Kate Hearity found her newest single, “Shadows and Smoke,” in a bottle of beer.
Well, not in the beer itself — but in its name.
Fellow musician Tony Halchak invited Ms. Hearity to participate in “The Brew Sessions II.” Earlier this year, the Luzerne County Brewers club got together to brew six new beers, and six musicians recorded songs based on the brews. Names included “King Crow,” “Dimestore Diamond,” and the one Ms. Hearity drew, “Shadows and Smoke.”
“I didn’t taste the beer ahead of time. I was just given ‘Shadows and Smoke,’” said Ms. Hearity, of Wilkes-Barre.
Ms. Hearity had never written a song to order before, and she debated participating in the project right up until the last minute, she said. But she did, and the task proved easier than she imagined.
“All the songs I’ve written, from my first record and everything in between, had been that divine moment of inspiration — where lightning strikes, and everything is magical, and the song just flows,” she said, adding she realized she could still mine her personal experiences for the song.
“It’s still your feelings, just on a certain scenario or topic, or subject,” she said.
‘Writing like crazy’
That project spurred on Ms. Hearity, who’s now “writing like crazy” and planning her second album after releasing “Shadows and Smoke” as a single. That and a trip to Nashville sparked renewed passion, a reclaimed name and a new perspective for the singer-songwriter, a lifelong performer.
Ms. Hearity remembers hamming it up during at-home dance parties as a child.
“I was always dancing, though I wouldn’t say I’m much of a dancer these days,” Ms. Hearity said. “But when I was a kid, my mom tells these stories about how my aunt would play Elvis (Presley) records and I would dance, or my mom would play some Helen Reddy and Carole King, and I would dance.”
She wrote her first song at age 6, on her grandmother’s piano. In elementary school, she participated in chorus and credits teacher Phil Latella with improving her vocal work.
“Once that got going, there was nothing stopping me,” she said.
The first legitimate song she wrote, “Broken Promises,” came at age 12, at a time when she looked to Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston for inspiration. In college, she started listening to Melissa Etheridge and the Indigo Girls, as well as Mariah Carey. Her original work reflected her influences and she found her genre in folk rock.
Ms. Hearity adopted her performance name, K8, and later released her first EP, “Something Out of Nothing,” in 2004. But after years of performing, Ms. Hearity and other musicians found the Northeast Pennsylvania music scene had changed. Popular live music venues like the Voodoo Lounge in Luzerne, the various clubs at Market Street Square in Wilkes-Barre, and Jitterbugs in Edwardsville had all closed their doors.
“When I first started playing in this area, the scene was very supportive of local music, and in particular local original music,” she said. “All the clubs around here had stages and lights. You would have to figure out — ‘I have 25 bucks. Do I want to go over here and see Clove, and that’s going to cost me $5, and then I want to go over here and see Breaking Ben(jamin), oh but the Badlees are playing over at Jitterbugs’ ... those were the days.”
Club scene faded
But those diehard club patrons got older, started families and careers, and their priorities shifted away from going out to see original musicians. The clubs closed, the stages disappeared, and performances took place from a spot under a dartboard in the corner, Ms. Hearity said.
“The club would push the pool table out of the way, so I could get in that corner. And people would come and be angry the pool table was out of commission,” she said.
So Ms. Hearity began to question whether she wanted to continue to perform. She never stopped penning new songs, but she wasn’t sure she would still take the stage — or rather the patch of floor in the corner.
“I was ready to quit, and just play at home,” she said. “I’m not going to stop writing songs — that’s not a choice. That’s my destiny. That’s who I am. That’s what I’m on this Earth for. It was just a matter of, ‘Am I going to keep trying to do this professionally? Was anybody listening? Did anybody care?’”
And then Ms. Hearity started finding answers to those questions. She started talking about “The Brew Sessions II” project on social media, and people responded positively. She went to Nashville and played an open mic night.
“It brought me back to what I was supposed to be doing the whole time,” she said. “If 10 people like it, then people should hear it.”
Rediscovering her passion started about a year ago, when Ms. Hearity began listening more to the Indigo Girls — old and new stuff — and to singer-songwriters like Kacey Musgraves and Taylor Swift. Ms. Hearity truly found renewed inspiration in her March 2015 trip to Nashville, where she ended up performing at an open mic night with a borrowed guitar.
“I absolutely can’t get it out of my head. I’m at my first gig in Nashville,” she said of that night. “I’m not getting paid, and it’s not that big of a deal. But, oh my god, I’m playing in Nashville.”
That was the night she decided to move on from K8, though it wasn’t a calculated move. She decided to perform under her real name because it just felt right.
“It woke me up. I felt like it was the natural progression of things,” she said, recalling how, at age 14, she drew K8 on her notebooks in school. “But I’ve grown up. I have a different perspective on things. I feel like I’m a better writer than I ever was, and if I want to be taken seriously, I need to have a name that goes with that.”
Speaking of well-chosen names, Ms. Hearity also performs with Jen Cerreta of the band Clove in a duo called Mighty Aphrodite. The two like to joke they’re vocal soulmates, because their voices fit together like puzzle pieces, Ms. Hearity said.
“I’m Mighty, and she’s Aphrodite, and that’s how we roll,” she laughed.
Story courtesy of The Citizens Voice.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet Kate Hearity
Based in: Wilkes-Barre
Genre: Folk rock with a touch of country
For fans of: Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge