I wrote this some years ago about singer/songwriter Emily Kaitz. Aren’t we lucky that folks like this have settled among us?
But wait! There’s more! Poets, artists, writers, actors . . .
The Whimsical World of Emily Kaitz
Enjoying her work is important for Fayetteville Singer/Songwriter
The song writing process is different for each individual artist, and the whimsical Emily Kaitz sometimes feels that some of her friends suffer from a misapprehension as to how it is for her. She often hears, “Oh, I’ll bet this has given you an idea for a song,” or “I can see the wheels turning in Emily’s head,” but this is not necessarily the case.
Even though she has written (on an average) four songs a year since her teenage years, often months will go by without her putting a word on paper. She says that she seems most inspired when she is in her car, driving to and from various appearances. “I’ll be pulling out my journal and writing. Not necessarily a whole song, but I’ll write down a few notes. I’ll have my journal on top of the steering wheel.”
She admits, “It’s a terribly dangerous thing to do, but that’s when I seem to get most of my ideas.” And it seems to be paying off, with a lifetime of fan favorites such as “A Stranger on my Own Home Page,” “Shallow End of the Gene Pool,” and a new song favored by many who fought the recent Kohl’s development, “Just a Little Grove of Trees.”
“Shallow End of the Gene Pool” was born in 1986 after she broke up with a boy friend, and he called her on the phone while angry. “He told me what a terrible person I was. I got off the phone thinking, “He’s right. I’m from the ‘shallow end of the gene pool.’”
She didn’t make up the phrase herself; a friend had heard it on the radio and recounted it to her, but she took it from there and made a song from it. After performing at the Kerrville Folk Festival in 1998, a live performance of the song was included on the Women of Kerrville, Volume III CD. Several years ago, the Austin Lounge Lizards (friends with whom she still occasionally performs) released their own version of the song on their album, Small Minds. Others who have recorded her music include Trout Fishing in America and Chet Atkins.
“I’m a known obscure quantity,” she says of the music she releases on her own label. “I have a cult following.”
Writing a song can take as long as a few days, though she has been known to write some in less than an hour. “I’m very lazy. An idea has to be strong enough to really force my brain to want to work with it.”
While growing up in Virginia, Kaitz, at around the age of 14, was inspired by the Beatles. She began a singing career accompanying herself on her guitar which she has continued. She played various Beatles’ hits – all with a pseudo-English accent. By her own admission, she was “terrible.”
She says, “I was a lonely, introspective teenager, so I spent a lot of time in my room with my guitar.” An 8th-grade talent show saw her first public performance, singing the Kink’s “Tired of Waiting.” Along the way to performing professionally, she also mastered the upright bass.
In 1981, after living in Austin for several years, she began performing in clubs, though her material at first consisted primarily of songs by other songwriters. Her first gig was at the popular Mother’s Café, playing instrumentals while patrons ate.
Though Kaitz has only lived in Fayetteville since January, 1998 (after living in Austin for 21 years), she was hardly a stranger to the area. She already had several musician friends here, and had returned several times after attending Crow Johnson’s wedding in the 1980s. Kaitz began to prefer the Fayetteville music scene to that of Austin, which seemed to have become so large it was disjointed.
Emily Kaitz does not consider her voice particularly to be her strong point, “but I write these quirky songs that nobody else writes,” and many have told her that her voice matches her music perfectly.
Though she has not written any poetry since she was a teenager, she felt honored when the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective invited her to be the featured poet at one of their monthly gatherings last year.
Kaitz genuinely loves performing, no matter what or where the venue. In addition to her own performances, she can often be found playing backup to a number of other local musicians, including Outside the Lines, Barton and Sweeney, and Effron White.
“I am really one of the most unambitious musicians that you will ever meet,” she says with a smile. “I’ve already surpassed any dreams that I might have had, as far as where I would want to be in my career. Really, I’m in it to have a good time.”
By maintaining her sense of fun, she is able to avoid burnout. “If I can keep playing music the rest of my life that would be great.” Her greatest emotional survival technique, she laughs, “Is don’t take yourself too seriously.” In fact, she says, it is a mistake to take anything too seriously. It is very easy to become discouraged in the music business, she says. “I’ve had as much rejection as success, and you can’t take it personally.”
For her own enjoyment, she listens to a lot of music made by personal friends, some of which she admits is obscure, and may be hard to find. In addition, she enjoys bluegrass and jazz. While she is not particularly fond of reggae, she does enjoy rock and roll. She has a tendency to favor acoustically oriented music.
She says that she does not often have music playing in the background at home, as so many others do.
Kaitz seems a woman who is pretty happy with her life and her career. “Most of the success I have had has come to me. I really haven’t gone looking.” Those who have not yet made the acquaintance of Emily Kaitz, however, could do a lot worse than actively seeking out her music.
Ozark Gazette – December 11, 2000