AM: Refreshing to hear original works of music, kudos! I love the CD I heard, though it was so short. Are you planning to develop and build on what I have heard so far?

OS: Yes! The CD that we have currently is really just a short demo version of the album we plan to record soon. Those six songs, which can also be heard playing on our website, were recorded at home last year and are meant just to give people an idea of what we sound like and what our original material is like. Toward the end of last year, we began working on writing and arranging a full-length album of 16 songs – all original material, except for one old Irish folk tune called ‘Factory Girl.’ Since late winter of this year, we’ve been working with several musicians, getting the songs up on their feet – a process that’s been going fantastically well. At the same time, we’ve been raising the money needed to make it happen. While we still have more money to raise in order to reach our goal, we’re excited to say that we’ve booked the first recording sessions and expect to be hard at work in the studio this summer making our album!

AM: Where does your inspiration come from? For some reason, I think the ways you come up with tunes and words, must come from a long lineage of influences, is that right?

OS: Yes, we definitely have our roots, and between us, the range of influences is pretty broad, including not only other musicians and songwriters, but visual artists and writers, as well.

We both came from families where art and especially music was very much in the air. Kate grew up influenced by her Dad’s love of songwriters like Van Morrison and Paul Simon, musical theater and classic rock bands like Queen and Led Zeppelin and her Mom’s love for the music of songwriters like Cat Stevens and Billy Joel. Kate’s parents sang in a choral group that included a number of other extended family members. They performed a lot of folk and Broadway tunes arranged for many voices singing in harmony, and Kate became involved in that from a very young age. During her high school and college years, Kate was part of a very strong musical community in Northeastern Connecticut, attending a very arts-oriented high school, studying voice and singing in shows. At the same time, she had a passion for visual art, moved by artists like Klimt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh. “They paint a lot of lively scenes and use a lot of color, unusual structures, whimsy and magic to show the life and vitality in everyday scenes,” she said. Visual, performance art and music have always been connected for Kate. “Combining music with art helps me express myself. I get visuals that come with the songs that I sing, and I listen to music or think of music while I paint. So, image and sound are intimately connected to my creative process, and I think better when I have multiple stimulations happening.”

Robert also came up in a musical family. The son of a blues-and-jazz-singing advertising salesman from New Jersey, Robert started singing and playing with his dad’s bands when he was a kid and then with lots of garage bands with his brother and friends growing up. “We were always putting on shows, playing in our basement and backyard, at parties and then later, out in bars and clubs – pretty much wherever we could play. My dad instilled in me a love for music, always sharing with me his passion for well-put lyrical phrases or the beautifully-arranged songs of people like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.” Robert developed very broad musical interests of his own, listening to everything from classical, jazz and musical theater to progressive rock bands like Genesis and Yes to singer/songwriters like Peter Gabriel, Van Morrison, Kate Bush and Paul Simon, to all sorts of ‘world’ and traditional folk music. Writers like Hesse, Tolkien, Rilke, Rumi, Neruda, Walt Whitman and Mary Oliver have also been big inspirations. “I’ve always been really interested in stories and the ways in which different kinds of artists tell them, whether using sound, language, images, body movement, etc. What has always excited me the most is the work of artists who cross boundary lines to blend different mediums and genres in order to tell their stories.”

When we began singing and writing together, we started to pay more attention to certain acts and artists, who we felt were good inspirations for what we were trying to do musically, people like the Everly Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel, Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova (who won an Oscar a few years back for their song ‘Falling Slowly’ from the Irish film ‘Once’), Robert Plant & Allison Kraus, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, The Beatles, The Sundays, Shelleyan Orphan, Black Dub, Sarah McLachlan, The October Project, The Weepies … The list goes on, really.


AM: What was your most memorable experience like for you that you can recall of performing for a live audience? We love to hear good stories!

OS: Last year, when we were just beginning to get this act off the ground, we decided to spend the summer playing anywhere we could, whether that was at a café, a bar, an arts center or on the street corner. And we did busk several times on the street down in New Jersey in an area throbbing with activity – cars, motorcycles, busses, trains, conversations, airplanes overhead. You name it – we struggled to be heard above it. It was tough to try to play these quiet, delicate songs in that kind of environment. Often, the people, too, were in a hurry or distracted or fighting their way home from work or to wherever they were heading. It really presented a challenge – how to get heard above all that while also maintaining the calm, quiet feeling we were trying to create. But it happened more than once that people would stop in their tracks and would stand or sit to listen, some closing their eyes and just kind of taking it in. The sirens and engines kept on screaming around us, but for those little moments, there was quiet connection. It was difficult and frustrating to play like that on the street, but those little moments when we connected with strangers passing by are really memorable to us now.

AM: What is the relationship like, for Robert and Katherine? Work time, and play time, how does it work for you two?

Making art and music plays a huge role in our relationship, and it’s really nice that we can share that part of our lives with each other, instead of it being something we go off into our little caves to do alone. On one of our first dates together, we were sitting in the Lion’s Den at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge brainstorming about a music video we wanted to make. We were coming up with images and scenes, and Kate was making quick sketches of them in her sketchbook. That moment really set the tone for what our relationship has been like. We love creating; it’s a passion that permeates just about every aspect of our lives, and every time we discover that we can create and build together in new ways, we get really inspired and excited. You might say we’re a bit obsessed, because we’re always working on something or talking about it. But we do have other things in our lives - doing day jobs, spending time with friends and family and Kate working on a painting degree at Simon’s Rock.


AM: And, where do you see yourselves in five years?

OS: In five years, we hope to be continuing to create art, building relationships and connections, balancing home life with touring and music making. It would be wonderful to have, at that point, five years of work and growth behind us that we can look back on with a sense of satisfaction, while also feeling inspired about what we’d like to work on next and have the opportunity and energy to embark on a new journey.

AM: Can you express to me, what “magical” ingredients can be found in your music… Though an open questions, I think you can handle a creative answer!

OS: The magical stuff in life is some of hardest stuff to talk about. It’s like trying to describe a dream after you wake up. The words never really do it justice. That’s one of the most difficult jobs of the artist – to try to use words or images or sounds or whatever they use to try to get at this intangible stuff. We try to do this by combining ingredients – a phrase in the lyric that references a moment or a scene from a dream, a certain chord, a certain instrument’s texture or certain notes in the melody or harmony that evoke a feeling, a drawing that combines symbols in a certain way. There are definitely themes at work in what we do – themes of love and connection, of nature, spirit, imagination, dreaming, memory. But it’s really not a science – there’s a lot of grasping going on, lots of figuring it out as we go, hoping to hit upon something that gets at this underlying quality and tries to let it come shining through. But we have discovered through this collaboration that there seems to be a chemistry between us that’s greater than the sum of the parts. From the moment we started singing and writing together, it just felt like something came through when we worked together that was strong, that just worked, and we noticed that people we shared our music with could feel it, too. It really was an exciting thing to discover.

AM: What other interests are equal to music for you two?

OS: Kate paints and draws and is learning crafts like pottery, doing woodburns and knitting. Robert writes stories and poems. We love cooking. We love being in nature – the woods, the ocean – taking walks with our Alaskan Malamute Finn M’Cool. We love watching movies, reading, spending time with family and friends, traveling, when we get the chance.

AM: Now, I am interested in this: Give me a colorful detailed description of what one of your best days are like? And tell me, how do you handle chaos as artists when that, too, steps in on the scene!

OS: Our best days often involve an early-morning rise, coffee on and immediately going to work writing, painting, playing or singing. Where we live, it’s quiet, still, surrounded by trees and hills. The dogs that live on the property, in addition to ours, often come by for a morning visit. If it’s not a cloudy day, the sun comes up over the hill in the distance and fills the room. It’s a wonderful luxury if the day can stretch on with long periods of working on some project, maybe stopping to take a walk through the valley or have a visit from a friend, maybe take time to make a nice meal – that sort of thing. Good days can also involve heading out on the road to a gig, session or rehearsal. Being in motion on the road can be very inspiring and stimulating, seeing new places, meeting people, feeling the energy of the world beyond our walls.

Yes, chaos inevitably steps in on the scene, especially when we’re trying to juggle several things at the same time, whether it’s several different projects or balancing the call of the artistic life with the demands of day jobs and other responsibilities. It can feel like trying to serve too many masters, all of which are making big demands on your time. In those moments, it’s helpful to do something simple like breathe or mediate in stillness in order to get in touch with what we are when we’re not-doing anything at all. It’s helpful to remember that, while creating and building and being active can be wonderful, there is a level to life that just is – simple, still – that has nothing to do with what we do or make.


AM: Where is your next concert for the summer time? And how can we go see you perform?

OS: We expect to be playing here in the Berkshires throughout the summer. Booking shows is an ongoing process, and we’re adding new dates all the time. You can visit our website at www.oakesandsmith.net to see the most up-to-date listing of shows.