“I was four years old, and I don’t quite remember the entire song now, but I remember being nervous as I looked out at the audience in my high school gym,” says singer Kat Perkins as she reminisces about her first musical performance. “I remember when I finished the song, all I wanted to do was do it again and again and again.” In 2013, memory became reality once again as Kat took the stage, now as a contestant on the singing competition show, The Voice.
Wowing the judges with her powerhouse vocals, Kat went on to defeat 120 fierce competitors, ultimately earning a spot in the top 5 where her coach, Adam Levine, said what viewers had been saying for weeks, “Kat Perkins is hands down one of the best contestant we’ve ever had on The Voice.”
After her elimination from the show, Kat released her debut single, “Fearless,” which went on the reach #5 on the ITunes rock chart. On July 10, 2015, nearly two years after competing on The Voice, Kat released her self-titled debut album, a feat long awaited by fans. “I think the most exciting thing about having my first solo record come out,” says Kat, “is that my fans can see that there is life after The Voice.”
In this exclusive interview with Music Existence, Kat shares her earliest musical memories, the inside scoop of life as a contestant on The Voice, what it’s like to work with singer-songwriter and The Voice judge, Adam Levine, the message behind her debut album, and the importance of always following your dreams.
ME: Most people know you as a former contestant from The Voice, but originally, you come from a tiny city in North Dakota with a population of about 281 people. What was it like to be an aspiring musician in such a small town like that?
KAT: I really don’t know anything different from it because that’s how I grew up; it was cool to me, so I took every opportunity that I possibly could. That mainly meant singing at all the talent shows and community events in the summer time, and I sang the national anthem for everything possible – all the rodeos, all the sporting events we had in high school. By the time I was 15, I thought I could probably start a band in this town. I convinced my father, my sister, cousin, and uncle, who were all very musically inclined, to start a band and to play these events that we had been playing all of our lives but actually try to get paid for it. We did that, and it was so fun to do, especially in a small town, because it really laid a lot of the groundwork for me to gain loyal fans who followed me all the way to The Voice and ended up voting for me.
ME: Do you remember your first musical performance as a singer?
KAT: I do. I was four years old, and I don’t quite remember the entire song, but I remember being nervous as I looked out at the audience in my high school gym. I remember when I got done, all I wanted to do was do it again and again and again.
ME: Was this when you realized you wanted to do music professionally?
KAT: Absolutely. By the time I started kindergarten, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I always said, “I want to be a singer!”
ME: During this time, you often had to travel hundreds of miles away from home just to perform a show. What kept pushing you to make those trips over and over again?
KAT: There was just a certain drive inside of me, especially when I was a teenager, to take opportunities and eventually try to make a career out of this. My dad always used to say two things to me: “If you can dream it, you can be it. You’re just going to have to work hard,” and, “Do what you do and do it well.” I still live by both of those things. To me, to have to drive through the night to make it to an audition just to be told no, it just seemed like part of the gig. It made me a better person inside and out, and I think it was such a great characteristic to instill in me. My dad was very, very adamant about instilling awesome, hardworking characteristics in my and my older sister, who is a singer as well.
ME: Well, it definitely seems as if your hard work paid off because in 2013, a video of you singing in an Amsterdam airport went viral, and then shortly after that, you received a call from the producers of The Voice asking you to audition for the show. How did you react when you received that call?
KAT: To be honest, I actually thought it was a joke (laughs). It was in email form at first, and I almost deleted it. I was laughing thinking, ‘oh god, I wonder what scam this is. Spam mail or whatever it was,’ but I remember thinking this had such an undertone of realism. I thought maybe this is real, and I need to research it. I immediately googled the person’s name that had signed the email, and it was completely legitimate. So, I called the number, and in the middle of dialing it, I remember going, “Oh my god! Do I really want to do this? Is this something I should do?” I’m actually really terrified of competition and singing shows, but I was a huge fan of The Voice. Being a nanny, we used to watch it as a family every single Monday and Tuesday night, so it occurred to me that this might be a really scary thing for me. I’ll never forget after getting all the information, I got off the phone, and the little five-year-old girl I was nannying looked up at me and she said, “ Well Kat, why wouldn’t you do it?” And it was perfect because this no-filter five-year-old was right; why wouldn’t I? You have to take those chances sometimes.
ME: Speaking of terrifying, let’s take it back to the very first moment you were properly introduced to the world. You’re under those bright stage lights, the crowd is watching, the judges are listening, and millions of viewers have their eyes only on you. Where does your mind go at a time like that?
KAT: I’m not even sure I can properly verbalize what was going on in my brain. The day I did my blind audition was the most nerve-wrecking, weirdest, longest day of my life. We got in hair and make up at 7 o’clock in the morning. There were 125 people who had moved on to the blind audition process by this point, so I didn’t end up auditioning that day until 8 o’clock that night. It was already 13 hours since doing hair and make up and of just sitting around getting ready for this moment. I talked myself off the ledge like 55 times. I kept thinking, ‘I can’t do this! I’m too nervous! That’s no way I can even breathe!’ Then I would calm down, eat a little bit of food, have some tea and be like, ‘I got this. I can totally do this. I’m ready. I’ve been preparing for this my entire life.’ Then five minutes later, I’d be like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t do this! I’m so nervous!’ I was doing this for 13 hours, so I was exhausted by the time I was taken on stage to sing.
I remember walking out there and there was silence, and you see the four chairs. I remember looking at the band and locking eyes with the guitar player, Solace, and him showing me that it was ok, that I was going to be fine. I remember the song starting and just giving it my all, and in the middle of it, thinking, ‘I got this,’ and just keeping the confidence up. And then the chairs turned, and I wanted to stop singing. It’s so hard to keep singing once the chairs turn around because you get so excited. I actually sort of went off course with what I was supposed to sing; I went off the melody, and I was thinking, ‘Oh my god! Get back on the path! Keep singing and finish the song strong!’ I did, and I’ll never forget feeling the biggest sense of relief. I just wanted to fall down onto the floor once I was done and somebody had turned their chair.
ME: And the thing with that is, three of the four judges turned their chairs for you. So, as they were pitching to you and trying to get you to join their teams, did you already have your mind made up as to who you wanted to work with or did you decide on the spot?
KAT: No, you prepare for that moment for weeks on end, and the producers put you through the different choices all the time. They constantly ask you who you think you would go with; they try to make you make a quick decision when they do the interviews. It’s all a very prepared moment, but before I went on, everything left my mind. One of the producers came up to me and said, “If you get more than one coach to turn around, and you’re sort of losing your mind, do two things: try to remember who turned around first, and if that seems like the first choice, go with your gut; or if you can, try to listen to what they’re saying and how what they’re saying will affect your choice, and make the most educated choice you can.
However, in the moment, first of all, you’re trying to gather your mind, and it’s very hard to settle down and listen to them after they’ve turned around. Second of all, it’s very hard to hear them because of how the mic system is in the studio, so the audience can hear them way better than the person standing on stage. I could barely hear what they were saying to me, so ultimately, I went with the first person who turned around and that was Adam [Levine]. I just knew in my gut that was the right choice, and I’m so glad I did that because that was the best decision I could have possibly made that day.
ME: How was it working with Adam as a coach?
KAT: It was so surreal and so amazing because I don’t even think people know the extent of his talent. He plays the drums, he plays the guitar, he’s an awesome songwriter, and his ability to coach and take whoever he’s coaching to another level is amazing. He pulled things out of me that I never would have thought of. He taught me how to use my voice kind of like a guitar; he taught me how to be very dynamic; and most importantly, he taught me how to calm my nerves and really be the best I could be in the moment. He would tell me endless stories of how he gets nervous. The first time he performed at the Grammy’s, he said he thought he was going to lose his mind, so he pulled from that, and gave a lot of great advice about holding those nervous feelings in and using that energy to take the performance to a whole other level. I love him to death for that, and I will forever respect him even more than I already did.
ME: During your time on The Voice, Adam actually said that you were one of the best contestants the show had ever had. How did it feel to hear that come from someone you clearly respected?
KAT: That was a very surreal moment. He said, “You’re one of the best singer’s we’ve ever had on here,” and I will forever take that with me. It’s such a complement. It’s a complement coming form anyone, even from a stranger in the audience, but from four super stars that I really admire and respect in the industry, that’s insane. It’s so uplifting, and it forever changed my life to know that those people also respect straight up singers. And to further that, I got to hang out with Adam, like, three times after The Voice. We’ve kept in touch, so when he came through Indianapolis, which is where I live, he contacted me and said, “Will you hang out with me? I’m playing a show there. Clear your schedule, and let’s hang out.” As we were sitting together after his show, we were eating some sushi and having our waters and beers, and he said the same thing again. He said, “I want you to know that you’re one of the best contestants I’ve ever had on this show, and I think you’re just one of the greatest singers ever, and I love that you’re continuing in the music business and doing what you do.” And again, those words of encouragement just shoot me to a whole other level and keep me knowing that I’m doing the right things.
ME: It’s really nice to hear how the coaches actually take an interest in everyone even after the show, how they build an actual relationship with them.
KAT: And the same thing happened with the winner of my season, Josh Kaufman. He was Usher’s contestant, and Usher kept in touch with him too. Again, no one has to do that; it’s not part of their contract. Adam just literally took to me as a human being and his wife, Behati, was there for much of our season because they’d just gotten married, and she hung out with us and respected us too, and I also think Adam saw that too. I’m so grateful that I still have him as a friend and a mentor.
ME: I don’t know how anything could possibly top that because I’d imagine the entire experience of being on The Voice is memorable in it’s own way, but what would you say was the best things about being on The Voice and the most nerve wrecking thing about it?
KAT: I would say the best thing was being around all these talented contestants because that motivated all of us. I mean, the talent from the get go, the 125 people that show up for the blind auditions, is insane. I’m not even sure how they kept narrowing that down, but just listening to each other sing and practice in our hotel rooms was very motivating and very inspiring. I had Audra McLaughlin as my suitmate; I could hear her singing every day, and it was the most intimidating thing ever. I almost requested to move rooms so I wasn’t around her because she was so intimidating (laughs). She was so amazing! It made me so nervous to be around all of that talent, but at the same time, it was the most inspiring and the most memorable thing. The coolest thing you could ever do is to be in a talent pool, going through the same process, and learning from each other. I learned so many tricks from the other singers about breath control, how they warm up their voices, how they keep their voices healthy, and how they incorporate their diet into keeping their voices healthy. There was stuff that you couldn’t pay to learn.
ME: Although you were a fan favorite to win, you were ultimately eliminated. Have you re-watched your season since, and if so, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
KAT: I finally started to re-watch it when I got home, and it took me months to even want to watch it. I think I actually saw a clip on YouTube one day and thought maybe I should actually watch some of the episodes just to see how I came across or how my character was depicted. Everyone that knew me always said it was so great seeing me on television exactly as I am because it was honest. Many people get very upset with how they’re depicted on the show, how they’re edited, and how their interviews are broken up because they feel that it’s not a fair representation of who they are. But everyone on the outside kept telling me how great it was because I just got to be me. So, I went back and watched a few things, and I was so happy with what I did and how I did. I can honestly tell you, I couldn’t have done anything better. I couldn’t have done anything differently under the circumstances. Granted, I could see how nervous I was during every episode. A lot of people couldn’t see that, but I could, but there’s nothing you can do. That’s just the nature of the game, and it’s so outside your comfort zone that that’s going to happen, but I was very happy with how my character was depicted, and was very happy with how I sang and how I took each song and made it it’s own. I wouldn’t do anything differently.
ME: It seems as if you grown exponentially from this experience both as a person and as a musician.
KAT: We all talk about how we went form zero to sixty in just confidence alone. Once you do something like this and you push yourself that far outside of your comfort zone, you grow from that. I’m very adamant about speaking about that, especially when I do public speaking and go out and talk to kids about taking chances, pushing themselves, and whatever they want to do with their passions because all that hard work will pay off. You’ll feel very fulfilled and it will help you grow and be a better person, singer, farmer, mechanic, or whatever it is you want to be. I’m living proof, and I think everyone from The Voice would say that. It’s something that just made us grow up really fast and learn a lot about ourselves and about what it is we want to do in life.
ME: Is that what inspired your first single, “Fearless?”
KAT: Hands down the inspiration behind that song. I didn’t really care about the genre of my first single or about anything except the message. I wanted to encapsulate my entire experience, and I wanted it to be an inspirational message that I could take and put out there. I wanted a message that I could take around to other people and inspire them to take chances and follow their passion and dreams. It’s just like what my dad used to say when I was 5, “Follow your dreams. If you can dream it, you can do it.” I think “Fearless” was the perfect song to encapsulate all of that and really become my brand. I want that to be my message for the rest of my life; I wanted my message to be “Fearless.”
ME: Your debut album, Kat Perkins was released July 10th. I know driving has been such an essential part of your life, so was that the reason you chose “Drive” as the lead single for the record?
KAT: Not only in this last year have I been driving and driving and driving, but with growing up in a small town, there was this feeling that came upon us around mid-May or early June as school got out and summer came. Since we live in the Midwest, as it warmed up, we would grab our girlfriends, jump in the car, roll our windows down, and sing at the top of our lungs and just have fun. So, when I was thinking about my second single, I really wanted to capture that feeling because I knew we were going to release the record early summer. I wanted a song about having fun, rolling the window down, and just going for it. As a band, being on tour and driving a lot is how we have the most fun. That’s what I wanted to do with the lead single off this record, and I feel that we nailed it. I feel that the song was written very well. I’m actually not the writer of the song. I hired my great friend, Shelly Chatfield, from Nashville, Tennessee, to take my idea and put it into a song, and I love it. I’m so proud of it and the record.
ME: So, in terms of an overall message, this album is all about having fun, going out, and enjoying life?
KAT: Yeah, I really wanted to make a diverse record. You have a track like “Drive” and there are a few other tacks on there that have that same undertone of fun beats that makes you want to dance and sing, but there are also some blues inspired songs on there. There’s a very, very deep ballad on the record called “Main Street.” It almost could be a Broadway tune, to be honest, because it has a Broadway-ish story line to it. I bookended the record with a song that my friend, Jennifer Grimm, wrote that definitely has that same “Drive” undertone; it’s called, “Let’s Get on the Road.” It’s a song written as though I have wanted to be on tour all my life. Jennifer has known me forever and knows how important it was for me to just get on the road, sing, entertain, and have fun, so we captured that in the song too. It’s a nice bookend to the record, and it keeps the theme going.
ME: For your fans, this album has been a long time coming. What are you most excited for them to experience with this new album?
KAT: I think the most exciting thing about having my first solo record come out is that my fans can see that there is life after The Voice. Hopefully, my fans will embrace that and take to my original songs and to me becoming an artist again. Not that you aren’t an artist on The Voice, but they sort of get to know you as an artist singing cover tunes. Now it’s time for them to really get to know me and the songs from my heart and soul, to get to know me as Kat Perkins, the singer of an original song instead of a cover tune.
ME: For anyone out there trying to pursue a dream like this, what message would you send to them?
KAT: I think the most important thing I could say to anyone aspirating to do anything or to follow their passion is to keep going, keeping doing it, and keep believing in yourself. Believe in yourself even when everything comes tumbling down and you can’t move forward. You’ve got to remember who you are and why you’re doing it in the first place. You have to believe in yourself because confidence is key. It’s like what my father said to me, “If you can dream it, you can do it, but you have to work hard.” I think a lot of people aren’t prepared for the hard work; I wasn’t even prepared for it, but keep going, and I promise your hard work will pay off.
Grab your copy of Kat’s debut album, Kat Perkins, here:
Check out Kat on tour now:
- July 18 – Lakeville, MN @ Twin Cities Harley-Davison
- July 31 – Medora, ND @ Medora
- August 2 – Sturgis, SD @ Easyriders Saloon
- August 3 – Sturgis, SD @ Easyriders Saloon
- August 4 – Sturgis, SD @ Easyriders Saloon
- August 5 – Sturgis, SD @ Easyriders Saloon
- August 6 – Sturgis, SD @ Easyriders Saloon
- August 13 – Minneapolis, MN @ Greater Twin Cities United Way
- August 21 – Shakopee, MN @ Valley Fair
- August 22 – Shakopee, MN @ Valley Fiar
- August 29 – Okoboji, IA @ Arnold’s Park Green Space
- September 5 – Havana, ND @ Tewaukon Music Festival
- September 12 – Trimbelle, WI @ SCVR 25th Annual Chilifeed/Gas Lite Tavern
- September 19 – St. Paul, MN @ 26th Annual Wine Auction to Benefit the Regions Hospital Burn Center
- September 28 – Grafton, ND @ Grafton School Auditorium Grand Opening
- October 10 – Spring Park, MD @ Lord Fletcher’s
- October 30 – St. Cloud, MN @ Minnesota Collegiate Deca Conference
Follow Kat Perkins for the latest information on tour dates, new releases, and more: