Kate Maki
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Kate Maki


Band Folk Alternative


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"Album Review: On High (2008)"

Kate's made an acoustic record and it's a work of of simple beauty. The playing is live and neither overplays or underplays and Kate has a conversational vocal style that's plaintive, welcome and warm. You can hear the space between the notes and the sighs between the chord changes. Sometimes this record reminds me of Neil Young's "After The Goldrush" in that it touches emotions with effortless sentiment and it also reminds me of Arkansas' Iris Dement's country-folk classic "Infamous Angel". Pure and innocent as Canadian snow. Or something like that.

Bruce Warren


"Live Review (2009)"

"Hi, I’m Kate Maki and I’m from Canada. Is anyone else here from Canada?”

The fresh-faced singer pushes her bangs out of her face, and surveys the audience at Johnny Brenda’s. There are a few vague hoots and hollers.

“Some of you? Oh, cool.” She pauses. “Is anyone here from Sudbury, Ontario? Because that’s where I’m from. Land of the world’s largest nickel. Yup, that’s home.”

The audience chuckles, and Maki smiles, and bursts into song. It’s a chilly, rainy Wednesday, but the vibe inside JB’s is warm and welcoming, and an unusually large crowd has gathered to watch Maki and fellow Canadian headliners the Great Lake Swimmers.

The strikingly earnest and good-natured folk goddess whose 2008 album, On High, earned her Pitchfork nods and her first “international” fan base. Live, she’s friendly and charming, her voice plaintive and clear as a bell, especially on tracks like “Blue morning” and “Lose my mind.”

“I need you guys to help me out here,” she tells the audience, teaching them a simple chorus. They try it a few times, with growing enthusiasm.

“Not bad,” says Maki, pleased. “Some of you are a little off beat, but I like it!” She grins.
- Phrequency Philidelphia

"Album Review: The Sun Will Find Us (2004)"

(4 out of 5 stars)
With its near conversational style and unfettered, natural delivery, Kate Maki's voice is an instrument of immediate comfort and charm where every utterance is a delight. And the players behind her match her calm assurance with an equally unforced easy touch. The brushed drums, flowing pedal steel and slow-burning guitars lend the straight-up country numbers - ("Old Guitar"), playful waltz-time treats ("Defend The End") and slightly bolder material (like the horn-and organ-punctuated "Someone Better") - exactly what they call for, no more, no less. The Sun Will Find Us glows with an irresistible grace, as welcome and warm as throwing on your favourite old sweater.

- Toronto's Eye Weekly

"Live Review (2003)"

Charming, chatty and easily likeable, Maki drew the crowd in at Reverb last Friday night with her candid bantering, rollicking tunes and a few history lessons. If there's one thing to be learned at this show, it is Do Quit Your Day Job. I'm sure she was a lovely teacher, but Maki seems so happy performing, her country roots sound is so natural and fresh, and her energy so infectious, it's clear that she is in her element up on stage - although she manages to combine the two worlds in a strangely effortless way. As a throwback to her days of teaching Canadian history to 13 year olds, she cajoles us all to sing along with her for the last song. "You all get straight A's," she yells at the end.
- Soul Shine Magazine (Canada)

"Cover Story (2008)"

If her stagger-to-the-saloon groove and parlour-blues tunes weren't enough to grab your attention, Sudbury's Kate Maki has enlisted the help of eccentric Arizona singer-songwriter, guitarist and pianist Howe Gelb to produce her latest album, On High, marking a career high for the former Ottawa resident.

"You'd be surprised how many people don't know who he is," Maki says of her producer. "The guy is a genius."

With his improvisational, whimsical style and a stripped-down approach to recording, Gelb, working out of Dave Draves' Little Bullhorn Studios in Ottawa's Little Italy, graced Maki's eleven-song album with his signature sound. The man behind Giant Sand, Gelb is touted as one of the most resilient and consistently inventive American artists of the last two decades.

Like Gelb, Maki's sound is hard to peg. She is on the fringes, making her a perfect fit for Gelb's label, OW OM Records. The pair share a similar percussive strumming style of guitar-playing and speak-singing in riddled word play, comparable to France's Mathieu Boogaerts. But while Gelb's straight talk reminds you of a Southern Lou Reed, Maki's conversational delivery and hard-"r" pronunciations make her bare-bones storylines and porch-sit ditties all very Canadiana.

Maki was first mesmerized by Gelb's performance when she shared a bill with him in 2003 at Toronto's El Mocambo. "When I watched him play, I was completely blown away. You'd think there were eight people playing up there but it's just him." The two were introduced by Bryson, where Maki gave Gelb a copy of her first album, Confusion Unlimited, and for two years they constantly crossed paths while Gelb was in Capital City recording 'Sno Angel. Their first collaboration came on "Mountain of Love", a song that he invited her to sing and which was included on the Japanese edition. True to his peculiar fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants style, Gelb excitedly threw Maki into a little room at Bullhorn Studios, gave her headphones, "shoved" the lyrics in her face and said: "Sing!" "That was the moment I thought, I want to work with this guy in the studio!" Maki says. "Just rolling with it and not thinking before you act is the way I've always tried to approach making music, because that's the kind of music I prefer to listen to as well," she says. "If something is too rehearsed, it sounds phony to me." Maki is just as spontaneous about songwriting. "You don't really "write" songs. They just came out of you, or maybe they come from the Mysterious Song Bank in the Sky," she laughs.

In the studio, carefree Maki let the songs breathe. Limited to only five days, Maki, Gelb, Draves, Dale Murray and Maki's boyfriend-musician Nathan Lawr used acoustic, electric and pedal steel guitars, kick and snare, Optigan, piano and bottles. It's a minimalist approach that gives On High an organic feel. They recorded everything live off the floor, allowing each song to take shape almost on its own. On the other hand, arranging the songs on the CD took more planning. "I structured it like a vinyl record, with sides A and B telling a story where you start off with the "Highway" song and you start questioning things," she says, like life and your place in it. "By the time you get to Howe's song - the 10th track, "Don't Look Down" - you need a sensible voice to throw you into shape," she says. "It's like he's saying, 'Hey, little sister, things can be bad, but look up.' It's like Howe is the voice of reason, someone to snap some sense into you."

Maki definitely needed to hear a voice from on high to ground her after studio time. "It's so sad to go back to real life after making a great record," she says passionately. "I can't wait to take it on the road." She's now getting her wish, as she comes back to Ottawa to present her greatest achievement with a little help from her friends.

- Ottawa Xpress

"Interview (2008)"

Throughout On High, Kate Maki’s gentle, delicate voice is carried from afar, from a distant land where love and passion rule over apathy. For the most part, she stays quiet and calm, but when she wants to, the Sudbury, ON-based folk musician can belt out a tune that scolds and caresses at the same time. On High is Maki’s third solo album and was recorded in her signature “fly by the seat of your pants” manner, with the help of legendary Tucson, AZ producer Howe Gelb capturing the live charm this songstress conveys on stage. “Highway” starts the record off with trudging guitars and trailing vocals, making for a song that draws you into the open landscape that is On High. “Blue Morning” taps into Maki’s natural blues-writing skills, albeit with a bit more youth and innocence than the traditional genre provides. “We Are Gone” takes a stroll into Maki’s darker, more negative ponderings, discussing the feelings of indifference many of us experience during the course of our lives. Life and energy, light and hope are Maki’s muses for On High, and even though there are a few shadows lurking in the corners of her music, they just go to show how bright the sun can be if you let it shine through.

By day, you’re a grade school science and French teacher, and by night you’re a musician. Do your two seemingly opposite lives ever intersect?
Ha, ha, well, there is the obvious — one takes place in a bar with alcohol and the other takes place in the afternoon with underage children. But really though, there are a lot of similarities. As a musician, you’re playing in front of people, as a teacher, you’re also performing in a way, just to a different audience. You have to stay on your toes. It’s quite challenging in that way. A lot of music can be compared to teaching a lesson or a lecture.

If the kids get rowdy during the day, then do you whip out the guitar?
[Laughs] Definitely only in the primary ages when they like Raffi and “The Wheels On The Bus.” When you hit grade seven, it’s a little more awkward and embarrassing. I’m obviously not very hip with the music they’re listening to, like Hilary Duff, and they don’t know who Bob Dylan or Neil Young are. We’re just on totally different planes. But totally, you can use music as a learning tool, for sure. It encourages kids to pick up the guitar. I actually wanted to start a vinyl club at lunchtime as one of the activities.

On your album, you collaborate a lot with Dale Murray and Nathan Lawr. What did they bring to On High?
We’ve played together for so long that we’re very comfortable and we don’t really need a lot of rehearsals. They know how I play. We all just showed up basically and recorded from the get-go. Just having Dale and Nathan in the room with me helped to balance everything. This was also the first time I worked with a producer [Howe Gelb], so it brought some familiarity to the process. We hang out, have a lot of laughs and share in the same tastes in music.

The album is very stripped down, charming and intimate. Was this a natural effect or were you following a specific influence/singer-songwriter tradition?
Ultimately, it was whatever happened. It was kind of like a snake — it just kept slithering in different directions. There was no real vision. It was just about getting in as much as we could in the five-day session and trying every different scenario possible. In the end, we went back and listened to the whole shebang, which was a ton of takes. It was a very “trim the fat” sort of process.

Your music moves in all sorts of directions; it feels kind of like a record you could just sit back and listen to while pondering all kinds of thoughts. What sort of mindset were you in when you wrote these songs?
It’s a collection of the highlights over the past two years — highlights meaning the songs that stuck, because I’ve written a lot of other ones that have fallen by the wayside. I guess I was alone a lot of the time. I was teaching and living in Toronto, so I had a lot of time just to think by myself. It’s so hard to remember the sort of state I was in, but I think there’s a nice balance between sadness and hope. There’s a dichotomy to what I do — there’s dark but there’s also always light. Sometimes my music is stripped down and sometimes there are a lot of layers. I don’t know whether I have schizophrenia or multiple personalities or what, but I guess it’s just the sort of balance that I need.

“Blue Morning” is a very solemn, mellow tune that speaks of how we can let the negative aspects of life bookend the good. Then there’s “We Are Gone,” which suggests how many of us lead empty and dispassionate lives. Are these familiar topics for you?
Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can see up. Yeah, I’ve thought about this forever. Again, there’s the dichotomy. You have to feel the weight of darkness in order to see the light. I’m not always happy; I do like to see the negative and the dark. “We Are Gone” is probably the most negative song. It’s about the rot of indifference. Everyone knows what’s going on but doesn’t do anything about it. Of course, this can relate to myself as an individual, but it can also be seen on a larger scale as well. Why don’t we do things about the people in power? Why don’t you do something about your health and your life?

Do you think if you were to play this CD to your students one day they’d give up Hilary Duff for you?
You know, there’d probably be some crossovers, but I don’t think I could win them all over. That’s not what I’m trying to do. Of course, you want to try to please everyone, but musically that’s impossible. Not everyone can do it. But then again, who knows. Anything can happen these days.

Amanda Ash

- Exclaim Magazine

"Album Review: On High (2008)"

While you might expect a Canadian songbird to migrate south to escape the frigid Arctic breeze of winter, in the case of Ontario’s Kate Maki she beckoned the warmth northward. That would be Howe Gelb, who arrived bearing desert sunshine and multi-instrumental savvy; Maki guested on Gelb’s 2005 album Sno’ Angel Like You so for her third solo album he returned the favor by serving as producer and record label patron. Along with several of Maki’s longtime collaborators, the pair serves up an eclectic buffet of old-time folk/blues and country-rock (the twang-shuffle of “Blue Morning” will make your a.m. anything but) that’s at times very Giant Sand-like in its idiosyncrasies without sacrificing one whit of Maki’s distinctive personality. Her sweetly unaffected, breathy warble suggest hints of Lucinda Williams, and Madeline Peyroux, and when she shares the mic with Gelb - notably on “Don’t Look Down,” a mostly acoustic number haunted by the ghost of Neil Young - a hard-to-quantify chemistry begins to bubble.

Fred Mills - Harp Magazine

"Album Review: On High (2008)"

(4 out of 5 stars)
Like the best country singers, alt or otherwise, Maki's voice is conversational yet somehow self-contained, as if it'd be quite happy talking to itself sitting on an open plain, or whistling to itself behind a wheel. On sweet melancholy opener "Highway" it shows a weariness beyond the singer's years. Howe Gelb, who produced and guests, adds a solemn eccentricity.

Sylvie Simmons - Mojo Magazine

"Interview (2008)"

Kate Maki used to be a schoolteacher who sometimes played music. Then she became a musician who sometimes taught school. At this rate, it won't be long before school will be out forever.

At least that's the direction the Canadian singer-schoolteacher is headed in with the release of her third solo album, On High, a collection of 11 simple and sweet songs somewhere in the magical musical realm of Mazzy Star, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood and Belle and Sebastian.

"I'd really like to do music full time, but if it doesn't work out, I'll fit it in when I can," says the humble singer from Sudbury, Ontario, who has taught elementary and high school. She plays Cafe Du Nord tonight with Howe Gelb of Giant Sand, who coincidentally produced Maki's last album.

It's that sort of "whatever happens happens" mentality that got Maki into a career conundrum in the first place. In 2003, she recorded her first album, Confusion Unlimited, going into the studio all night after teaching all day. That record was pieced together over six months as a fun project to share with friends and family. The only problem was it seemed that the whole of Canada wanted copies too. Maki recorded her 2004 follow-up, The Sun Will Find Us, in about two weeks while on summer break.

On High was recorded in an even more down-to-music-business mode, in just five days during a break from school, working in the studio with Gelb as producer and three other musicians.

"There was no time to hem and haw about stuff. Just the five of us hanging out for five days working under the gun," says Maki, who enjoyed that seat-of-the-pants approach to recording.

Unlike the recording for her first two albums, none of the songs on On High were rehearsed, and some of the writing was not even completed. It was a process that Maki picked up from Gelb, who invited her to sing on his album 'Sno Angel Like You, recorded with a Canadian gospel choir.

"Howe threw me into the studio with a sheet of lyrics, headphones and a mike and said, 'Just do your thing,' " remembers Maki of that first session. "Recording like that is just about music and feeling and guts. I liked being pushed and challenged that way. That kind of musical exploration makes it feel like a mystery."

That said, simple and structured songs are easy to spot in On High, which was recorded mostly live with a couple of guitars, the odd organ, mellow drumming and a little whistling.

Lyrically speaking, Maki has also graduated to a new level.

"In the beginning, I used to write a lot about a broken heart, you know, la-la-la-la, sad, tension music," Maki says. "The more I've explored songwriting, the more I've gone outward. I'm beginning to write about what I feel in the world and in the big picture. And not just as a schoolteacher."

Delfín Vigil

- San Francisco Chronicle

"Album Review: Confusion Unlimited (2003)"

Kate Maki's voice is careworn but not unkind - she seems to imply both world - weariness and potentiality all in one go; maybe slightly damaged but unbowed is a better description. Kate and her record have a lot going for them- it's frequently lo-fi but not aggressively so, and there in-between moments which are more textured, adding variety; mainly, these are from subtle adornments on banjo, pedal steel and mouth harp, and the whole is often deeply satisfying, topped off as it is by Kate's sad, glinting prism of a voice. She's quite clear about song dynamics - opener "Over" is mournful and longing, and there's a moment when the emotional impact is given emphasis by the instrumentation briefly dropping out, leaving her by herself, which is exactly where is she is in the narrative. "Mid March Blues" is just two acoustic guitars, and Kate and Jim Bryson's voices intertwining, Jim several notches below, as she relates her desire to change everything in her life - from location to partner - the most important thing to be elsewhere. Finally, "All Things Passed" is just over two minutes of wistfulness and gleaming melody, affairs stripped back once again to voice and strum. Kate Maki deserves our attention, and sooner rather than later - Confusion Unlimited is a great record, and you get the feeling she's in it for the long haul; I hope so.
- Americana UK


Solo Albums:
"Two Song Wedding" (2010)
"On High" (2008)
"The Sun Will Find Us" (2004)
"Confusion Unlimited" (2003)

"Townes Van Zandt Via The Great Unknown" (2009)
"Sin City Social Club Volume #9" (2007)
"A Midautumn Night's Dream" (2005)
"A Midwinter Night's Dream" (2005)

Guest Appearances:
Nathan Lawr - vocals on "A Sea of Tiny Lights" (2007)
Howe Gelb - vocals on "Sno' Angel Like You" (2006)
Matt Mays - vocals on "Matt Mays & El Torpedo" (2005)
Nathan Lawr - guitar and vocals on "Secret Carpentry" (2005)
Ryan Bishops - vocals on "Silver Spooned & Hammered" (2003)

"MVP" (2008)
"Weirdsville" (2007)
"Wilby Wonderful" (2004)



"Like the best country singers, alt or otherwise, Maki's voice is conversational yet somehow self-contained, as if it'd be quite happy talking to itself sitting on an open plain, or whistling to itself behind a wheel." - Mojo

"She can sell a song with only her voice and an acoustic guitar." - Pitchfork

“Canada's newly crowned princess of daydreamy songwriting - somewhere in the magical musical realm of Mazzy Star, Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood, and Belle & Sebastian.” - San Francisco Chronicle

“The country swagger and sweet sincerity of Johnny Cash and June Carter combined.” - Deadbolt

“In her own way, Maki rocks as hard as the fiercest metal band. Anyone that can get an audience stomping their feet and silently swaying in the course of a 20 minute set is well on their way to musical success.” - Chart Attack

“High school teacher by day, singer-songwriter by night Kate Maki comes over as a countrified Neil Young or Jolie Holland and doesn’t need her behaviour management skills to force appreciation from the crowd for a smart and witty performance.” - SoundsXP

"Homespun alt-country folk-rock ditties that go down easy, like Southern Comfort and root beer."- Now Toronto

"An unencumbered singer-songwriter with an easy country-parlour delivery." - Globe and Mail

"There's something disarming about her gently fluttering country-folk delivery." - Uncut

“A wild and wondrous depth. A Canadian iconoclast.” - LA Weekly

“Kate’s a hardy country type of pioneer woman. Her guitar pickin rhythm is like a drum, and she can belt out, even when she is quiet, like a storm. Her songs represent what the Canadians have, a real natural beauty of writing tunes that feel like a friend you’ve never met, but that you’ve known forever.” - Howe Gelb

"Kate Maki deserves our attention, and sooner rather than later." - Americana UK

"Two Song Wedding"
(January 2010)

Recorded and mixed in Tucson, Arizona on April 14 and 15, 2008 at the influential WaveLab Studio with members of Giant Sand, Jonathan Richman, Arcade Fire, and Calexico, "Two Song Wedding" is acclaimed Canadian singer/songwriter Kate Maki's fourth solo record. It is an introverted assortment of songs with an overall candidness that progresses like the soundtrack to a short film or theatrical performance. Unforeseen circumstances (Kate's voice gradually disappeared), unfamiliar elements (95 degree desert heat), unusual surroundings, and unconventional musicians all played a part in the creation of this striking, captivating, unclassifiable record. A random mix of Maki's early and recent influences including Led Zeppelin, Leonard Cohen, Portishead, and Cat Power manifest themselves throughout.

"The songs I brought to Tucson had been accumulating for about two years, and had never been played for anyone." Maki says. "Sometimes I play my electric late at night in the basement and sometimes I play my acoustic upstairs in the sunshine. As you might expect, these different scenarios generate contrasting songs - downstairs is usually more experimental and upstairs tends to be more straight ahead. It just made sense to record the strange, unexpected songs in the desert."

"Two Song Wedding" was released January 12, 2010 digitally and on CD and LP by Confusion Unlimited in Canada, and OWOM in the United States.

Born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, Kate studied neuroscience at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and graduated from Teacher’s College in 2000. After the passing of a close friend in 2002, she quit her full time teaching job and travelled across the country performing her first few original songs. Since then, she has released three solo albums, "Confusion Unlimited" (2003), "The Sun Will Find Us" (2004), and "On High" (2008), all of which have been recognized as “Album of the Year” by Northern Ontario's Music & Film In Motion.

In 2005, inspired by Bob Dylan's "Rolling Thunder Revue", Maki collaborated with fellow Canadian songwriters, Ruth Minnikin, Nathan Lawr, Dale Murray, and Ryan Bishops on two cross-Canada adventures called "A Midwinter Night's Dream" and "A Midautumn Night's Dream". For each tour, the musicians recorded a special compilation album, and took turns performing each other's songs on stage.

Kate has appeared on the cover of Now Toronto, Echo Weekly, and Ottawa Xpress, and has received enthusiastic reviews from Mojo, Uncut, Harp, Exclaim, Pitchfork, and LA Weekly. Her songs can be heard across North America on CBC Radio, College Radio, and NPR, and across the ocean on the BBC and select stations in Belgium, France, Italy, and Germany. She has placed original tracks in Canadian films "Weirdsville", and "Wilby Wonderful", and in the CBC television series "MVP", and has toured extensively in North America and parts of Europe with Great Lake Swimmers, M. Ward, Howe Gelb, Joel Plaskett, Hayden, Tegan & Sara, Jason Collett, Deep Dark Woods, and Fred Eaglesmith.