This month we're excited to feature Frettie songwriter Charlie Katt. In this interview he shares his process, go to resources as well as his favorite memory as a songwriter and artists.
Q: Where do you call home?
I’ve lived in Knoxville, Tennessee for about nine years now and I can’t imagine living anywhere else at this time in my life. It’s beautiful.
Q: Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Elmont, New York and lived most of my life on Long Island.
Q: When did you write your first song?
I wrote my first song when I was about fourteen years old. It was for my girlfriend. It was a cheesy, clichéd love song called Endless Love.
Q: How did you get started in songwriting?
I got started teaching myself piano at home. I’ve always been a visual artist and someone who loved creating things, so creating my own music was the next, logical step for me. I grew up in church and churches are always full of music, and that really rubbed off on me. Since I was little, music was like a seed in my heart. Through the years it kept growing and growing. With each new, musical experience, I liked it more and more and wanted to keep on creating it.
Q: Did you have any parents, siblings or was someone else in your family musical?
My older brother sings and play drums and my aunt sings. When growing up I always looked forward to hearing her sing in church.
Q: What is your songwriting process typical like?
I start out by taking notes. My notes consist of both lyrical and audible ideas. Writing down everything that comes to my mind wherever I am or whatever I’m doing is the most important part of my process. Great ideas can be forgotten if I don’t do this. I also record every random melody and tune that pops into my head, whether it’s accompanied by piano or guitar or simply just me humming into my phone while I’m driving. I record everything I think of. I’ve accumulated literally thousands of little, musical ideas over the course of many years. But only a very small percentage of these recordings actually become songs.
Next, I listen to my most recent ideas over and over again. By doing this, I’m sorting through them to single out the most catchy or musically pleasing ones. I figure out what the “mood” of the recording that I’ve chosen is and then skim over my lyrical ideas and notes to find something that fits. That’s when I start writing my lyrics. So, to break it all down, you could say that I compose my music first and then write the lyrics to the song.
Q: Do you have an ideal setup for writing music?
My setup is usually me sitting on my bed with my laptop and my guitar or ukulele. If I’m not at home, it’s same setup, except in my car somewhere.
Q: What book(s) or blogs are you currently reading?
Ironically, I’m half way through a book on how to write stories called How to Be a Writer by Barbara Baig. Even though it’s not about writing songs, the processes that she teaches in the book are great for collecting ideas from all of your senses and has helped me tremendously in my songwriting, especially with my story songs. I also listen to The Music Biz Weekly Podcast by Michael Brandvold and Brian Thompson. Again, it’s not specifically about songwriting, but they do discuss many aspects of the music business from the artists point of view such as marketing, performance and much more.
Q: Who are your top three favorite artists or songwriters?
Josh Groban for his amazing vocal abilty, Jason Mraz for his great and unique songwriting and Michael W. Smith for being a great role model when I was a young, learning musician.
Q: What album are you currently listening to?
I’m not specifically listen to any one album but I do usually listen to folk and indie artists on Pandora.
Q: How do you stay inspired?
There are three things that keep me inspired. Regret is probably the biggest. I’ve taken breaks from music in the past and I regretted it every time. I would have been much further ahead than I am now if I’ve not taken those breaks. The second thing that keeps me inspired and moving forward is knowing that, someday, I might be able to actually have a career in music if I stick to it. It’s my dream and my passion and it something that I want more than anything. The third is simply listening to artists that I love and whose songs make me feel something deep in my heart.
Q: What's your biggest challenge as a songwriter?
The things that are more important than songwriting are my biggest challenge. Sometimes there are not enough hours in the day to what I need to do. Writing often takes a back seat to those things. But the main thing that takes priority over my writing is my family, but that’s well worth it.
Q: What time of day do you prefer to write your music and where?
I usually write at night, when I’m home from my job and dinner is done. I lock myself in my room and get to work.
Q: What's your favorite memory as a songwriter or musician?
One of my favorite memories is a bittersweet one. Shortly after 9-11 I was asked to sing the National Anthem at an outdoor memorial service in Medford, New York. You never forget the way your voice sounds as it echoes through the quiet streets.
Q: How do you maintain your professional growth?
I keep myself surrounded by other songwriters. I belong the the Knoxville Songwriters Association. They help keep me on the path and keep my skills sharpened.
Q: What are some of your greatest accomplishments to date?
Besides my four, amazing kids, my greatest accomplishment is the decision to continue in songwriting at the age of thirty-nine.
Q: If you could provide any advice to up and coming songwriters, what would it be?
From my own experience, I’d say the thing that has hurt me the most is not writing. So my advice would be to never stop, no matter how discouraged you get. It hurts less when others let you down than it does when you let yourself down.
Q: What online tools do you use today for songwriting?
My top three online tools are:
Google Drive - This is where I write and store all my lyrics and ideas in basic documents. I use it because it’s easily accessible from anywhere I go. Work, home and or on any mobile device.
Rhymezone.com - Is the first, and probably the best site I’ve ever used for finding rhymes. It also has tools within itself that come in very handy such as the ability to find related words and near rhymes.
RhymeBrain.com - This is also a rhyming website, but it has a very unique tool that comes in extremely handy in a bind, an alliteration finder.
Q: How has Frettie benefited you and the songwriting community?
Frettie just opened up the world of song critiques from just me and my songwriting buddies from Knoxville to all songwriters from every corner of the planet! I think that if you’re just not getting the feedback you need, Frettie is there 24/7 and people are always helpful.
Q: What's next for you?
Getting to that next step in my music. Since I’m also a performer, I’m always trying to get out there, play concerts and get my name known. It only takes that one, amazing opportunity to boost your career and I’m hoping that will come soon for me.
Q: Care to add anything else?
One thing I didn’t talk much about is that I have four kids and how important family is me, and although songwriting may be very important to you, don’t let it trump the things that matter most. Whatever you do and wherever you need to go, music will always be there when you get back.
Q: Thanks for your time Charlie. We look forward to connecting with you on Frettie. Where else can readers find you online to keep updated on what you are doing?
The three top places that I keep updated at this point are my official website, Facebook and YouTube.