written by Lorne Behrnman
Indie singer-songwriter Katrina Parker might be best known for her stunning performances on Season 2 of NBC’s The Voice. These powerful moments, however, were a lifetime away as she set out to make her sophomore, self-released album, Stars, out September 6th, 2019. The dreamy folk-pop collection revisits a time of innocence and discovery.
“I have this vivid memory of myself as a kid playing on a swing set at my aunt’s house in the middle of the country. It was fall, I was all by my lonesome self, and I sang into the valley below,” the LA-based artist recalls. “At that moment, I felt like I was fully in tune with the universe, doing exactly what I was meant to do. On this album, I reconnected with that little girl I knew.”
Katrina is a dedicated songwriter who writes all her own music, and playfully calls her aesthetic “sparkling desert pop-folk.” Essential to her vision is an indelible warmth, a pinch of magic, and a touch of banjo. Listening to her evocative songwriting transports the listener to carefree romantic snapshots of life.
She shares: “I try to capture those feelings surrounding the places and experiences I cherish like starry nights in the desert, dancing in a backyard hung with summer lights, or driving fast down a country road with all the windows rolled down.”
Katrina counts an eclectic assortment of singers as influences, prizing powerhouse pipes as much as honest performances. Her formative musical influences include Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Edith Piaf, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, and George Jones. Previously, Katrina issued a debut album, In and Out of the Dark, and she’s performed at such venerated venues as the Hotel Café, The Mint, and Universal CityWalk.
Katrina grew up in North Carolina, but had a second rearing as a young adult and an artist through migrating to Los Angeles, by way of Nashville. “I’ve performed on my most intimidating stages and gone through my toughest growing pains here in LA. I’m constantly inspired by the natural beauty in California in a way that really does bring me back to the small town I grew up in, especially the desert,” she explains.
Katrina was an awkward child who discovered her troubles melted away when she opened her mouth to sing. She was one of those prodigiously gifted kids that started singing as soon as they could talk. Her first stage was her grandmother’s porch where she belted out Patsy Kline tunes, and she made her public debut at the Baptist Church down the road.
From those humble beginnings, Katrina set out with fierce determination to be a professional musician. Prior to her appearance on The Voice, she released an EP and performed anywhere she could, including living rooms and dingy basement bars. Health issues sidelined her for two years, and her reemergence was based on something of a whim to try out for The Voice. “It was a shock to the system, and I went further than I imagined I would and learned a lot about myself in the process, like ‘stop googling yourself!’ and “don’t read the comment sections!,’” she says laughing, good-naturedly.
Katrina completed The Voice, and, during her time on the show, garnered fan praise and critical accolades. Her singing has been described as “powerful but tender” (Unreality TV), “the embodiment of [The Voice]” (Rolling Stone), “passionate” (LA Times), and “flawless" (Pop Crush). In addition, she became a fan-favorite and a Top 8 Semi-Finalist.
“I was exposed to a lot of new fans via The Voice. A lot of them connected with me because I was an underdog and not your standard ‘built for TV’ artist. A lot of them connected with the emotionality of my singing,” she acknowledges.
Post-The Voice life proved to be painfully complex. “One minute, you have a production schedule and a team guiding every waking moment. The next, you’re back at home, blinking with a massive headache, trying to figure out what to do next,” she says.
With blinders on, Katrina threw herself into the opportunities awarded to her by the show. She released her debut, and she worked tirelessly for a career she was starting to feel ambivalent about. “The busier I was ‘doing’ things and maximizing my opportunity, the further away I felt from my original goal and the more confused I became about who I was and where I was going,” she confesses.
Katrina’s next move was her most courageous: she stopped the madness, packed her keyboard up, and started working from home, developing a sense of normalcy again. “During this time, I started writing again, and singing as if no one was looking. I was doing it simply for the love of doing it. I was trying to reconnect to that spark. And I found it. And here we are,” she says.
Katrina took her time to craft and record Stars, working with an old trusted friend and collaborator, Josh Doyle (3 Theory Music). The album is a collection of Americana, sincerely emotive pop, indie-rock, indie-pop, and a few surprises, including an imaginative cover of “Ring Of Fire.” Katrina’s songs bravely reveal her flaws, her bold femininity, her fragility, and her strength.
“There are songs on this album about aging, loss, adventure, romantic dysfunction, and, of course, lots of love songs,” she says. “Despite my ability to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground personally, I’m a hopeless idealist when I’m writing.”
The nine-song album opens with the anthemic Americana of “I Will Never Leave.” The track begins with a hypnotic melodic motif before Katrina’s soulfully expressive voice triumphantly comes forward. “That’s a good, old-fashioned love song. When I wrote it, I was definitely channeling that giddy, and nervous excitement of new love,” she says, laughing.
The album’s first single is the bittersweet dreamy ballad title track. Here, Katrina stretches her voice from sweetly dramatic, slow-burn verses to choruses that reach the stratosphere with soaring emotionality. “Stars” is a snapshot of a night spent stargazing in North Carolina at her parent’s house in the middle of winter while feeling the weight of her father’s diagnoses with Parkinson’s disease. Her arrival back home coincided with the Perseids meteor shower, and she woke up at midnight to witness nature’s breathtaking fireworks display.
“That one’s for my dad,” she says. “While I sat there freezing my butt off, I felt this sense of peace settle over me, this hope for the future and this deep belief that we’d get through this. It was like someone was whispering in my ear ‘You’re not alone. They’re not alone. It’s going to be ok.’ And, soon after, I wrote ‘Stars.’”
Stars, the album, concludes with the powerful “Don’t Give It Up” which is a throwback to Katrina’s Southern roots and her love of traditional country music. At first, Katrina wrote the sparsely elegant song for a friend who was having a hard time, but upon hearing it, her friend suggested that maybe she wrote it to soothe herself.
Stars has been a healing and empowering experience. Katrina wrote all the songs herself, funded the album completely independent from the music biz machine, and she did it all from a place of love. “I wrote these songs without any pressure or any worries about success or failure; I did it just because it brought me joy. I made this album with my heart instead of my head,” she affirms.