Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kat Robichaud Chats About Her Experience On The Voice, Her Signature Kick, Outrageous Female Singers and Her Favorite Charity

After four highly-popular seasons, the hit TV singing competition, The Voice, has returned for a fifth season.  And among the couple dozen R&B, pop, and country vocalists stands an enigma of a performer.

She prances around the stage like a ravenous beast on six-inch heels.  Her eyes have an intensity that screams “I am the queen of this jungle – you better watch and listen.”  And she has a roaring voice that is every bit as pleasing to the ear as it is powerful.

That performer is Kat Robichaud.  The North Carolina native is bringing a supremely hard-rocking style to The Voice, giving neither the coaches nor the audience any choice but to pay attention. 

Fresh off an impressive victory in the Knockout Round this week, Kat sat down with Helping Hands Rock Reviews to discuss her experiences on The Voice, the musical career that led her and her unique style to the show, and what her dream is once the season is over.

Helping Hands Rock Reviews:  I’d like to start out by exploring the path that led you to becoming a Voice-contestant caliber singer.  How old were you when you started becoming interested in singing or realizing you were good at it?

Kat Robichaud:  I used to sing to myself all the time as a kid.  I grew up in the children’s choir at my church.  Then, I didn’t do too much singing until high school.  I got into the choir, then I started taking vocal lessons.  Then, it wasn’t until college that I decided to form a band.  That came from me playing a bunch of open mic nights.  The people that would run those would encourage me, “You need to get your own band.” 

It took me a long, long time before people started to say, “Oh, you have a good voice, you’re a good singer.”  I didn’t grow up with that.  I just thought, “I love to sing!”  I never really thought anybody would pay attention.  So, this is unreal, what’s happening right now.

HHRR:  Let’s talk about that band you toured with.  That band was called The Design.  Can you give our readers a brief history of that band?
KR:  Yeah.  My senior year of college, I joined the band later named The Design.  We were first called Sugar.  We started out as a cover band and then I expressed interest in writing my own music.  It took a lot of push in the beginning to get that going, but eventually we came up with our first album.  And then the second album came a lot quicker because I got into the mode of writing and getting everyone going on that.

I was trying so hard to put out original music and make that first and foremost.  But it’s really hard to do that when everyone wants to make a paycheck.  So, for years I struggled to get people on the same page as me, but nobody really had the same motivation to write original music.  In the end, I realized, for me to move forward, I was going to have to take a step back.  And I left the band, thus ending the band because, at that point, I was the band.  I was the only original member left. 

For the longest time, I thought to myself, “If I quit this band, it will be a failure on my part.”  Then, I heard the Freakonomics podcast, “The Upside of Quitting.”  And it kinda changed my perspective of things, realizing that it wouldn’t be a failure.  It would just be me realizing that this isn’t working, I need to move on. 

It was a great lesson learned.  Certainly, I feel like if I hadn’t had those seven years on the road with my band, I don’t think I would have done as well as I have [on The Voice].

HHRR:  Do you think that any of those band members regret not being more cooperative now that you’ve gone on to make a name for yourself on The Voice?

KR:  No.  I love them all and I support all of their decisions.  And they’re very supportive of me now. 

I recently did an interview with Raleigh’s NBC station.  I watched the interview back and I was really disappointed.  It was my fault.  I came across as sounding unappreciative of my band, The Design.  That couldn’t be further from the case.  These were people that were really there for me when I needed them.  They really supported me over the years and I love them to death.  And I wouldn’t be where I am without them.  You know, it just didn’t work out between us.  But I never wanted to reflect that I don’t appreciate them.  I hated that I didn’t come across that way in that particular interview.  So, you know, I just wanted to say that I love them all and I thank them for everything that they’ve done for me. 

HHRR:  You’re from Raleigh, North Carolina.  Delta Rae is another musical act from that area that’s begun getting some serious national attention recently.  What is it about the Raleigh area that’s producing such amazing artists?  Is that scene a secret hotspot for music, like an emerging Austin or Nashville?

KR:  Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham – Delta Rae is from Durham – it’s all the same area, like 20 minutes from each other.  We’ve produced Ryan Adams, James Taylor…we’ve got some pretty heavy hitters from our area. 

As much as I love Raleigh and it will always be my hometown, I’ll be moving soon because rock-n-roll is not a big scene in Raleigh.  Delta Rae is like folk-Americana – that’s a big scene in the area.  Now, they didn’t just rely on that, they travelled their asses off and they paid their dues.  But they come from a scene where that’s really popular.  There’s a lot of support for that. 

Raleigh is a great place to see bluegrass and folk and Americana. But, unfortunately, that’s just not the type of music that I want to play.

HHRR:  You are the hardest rocking singer on this season of The Voice.  And your style embodies all that’s good in hard rock:  power, grit, swagger, and reckless abandon.  Some of your competitors are R&B singers and their styles depend on different techniques like long legato phrases and incredibly wide ranges.  How intimidating is it to compete against singers who are in such different genres?

It’s incredibly intimidating.  It’s very humbling.  My voice is really not like, for comparison, Tamara Chauniece, one of my current team members.   Her voice is fantastic.  She goes out there and she sings Beyonce and she kills it.  My voice doesn’t do that.  I’m not meant to sound like that.

From the very beginning, when we were at the executive callbacks, Michelle McNulty, the casting director, [said] “None of you sound like each other.  And that’s a really good thing.”  I’ve tried to remember that.

I feel really, really, really lucky to be here.  Yeah, it’s incredibly intimidating.  But, you know what?  I can’t be anyone but me.  That’s all I can do. 

HHRR:  And people seem to like you, so that’s a good thing!  It’s one thing to be yourself but when you can be yourself and be accepted as well as you have been, that’s a win.

KR:  I’d rather fit into a tight little niche where people follow me for being me rather than me trying to stretch myself out and fit into all these different genres and then people can’t identify with who you are.

HHRR:  The Voice seemed to love showing clips of your leg kick from the blind auditions ("The Blinds").  Did you plan on that being such an attention-grabbing move or were you surprised by how much mileage you got out of it?

KR:  It’s funny.  There are several auditions you have to go through before you even make it to the Blinds.  I did a leg kick in the very first performance.  And Michelle McNulty got really excited over it.  Then, went I went back for my executive callback, I think I did it again. 

For the Blinds, I wasn’t going to do it.  And Michelle was like “Oh, please do your kick.  Oh, please, please, please?”  And I was like, “You know what?  I’m not going to do my kick unless somebody turns around.”  Because they can’t hear my kick. They can’t see it.  They can only hear my voice.  And when you’re physically exerting yourself like that, that’s when your vocals are going to go a little bit.
So, I was not going to do it.  And then I got the three chair turns and I was like “Well, f**k it, I’m gonna do it now!” 

I’ve been doing that kick and that kind of performance for almost a decade, so it’s just kind of natural.    I don’t want it to be like every single performance everybody is like “Do the kick!”  It’s funny because I recently did a photoshoot and the photographer asked me to do the kick and I was like, “Oh, really?”

I think it’s great, you know?  I think the important thing on the show is to stand out.  You want to be remembered.  You want to be a memorable performer. 

Would you rather see Lady Gaga just stand there and sing a song and not move or would you rather her do her crazy performances and sing to the best of her abilities?  It’s a performance, it’s a live show.  If I want to hear a perfect vocal, I’ll just listen to the track.

HHRR:  Speaking of Lady Gaga, we all know about the approach that Miley Cyrus took to get her album to #1.  Then, this past Saturday, Lady Gaga stripped completely naked during a performance.  What’s your take on how far female singers are going to get attention this year?

KR:  [There’s a] video, “Scream,” that I did [with The Design].  I did that video because I wanted to be bawdy and have fun.  One of my favorite musicals is Cabaret, and Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  So, there’s a huge part of me that is like theater and rock-n-roll and it’s like, “Be free.  Here I am.  Here’s my body, I’m exposing myself to you. This is my most vulnerable state.” 

You have to think about Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, how much courage that takes.  As a woman, I don’t look at those performances and say “Oh God, they’re just taking their clothes off to get attention.”  I think to myself, “You know what?  We’re showing, as women, we’re not going to allow people to objectify us.  We are going to do whatever the hell we want.  We’re going to take control.”

Lady Gaga does not have to take her clothes off to sell records.  She doesn’t have to do that.  That’s something freeing that she wants to do.  That’s why I did the “Scream” video.  It’s like, “Here’s my back.  Here I am in some sparkly panties.”  It just felt good.  It was freeing.  It’s really freeing.
I just feel like it’s just another form of expression.  And, hell, the female body is just gorgeous.  Why wouldn’t people want to share that?  It’s just gorgeous.

HHRR:  The career trajectories for past contestants on The Voice have varied tremendously.  We’re still waiting for Season 2 winner, Jermaine Paul, to release a post-show album.  But, Season 3 winner, Casadee Pope just had her first album debut at #1 on the Country charts.  What do you think it will take for you to leverage your participation on The Voice and turn it into the maximum success possible?

KR:  I have no idea.  I really don’t.  I know what I want to get out of the show.  I want to get my name out there nationally. 

My dream outcome from this would be, after the show, [to be] approached by really good musicians that want to work with me that have the same taste in music and it’s not all me.  In the past, it’s just been all me, pushing and trying to find people to work with and it’s kind of a struggle.  It would be nice to have people approach me and say “Hey, we want to work with you” and they’re not some crazy person in a basement.  I’m talking about legit people approaching me and wanting to work with me.  That would be amazing and that’s what I really want…All I can say is, hopefully, the experience that I’ve had over the past decade is going to help me make the best decisions. 

Right now, I’m writing music on an entirely new instrument, the piano.  I’ve only been playing for maybe six months.  I’ve just decided I’m not going to rely on a pianist anymore to write music.  And I don’t want to write music on my guitar anymore, which is how I’ve been writing music for seven years.  I have several songs written that I’m very proud of that I can record with and I would love to share with people. 

I want to get back on the road, but in a much smarter way than we were doing before.  And I don’t want to have to rely on cover music to make money anymore.

HHRR:  I would guess that the powers-that-be in the industry will be watching contestants’ sales and social media numbers to gauge their level of interest in working with the contestants after the show.  What types of things can our readers do to help the industry take notice of Kat Robichaud?

KR:  Thank you for asking that!  Just provide links to my NBC website that I have.  Provide links to my Twitter account.  Share my Design music as well as my music that I’ve done with The Voice.  I’m making it as available as I possibly can and The Voice is very, very supportive of that.  We all have an artist page that’s set up.  And if you go to it, it has our Twitter and our Facebook and it has where you can download our music and it has our videos.  So, all very easy to find us.

HHRR:  Our site, Helping Hands Rock Reviews, is all about raising awareness and money for charities.   Do you have a favorite charity that you’d like to give a shout out to?

KR:  The ASPCA – that would be great.  Animals are helpless.  They really have nothing to do with their situation.  A lot of times animals are cast aside because their owners don’t care about them anymore or their owners are keeping them chained up all day.  Some people just don't know any better.  They don’t know how to treat an animal right.

My cat, we got from a no-kill shelter.  She was a ravine kitty.  She was found in a dumpster.  She’s the most brilliant, wonderful cat and we love her to death.  We’re very lucky to have her.  I love animals, man. I’m getting choked up talking about it [laughs].

Animals are helpless.  Animals can’t help their situation, so we have to be good to them. 

HHRR:  Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. 

I appreciate it, man.  Thank you!

Kat Robichaud is repping the genre for all of us hard rock fans out there, so we’re pulling for her and wish her nothing but success on The Voice and everything that follows.  Here are some Kat videos you gotta watch!

Listen to the audio of our interview with Kat Robichaud:

Interview Photo - Copyright Helping Hands Rock Reviews 2013