Q&A: local musician Kathy Reese on new album “Ivory Towers”

By Josh Muchly

“Ivory Towers” is an instrumental album from local musician Kathy Reese, who was kind enough to answer some question about her passion project.

Informer Media Group: What inspired you to embark on this project?

Kathy Reese: I was inspired to do this project while my husband Thom and I were producing a compilation of audio dramas for our publisher Speaking Volumes. I was in charge of doing all of the background music and setting the musical tone for each of the episodes. I had some really great ideas that couldn’t be developed due to the time restraints. But after the project was done, I went back and revisited a few of the ideas and worked on bringing them into a full picture. It seemed like one idea led to another and pretty soon I was engrossed in more songs then I could put down. I couldn’t write them fast enough! But it really comes down to doing something out of the box that I wouldn’t have normally tried. I am really glad I did. I have some so many more songs where these came from!

Informer Media Group: This is your first project of this kind, correct? How do you feel about the final result?

Kathy Reese: Yes. It’s been amazing to not only wear all the hats, from songwriter/arranger to engineer to producer but to get to work with some pretty amazing musicians. I didn’t expect that the first CD project I ever did would be so incredible with all of the things I have learned. It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to be the producer on a project like this and to get to do it on my first project is pretty cool. While there are a few things I would probably do differently, I am very happy with the result. It took a really long time for it all to come together due to all of the obstacles that I faced while recording, but it came out really good in spite of them. And due to the time that it took, I actually ended with a few songs that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I think that there was a lot of growth musically and writing wise from the beginning to the end, which couldn’t have happened had it got done a quickly as it was supposed to.

Informer Media Group: So, why an instrumental?

Kathy Reese: I have always loved a good instrumental. I have been toying with little pieces for a really long time. it seems to come naturally to me and I had a lot of people telling that they really thought I should do an instrumental CD,  but  It also seemed practical at the time given how the song ideas came about with the radio dramas. Yet another reason is that I have been battling hearing loss due to “Meniere’s disease” and at the time I was not able to sing up to the quality that I wanted. I also thought what a refreshing change to be able to do something that might help others relax and be calm and bring others peace. And work around my temporary limitations.

Informer Media Group: Would lyrics have detracted something from your vision?

Kathy Reese: I am not sure… it wouldn’t have detracted but it would have changed it. The thing about instrumental music that I find is that because there are no lyrics it opens up the interpretive field for the listener. There is not box other than the title, that says ” this is what this song is saying”. It is really left up to the listener to interpret what each song says to them and its all based on their own experiences and viewpoints which are unique to them. No one else will be able to see and hear the songs through the same filters. Lyrics will guide and direct the mind into a mindset or viewpoint. and then it is placed through the filters of the listeners’ experience. So its already directed the listener to a certain place, Instrumental music can mean 20 different things to 20 different people. It is a little more liberating. I think.

Informer Media Group: Would lyrics have added something to any of these songs?

Kathy Reese: It may have, but I think lyrics would have changed them a bit. I have had several fans ask if they can write lyrics and I have politely declined. A lot of these songs started with a visual or lyrical concept. The titles are usually a summary of a vision of what I saw for the song when I wrote it. A feeling or a snapshot of what is said to me. My song “Ireland Forever In My Heart” is a good example. When I wrote that one I wanted there to be lyrics, and I tried everything I could to make something work. But when I sat down and compared the two ideas, lyrical and non-lyrical together, the non-lyrical idea seemed to speak louder and say more than the lyrics that I had put down. 

Informer Media Group: Can you tell me more about how did you come up with the titles of the songs?

Kathy Reese: First I try to figure out what mood the song is conveying… is it happy or sad? Is it laid back or aggressive? Does it relax or does it try to go somewhere in the motion of the song? Then I tried to figure out a title based on what I think it is trying to say to me personally. It’s a lot harder to do than I thought it would be, but its always a fun moment when it does get its name. Then it feels like I just named a child and crowned it.

Informer Media Group: Track 4, “The Journey Home,” is my personal favorite. It’s very cinematic. Can you tell me more about it?

Kathy Reese: It’s one of my favorites as well. It’s, I think, the one song that describes my life quest. I have always viewed my life as  Journey. A continuous path that I walk every day to get to a final destination. It’s a Journey of process and change. It changes us every day. When I wrote that song the CD was supposed to be 2 or 3 months from being done. All the songs had been selected and recorded. They were just waiting to be mixed and mastered.  I was playing on the piano one day and came across an old chord progression idea that I had done like 20 years ago and just started to play it and the whole thing just opened up a like flower right in front of me. 24 hours later the whole thing was recorded except for the tipini which my Drummer Chad Sylva quickly remedied. I gave it to my engineer Peter Tibone at Faithrunner studios and he loved it. It quickly became his favorite as well. So we actually took another song off and put this one on in it’s place on the CD.  I think it just illuminates the feelings and passions that we go through on this life’s Journey. from the beginning all the way to the great beyond.

Informer Media Group: Can you tell me more about Track 3, “A Moonlit Dance?”

Kathy Reese: One of the highlights of the CD was after I wrote the song “A Moonlit Dance” my engineer Peter and I were int he studio listening to the basic tracks I had recorded. I had put a synthetic Cello and some synth strings in and the parts where fine but Peter and I were both like ” this would be so much better it we had  a single cello and a single violin that kind  of talked to each other in the song. So Peter found a wonderful cellist by the name of Laura Turello and who came and did the cello lines and but we were left trying to find a violinist that was available to do it. So my husband, unbeknownst to me, meets an a guy who is an amazingly talented musician who goes by “Tuffstrings” and asks him if he was for hire to play the violin on one of my songs. He said  have her send me the song. So Basically I send him the song and he fell in love with it and agreed to play and did an amazing violin part for the song.  Both the cellist and the violinist are incredible musicians who I hope to work with again. They both really made that song come to life.

Informer Media Group: What have you learned that you wish you knew before starting this process?

Kathy Reese: The reality of how long it takes to do an in depth recording of this magnitude! The biggest frustration was my time expectation. Next time, I think I will anticipate a lot more time which will make it less frustrating. But another really important lesson is: If you can dream it there is a way to make it happen and if I am patient and courageous enough to ask, I could find myself with some amazing things accomplished! We are really the only limiters of our own experiences!

Informer Media Group: Any advice for recording artists?

Kathy Reese: Make sure you go in with eyes wide open and a game plan. Know your instrument and be willing to learn more. You can never know enough! But understand this is your journey  and you alone need to guide your ship. No one else can do it for you. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Take your time and make  it count!

Informer Media Group: What’s next for you?

Kathy Reese: I’m working on promoting the “Ivory Towers ” CD as well as setting up some live gigs for the summer. I am also working on the next couple of songs that I will be recording. I am hoping to have one done by July (dare I say) . I am continually writing more stuff. Started working on some vocal and instrumental songs. I have finally gotten my voice back so I am looking a mixing things up a bit. But the goal is to go bigger and better with the arrangements and the production.

Informer Media Group: Where can people go to learn more about you / your projects.

Kathy Reese: They can find me pretty much everywhere. I am also on Amazon, Spotify, Itunes, Reverbnation, as well as cdbaby my webpage.


Josh Muchly can be contacted at josh.muchly@gmail.com. Follow me @muchlymedia on Twitter.


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