Progressive acoustic folk music - intelligent and refreshingly free of cliche and self-indulgent navel-gazing. Kathy's songs have been described as paintings. Full of picturesque lyrics and characters, they have been known to inspire people to action - quit their job, rescue a stray dog, end a relationship.
Her three self-released CDs feature her pop-tinged-alterna-folk-bluegrassy-hip-hop sound, and surround her innovative acoustic guitar playing with productions that range from spare and intimate to full-on ensemble treatments. Highlighting these arrangements are contributions by fellow Nashville favorites, Bryan Sutton, Andrea Zonn, Tim O'Brien, Byron House and Tracy Nelson among others.
Accolades for her most recent CD, "Moments of Wonder" include a nomination for Americana Album of the Year from Just Plain Folks, and she has been a finalist or a winner in many major songwriting competitions: Kerrville New Folk, Telluride Troubadour, Mountain Stage, Great American Song Contest, Just Plain Folks, and others (full list below).
Kathy is the Director of Camp Summersong (Nashville’s songwriting camp for kids), the Coordinator of the Riverbluff Festival’s Performing Songwriter competition, and travels the country performing and teaching songwriting workshops for kids and adults. In Nashville, she is well-known for her 14-year stint as host of the city’s most innovative weekly songwriter gathering.
List of Awards
2007 Great American Song Contest GRAND PRIZE 2006 Just Plain Folks Awards:
• Best Lyric ("The Same Mary") - WINNER • Americana Album of the Year (Moments of Wonder) - nominee • Americana Song of the Year ("The Same Mary") - 6th place 2006 Telluride Troubadour Competition Finalist
2006 American Songwriter Magazine Lyric Contest Winner (4th place)
2006 Independent Music World Series, Southeast Semi-Finalist
2005 Gum Tree Songwriters Festival GRAND PRIZE
2005 Suwannee Springfest Song Contest Winner (2nd place)
Ever wonder if you could change your life overnight? Wonder where all the time goes? What, exactly, is on the other side? What if you were adopted, or an identical twin? Wonder how you might say “topless” in French?
Inquisitive singer-songwriter Kathy Hussey has a serious case of Wonder-Lust. That is, she has an unwavering sense of wonder fueled by a passion for insight, travel and exploration. Nowhere is this more evident than on her new progressive-folk recording, “Moments of Wonder”.
Travel has always been a central part of Hussey’s life, based on her family’s constant relocation to accommodate her father’s “corporate nomad” occupation, but her history of displacement actually began with her very first breath. Hussey and her identical twin sister were born in Chicago to teenage parents and given up for adoption immediately after birth. Her adoptive parents didn’t think twice about the double-blessing and welcomed the girls to their new family. Growing up with stints in Dallas, Houston, St Louis, Cleveland, Arizona, Massachusetts and New York, Hussey was repeatedly cast as the “new kid”, searching for ways to maintain her unique identity, while somehow managing to blend-in to each new situation.
That search dictated Kathy Hussey’s career path, relying on music from a very young age to find her place in the world. Finally settling in Nashville, TN, Hussey diverted from her Hamilton College focus of Ceramics and Anthropology to fully immerse herself in her life-long preoccupations: playing guitar, singing, performing, and writing songs.
Applying a modern twist to the folk song tradition, and motivated by the “fit in but stand out” mentality of the consummate new kid, Hussey writes songs that are accessible, honest and completely free of cliché. Her influences include Jonatha Brooke, Shawn Colvin, Patti Griffin, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, the Grateful Dead and the “countless brilliant under-appreciated artists and writers I share the road with everyday.” Her contemporary, full folk-grass sound is complemented by her observational songwriting style and attention to detail. She says, “I have a sort of chronic fascination with people and their stories – my study of Anthropology in college and the way I observe and develop characters in my writing now, are both part of that same curiousity.”
Honing that observational process helped to establish Kathy Hussey’s music career with two self-released acclaimed CDs (2002’s “Stranger Than Fiction”; 1998’s “If Wishes Were Horses”) and a flurry of songwriting awards. She continues to share her discoveries on her new album, “Moments of Wonder” (2005) – a vibrant collection of stories with authentic characters and universal emotion.
The vignettes on “Moments of Wonder” present both still-life and animated images that uncover and illuminate nuances most of us are too busy to notice. From the quaint melodic call of a French ice cream vendor (“La Bonne Glace” - written & performed en Francais) to the wistful “love-lost” metaphor of a Colorado sunset (“Sunset on the LaGaritas”) and the underlying greed in a fight over water rights (“This Water”), Hussey reveals the hidden magic of the commonplace, the little mysteries of the mundane. “I think being repeatedly dumped into new situations with people I didn’t know, making judgements about them and then being proven wrong, over and over again, was a huge gift to me as a songwriter. There really are no safe assumptions. What I took away from all that is to mistrust stereotype and wait for people to reveal themselves in their own way. It is much more interesting, as a storyteller, to look for the unique in the context of the ordinary.” continued...
It is that exploration of the ordinary and a need to differentiate that led Hussey to ponder the universal idea of finding one’s place in this world. “Emily” presents the true-life story of a dead-end bartender who dreams of owning a café and tells herself “that it won’t be too long until you are free” (Emily quit the bar and made her move the day after hearing this song!). In “The Same Mary”, the subject is in life’s twilight while mentally remaining “the pillow fight champion of the world/catcher of lightning bugs/bull frogs and garden slugs/climber of sky-tall trees.” The song is punctuated with an effectively time-shifting, cinematic, dream-like guitar riff. And recognizing the re-cyclical nature of life, Hussey sings, “Love may come and love may go/life may ebb and life may flow/remember me when I am gone/sing my memory…in your song” (“Sing My Memory”).
Hussey’s focused examination of the mystery of human experience is as crystal clear as her pure vocal delivery. Her unflinching acknowledgement of her own regrets and foibles prompts the listener to look within as well as around. With a nod to to her roving childhood, Hussey apologizes to old friends that she was “raised to leave behind” (“Out of Sight, Out of Mind”) but also muses that “a goodbye can’t help promising hello” (“Other Side of that Hill”).
With music ranging from pop-tinged folk to bluegrass-hued hip-hop, and the occasional suggestion of Celtic influence, “Moments of Wonder” appeals to the intelligent listener. The new collection was produced by Nashville session drummer (and husband) Bob Mater, engineered by Grammy-winner Bil Vorndick (Alison Krauss, Peter Rowan, Jerry Douglas, Ralph Stanley) and features Mike Henderson, Byron House, Tim O’Brien, Bryan Sutton and Andrea Zonn.
Dirty Linen magazine declared Kathy Hussey “a songwriter to watch.” Other recording artists and peers agree. An award-winning songwriter, Hussey has earned top honors in the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk Competition (Winner 2003; Finalist 2002); Mountain Stage Newsongs Contest (Top 5 Winner, 2003); Suwannee Springfest Song Competition (2nd Place 2005); and recently won the Grand Prize in the Great American Song Contest. Her songs have been recorded by Carmel Sheerin and the Bluegrass Ravens (“Sing My Memory”); E.G. Kight (“Skin Deep”); Natalie Cote (“If Wishes Were Horses”) and Tejano artist Anna Roman (“Whatever Happened to Us?”; “American Dream”).
On stage, Hussey’s warm energy, honesty and humor inspire audiences to listen with their hearts, and frequently share their own life stories with Kathy after the show. She performs most often as a solo act as well as with a full band or as a combo, has opened for Blues Traveler, Phish, Steppenwolf, 10,000 Maniacs, among others, and continues to perform with Dead Set, [a Grateful Dead cover band] when her tour schedule permits.
When the ever-ambitious Hussey is not on the road performing, teaching, or presenting her insightful tunes at songwriting competitions, she’s hosting her writer’s night in Music City USA which began more than a decade ago. It’s a distinct departure from the typical Nashville writer’s night and has earned a devoutly loyal following. “We do all kinds of fun things...there’s the title of the month exercise called Debut Tuesday, Campfire Circles, and Circle Work (a group-write where everyone contributes one line at a time around the circle).
Considering Hussey’s down-to-earth warmth and her innate curiousity, it’s no wonder that she has a strong affinity for kids, and they for her. Hussey has declared it her personal mission to “inspire, enrich and elevate” young people by encouraging them to express themselves creatively. She continues to meet this challenge working as the Director of Camp Summersong (Nashville, TN; since 1999); and teaching songwriting workshops for both kids and adults (Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp - Steamboat Springs, CO; Creede Arts Council – Creede, CO; Country Music Hall of Fame Words & Music Program – Nashville, TN, Kid Pan Alley - nationwide). Additionally, Hussey indulges in her love for the outdoors and horses as a trail guide, and an avid backpacker. She also shares her infectious creative spirit with hundreds of young women enrolled in Girl Scouts of America via her tie-dye workshops, earning her the affectionate title of “The Tie-Dye Lady.”
Hussey’s enthusiasm for life is exactly what inspired the title of her new album. In the lead track (“We Are The Day”), Hussey sings, “we are morning and twilight/we are darkness and highlight/ we are silence and thunder/we are moments of wonder”.
Hussey continues to anticipate whatever journey lies ahead and to write lyrics that remind us it is the questions themselves, not necessarily the answers, that provide our greatest moments of wonder. So, CAN you change your life overnight? What IS on the other side? According to track #9 of this latest CD, “What’s on the other side of that hill? I don’t know. But that’s why I have to go”.
With any luck, your town is on the other side of that hill, and you’ll find Kathy Hussey there one of these days, sharing her stories, and gathering some new ones.
(By the way, “topless” in French is “les seins nus”, literally: naked breasts. Kathy sings about hers in the song “La Bonne Glace”).
"Folk Medicine”– maybe that’s the best way to describe Kathy Hussey’s music. Let’s just say there’s no better elixir to counteract the occasional ills of the songwriting scene -- the preoccupied navel-gazing, the world-saving, and the love-lost-lamenting -- than a healthy dose of Kathy’s insightful and inspiring songs.
Where some cling to tired cliches, she invigorates the listener, spinning stories that are fresh and involving, and delivering them onstage with charm and abundant personality. Her songs channel others, giving voice to the abandoned dog, the child within a 90-year-old woman, the French ice cream vendor, the earth itself. She knows the important light isn’t the spotlight on the singer, but the one shed on the truth.
Kathy comes from everywhere, tapping into her four-corners-of-the-country upbringing and her self-described “wonder-lust” to turn out a wide range of compelling characters. And why not? Her own story is compelling. One of identical twins, adopted at birth. A hopscotch childhood, always the “new kid.” The high school for rodeo hopefuls. The college commune. The bartending. Every stop full of new things and people to try to figure out.
Kathy’s songs come to life, because she's immersed in it. She’s a trail guide, a horsewoman, a tie-dye teacher and a leader of songwriting workshops for kids. She connects with the things that connect us all, and the proof is in the accolades.
Critical raves for her three self-released albums. Festival performance honors at Kerrville, Telluride and Suwannee. Songwriting awards from Mountain Stage Newsongs, American Songwriter Magazine, Just Plain Folks, and the Grand Prize from the 2007 Great American Song Contest for “The Same Mary.”
“Folk medicine?” Hmm, could be. Consider the evidence. Endorsed by the wisdom of the elders & natural, with a finger on the human pulse, stimulating the brain and examining the heart, while dispensed with care and humor, often enough on a house (concert) call.
Sure looks like the prescription from here. Whatever you want to call it, the doctor says that Kathy Hussey’s music is mighty good for what ails you.