Chatting with Kate Bollinger about her new EP, Gwen Stefani and dessert.
It’s been a little more than a year since Kate Bollinger first uploaded a song to Spotify but it certainly doesn’t seem that way. After attracting some serious attention with her single “Tests” her music has been added to practically every Indie playlist the streaming giant curates. Simply put, Kate can’t lose. Good thing too, because if her recent EP’s title was any indication, she really doesn’t want to.
After sharing the appropriately named five-track project I Don’t Wanna Lose in June the Charlottesville singer-songwriter is back in action, dropping a new alternative version of “Talk About It.” Kate slows everything down this time around, giving a dreamy, minimal take on the EP’s closing track and adding a jazzy saxophone into the mix. The B-Side has the same infectiously bubbly feel to it that Kate has displayed in some of her other tracks like “do u go out together?” and “Candy” and will have you questioning which version of the song you like best. No worries, you can find both on our Tasty! Jams playlists.
I got the opportunity to ask Kate a few questions about the EP, her songwriting and inspirations, balancing music with school, her sweet tooth, and what’s next for her. Always the overachiever, Kate also did a deep dive on each of the tracks on I Don’t Wanna Lose, sharing her thoughts on the songs in their finished state and revealing exactly how they all came about. Find the full interview and track-by-track breakdown below!
First off, congrats on the EP release! How long have you been working on this project?
Thank you! I had some free recording time that I had won like four years ago when I was in high school, so I reached out to the studio owner and asked if my band could come in. We set up a time and I had a list of nine or ten songs that I wanted to record in a full day at the studio, but we only got to the first five and they happened to fit really nicely together on the EP. The songs themselves are all kind of from different times. At the time of recording, which was at the end of March, “Candy” and “Talk About It” were very new. “Je Rêverai à Toi” and “I Don’t Wanna Lose” were about a year and a half old and “Untitled” was written somewhere in between.
The first song of yours that I heard was “Tests” and it seems that was a lot of people’s first time hearing you as well! What was it like seeing that song blow up like it did?
It was really strange! My producer John Trainum, our other friend John Wehmeyer, and I wrote the song together and put it out hoping people would like it, and definitely feeling confident in it, but weren’t necessarily expecting the response that it got.
Why did you make the decision to leave “Tests” off the EP?
That actually never even crossed my mind, but the projects just felt so completely separate. “Tests” was written collaboratively with two friends, and I love the song, but the songs on I Don’t Wanna Lose feel more like my babies or something.
And what enticed you about singing in French on “Je Rêverai à Toi”?
It was a mix of a few different things. I felt shy about what I had to say at the time that I wrote the song and wrote it in French knowing that most of the people I knew wouldn’t understand what it meant and would have to at least work a little harder to find out. I was also learning French in school at the time and have always loved how the language sounds in song. Plus it’s fun trying to write in a different language because you can say things in a different way. Everyone is going to interpret your song differently than how you originally meant it anyway, so I think adding another layer opens more doors to interpretation. I realized some grammatical mistakes in the song after I wrote it. I wanted “Je Rêverai à Toi” to mean “I will dream of you,” but it actually translates to “I will dream to you,” but the song is about a long distance relationship so the error somehow works really well I think.
Do you have a personal favorite from the EP? Do you think that will change with time?
Right now I really like “Je Rêverai à Toi,” but I have a special place for all of them. I like “Candy” because I remember that when I wrote it I felt like it was one of the best songs I had written. I really hope that they’ll stand the test of time, I’m sure that I’ll appreciate them each in different ways as time goes on and their meanings evolve.
How have your recent live shows been going? Are they as you expected?
They’ve been going really well! In January, when I first started playing with the band, I was really nervous because I had never had to worry about anyone other than myself on stage. I could speed up a song or slow it way down, add another chorus at the end of a song if it felt right, and I couldn’t do that so much anymore when other musicians were counting on me to play the songs a certain way. But now it’s getting to the point where things feel a lot tighter and more cohesive and there’s room again to try things out and for everyone to bring something different to the table, which they certainly do.
Any plans at all for a larger tour in support of the EP?
I’m doing another short run with my band in August, we’re playing in Richmond, Baltimore, and New York City, but no plans for a larger tour yet. Once school starts again I’m hoping to travel as much as possible on the weekends.
You’ve been releasing music since you were 16, officially starting to release on Spotify last year. Has being such a young artist affected your school and social life? Has it been difficult to balance it all?
I think I’ve learned to balance it over the years, but it has definitely gotten a little bit harder in the past year or so. I switched to film as my major because I have hopes of releasing some self directed music videos in the future. Making that change has been helpful because it’s still school, but it’s energy being directed toward the same goal in a way.
Where do you see yourself in a few years from now?
Writing music, touring as often as I can, and working on lots of different creative projects.
Are you someone who thinks about your future often or trying to live more in the moment?
I definitely have lots of anxieties about making a living from music, but if I give those worries too much room then I don’t get things done.
Who are some of your songwriting inspirations, musically and otherwise?
Jay Purdy of The Extraordinaires, Feist, and Gwen Stefani have been three of my biggest songwriting inspirations since I was little. I grew up watching my older brothers play in bands and hearing them belt their songs all over the house, which inspired me to write too. I also love Joni Mitchell, Erykah Badu, Astrud Gilberto, Vashti Bunyan, to name some classics. More recently I love Crumb, Drugdealer, Hannah Cohen, Sam Evian, Teyana Taylor, Rose Droll, Faye Webster, Hope Tala… I really like what all of those artists are doing.
If you had to choose one — No Doubt or solo Gwen Stefani?
I have a super special place in my heart for ska Gwen Stefani, like many other people do, but I respect her solo work a lot too, she’s had such an impressively long music career. It seems so hard to not fade into obsolescence in the music industry, especially when it comes to radio pop. But yeah, Tragic Kingdom is one of my favorite albums ever.
Lastly, “Candy” may not actually be about sugary snacks but do you have a sweet tooth? What’s your candy of choice?
I have the biggest sweet tooth of all time, I have to have something sweet every night. On the EP’s release day, my managers sent me 30 insomnia cookies in the mail and I was like “how did you guys know?!?!” and they were like “everyone likes cookies!” or something, but I don’t know if anyone likes cookies the way that I do.
I Don’t Wanna Lose EP
This song is one of my favorites on the EP. I wrote it right before this huge storm was about to hit Virginia. Everyone cleared out all the non-perishables at the grocery stores and prepared for a long power outage and then nothing even happened. It fits the song because it’s sort of about having a lot of pent up energy and wanting an equally intense response from the person you’re with but not getting it.
I love this song. This is one of the two more collaborative tracks on the EP. My producer, John showed me a chord progression he had written on keys. I learned it on guitar, slowed it down, and wrote the lyrics. We had some different ideas for how we wanted the song to be produced, but once we played it with the band it all sort of came together and both of our visions were fulfilled. The song is obviously about love, but in a more abstract way it’s really about shifting expectations and pleasant surprises.
“I Don’t Wanna Lose”
I really like how this song turned out. I was sitting on a solo demo of the song for over a year, so I was very happy to finally record it with a full band. It’s the title track because it represents the time in my life when I wrote all of these songs.
“Je Rêverai à Toi”
This song feels the most like a lullaby to me, which I liked including on the EP. I realized some grammatical mistakes in the song after I wrote it. I wanted “Je Rêverai à Toi” to mean “I will dream of you,” but it actually translates to “I will dream to you,” but the song is about a long distance relationship so the error somehow works really well I think.
“Talk About It”
This song stands out the most from the rest of the EP, probably because it’s the only one that I brought to my band unfinished. My roommate left a ukulele in my room with a sticky note on it that said “do you want this” so I started playing around with it. I’m not really a fan of ukulele in pop or indie music, but it’s such an easy instrument to play and make things up with, so I wrote “Talk About It” and then brought it to the band to transfer from ukulele. Chris, my guitarist re-harmonized it and Jacob (drums), Jimmy (bass), and John (keys) all had a hand in making it what it is now.