Ever the hard worker, Katrin is about to reach a new level. She built esteem through three albums produced in the Boston area, but her new record was made in Woodstock and marks a quantum leap into the national spotlight. Katrin was helped by a Woodstock-based dream team of drummer/producer Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Paul McCartney, Sheryl Crow), bassist Tony Levin (John Lennon, Peter Gabriel, King Crimson), guitarist/harp player John Sebastian (Lovin' Spoonful), and guitarist Bill Dillon (McCartney, Robbie Robertson, Sheryl Crow, King Crimson).
"I have more of a sense of being decisive and more confidence in myself,'' she says, noting it's the first time she has worked with such heavyweights. "I'm being even more fearless.''
Her increased confidence brought her to Marotta's Dreamland Studios in Woodstock, whose clients have ranged from Fleet Foxes to Sheryl Crow. Says an ecstatic Marotta: "Katrin is a well-oiled machine. She was born for this. I've done some gigs with her and she doesn't miss a beat. I'm so lucky to be working with her... She is driven. She writes songs because she has to.''
The new record, “Frail to Fearless”, has a singer-songwriter base, but also a soulfulness that came from growing up on rock, soul and R&B. Katrin's influences run from Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt, to New Age guitarist Michael Hedges, soul greats Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, capped by guitar tunings that would make Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin take notice. "I don't consider myself just a singer-songwriter,'' says Katrin. "I always felt a little too edgy for that.''
The new album is a consummate project with all-original songs gleaned from Katrin's experience (notably about love's ups and downs) and a powerful anti-war track, "Blame.'' All of it is rendered with the ultimately positive tone that is her calling card. "I've always tried to maintain a sense of being positive even if it's a negative situation,'' she states. "I never write end-of-the-world type songs. I always try to find the light at the end of the tunnel.''
Born Katrin Roush, she honed her soulfulness as the youngest of six children ("the black sheep of the family'') in the Boston suburb of Newton. She was exposed to classical music early on and played violin by age 7. She also developed her voice in a church choir. Her dad was a minister though he had first been a music major at Boston University. Katrin was the only one in the family to fully pursue a career in music.
"I can't imagine doing anything else,'' she says. "I suppose I'm a little crazy and a little stubborn, but I just love it.''
Following high school, Katrin was in a couple of rock bands -- Zinnia Bloom and Luna Flux in the '90s, playing Boston clubs like the Rat and Local 186. But like the Grammy-winning singer Tracy Chapman, she soon took her songs to the streets of Harvard Square and the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, where she stayed and played for three summers. "It toughened me up and made me more comfortable interacting with people,'' she recalls.
Her first CD, "Out of Nothing,'' co-produced by Mark Dailey, appeared in 2001. It was more of a high-energy rock album. There were some great songs on it, which foreshadowed the depth of the writing to come. One tune talked about healing ("gotta hold on to your life and heal it,'' she sang) and another noted, "I need a spiritual man.'' Those themes were explored further in her 2004 release, "Nature Spirit,'' in songs such as "Present Moment'' and ''Love is a Dance.'' Says Katrin, "I had discovered my spiritual path which is earth-centered and holistic. My music and songwriting became a reflection of that.'' She was also willing to experiment, because the second album was stripped-down and had no electric guitar on it.
Her third record, "Soul Wide Open,'' bowed in 2009 and she cites it as "the next step -- we wanted to make a CD that would compete with anything on the radio but with thoughtful production to it.'' She co-produced it with friend Scott Tarulli, who still plays in her band and is part of the Berklee College of Music faculty. Her band has also included bassist Alison Keslow, guitarist John Harrington and drummer Mike Casano. Although self-taught, she has surrounded herself with very talented musicians through the years.
Katrin's career highs include opening for Joan Armatrading, Chris Isaak and the Fixx, plus busking and backpacking through Europe to the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. She also played the Sunset Jazz Club in Paris, and won a songwriting award from the Mountain Stage Newsong Festival. But she'll hopefully enjoy many more highlights thanks to the good fortune of meeting Marotta, who came her way through singer Ellis Paul's manager, Ralph Jaccodine, whom Katrin called out of the blue one day to seek advice.
Thus began a "snowball of momentum,'' according to Katrin's boyfriend, Paul Chapman, who is an executive at a local Life Sciences company and has played a pivotal role in bringing all the new pieces together. "Katrin's talent ranks up there with the best in the game,'' Paul says. "We are assembling a team around Katrin that will explore the marketing and distribution channels available so that we can ensure Katrin's music is seen and heard by as many people around the world as possible.''
Both Chapman and Marotta envision a bright future ahead. "I see Katrin's music as having tremendous commercial potential,'' says Marotta. "She is phenomenally talented...I have worked with Stevie Nicks and Sheryl Crow, but I've never worked before with anyone who could do 10 takes or more on a five-and-a-half minute song and every take is consistently solid. Katrin can do that.''
The new record spans the evocative ballad "Cobblestones'' (a glimpse back at her streetsinging days), the love song "Breeze'' ("the tide will take us where we need to be,'' she sings) and a rearranged version of "Blame,'' tweaked with a new delivery marking her continued growth. Katrin is also making a video for the new song "Far Away (From Here),'' an insight on the end of a previous relationship. She's making the video with Adam Moyer, director of the top-rated cable show "American Chopper.'' He also did a video for her song, "Enough,'' which has been up on her website, Katrinmusic.com.
"I'm just putting myself out there,'' Katrin says. "With the help of Jerry Marotta who has played on a lot of classic records that have sold in the millions, he has helped bring it all into focus for me...He is dynamic, intuitive and heartfelt. He has all these qualities and the ability to see the bigger picture.''
Enhanced by her steady work ethic, the future will be bright indeed.
- STEVE MORSE, longtime music reviewer who worked at the Boston Globe for three decades and has contributed to Billboard and Rolling Stone.