My whole life has been influenced by music.
When I was a kid, my dad would play his vinyls throughout the house – Edgar Winter, Todd Rundgren, Chicago, Rush. I was exposed to a plethora of genres and musical styles very early in my childhood, and I developed a deep musical appreciation because of my dad’s passion. Today, I’m taking y’all back in time, reflecting on the artists that influenced me at a young age, and how it has shaped me as an artist, and a person, today.
Age 8ish: John, Paul, George, & Ringo
When I was in elementary school, I told my parents that I hated The Beatles. I thought that “When I’m 64” was the weirdest song – I was not having any of it. This distaste began because I got sick on the way to school one morning, and consequently, we were listening to The Beatles. I decided that their vexatious music was what made me so ill, and thereafter I would not listen to any Beatles whatsoever. Thankfully though, I came to my senses by middle school, and The Beatles became the greatest rock band of all time (on my list at least, but can you argue with me?)
I can recall that my favorite song was “Here Comes The Sun”, because it was in The Parent Trap, and I watched that movie profusely when I was a child. It’s safe to say that, even when I “hated” them, The Beatles were a strong influence in my understanding and commendation for music, and I am forever grateful that I was exposed to their artistry at a young age.
Also age 8ish through 10ish: Jesse McCartney and his “beautiful soul”
Ah, the pop years. My best friend from elementary school introduced me to the wonders of Jesse McCartney. I had posters and drawings of him on my wall and everything. While simultaneously being influenced by classic rock and Motown at home, I also found myself exploring the world of mainstream pop, as any young girl would. “Beautiful Soul” was (and honestly still is) my jam. Jesse was the Justin Bieber of my generation. Besides him, Hilary Duff was a favorite of mine because of Lizzie McGuire (think “Come Clean” and “Wake Up”), along with The Jonas Brothers, of course. They were the boy band of my childhood, but Nick was always my favorite. I also want to pay homage to Vanessa Hudgens’ “Sneakernight” and Miley Cryus’ “7 Things” – those were some serious favorites for me at that age.
Age 10 – 11: CMT Hot 20 Countdown and the birth of Taylor Swift
Finally, country music entered my life! I used to watch CMT Hot 20 Countdown on Saturday mornings, and I distinctly remember my heart being captured by country music in a way I hadn’t yet experienced. My parents didn’t listen to country, so I found the genre all on my own. A few songs specifically come to mind when thinking back to this time in my life – Trace Adkins’ “You’re Gonna Miss This”, “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” by Brooks & Dunn ft. Reba, and Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name”. That one is especially comical thinking back because it’s a song about a girl getting drunk in Vegas and marrying a guy without knowing his last name, consequently not knowing her own last name. Yeah, little me used to sing that loudly through my house – a sight to see, or hear, I guess. Regardless, the authenticity of country music really sunk in with me.
Along with the music I was hearing on CMT, Taylor Swift released her self-titled debut album in 2006. I remember seeing it on a shelf in Target and asking my mom if I could get it. A couple days later, my parents gave it to me as a present. I ran upstairs and stuck it in my boom box, which I had hijacked from my mom, and listened. My ten-year-old self was quite concerned with the fact that Taylor sang the word “damn” in multiple of her songs on that album – but after tearfully telling my parents, they told me they would let it slide (and they probably laughed about it after). Anyway, that was the birth of Taylor Swift, and to this day, I can say that she was probably the most influential artist on me, especially when I started writing songs. I used to sit and read her lyrics in the CD jacket while I listened, and pick out my favorite line from each song. I was mesmerized. I thought, if a sixteen year old girl could write songs about her life, maybe I could to? The most significant Taylor Swift album for me was definitely when Fearless came out in 2008 – that was the record that really got me interested in songwriting because of the stories that she told, especially because I could relate to so many of them as a young girl – think “You Belong With Me” and “White Horse”. I realized that I wanted to tell stories as well. I got my first guitar at age 10, and the rest is history.
(PS – ask me my opinion about the “new” Taylor. As much as I want to support her growth as an artist, I’m still secretly praying for the resurrection of 2008, sparkly guitar Taylor. *cries*)
Middle School: the age of rebellion
Once sixth grade rolled around, my musical taste had expanded into the world of pop/punk and alternative. I first discovered Paramore in fifth grade, and was hooked on them through middle school. I used to make my mom listen to Riot! in the car – needless to say, I think she’d have much rather listened to TSwizzle. Comment below if you played “Misery Business” on repeat in middle school – I know you did! This was early in my songwriting career, and I remember trying so hard to write “edgy” songs. I wanted to be Hayley Williams, I wanted to “rock” if you will.
I also started listening to No Doubt around that time, sparking an affection for 90s pop/ska music. “Don’t Speak” and “Bath Water” were among some of my favorites. I thought Gwen Stefani was so cool. I also borderline into crunchy alt-rock (with minimal screaming) like Lacey Mosley-era Flyleaf. Once again, I think the intensity and passion is what drew me in.
Age 15, early high school:
High school was a very transformational time in my life. I entered ninth grade very secure in who I thought I was, with my alt-rock music and my ripped jeans and dark eye makeup. That was who Kate wanted to be. However, changing from a small private academy to a larger public high school had a much greater effect on me than I was prepared for. I stopped listening to a lot of the stuff I used to, exchanging it for the music that all of my peers were in to – and if I did listen to anything that your average teenage girl wouldn’t normally like, I kept it hidden. My goal?
To blend in.
I maintain though, I wasn’t totally unoriginal. I remember getting really into John Mayer, James Morrison, and especially Ray LaMontagne, around this time. But of course, I never talked about Ray LaMontagne with any of my friends because I assumed they probably wouldn’t know who he was or be into his music. My favorite Ray songs were (and still are) “You Are The Best Thing”, “Let It Be Me”, and “Jolene”. I also remember realizing how much I liked Motown and jazz around this time, but I felt like I shouldn’t listen to that stuff because I thought it was “normal” for a girl my age to be interested in it. Now, I see how very wrong I was.
I tailored my likes (and dislikes) to those around me – the way I dressed, the way I carried myself – everything was influenced by my peers because I was so new and shy and all I wanted was to fit in. I feel like the person I’ve become now was hiding back then, pushed down inside the caverns of my heart, unwilling to come out for fear of judgement and disapproval. I didn’t want to be different because I was so frightened of being deemed as “weird”. I functioned this way through most of high school, until senior year, when I changed a lot about myself and I made decisions I never thought I would make. And that leads us to the present…
Now, age 20: my soul music
Now, as a newly-aged twenty-year-old who is very seriously pursuing a career in music, I have found the music that speaks to my soul. The Lumineers, Anderson East, Lake Street Dive, Jason Isbell – all acts that I’d never even heard of before are now some of my absolute favorites. Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Emmylou Harris – these are just some of the incredible female singer/songwriters that I’ve discovered in the last year and have fallen in love with. “Cactus Tree” and “A Case Of You” are just two of my favorite Joni songs, but I have a playlist inspired by her with tons more great stuff that y’all can listen to here. I’ve also recognized my deep passion for classic, retro country, especially as I was creating my vision for the sound I wanted my EP to have. Crooning pedal steel and some mandolin licks? I’m there. Feel free to checkout my vintage country playlists here.
My taste has really matured, and all of the artists I’ve discovered have had such a positive impact on my creativity as an artist and determination to achieve success. These artists remind me why I write music and why I want to share my songs with the world.
There y’all have it – the musical timeline of my life, from young childhood to young adulthood. I think it’s important to reflect back on who we were growing up, and for me, music is such a large part of the equation. Every artist that I mention in this post has had some sort of influence on me, whether it was one song that the sang, a single lyric, or their career/legacy as a whole. As a child, I fell in love with music as innocently and authentically as could be. As a teenager, I tried to mold that love into something it wasn’t, just to “fit in.” And as a person, I’ve been grown by music in a way I could not have expected, but one thing is for sure – my soul was always in the right place, it was just a matter of finding my way back to the true passions of my heart.
So here is what I want to say to y’all reading this post: listen to the passions of your heart. Do you love 40s swing jazz? Fantastic – rock out to that! Are you a die-hard metal fan that secretly jams out to Mariah Carey in your bedroom? Awesome – if that’s you, then be you! There is no wrong way to be a fan of music, because art is subjective and can speak to each person in a different way. Whether or not you want to admit it, every artist you’ve listened to throughout your life has grown you in one way or another – embrace that, and embrace the person you’ve become through that.
I truly hope that y’all enjoyed reading this post. I put a lot of thought and honesty into it as I reflected back through the years, and I’ve realized things about myself because of that. Who was your favorite artist growing up? Please comment below and let me know!
Much love, and happy listening.
(I own none of the photos used in this post – see captions for credits)
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