The artistic roots of singer-songwriter Katey Laurel are both deep and diverse. Born to free-spirited, nature-loving parents in the early 1980s, she spent the first years of her life traveling coast-to-coast in a Volkswagen bus. When her family eventually made a lifestyle change from the freewheeling hippie life to settling on a ranch in rural Colorado bordering on national forest and near the 70-square mile Flattops Wilderness Area, the beauty of nature and the more isolated environment let Katey’s young imagination run free, at which point she turned to creative pursuits to express her wonder at the world.
A lover of natural beauty, horses and wildlife from an early age, Katey began drawing and painting what she saw around her. One creative outlet led to another, and she expanded to writing poetry and then studying piano and French horn. She draws inspiration from many musical styles—from the bluegrass and Appalachian roots records of her family’s early “hippie years” to the classic rock of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks, The Who, Eagles and Tom Petty; from 80s dance-pop cassettes of Debbie Gibson and Paula Abdul to the alternative rock of the 1990s; and from the classical roots of her musical training to the piano-rock of Ben Folds Five and Coldplay and the acoustic crooning of Damien Rice and John Mayer—all left their mark on Katey’s developing musical blueprint. As she grew into her musical ear and passion, female songwriter superstars of the time also seeped into her soul and she was artistically inspired by the likes of Natalie Merchant, Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, Patty Griffin and Dixie Chicks.
In her late teens, Katey found herself at a crossroads in regards to her talents and had to make a choice – music over art became her passion of focus. While attending college at Huntington University in Indiana, while majoring in French horn performance, she added guitar to her instrumental arsenal and began developing her craft as a singer-songwriter. The rootsy folk music of the salt-of-the-earth Midwest arts culture of the early 2000s left a mark on her songwriting during this time, and she found herself frequenting the audiences of artists like Over the Rhine and Denison Witmer. Inspired by these bands’ approach to the industry, rather than courting a record label at the outset, Katey took the DIY approach to her music career from the start, writing and recording her first record in her bedroom – “Nothing to write home about,” she quips.
Since those early beginnings, over the course of 14 years of recording and releasing a prolific discography of self-produced and self-released records with producers Neilson Hubbard and Warren Huart and performing live shows, Katey has built a solid fan base with her blend of folk and pop which she deems “roots-pop”. She was honored as a winner or runner-up in numerous songwriting competitions, garnered radio airplay both in her hometown of Denver and on Triple A stations around the country, landed song placements in film and television, and shared the stage with Howie Day, Katie Herzig, Bill Mallonee, Matt Morris, Trevor Hall, Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd, Blue Oyster Cult and others.
The most recent several years, however, proved both difficult and deeply transformational. In the wake of a painful divorce and the added complications of resulting stress-related health issues, Katey describes undergoing a profound journey of emotional recovery and self-discovery. During a self-imposed artistic hiatus, she rediscovered her original love for music as a fan first. The artists and songs she connected with during that time have helped her navigate the grieving process, not only of her recent trauma and loss, but of many earlier ones that had been left unprocessed. “Foy Vance, Marc Scibilia, Coldplay—especially Ghost Stories and Head Full of Dreams—Leagues and Thad Cockrell helped get me through,” she says. “And a healthy dose of reggae when just I needed to feel light-hearted and dance for a minute.”
Katey’s new EP Daydream, her first release of new music in three years, represents the first step in the artist’s return to music. While written prior to her divorce, songs like “Lifeboat,” “Invisible” and the title track carry almost a haunting sense of premonition, as though Katey was subconsciously aware of the cracks in the foundation and the quake to come. Produced by Warren Huart and featuring her friends Mike Morter (formerly of Churchill) on mandolin and Dave Preston as a guest vocalist on “Lifeboat”, it is her most intimate and acoustic work to date.
For true artists who experience trauma and loss, it’s uncanny how the experience serves to deepen and purify their artistic expression. Katey Laurel has already earned a loyal following by writing solid melodies and relatable lyrics. Coming out on the other side of crisis with Daydream—along with that refreshing sense of transparency and vulnerability only gained through fire—it’s inevitable that we are about to hear her most profound work yet.