For Alaskans it’s a good thing Earl is so active online — she hasn’t played in the state much since one of her first open mike nights years ago.
“If there’s someone able to organize a show in Alaska, I’d love to come,” Earl said. “I absolutely love coming home!”
Get on it, Anchorage promoters.
It would certainly fill a genre void in the Alaska concert scene. Plus the state would get a chance to see the talent it has produced.
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