Addicted Inspirations – Kaia Kater

This week Addicted is inspired by Kaia Kater, singer, songwriter, intellectual and all around powerful lady.

Originally of Afro-Caribbean descent, Kaia Kater’s musical upbringing found her caught between two very different worlds: the ties of Canadian folk music that ran deep in her Toronto home, and the one she lived in while studying Appalachian music in West Virginia. Now Kaia has come into her own, using the influences that raised her to create her own sound, and to use the power in her voice and music to shed light on some very serious and very important issues.
Kaia’s new album, Nine Pin (released May 13, 2016 on Kingswood Records), casts an unflinching eye at the realities faced by people of color in North America every day. True to her Appalachian roots in Appalachia, the title of the album comes from a traditional square dance formation in which a woman stands alone in the middle of a circle of people turning around her. As a double meaning, it’s also one of the pins in bowling that keeps getting knocked down. Surrounded yet alone, constantly in the line of fire, this album beautifully showcases the seasons of a young woman’s life. Check out the video for “Saint Elizabeth” from the album below.

Music isn’t the only place where Kaia uses the power of her voice – she’s used her words to help create change in a sometimes toxic industry. Earlier this year, Kaia wrote this eloquent, powerful and incredibly important piece for The Bluegrass Situation, calling out an industry predator and throwing her support being his other victims, as well as women everywhere who may not have the strength or support to do the same. Take a read here.
For her amazing music, and her even more admirable spirit, we find Kaia Kater ccompletely inspirational.

How did you get involved with the work you currently do?

I’ve always played music, and my grandfather is a harpsichord, pipe organ and guitar luthier. Music has been such a strong part of my life that I don’t think I was ever destined to do anything else. Folk music was also just as present in my life as classical music, which was how I was able to start playing the banjo.  Though I studied in West Virginia and have played a lot of traditional music, with my second album ‘Nine Pin’, I started writing way more of my own songs. Songwriting has been a great way to say what I want to say politically and personally in the form of poetry.


What are some of the successes (big or small) you’ve had?

I was recently featured in Rolling Stone’s ’10 Country Artists To Know’. It was an exhilarating moment for me. I also got to meet Chris Sarandon at a poetry event in West Virginia, since he is from Beckley WV – he was a really nice guy! Those have been two recent highlights.  I think the biggest successes for me are when people tell me that my music has touched or helped them in some way. Press will come and go, but strong fans have your back all the way.

What’s piece of advice would you give to someone trying to do what you do, or trying to follow their own dreams?

To listen to their heart, and not be swayed by what others say. When I told people I wanted to do music full time, I knew who I wanted to keep in my life and who I didn’t because my real friends would say “Yes! Do it!’’ and some others would react with more negativity or doubt.
At the end of the day, I was given a large scholarship to go to school through a music scholarship for the banjo. Some folks thought it would make me poor and destitute but it actually helped give me a college education. I think that the universe will respond to you if you walk out on the ledge and trust the current to carry you where you want to go.

There is a certain amount of work that must also be committed, to improve your craft and ultimately own your own small business. Remember to remain committed even when things seem complicated or hard.

How do you do manage to do it all?

I actually am learning every day. I have successes and failures every day. One very important thing I learned from a man named Lou Radja, a humanitarian based out of Washington state, is to constantly be evaluating your life from a bird’s eye view. Your life is like a pie chart, and your career is only one piece of the pie. The others are your health, interpersonal relationships, spirituality, education, etc. What I try to do is to maintain strong focus on my career and to get things done as efficiently as possible. I am right now realizing that other parts of my life need attention too, so it’s all about constantly trying to find that balance.

Some days I’ll want to work but be completely unmotivated. In those cases I’ll commit to two or three hours and then get out of the house and exercise, or go see a movie. Resting your brain and heart are two very important things, especially when you’re a freelance musician or artist. The worst thing you can do is go so hard that you burn yourself out.

If you had one wish to help make the world a better place, what would it be?

That I could help young kids receive instruments. I’ve been wanting to support a cause at my shows, and I’m brainstorming what I can do to help. One very important thought that constantly circles my brain is that many people have given me a helping hand to get me where I am now. Once you take the elevator to the top floor, your job is then to send the elevator back down in order to help other folks get up too. I’ve been ruminating on how to make that happen.


If you could pick one charitable organization to ask our readers to donate to or volunteer with, which would it be?

VOLUNTEERING: I strongly recommend applying to volunteer at a prison at some point in your life. The government of Canada operates a database of correctional volunteers that can offer to help with spiritual services or music organizations. We all have different stories and it’s very humbling to sit with someone and offer your help in any way you can. I first volunteered with an Ohio Women’s Prison through Dr. Catherine Roma, who runs a choir there. It was a lot of fun and the women were amazing.

CHARITABLE: If you’re looking to donate, I would suggest helping organizations like MusiCounts, who collect and bring instruments into schools for kids to play. I think all children should have the opportunity to try an instrument; you can’t develop a passion if there are no resources to help you. This is a worthwhile endeavour to ensure the next generation of musicians is diverse and creative.



Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Addicted Magazine. Her myriad of addictions include music, fashion, travel, technology, boxing and trying to make the world a better place. Nadia is also a feminist, an animal lover, and a neverending dreamer. Keep up with her on social media through @thenadiae.
Nadia Elkharadly